Reviews


A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller

   

WILLIAM FAULKNER – Knight’s Gambit. Random House, hardcover, 1949. Story collection. Reprinted many times since, including Signet #825, paperback, 1950.

   Nobel Prize-winner William Faulkner wrote six criminous short stories featuring Southern lawyer Gavin Stevens and narrated by Stevens’s nephew and youthful Watson, Chick Mallison. Set in legendary Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, these tales are in classic Faulkner style and are peopled with characters reminiscent of his other work:

   Southerners who are not stereotypical but representative of Mississippi at the middle of the twentieth century. Stevens, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard, is a quiet, contemplative man whose methods of detection are often highly unorthodox. But in spite of his erudition, he is no outsider in his native territory; he is equally at home within the confines of his study or out in the hills where moonshine is made. Chick, the nephew, is properly admiring for a Watson, but his more naive questions stem from his youth, rather than from the thick-headedness found in many a narrator of this type, thus making him all the more likable.

   The stories are as slow-moving and gentle on the surface as the country in which they take place; but as in much of Faulkner’s work, there is an undercurrent of raw emotion and violence held in check. In the title (and longest) story, Stevens deals with murderous jealousy within one of the county’s great plantation families (whose fortune was founded on bootleg liquor); “Monk” is the story of a retarded man who commits what at first seems an inexplicable crime. And “Smoke” is about one of those feuds between family members for which the South is famous; when the murder of a judge results from his validation of a will, Stevens uses a simple but artful device to literally smoke out the killer.

   In these and the three other stories–‘Hand upon the Waters,” “Tomorrow,” and “An Error in Chemistry”–  lawyer Stevens exhibits not only great deductive powers and resourcefulness but also great humanity. As he himself states, “I am more interested in justice and human beings than truth.” This concern, coupled with Faulkner’s deft characterization of the people he knew so well, make these stories first-rate tales of crime and detection.

   Although many critics have dismissed the Gavin Stevens stories as inferior to Faulkner’s other works, they are as inventive and finely crafted as the author’s mainstream fiction, and in no way should be considered a departure from his high literary standards. As Ellery Queen aptly puts it in Queen’s Quorum, “That a writer of Faulkner’s now international stature should unashamedly write detective stories proves once again – -if such proof is still needed by literary snobs — that the detective story has long since come of age.”

     ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Reviewed by TONY BAER:

   

JEAN-PATRICK MANCHETTE – Three to Kill. City Lights, paperback, 2002. Translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith. Also:  A French crime film released in 1980 as Trois hommes à abattre (Three Men to Kill), directed by Jacques Deray, starring Alain Delon with Dalila Di Lazzaro, based on the novel Le Petit Bleu de la côte ouest by Jean-Patrick Manchette.

   Georges Gerfaut is a middle sales manager for a tech firm. He’s doing pretty well, drives a Mercedes, has a pretty wife, nice kids.

   He’s driving home on the highway and comes upon single car accident. The man in the car is bleeding. Gerfaut makes a split second decision. Do I stop? Or do I mind my own business and keep going.

   He stops. He helps the injured driver into the back seat of the Mercedes and drops him off at the hospital.

   Then he goes home.

   What Gerfaut doesn’t know is that the man was not in a single car accident. Rather, the man was shot by hit men in a passing car.
Gerfaut takes his family on vacation at the beach. Once there, the assassins make an attempt on Gerfaut’s life, and try to drown him in the sea.

   Gerfault goes on the run and tries to figure out what the hell is going on.

   Once he gets his bearings and sees the score, there’s only three things to do. Kill the hitmen and the man who hired them. That makes three.

   A brisk, stylish, suave little thriller.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

RAWHIDE. Fox, 1951. Tyrone Power, Susan Hayward, Hugh Marlowe, Dean Jagger, Edgar Buchanan, Jack Elam, and George Tobias. Written by Dudley Nichols. Directed by Henry Hathaway.

   Not to be confused with the Television series, though I suspect there will be plenty of comments about it anyway, and if anyone here feels compelled to talk about Clint Eastwood rather than Henry Hathaway, all I can say is, “Go ahead, spoil my day!”

   Westerns aren’t generally popular with women, but Kay watches them with me, and the other day we had a nice talk about “Town Westerns” and “Range Westerns.”

