LAWRENCE GOLDMAN – Black Fire. Ace Double D-170, paperback original, 1956. Published back-to-back with Flight by Night, by Day Keene.

   I purchased this last weekend in the Old Book Store in Morristown, NJ, a Mecca of sorts for lovers of old books and magazines up and down the East Coast. The shop is clean and well-organized, and the books are priced so that books move out almost as fast as they come in. Used bookstores such as this one are an endangered species. If there’s one near you, by all means, give them all the support you can. That is to say, buy books from them even if you already own more books than you can possibly read in one lifetime.

   I bought this one because of the book on the flipside, the one by Day Keene, which I didn’t remember if I owned or not. It didn’t look familiar, and the price was right, so I did. Later that evening when I was looking for something to read, I decided to sample this book by Lawrence Goldman for a chapter or so, as long as I owned it, then go on to the Keene half, which I was looking forward to.

   But I surprised myself, and 30 minutes later I was 60 pages into the book. It was also time to turn the lights out, and I had to wait a couple of days before I could finish it, which I’ve just done.

   Black Fire starts out as an an ordinary domestic thriller, by which I do not mean a cosy, but one in which the teller of the story, Bill Kincaid, happily married, falls in lust with his boss’s wife. Not only that, but his boss is his best friend, who asks Bill to track down the guy whom he knows is messing around with his wife.

   The company both men work for (with one of them the owner) is a shipping concern, and as the wheels of fate (and the story) would have it, the four of them, Kincaid and his wife, and the Skipper and his wife Joyce, find themselves marooned at sea off the coast of Mexico in a boat with no gasoline. Not only that, the Skipper has no memory of his attack on the man whom he thought was lovimg his wife.

   Pulled into shore, they find themselves to be the guests, if not the prisoners, of El Jefe, who controls the small town of Aparicio, a small settlement located at the base of an every-so-often active volcano called Fuego Negro — thus creating a novel of suspense far from anywhere you might have thought the first few chapters were heading.

   It’s no great shakes of a story, with no other surprises in store — you probably can easily guess some of what happens from here, with just this little part I’ve told you about — but with the sense that I may be the only person to ever have reviewed this book before, I can honesty say that I’m happy to have read it.

   But now on to the Day Keene half of the book. Stay tuned.