A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider

DAN J. MARLOWE – The Name of the Game Is Death. Gold Medal s1184, paperback original, January 1962. Fawcett Gold Medal T2663, paperback, revised edition, January 1973.

   The Name of the Game Is Death is Dan J. Marlowe’s best book, which means that it’s just about as good as original paperback writing can get. It’s hard, fast, tough, and terse, with an opening scene so strong that you’ll wonder if Marlowe can possibly come up with an ending to top it. But he does, and it’s good enough to jolt you out of your chair.

DAN J. MARLOWE The Name of the Game Is Death

   Marlowe’s narrator, Earl Drake, is a bank robber and a cold-blooded killer — they don’t come any colder — who works part-time as a tree surgeon. He hates most people and loves animals.

   When he’s wounded in a robbery in Phoenix, he sends his partner on ahead with the money and instructions to mail some of it to him each week. At first the money arrives on schedule; then it doesn’t. Recovered, Drake starts for Florida to find out why. Not everyone between Arizona and Florida lives until Drake finishes his trip.

   In Florida, Drake gets work as a tree surgeon, makes friends with several of the locals, and even appears to be falling in love. But always in the back of his mind is his desire to find his money and his partner. He does, shortly before the (literally) explosive climax.

   Drake’s story is strong stuff, and it moves with the speed of a bullet from his Colt Woodsman. Take a deep breath when you plunge into the story; you might not have time for another before it’s finished.

    Warning:   Earl Drake was eventually turned into a series character, a sort of secret agent. As a result, in 1972 Fawcett issued a revised edition of The Name of the Game Is Death in which Drake was made a bit more socially acceptable. Find and read the original if possible.

   Equally exciting books by Marlowe are The Vengeance Man (1966) and Four for the Money (1966).

   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.

          Earlier on this blog:

   The Vengeance Man, reviewed by Noel Nickol.

   And a long look at the differences between the two editions of The Name of the Game Is Death can be found here.