William F. Deeck

DAVID HUME – Heads You Live. Collins, UK, hardcover, 1939. Collins White Circle #94, Canada, paperback, 1944 (shown). No US edition.

   Another investigation, if you are generous and willing to call it that, by Cardby & Son, Private Investigators, although this features the son, Mick, whose father appears only infrequently.

   This, I take it, is an example of the typical tough-guy English novel. If it is, it is about the level of most American tough-guy novels of the period, filled with a great deal of senseless violence perpetrated by both the good and bad guys,·although Cardby fils, despite some splendid efforts on his part, doesn’t kill anyone.

   As is usual in this type of novel, there is little plot. Cardby & Son, when they make it plain they can’t get a man’s capital out of Austria, are then hired to protect it once it reaches England. It doesn’t reach England, or at least the part of it where Mick Cardby is waiting, and he begins to investigate.

   Several cases of arson, in which Cardby pere and then Cardby fils are the targets, a great deal of shooting and fighting, with a short respite for some minor torture that Mick engages are the highlights, if such they can be called, of the novel.

   Cardby is lucky in that he, not particularly bright, manages to encounter villains even less astute than he. One character, a born killer — Cardby points out that these people are branded as distinctively as cattle, although he is not aware he is facing one until it is too late — also appears to have been born a talker. That talent is what he occupies with until Cardby confuses him by telling that the “safety catch” of his revolver is on. (Another peculiar revolver, this one with a silencer that works, appears in the story earlier.)

   The dialogue is also odd, or at least that is how it strikes me. It sounds much like a mixture — 75% U.S. underworld argot, as imagined by an author, 25% English slang. I had to keep going back to make sure it was all taking place in England.

   For those readers who like a lot of violence, little realism and even less thought. Still, it is amusing in its own way. And Hume adheres to P.G. Wodehouse’s dictum not to let a female play a prominent role and thus louse up the action.

— Reprinted from CADS 15, November 1990. Email Geoff Bradley for subscription information.

Bibliographic Note:   David Hume was one of two pen names used by J. V. Turner, 1905-1945. There were in all 28 Mick Cardby novels published between 1932 and 1946. Turner also wrote an additional 20 or so detective novels under his own name, as Hume, and as as Nicholas Brady.