A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bruce Taylor:

MARCO PAGE – Fast Company. Dodd Mead, hardcover, March 1938. Pocket #222, paperback; 1st printing, July 1943; Paperback Library 52-192, ca.1962. Film: MGM, 1938 (scw: Marco Page, Harold Tarshis; dir: Edward Buzzell).

MARCO PAGE Fast Company

   Harry Kurnitz (a.k.a. Marco Page) will be remembered, if at all, as a screen writer. He penned the weakest of the Thin Man films — The Thin Man Goes Home (1944 ) — but partially redeemed himself in 1957 with his excellent script for the screen adaptation of Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution.

   His novels, including the bibliomystery Fast Company, have sunk into a more or less deserved obscurity. In this novel, rare-book dealer and part-time sleuth Joel Glass teams up with his wife, Garda, to solve the murder (referred to as “the blessed event”) of a much hated fellow New York book dealer.

   It seems there are two main suspects in the killing of Abe Selig. The prime suspect is Ned Morgan, a former assistant of Selig’s, who happens to be a convicted book thief recently paroled from prison. Suspect number two is everybody else who ever met Ab Selig.

   There are several other murders, and rare books keep disappearing and reappearing, but it’s all rather ordinary. There are some interesting glimpses into the world of rare books and book forgery.

MARCO PAGE Fast Company

   There is even an occasional good line: “[He] had an alibi tighter than a Scotch auditor…”

   But the parts add up to less than the whole. The plot is predictable and doesn’t begin to live up to the “hard-boiled” promise of the dust jacket.

   Fast Company was the winner of the 1938 Red Badge Best First Mystery Prize, which says something about the quality of the competition that year. It was made into a movie called Fast and Loose that same year (screenplay by the author) — an obvious attempt to capitalize on the success of the Thin Man series. The movie version isn’t very good either.

   The other Marco Page novels are The Shadowy Third (1946), which also has a New York setting; and Reclining Figure (1952), which takes place in California.

   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.

Editorial Comments: An earlier review of Fast Company by Bob Schneider appears here on the blog.

MARCO PAGE Fast Company

   Question: It seems obvious that the movie Fast Company (MGM, 1938) was based on the book, and that’s the only one I’ve included in the bibliographic details so far. (See above.)

   But both Al Hubin (in the Revised Crime Fiction IV) and Bruce Taylor say that Fast and Loose (MGM, 1939) was also based on Fast Company. Can both movies, made so close together, be based on the same book?

   There was a third film in the same series, Fast and Furious (MGM, 1939). What’s remarkable about the three films is that they all had the same leading characters, Joel and Garda Sloane, but in each of the three outings there was a different pair of Hollywood stars playing the parts.

   In order: Melvyn Douglas & Florence Rice; Robert Montgomery & Rosalind Russell; and Franchot Tone & Ann Sothern. I have all three on tape, probably from TCM at various times over the years, but I’ve yet to watch one.

[UPDATE] 08-08-09. On the ‘Golden Age of Detection’ group on Yahoo, Monte Herridge left the following comment:

    “A sequel to Fast Company was published in 1939: Fast and Loose was serialized in 5 parts in Argosy beginning in the February 25, 1939 issue.

    “It may never have been published in hardback, but at least there is a sequel for those interested.

    “The cover of Argosy for 2/25/39 describes the novel as ‘The Newest Hit from Hollywood!'”

   And the release date for the film, for which Page (as Kurnitz) was the screenwriter, was 17 February 1939, making it difficult to say which came first, the novel or the screenplay. What you have to wonder the most about, though, is why the serial in Argosy was never published in book form.