DAN J. MALOWE One Endless Hour

DAN J. MARLOWE – One Endless Hour. Gold Medal R2050, paperback original, 1969. Reprints: Gold Medal T2662, paperback, 1972. Stark House Press (with The Name of the Game Is Death), trade paperback, 2013.

   I like to spend October watching old monster movies and reading spooky books. Things like Burn Witch Burn and Firebug, which I did. But I found nothing all last month quite so chilling as One Endless Hour, by Dan J. Marlowe.

   For awhile therein the 1960s Marlowe bid fair to take up the legacy of Jim Thompson with books like The Name of the Game Is Death and The Vengeance Man, but he chose to settle in the comfortable groove of the continuing (and no doubt more profitable) Earl Drake series, and who can blame him really?

   One Endless Hour is the “bridge” book between the old stuff and the new, and as such it has an attractively pointless momentum I find immensely appealing — that and the over-the-top violence and crude sex of its time.

   The first chapter of Hour is actually the last chapter (slightly re-written) of The Name of the Game Is Death: the bank robber hero finding his partner murdered, killing the woman who betrayed him (“Tell it in Hell, bitch, if you can get anyone to listen,”) and castrating the local lawman behind it all. Then we get a furious car chase and running gun battle that climaxes with our hero (now Earl Drake) getting his hands and face burnt off and ending up in the state prison hospital being systematically tortured — and plotting his escape.

   And that’s just the first chapter.

   There follows a uniquely creepy tale of plastic surgery, bribed guards, jail-break, double-cross, more murders and two bank robberies—one of which goes sour in spectacularly kinky fashion, all told in about a hundred and sixty fast-turning pages. An unforgettably hard-boiled story and perfect for the Halloween season.

   Dan J. Marlowe may have gone on to better selling books, but those of us who cherish the truly subversive in fiction will remember him more fondly for books like this.