BORDEN CHASE Diamonds of Death

BORDEN CHASE – Diamonds of Death. Hart, paperback original, 1947. First serialized as “Blue-White and Perfect,” Argosy, 18 Sept-23 Oct, 1937. Filmed as Blue, White and Perfect, 1941.

   A while back, I reviewed Borden Chase’s novel Red River and found it surprisingly hammy from a writer known for his laconic screenplays. So I decided to give him another try and fished out Diamonds of Death (Hart, 1947) the first novel edition of Chase’s pulp novel, “Blue-White and Perfect.”

BORDEN CHASE Diamonds of Death

   This is that rarity, a dumb mystery that doesn’t insult one’s intelligence. The “surprise” criminal may be obvious early on, but Chase speeds his story through so many curves one hasn’t time to carp, as hero Smooth Kyle (I guess some folks don’t care what they name their kids) chases diamond smugglers from Broadway to Havana and back again.

   Chase provides his hero with a wise-cracking girlfriend, buddies in the Customs Office, and enough bad guys to felonize a dozen books like this, ranging from cheap hoods to smooth operators, phony dowagers, fake cops…

   I could go on, but readers of this sort of thing have met them before, and those who haven’t probably couldn’t appreciate the pulpy splendor of the piece, as Chase fills his story with glittering diamonds, luxury liners, exploding airplanes and elegant mansions, all of which impart a feel of extravagance without actually costing anything to write about.

BORDEN CHASE Diamonds of Death

   I’ll just add that the original pulp novel was bought by Fox for their “Michael Shayne” series back in the 40s, movies notable for pace, casting, and for the fact that the producers used only one Mike Shayne novel in the whole series, apparently preferring to impose their hero into stories by other authors, including Clayton Rawson, Frederick Nebel and even Raymond Chandler!

   Anyway, Borden Chase’s story suits the character quite well, and reading this one can almost hear Lloyd Nolan’s snappy banter as he stalks through the studio back lot.

Editorial Comment:   I think you can make it out on the cover of the Argosy magazine that contained the first installment of the pulp novel, but in case not, it refers to the fact that this was a return engagement for Smooth and Gilda. Collectors of Argosy, can you help me out? What earlier appearances were there?