A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini

DAVID ALEXANDER – Hangman’s Dozen. Roy, hardcover, 1961.

    David Alexander is an underrated writer, in part at least because he had an idiosyncratic, sometimes self-consciously poetic and mannered style that some readers find offputting. But his work has undeniable power, and his novels featuring sporting newspaperman Bart Hardin are superior portraits of New York’s Broadway and Times Square in the 1950s. His plots, too, are unusual and compelling, as are his offbeat, colorful characters.

    Alexander was an even better short-story writer than novelist — certainly his prose was leaner and less eccentric in his short fiction — and the thirteen stories in Hangman’s Dozen are his best.

    “The Man Who Went to Taltavul’s” (which won a prize in one of Ellery Queen’s annual contests) and “Something in the Air” are excellent historical tales with startling twists at the end. “The Other Ones” is a chilling fantasy about some of the murderous inhabitants of hell. “Run from the Snakes” concerns a wet-brain, an alcoholic so far gone that he no longer even knows who he is.

    “Face of Evil” is a procedural about a cop named Romano, who appears in many of Alexander’s novels. “Love Will Find a Way” deals with three mountain climbers trapped by an avalanche and by their own passions in Switzerland, and the extraordinary crime perpetrated by two of them. The best of the hangman’s dozen is “Uncle Tom,” a devastating indictment of bigotry and racial injustice in the South — a story Alexander was unable to sell to any magazine in the Forties and Fifties.

    This is a heterogeneous collection, illustrating the range and depth of the author’s talent.

   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:   Coming soon to a blog near you (this one), reviews by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini of The Madhouse in Washington Square and Paint the Town Black, both also by David Alexander.