JAMES McKIMMEY – Winner Take All. Dell First Edition A185, paperback original, 1959; cover art by Darcy. Stark House Press, trade paperback, December 2017 (published in combination with Perfect Victim).

   Now let’s suppose. A little bit of make believe. You’re alone in San Francisco. You’re a field engineer, and you’ve just returned from Saudi Arabia. There’s a knock on the door of your door. You say, what the hell, and you decide to open it. The man standing there looks almost exactly like you.

   He’s your twin brother, he says. It’s a long story, but he convinces you. And he has a proposition for you. He owes a crooked gambler in Reno $100,000, and all he’s been able to come up with is $60,000. What he wants you to do (for a $10,000 fee) is pose yourself off as him and offer the gambler half of what he owes. He’s a coward, he says, and you’ve been around. You’re tough and can handle yourself.

   Question: Would you take him up on the offer? You can use the money. Would you say yes?

   Well, Mark Steele does just that, and thereby the tale. No, of course it doesn’t go well. In fact he goes as badly as you might think, even if you were writing the story.

   James McKimmey, who was actually the one who wrote it, not you or I, was awfully good with dialogue, and the action-packed finale, while even more far-fetched than the opening couple of chapters, goes by in a flurry of turning pages. Or at least it did for me.

   In a interview with the author by Allan Guthrie in 2004, published as the introduction to the Stark House edition, McKimmey said he wrote the book (50,00 words) in ten days. If I were to tell you that it reads like it, I absolutely also need to add that I do not men that in a bad way. This was a joy to read, knots in the logic and all.