   In Town Westerns the action is generally confined to a modestly-built community, and may be more concerned with social interactions than physical conflict. The best-known Town Western is High Noon; more noteworthy examples include Fury at Showdown, Rio Bravo, Fury at Gunsight Pass, Star in the Dust and Day of Fury. —  does this suggest a certain pent-up hostility?

   Anyway, “Range (I use the term loosely, to include any wide-open space or spaces) Westerns” take place largely outdoors (Ride Lonesome has no interiors at all.) and though passions may be deep, and resolutions complex, they are generally expressed by physical action. Think Winchester 73, The Big Trail, Wagonmaster, The Naked Spur

   There are hybrids, variations and freaks of cinema, of course: Day of the Outlaw starts as a Town Western and turns into a Range Western. The town of Terror in a Texas Town   barely exists; cattle drives and Conestoga caravans cross the studio sets of Showdown   and The Prairie …

   … which brings me to the “Room Western” and — at last! —  Rawhide.

   There are plenty of exteriors in Rawhide, evoking the endless wastes and the fragile isolation of a stagecoach swing-station, but all the important action takes place in two rooms of a single building: the main room/dining hall where the bad guys quarrel, plot mayhem, and gull the unwary; and a single bedroom where Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward quarrel, plot escape, and try to turn the tables on their captors.

   This is a film of masterful tension, ably framed by Dudley Nichols’ teetering screenplay and Henry Hathaway’s firm direction. I should also mention Milton Krasner’s stunning deep-focus photography, capably limning a distant horizon without missing a single snaggled tooth of Jack Elam’s maniacal grin in the foreground.

   Jack Elam is even more villainous than usual here, but he’s only part of a very effectively used cast. Tyrone Power and Susan Hayward convey fear, frustration and convincing strength quite well, and Dean Jagger is engagingly funny as an outlaw who’s only crooked because he’s not smart enough to go straight.

   But pride of place goes to a surprisingly intense Hugh Marlowe, best remembered for dull parts in exciting films like The Day The Earth Stood Still and Night and the City.  But here, as the head of a makeshift gang of inept and unreliable outlaws, coping with unwilling hostages, desperately trying to hold his plan of robbery and murder together, he’s… well you just can’t take your eyes off him, he has that kind of Screen Presence.

   I’ll end by saying this is sometimes considered an unofficial remake of a 1930s gangster movie, Let ’Em Have It. Well maybe, but the finished product resembles it no more than Stagecoach looks like Maupassant’s “Boule de Suif.”
 

Reviewed by TONY BAER:

   

JOHN McPARTLAND – I’ll See You in Hell. Gold Medal #571, paperback original, 1956. Cover art by Barye Phillips. Centipede Press, hardcover, 2020.

   Lee Farr and Pearl Dobson are partners. They met in the war. Now they co-own a crop duster.

   Then Pearl Dobson reads a story in the paper about the symptoms of uranium poisoning. And something rings a bell. Back where Pearl comes from, nowheresville Arkansas, there were deaths a long time ago that happened around Witch Cave. With the same symptoms! Maybe there’s uranium in them there hills! We’ll be rich, dagnabbit!

   So Pearl heads out to Arkansas to follow his million dollar uranium dreams. And he’ll call up Lee as soon as he knows something for sure.

   Lee finally gets a call — and sure enough, Pearl’s excited! He’s found the mother lode! Come on Lee! Stop what you’re doing and come hither to the Ozarks stat!

   So Lee heads over to the Ozarks and up to Pearl Dobson’s cabin. But when he gets there: “He found the bodies one by one. The dog first.” Inside the cabin he finds Pearl’s grandparents, executed, and Pearl sitting in a chair, ensnared by ropes, tortured to death.

   Lee reports the deaths to the sheriff’s deputy, who immediately decides that Lee is guilty of the murders. And the deputy, in this here town, is judge, jury and executioner.

   Lee escapes custody and now he’s on the run, with nary a friend in nowheresville. He’s gotta find the killer before he gets killed first.

   A fairly thrilling ride.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller

   

HENRY FARRELL – How Awful About Allan. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1963. Avon, paperback, date? Also a 1970 American made-for-television horror psychological thriller film directed by Curtis Harrington.

