RICHARD SALE – Lazarus #7. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1942. Harlequin #79, paperback, 1950.

   Dr. Steve Mason has dedicated his life to fighting leprosy across the globe. He’s spent the past few years abroad. He’s back stateside for a new gig with the Rockefeller Institute in NYC. He schedules a stopover in LA to hang out with an old college buddy, Joss Henry.

   Joss is an A-list Hollywood screenwriter and hell with the ladies. By comparison, Dr. Steve’s a bit of a buttoned-up nerd. But he humors Joss, and they get drunk and party with the aspiring actresses, eager to please, hoping for their chance. And producers. And all the other Hollywood tripe.

   One particularly odd duck is the studio medico, Dr. Max Lekro, who lives in something like an abandoned castle in the middle of nowhere. Dr. Max is the kind of guy who likes to tear the wings off flies and then surgically reattach them. He’s really into killing dogs and trying to resuscitate them. He’s obsessed with the biblical story of Lazarus, who Christ raised from the dead. Lekro has made six attempts at raising dead dogs, naming each of his experiments in succession: Lazarus #1, Lazarus #2, etc…. One of his most successful experiments involves a beheaded dog who remains ‘alive’ via attachment to some blood circulation machine.

   Dr. Max has also been treating a Hollywood persona for leprosy. On the down low. Because being a leper doesn’t play so well in the fan zines.

   And a wannabe starlet has found out about the leper, and has been bleeding them for dough, blackmailing them that they’ll disclose the leper if they don’t keep paying thru the nose. And now the wannabe starlet is dead. But she had a poison pill letter sent to Joss Henry upon her death, disclosing the identity of the leper. And now Joss Henry, rather than telling the cops, decides to get greedy and use the info for his own aggrandizement. And then Joss is murdered. And so on.

   And now the perp thinks Dr. Steve, being a leprosy expert, might notice the tell tale signs. So he’s got to go too! But Dr. Steve is our hero, so he’s lucky and safe. But not so for Dr. Max.

   So Dr. Max gets stabbed to death. But Dr. Steve brings him back to life, for just a moment: Lazarus #7. Whispering the name of the murderer. Loud enough for Steve to hear. Loud enough for the truth. For justice. To be served.


   The book is okay. It kept my attention. It kept me turning the pages. And it’s short. But it ain’t great. It’s just okay. I wouldn’t expect this forgotten book to be raised from the dead anytime soon. If it were, count it Lazarus #8.