PETER RABE My Lovely Executioner

PETER RABE – My Lovely Executioner. Gold Medal #967, paperback original; 1st printing, February 1960. Five Star, hardcover, 1999. Stark House Press (with Agreement to Kill), trade paperback, 2006.

   It’s my opinion — and so far’s I know, nobody else’s — that Peter Rabe should have a name in the mystery field comparable to some of those writing in the heyday of Black Mask magazine. No, not a top-notcher like Hammett or Chandler, but more along the lines of a Raoul Whitfield, say.

   Like the one at hand, much of Rabe’s work seems to have been devoted to inside glimpses into life in the underworld. Tough, sexy, hard-boiled — all are adjectives that seem to apply. To a certain extent, it occasionally takes some work to read in between the lines Rabe wrote, as if you really had to think like a crook to make the pieces of the puzzle fit together the way they should.

   This one opens with a guy named Gallivan as he’s being busted out of prison. Non-voluntarily, it should be added. He has only three weeks to go before his time is up. Now he’s on the run, aided by the prison-mate who helped spring him, along with a girl named Jessie whom the other guy seems to know.

   Gallivan’s problem is threefold: what’s their motive; how can he escape them; and should he escape them? Add another: can he escape them?

   Not a major story, by any means. There are no big scenes that stand out in your memory afterwards, ones you’d automatically think of when you think of this book. There are a lot of little ones, though, each one individually hardly worth a mention, but each one etched in its way in a small semblance of perfection.

Rating:   B

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (slightly revised).