   Everyone in his neighborhood is saying it: “How awful about Allan!” Allan Colleigh, the rather dim bulb in an otherwise brilliant family, has had a shattering mental breakdown following his father’s death in a fire from which Alan could not save him. One of the symptoms is hysterical blindness, and now that Allan has been released from the mental hospital, his admirable sister, Katherine, must shoulder the burden of caring for and supporting him in the old half-burned house where their father died.

   Money is short, and when Katherine suggests they take in a boarder from the university where she works, Allan tries to cooperate. But there is something about the student that disturbs him — perhaps his whispery voice, caused by a childhood accident — and Allan suffers a relapse.

   At first he tries to control himself — after all, he’s made so much progress with Dr. Greenough. the psychiatrist who has taken him on for Katherine’s sake. But then he begins to feel he’s being watched, being spied on. His friend and neighbor Olive Dearborn has never seen the student, and since Allan can’t see him, he isn’t sure whom he is dealing with.

   When he hears that Katherine’s old boyfriend, Eric Walters, has returned to town, he’s sure Katherine has brought Eric into the house, disguised as the mild-mannered college student. And soon he begins to believe that Eric and Katherine are trying to kill him.

   The story is an exercise in mounting paranoia and terror, more frightening because Allan’s fears seem to be backed up by fact. And the resolution, while it is something he has repressed all along, is more frightening than any of his paranoid imaginings. The resolution, however, is not quite the end of the story, and the ultimate climax is sure to shock you more than what has gone before.

   Do read this — but don’t read it while alone!

   Farrell is an expert at inspiring terror in the hearts of his readers, as evidenced by his well-known Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1960), which was the basis for the chilling 1962 film starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The author of numerous TV and film scripts, Farrell has also written the novels Death on the Sixth Day (1961) and Such a Gorgeous Kid Like Me (1967).

     ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Reviewed by TONY BAER:

   

JOHN EVANS (Howard Browne) – Halo in Blood. Paul Pine #1. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1946. Reprints include: Bantam #74, paperback, 1946; Quill, paperback, 1984; No Exit Press, paperback, 1988. Also appeared in Mammoth Detective, May 1946, probably in shortened form.

   Rich dude hires PI Paul Pine to break up his daughter’s relationship with a scoundrel. Pine agrees to try to dig up some dirt. But no promises. She’s of age and can date who she wants.

   But it turns out the case isn’t really about breaking up the happy couple at all. Because they’re not a happy couple. Rather, the beau is playboy on the mob’s payroll. His job is to hook rich women and get them to gamble away their fortunes at mafia run gambling houses.

   Then the playboy gets killed and Pine may be next, with the mob and cops after him, and the girl too — but she a much more palatable manner.

   The story is incredibly convoluted, a la Chandler. But you’re too confused to question why, you just go along for the ride.

   And the ride is quite fun. Paul Pine’s a great companion. And you riding shotgun.

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

M. Columbia, 1951. David Wayne, Howard Da Silva, Martin Gabel, Luther Adler, Steve Brodie, Raymond Burr, Glenn Anders. Director: Joseph Losey.

   Speaking of re-makes, Joseph Losey’s version of M is not an easy film to see, and I’m not sure it was worth the effort. It’s from his “promising” period (before he went to Europe to make deliberately boring pictures) when he was doing movies like The Lawless, The Prowler, and other modestly stylish thrillers hinting he might someday approach the level of Sam Fuller or Joseph H. Lewis.

   M gives us a bit of fine photography, a few neat directorial effects (mostly swiped from Fritz Lang’s original) and some really effective acting: David Wayne as the child-killer; Howard Da Silva as the conscientious cop on his trail; and a team of gangsters (also out to get the killer) that includes Martin Gabel, Raymond Burr, Luther Adler and the inimitable Glenn Anders at his irritating best, as a crook who thinks having a child-murderer at large  may be good for business.

   Unfortunately, Losey can’t seem to think his way around the censorship of the times, which dictated that Law and Order must be seen to prevail at all times, and the result is a rather muddled ending which  is not exactly Losey’s fault, but which when you see how directors like John Huston and Robert Aldrich slipped subversive comments past the censors in things like Asphalt Jungle and Kiss Me Deadly, you can’t help wishing he’d been a bit more inventive.

   Worse, Losey can’t get past his own tendency to preach, and things get badly bogged down while various characters stop the action to explain his moral points to the movie-going masses.
   

