W. R. BURNETT – High Sierra. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover, 1940. Paperback reprints include: Bantam #826, 1950; Carroll & Graf, December 1986; Zebra, November 1987.

Films: Film: First National, 1941 (with Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart; director: Raoul Walsh). Also: Warner Bros., 1949, as Colorado Territory (with Joel McCrea, Virginia Mayo; director: Raoul Walsh). Also: Warner Bros., 1955, as I Died a Thousand Times (with Jack Palance, Shelley Winters; director: Stuart Heisler).

   Have been reading W. R. Burnett. Two westerns, The Dark Command and Adobe Walls are well done, if nowhere close to his magnificent Saint Johnson, and I also picked up High Sierra, which really moves.

   With a book as perfect of its type as this one, there just ain’t much you can say: tightly written, unsentimental (unlike the movie made of it) and completely uncompromising, it flows so smoothly from start to finish, one can only sit back and enjoy. Which I recommend you do.

   I might add that it was filmed in 1941 by Raoul Walsh at Warners, one of the Essential Bogart Flicks, with a richly 40’s cast, including Ida Lupino, Henry Hull, Arthur Kennedy and Cornell Wilde – and a little too much schmaltz. Much better is Walsh’s 1949 Western remake, Colorado Territory, with Joel McCrae and Virginia Mayo.

   And finally it was remade once more as an overheated contemporary caper film with Jack lance, Shelley Winters, Lee Marvin and Earl Holliman as Defiant Young Punks made up to look like Lenny and Squiggy.

— Reprinted from The Hound of Dr. Johnson #19, May 2002.