Reviewed by TONY BAER:


PETER RABE – The Box. Gold Medal 632, paperback original, 1956 (cover by Barye Phillips). Stark House Noir Classics, softcover, 2003 (published in a 2-for-1 edition with Journey Into Terror).

   Quinn is a mafia lawyer who screws up. Not quite big enough for the long ride, so he’s given an all expenses paid trip around the globe instead.

   The way it works is this: They knock you out and stick you in a box, about the size of a coffin. They fill it with plenty of food and water and put holes in it for air. Then they nail it shut and stick you on a freighter from NY Harbor to NY Harbor, by way of the world entire.

   Somewhere about halfway thru the voyage, the box top breaks and it starts to smell of human filth. A smell the sailors can’t handle — so they dump the box out at tiny harbor port in Northern Africa.

   Quinn’s got amnesia and doesn’t know what the hell is going on. The locals clean him up and go about trying to get some papers from the consulate on him so they can send him on his merry way.

   But soon enough he gets the lay of the land and his gangland persona kicks in. He decides to take things over in this island town and make his own gangland kingdom by the sea.

   The local corruptor in chief (the mayor) doesn’t take too kindly to this outsider coming in and threatening his take. And so the matter comes to a head: the NY gangster enlists some of the local oppressed Arabs against the African mayor and his cronies. And comes the showdown.


   I enjoyed it but it was a bit on the light side in the end. I also didn’t like how hard Rabe tried to push the metaphor of “The Box.” The idea is that humans have “boxes” that they create for themselves. Even with the “benefit” of amnesia, a NY gangster has habits of character created by “The Box” he has caged himself within that will inevitably cause him to become a gangster in whatever environment he finds himself in.

   Not sure I buy it myself. On the other hand, Rabe was a practicing psychologist so he probably knows better than I do. Still, overwrought metaphors are annoying to this boy in the box. I preferred Anatomy of a Killer and Kill the Boss Goodbye.

[EDITORIAL NOTE]: This is the second of four reviews that went missing during the loss of service undergone by this blog over this past weekend. Unfortunately all of the comments for it have permanently disappeared.