BACKLASH. 20th Century Fox, 1947. Jean Rogers, Richard Travis, Larry Blake, John Eldredge, Robert Shayne, Douglas Fowley, Sara Berner. Screenwriter: Irving Elman. Director: Eugene Forde.

   Not a very promising list of players, I thought while researching this B-level crime film before I watched it, nor did they exceed expectations. And yet they all did the jobs they were assigned, and the photography was fine as well. The story, with one five minute exception, was what left everything down, and I’ll get to that a couple of paragraphs further down.

   Richard Travis is the actor who nominally has the leading male role, but as the district attorney who’s handling the case, he seems to have more interest in the wife (Jean Rogers) of the man who’s presumed dead in an automobile accident (John Eldredge), a noted defense attorney named John Morland who gotten Red Bailey, an even more noted bank robber and killer (Douglas Fowley), off on charges before.

   The movie opens with yet another opportunity for Morland to defend Bailey with the former picking up the latter on a back road and helping him avoid roadblocks and imminent capture. As a prologue, it fails rather badly, as it easily allows the viewer to think Morland’s death later to be a lot more suspicious than (I think) it should have been.

   No matter. The police, in the form of Det. Lt. Jerry McMullen (Larry Blake), seem to be equally suspicious of the death, or in particular, who it was who died soon enough on his own, even though the evidence is pointing directly to Morland’s wife (the lady who again seems to be in a very close relationship with the D.A. See above.)

   If all of this sounds rather complicated it is, but even so, it doesn’t make the story that connects all these people very interesting. It takes a lot of talking to all of these people (and quite a few others) on the part of the homicide detective in charge of the case to move the story along, and then in only fits and bits, and flashbacks, too.

   There is one strange interlude toward the end of the movie that seems to come out of nowhere, but once there becomes a small highlight of the film. John Morland, on the run at the time, tries to take over a hobo’s flop, and they have a short but scintillating conversation together in dim but oh so effective lighting as the hobo gradually realizes who it is he’s talking to. This is the part of the film that’s pure noir. The rest is no more than a less than ordinary crime film.
    

              ___

   On the other hand, Arthur Lyons, reviewing this film in his book on B level films noir, Death on the Cheap, liked this more than I did. After a couple of paragraphs outlining the plot, he says “Told in a series of complicated flashbacks, this is not a bad little flick.”

   He may be right. I may have been harder on it than it deserves. I’ll think about it.

   Later: No, reading my review again, I don’t think so.

Nero Wolfe on Page and (Small U.S.) Screen:
Too Many Clients
by Matthew R. Bradley

   

   Completing the titular motif of Rex Stout’s Too Many Cooks (1938), Too Many Women (1947), and “Too Many Detectives” (1956), Too Many Clients (1960) opens as Thomas G. Yeager, the executive VP of Continental Plastic Products, arrives unannounced at the brownstone. Hired to confirm that he will be followed from his house on East 68th Street to 156 W. 82nd Street that evening, and ascertain by whom, Archie enlists the services of trusted cabbies Albert Goller and Mike Collins. The client is a no-show, and after Purley answers Archie’s phone call with a tell-tale “Mrs. [emphasis mine] Yeager’s residence,” Lon Cohen at the Gazette reveals that his body was found in an excavation on West 82nd.

   Lord knows, I’ve made little attempt to enumerate pop-culture references in books dating back 90 years, but Lon is jokingly told he will receive a Christmas card from “Archie and Mehitabel and the children,” alluding to the respective cockroach (Archy) and cat created by Don Marquis in his New York Evening Sun column in 1916, whose exploits — beloved of my father, IIRC — were often illustrated by George (Krazy Kat) Herriman. The photos in Lon’s file prove that the “client” was not Yeager…who was already dead, so with their bank balance perilously low, Archie seeks one. From superintendent Cesar Perez and his daughter, Maria, he learns that Yeager, referred to as “Mr. House,” owned 156 W. 82nd.

   After Archie intuits that Cesar found Yeager’s body in his well-used love nest, per Wolfe a “preposterous bower of carnality” — belying the ratty address — and hid it in the Con Ed site, Mrs. Felita Perez offers a $100 fee. They are interrupted by stage star Meg Duncan, whom Archie had recently seen in The Back Door to Heaven, and came for her cigarette case, offering $1,000 to find and keep it for her, “but too many clients can be worse than too few.”

