Avon, paperback original; 1st printing, December 1976.

   As the cover so proudly proclaims, “Faster than Sherlock Holmes. Higher than Superfly. Handsomer than Inspector Poirot. It’s CARVER BASCOMBE and his first adventure.”

   Blurb writers sometimes lie, but this time it’s only a slight exaggeration. Even according to the authors on page 30, Bascombe is a combination of Superfly, Shaft and Virgil Tibbs, all rolled into one.

KENN DAVIS The Dark Side

   It’s remarkable, though, isn’t it, what a difference of 15 years makes. Superfly is totally forgotten, Shaft nearly so, and if it weren’t for the TV series, Virgil Tibbs might very well be also.

   Bascombe is black and a PI, as you might have gathered, and Kenn Davis (by himself) is still writing about his adventures. I’ve read only a couple of them, but until I read The Dark Side I don’t think I realized how closely his cases are connected with the world of the arts.

   I’d have to look into it some more to be sure, but this one, at least, concerns a famous artist whose high-priced works seem to keep on selling, year after year, even though the experts see nothing to them. It also concerns a small teen-aged boy who thinks he’s found a way to make his family financially independent, but who ends up dead instead.

   By the way, I think (as was the case in the case of both Superfly and Shaft) that this book was originally written with an eye toward the movies. It never worked out, but the flair toward to the cinematic, in terms of both descriptive place-settings and the scenes of intense action, simply can’t be mistaken.

   And there is a great deal of violence involved. Even the title this one refers in passing to the great contrast that’s deliberately invoked between the gore of the action and the daintier world of the arts, as previously mentioned.

   Bascombe has white girl friend in this one, and she (Gwen Norris) is an unknowing cause of friction between Carver and a black cop named Ludlow. I don’t know if either one or both happen to appear in later adventures, but never mind. Even if Carver Bascombe has never became world famous in the meantime, he and his associated cast of characters certainly had a slam-bang opening case on their hands in this one.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 33, Sept 1991 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 01-16-09.   A long article on Kenn Davis appeared earlier here on the blog, and it includes a complete listing of all his books and a lot more about his life. I was right in surmising that The Dark Side was written with the movies in mind, and I was also correct in saying that Bascombe’s cases all had connection with the world of the arts.

   I did not remember that The Dark Side was nominated for an Edgar in 1976 as Best Paperback Original, until I went back myself to read that earlier piece on Kenn Davis. It’s always nice to know when your judgment is validated like that.