HIT AND RUN James Hadley Chase


Corgi, UK; paperback reprint; 1st Corgi printing, 1978. Earlier paperback edition: Panther, UK, 1967. First published in hardcover as by Raymond Marshall: Robert Hale, UK, 1958. No US edition. Film: Groupe des Quatre, 1959, as Delit de Fruite (Hit and Run) Also: Cinestar, 1986, as Rigged.

   I’m going to start with a long quote to start my comments off with, and when you’ve read it, I’m positive that you will know (1) what James Hadley Chase’s world of crime fiction is all about, and (2) exactly where this particular story is going next. The narrator is Chester Scott, an up-and-coming California adman; the woman is his boss’s young wife. This interlude takes place while his boss is laid up with a bum leg. From pages 14-15:

   The carpet on the stairs was thick and muffled my footfalls. I guess that was why she hadn’t heard me coming down.

   She was standing before a full-length mirror, looking at herself, her hands lifting her long, chestnut-coloured hair off her shoulders, her head a little on one side. She had on one of those fancy things called shorties that reached only to within four inches of her knees. Her legs and feet were bare.

   She was the loveliest thing I have ever seen in my life. Maybe she was twenty-two, but I doubted it, twenty would be nearer it. She was young and beautiful and fresh, and everything about her was exciting from her thick, long glossy hair to her small bare feet.

HIT AND RUN James Hadley Chase

   The sight of her touched off a spark inside me that had been waiting to be touched off ever since I had become what is technically known as a man, and which no woman had up to now succeeded in touching off.

   The spark ignited with flash that knocked me mentally backwards and sent a flame though me that dried my mouth, made my heart pound and left me breathless.

   I stood motionless in the semidarkness looking at her, aware that my blood was racing, my heart was thumping and aware that l had never seen a woman I wanted so badly as this one.

   Maybe she had an instinctive feeling that she was being watched or maybe she had finished admiring herself in the mirror; anyway, she suddenly stepped back out of my sight, and the door was pushed to.

   For perhaps ten seconds I stood motionless, staring at the half-closed door, them I went on down the stairs, down the next flight to the hall. It was only when I reached the hall that I paused to take out my handkerchief and wipe my sweating face.

   Whew! Too bad the rest of the book is not as good as this, but as a matter of fact, it almost is. Chester spends the next few days giving Lucille (that’s her name) driving lessons in his shiny new Cadillac, then the story takes off in an acute angle and not one I expected.

   Even though the affair is never consummated, after a would-be lovers’ quarrel, Lucille takes off in a car, only to kill a local cop in a fatal hit-and-run accident. Blackmail comes next and so do several other twists that I have absolutely no business at all in telling you about.


   It is a Woolrichian nightmare that Ches finds himself in — or pure noir, no matter how you define it — without the distinctive Woolrichian prose. Chase’s own flair for words, as you will have seen, is serviceable enough, however, and then some. This is the smoothest (and paradoxically the crudest) crime novel I’ve read in a long time. Crudest in the most positive sense of the word, mind you!

PostScript. The movie Rigged (1986) that’s based on this film is available on DVD, somewhat to my surprise, and I’ve just ordered it from the Amazon-UK website. Hopefully I’ll be reviewing it sooner rather than later. For the record now, the movie stars Ken Roberson and Pamela Jean Bryant (both unknown names to me) and George Kennedy as her husband and Roberson’s boss.