   With Saul Panzer unavailable, he summons Fred Durkin to hold down the fort and restrain any visitors, presumably female, at gunpoint if needed while he returns to the brownstone, where he has arranged for Mr. and Mrs. Perez and (separately) Meg to come.

   Meg concedes “awareness that she had — uh — colleagues. Or rivals,” but either can’t or won’t provide any information regarding them or pay Wolfe $50,000 to suppress possible evidence in a murder. Questioned in Spanish, “one of his six languages,” the Perezes say Yeager paid them $50 a week, letting them live for free in the basement and keep the rent for the rooms on the first four floors; convinced that Felita killed him for “debauch[ing]” Maria, Wolfe refuses their fee, upped to $250. Fred summons Archie, having “caught a fish” who scratched his face: Julia McGee, Yeager’s secretary, sent to seek anything to connect him to the house by Continental prexy Benedict Aiken, joining her chez Wolfe.

   Aiken corroborates Julia and hires Wolfe for an unspecified fee to investigate, if possible protecting the corporation; then, Ellen Yeager arrives and hires him to find her husband’s killer, with a proviso that he will terminate his arrangement with Continental in the event of a conflict. They are interrupted by Cramer, aware that Archie asked Lon about Yeager two hours before he was found but seemingly not of the notorious room, when Fred calls to report another fish, so Archie departs on a pretext. On arrival, Felita shows him a deed sent them by attorney John Morton Seymour, conveying the house to them in the event of Yeager’s death, “so nobody could know he owned [it] and we must not say he owned it.”

   Upstairs, he finds Dinah Hough, who has admired his dancing at the Flamingo and left an umbrella while allegedly avoiding Yeager’s advances; learning that hubby Austin teaches English lit at NYU, Archie pegs him as “Yeager,” who’d quoted Elizabethans and Robert Browning. Brought to Wolfe, he explains his idea that the revelation to Yeager — thought to be alive — of an unidentified impostor would let her know that he knew of their affair. That night, Felita awakens Archie to report that Maria was shot after seeing a movie with friends, and hidden in her drawer, he locates a cache of information on Yeager, including multiple sketches of some eleven women, one dated the night he was killed, resembling Julia.

   Archie requests Felita’s $1 fee to investigate her murder and calls off Fred, summoned by Wolfe along with Julia, who arrives with Aiken and is tricked into admitting she had been there, purportedly to take dictation, finding Yeager dead. Excluded as Wolfe instructs the ’teers, Archie visits Meg, who admits paying Maria $5 in monthly “hush money”; Austin, who has clearly beaten Dinah to a pulp; and Ellen, who insists on seeing the room despite the risk of surveillance.

   They meet Purley on the way out, forcing Archie to lie like mad, backed up by the quick-on-the-uptake Ellen and Felita, but Stebbins is no fool, and all the supposed coincidences get Archie a trip downtown, compartmentalizing two sets of facts.

   Wolfe asks Aiken to bring Julia, and Saul to bring a certain Arthur Wenger, who through the trick picture of the waterfall looking into the office i.d.’s Aiken as the man for whom he duplicated Julia’s highly unusual Rabson keys. Knowing that Yeager would be alone while awaiting her arrival, Aiken eliminated the growing threat to his leadership; he then writes and signs a confession — drafted by and mailed to Wolfe — that conceals the room’s existence before killing himself. Cramer knows damn well from the wording that Wolfe wrote it, but with Aiken dead he is not obliged to reveal his evidence, and the Continental directors agree to pay a $50,000 fee, while Archie returns the cigarette case and umbrella.

   A two-part second-season episode of A Nero Wolfe Mystery, “Too Many Clients” (June 2 & June 9, 2002) was one of director John L’Ecuyer’s four collaborations with screenwriter Sharon Elizabeth Doyle. It boasted an unusually large number of typos in the opening or closing credits, misidentifying the regulars and repertory players cast as Orrie (Trent MacMullen [sic]), Cesar (Alec [sic] Poch-Goldin), Director #2 (David Schurman [sic]) and Woman in Bathroom (Shanon [sic] Jobe) and Kitchen (Hayley Vernon [sic]), respectively. Michael Sarrazin appears in flashbacks, uncredited, as Yeager; sometimes seen as the dreaded Lt. Rowcliff, Bill MacDonald plays Austin, the faux Yeager hiring Archie (Timothy Hutton).

