RAOUL WHITFIELD – Green Ice. Knopf, hardcover, 1930. Also published as The Green Ice Murders. Avon Murder Mystery Monthly #46, paperback, 1947. Avon Classic Crime, paperback, 1971. Gregg Press, hardcover, 1980. Quill, paperback, 1986. Comprised of the following oulp magazine short stories:

         Outside, Black Mask December 1929
         Red Smoke, Black Mask January 1930
         Green Ice, Black Mask February 1930
         Oval Face, Black Mask March 1930
         Killer’s Show, Black Mask April 1930

   Mal (short for Malcolm) Ourney just got out of Sing Sing in Ossining. Like literally just walked out.

   He’d served two years on a vehicular manslaughter rap he took for his lush girlfriend, Dot Ellis. He’s a gallant kind of fellah and figured since Dot got drunk on his liquor, and was driving his car with him in it, it was kinda his own fault anyway. So he plucked her out of the driver’s seat, and sat in there himself.

   While in stir, Mal and Dot go their separate ways. Dot’s the road to perdition.

   Dot’s always gonna glom onto some guy, and trade her wares for bed, board and booze. That was really no surprise to Mal and he wasn’t too heartbroken over it.

   Dot hooks up with a rising hood who hoodwinks a Colombian playboy out of five emeralds, cut like coffins, worth 50 grand a piece. The hood lets Dot hold onto them, for now. And forever, since when the big fish find out the small one is getting ideas and planning to cut out the bosses, they teach him a lesson he won’t forget. With a bullet.

   Meantime Mal spends his time in ‘Sing Song’ getting sick of the broken record. The big bastards using the small time hoods to do their all their dirty work, then framing them and sending them up the river (literally up the Hudson River), or giving them a dose of lead poisoning.

   Mal decides when he gets out he’s gonna get some revenge on the big bastards that are puppeteering all the little hoods like marionettes. The cops are worthless as they’re bought and paid for by the big guys.

   So he figures it’s up to him to start using the little guys to go after the big guys. To get them to wake up to the fact that they’re being played. Because though the lumpen-proles do all the dirty work they get stuck with the shitty end of the stick with all the coin rolling uphill while the shit rolls down.

   But guess who’s at the gates to meet Mal when he gets out? It’s his long lost gal: Dot. And Dot has some green ice she’s ready to share. She needs a bit of protection now that her man is under ground.

   But Mal isn’t having any. He won’t even let Dot get a word in. He doesn’t wanna hear it. It’s not that he’s mad at her or anything. It’d be like getting mad at a piranha for being a piranha. He’s just onto his life’s work. The work of a freelance reformer, kicking against pricks. And Dot’s not exactly good company. Pricks never being something she’d kick at.

   So Mal goes his way and Dot goes hers. But her long ride’s cut short. By more bullets.

   But somewhere along the way the emeralds have been lost. Maybe not lost, but passed around like whatever the opposite of hot potatoes are. Cold green potatoes. Everybody wants ’em. But nobody can keep them for long and keep breathing.

   Since Dot had ’em and went up to see Mal, everybody figures Mal’s got ’em. Mal knows he hasn’t got ’em. And all he wants is to clean up graft.

   He tells everyone that will listen that all he wants to do is to clean up graft. But nobody will listen. Everybody just figures he’s joking or using it as a cover for nefarious, green, and sparkling ends.

   Mal doesn’t carry a gun. And, if I’m counting right, he accounts for zero deaths in the entire novel. He’s no pacifist and is a decent puncher. But he’s got no use for gats. Or emeralds. He just wants justice.

   Yet everywhere Mal goes and everyone Mal sees ends up shot dead or trying to kill him. Or both.

   All for emeralds. That turn out to be as fake as a Maltese falcon.

   And though Mal’s quixotic quest for justice was damned from the start, at the end he turns Pollyanna. He figures all the dead bodies of all the dead hoods killed at least a few that might be classified as kind of ‘big’. So, hey! Like Dubya said about the middle east: Mission Accomplished!

   Like Bogie ad libbed from old Billy Shakespeare: It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Hardboiled dreams of small fry crooks and reformers. All fun house horizons and shattered glass.

   It’s tightly written with tight staccato prose. Words like bullets from a tommy gun.

   It’s good. It’s not Red Harvest , but it’s on the same planet, with similar characters and similar taut precision. Written by a guy that’s maybe not Hammett but no small shakes in his own right.

   There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them.