A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider:

PETER RABE – Dig My Grave Deep. Gold Medal #612, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1956. Reprint: Black Lizard, pb, 1988.


   Contemporary reviewers compared Peter Rabe favorably with both Chandler and Hammett, and with some justification. Rabe’ s best work achieves a harsh objectivity that is typical of Hammett in such books as The Glass Key.

   Rabe’s specialty was the hard-boiled gangster novel, though he also published a series of comic spy novels in the 1960s, a fine “mad avenger” book, and a truly offbeat novel about an American gangster in a foreign environment, as well as a series of novels about a “retired” gangster named Daniel Port, beginning with Dig My Grave Deep.

   In theory, of course, no one retires from the rackets and lives to tell the tale, but Port is intelligent as well as tough; he has a plan that will allow him to leave alive. But first, out of loyalty to his old boss, Port decides to help fight off the challenge of the so-called Reform party, a group that is trying to achieve political as well as criminal power in Port’s city.

   He does so with brains as well as violence, though there is certainly violence in this book. Rabe’s matter-of-fact, understated style is particularly well adapted to describing violent encounters, including violent sexual encounters, and he does a quietly effective job of doing so in Dig My Grave Deep.


   What is unexpected in the book is its humor, of both the tongue-in-cheek variety (Rabe’s character names are always worth a second look) and off-the-wall variety (Port’s bodyguard is involved in several hilarious incidents).

   The successful mixture of violence, humor, and effective storytelling makes one realize that Rabe’s works are worthy of more attention than has been accorded them in recent years.

   Other books in the Daniel Port series, all worth seeking out, are The Out Is Death (1957), It’s My Funeral (1957), The Cut of the Whip (1958), Bring Me Another Corpse (1959), and Time Enough to Die (1959).

   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 Comment:   On the primary Mystery*File website is an lengthy interview that George Tuttle did with Peter Rabe not too long before his (Rabe’s) death. Following their conversation is a complete bibliography I did of all of Rabe’s fictional work, including plenty of cover images.