PETER RABE – Bring Me Another Corpse. Gold Medal #864, paperback original; 1st printing, March 1959. Included in Daniel Port Omnibus 2: The Cut of the Whip / Bring Me Another Corpse / Time Enough to Die, Stark House Press, trade paperback, 2015.

   Some time ago — I think it was last issue, as a matter of fact — I said that I didn’t read crime stories any more, Or something to that effect, That was last issue, though, this is now, and here is a Peter Rabe crime story, There never was a better man to write about the mob, about gangsters and hoodlums, than Peter Rabe.

   This is also a Daniel Port suspense thriller, or so says the cover, Besides stories like Benny Muscles In and Kill the Boss Goodbye, Rabe also did a series about the adventures of a former syndicate man named Daniel Port, and unfortunately this is the first one I’ve read of them. In other words, I can’t tell you very much about the earlier ones, but this is a good one, and I’m going to recommend the others to you, sight unseen.

   It’s a crime story all the way, but (of course) there’s a mystery involved as well, and it’s going to take some filling in.of some background before I can tell you what it is, When Port left the syndicate, he carefully stored away some papers that, when he died, would go straight to the police, Since then, Callo’s men have left him strictly alone.

   Why then, beginning with Chapter One, has a hit man been hired to bump him off? Port doesn’t know, nor does the FBI, who are also interested in Port’s predicament. In fact, they are interested enough to get Port to impersonate another notorious killer and (get this) to offer his services to assassinate himself, the original having been lured off to France, where he’s cooling his heels in a French jail.

   The idea, of course, being to infiltrate the mob from the inside, to discover just why the idea of bumping Port off has come up again.

   It should be obvious, if you were to think about it, but it takes Port 50 pages or so before he finds exactly what is going on. The mystery then, to get back to that, is to discover who the head man behind the assassination plot actually is. No matter how many underlings are disposed of, if the big cheese isn’t nabbed as well, it’s back to square one.

   Rabe’s writing is tough and lean and moody, and somehow — I’m not sure just how — it reminds me of what the result might read like if Cornell Woolrich had ever written a mobster story. The ending is a bit of a letdown, though, in that while Rabe had a decent surprise for the reader with only 15 pages to go —  a totally logical one, I’m happy to say, and since it hadn’t occurred to me, I liked it all the more — I came up with an even greater twist that didn’t occur to Rabe at all.

   Maybe it wasn’t logical, but I had some other agency involved altogether in getting Port mixed up in a scrape like this.

– Slightly revised from Mystery*File 26, December 1990.