   Covered with a tarp by Cesar out of simple decency, Yeager is found by boys retrieving a ball — which conveniently lands in his open palm — as Archie ponders his absence with Al (Marty Moreau), and after hanging up on Purley (R.D. Reid) he seeks further information from Lon (Saul Rubinek). Well-cast Jeanette Sousa makes her only appearance as Maria, described in the book as “one of the three most beautiful females I have ever seen”; while addressed by name, Felita (Lucy Filippone) says they “were paid not to know” Meg (Kari Matchett). Fred’s (Fulvio Cecere) tedium is well depicted, as is his tussle with Julie (sic; Christine Brubaker), wrapped up in a coverlet, who later calls for Aiken (James Tolkan).

   In his pique over being stymied, Wolfe (Maury Chaykin) even wrangles with Fritz (Colin Fox); as he is being hired by Ellen (Debra Monk), Dinah (Dina Barrington) awakens Fred in the bathtub, and Cramer (Bill Smitrovich) drops in. Called “Mike” in the novel, Meg’s “square-jawed female” employee is now Matilda (Lorca Moore). Found by Saul (Conrad Dunn), Wenger (Robert Bockstael) fingers Aiken, and after his suicide, Doyle eliminates the parting shot with Cramer, jumping ahead to the meeting with the directors — including Richard Waugh and Steve Cumyn — and a new denouement, in which Archie watches the Perezes, whose daughter’s murder must remain officially unsolved, mournfully dancing…

Up next: “Eeny Meeny Murder Mo”

Edition cited:

         Too Many Clients: Bantam (1971)

Online source:

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

   

RICHARD FALKIRK – Blackstone’s Fancy. Edmund Blackstone #2. Methuen, UK, hardcover, 1973. Stein & Day, US, hardcover, 1973. Bantam, US, paperback, 1974.

   Edmund Blackstone is a member of England’s pioneering group of public law officers, the Bow Street Runners (as is another prominent fictional detective, Jeremy Sturrock, in a series written by J.G. Jeffreys). Blackstone’s adventures span a total of six novels, of which only the first four were published in this country, and are fascinating portraits of London and its environs in the 1820s.

   Blackstone’s Fancy, the second in the series, involves the redoubtable Blackie in the violent (and al that time illegal, owing to a 1750 act of Parliament) sport of prizefighting, and with its “fancy” — the gamblers and aficionados. many of them aristocrats, who attended the matches and otherwise involved themselves in the sport.

   When Blackstone is ordered to lead a campaign to stamp out prizefighting, he finds himself tom between his loyalties to the Runners and his own self-interest: On the sly, he himself has undertaken the training of a boxing protege, a Negro youth named Ebony Joe. (Blackstone is that rarity among detective heroes, a human being with weaknesses as well as strengths.)

   But this is only one of Blackie’s worries. Among others: Patron of pugilists and zealous reformer Sir Humphrey Cadogan is being blackmailed by one of the whores he “saved”; the man who wrote the blackmail note is brutally murdered; an attempt is made on Blackstone’s own life; and Ebony Joe’s father is kidnapped in an effort to force him to throw his first major bout.

   The plot is cleverly worked out. but the real charm of the novel is Richard Falkirk’s (a pseudonym of Derek Lambert) vivid portrait of the period, with all its social problems, strange pastimes, and criminal excesses. The narrative is also sprinkled with prizefighting history and lore, and with underworld cant, most of it (but not all, unfortunately) accompanied by translations.

   Falkirk’s prose style is evocative, too though it occasionally becomes eccentric, with such dubious lines as “The girl in the bed stirred drowsily, one sleepy breast above the coverlet.”

   All in all, however, this is a delightful series and one wishes that new titles would be added. The other five existing Blackstone novels are Backstone ( 1973 ), Beau Blackstone (1974), Blackstone and the Scourge of Europe ( 1974 ), Blackstone Underground ( 1976), and Blackstone on Broadway (1977). Under his own name, Lambert has also published several suspense novels, among them The Yermakov Transfer (1974).
     ———
   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

NOTE: The review above has been edited to remove a final phrase stating that Derek Lambert was the author of “an excellent biographical study of nine ‘masters of suspense,’ The Dangerous Edge (1976).” This is in error. The author of the latter is actually *Gavin* Lambert. See the comments.

Next Page »