RICHARD DEMING – Hit and Run. Pocket #1271, paperback original; 1st printing, February 1960. Expanded from a shorter version that appeared in Manhunt, December 1954.


   Richard Deming was a hack, and generally not a very inspired one, but he managed a couple of mildly interesting efforts, including Body for Sale (1962) and Hit and Run (1960.) Other than that, it was mostly bland novelizations, some TV-tie-ins and even ghost-writing for Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen.

   Hit and Run starts off with PI Barney Calhoun witnessing (did-you-guess?) a minor hit-and-run accident committed by a pair of illicit and wealthy lovers. But when he approaches them, it’s not for blackmail but for performing the very real service of getting them out of trouble and smoothing things over with the law while hiding their involvement.

   As you’d expect in a story like this, things spin very quickly out of control when it develops that the accident was more serious than it looked, and the woman in the case won’t stop at murder to cover her tracks.

   This is mostly a very skillfully-worked job, and Deming offers some pleasing chills as Calhoun finds himself getting in deeper and deeper till the only way out is …

   Well, I won’t reveal too many twists, but there are several in Hit and Run, and they’re pretty nicely handled till the wrap-up, which strains credulity (mine anyway) entirely too far, with the sort of stretchy coincidence a writer like Woolrich could carry off, but one like Deming fumbles badly. Which I suppose is the difference between a poet and a hack.

Editorial Comment: This is Barney Calhoun’s only case to have seen print.