Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Devil's Passkey (Jimmy Shannon, 1952)

Pretty much everything in this one is bad so let us just focus on plot's main driving device - Trivium. And no, I'm not talking of neither this metal band nor of the systematic method of creative thinking. Trivium is a new synthetic drug, the "Most deadly millions-maker ever conceived to kill mankind."

That "millions-maker" part is a bit hard to understand because this drug can apparently be produced by using ingredients freely on sale in the local pharmacy for a price of an aspirin. This paradox is so ridiculous that author simply must address it and at least try to offer some sort of logical explanation. And he does. Well, sort of. It's hinted that commies might be behind the whole setup. It goes on and on (and it's pretty fucking funny too) but basic idea is that Russkies would weaken America by flooding the home of the brave with cheap and highly addictive drugs. Or some shit like that.

But this hypothesis is quickly abandoned (at least it never gets mentioned again) and we are back to a good old setup with two rival gangs and our world-saving-hero PI standing between them. But it must be said that he's not doing this job particularly well. He gets beaten all the time (see unconscious section of facts) and loses suspects on at least five occasions. When he gets stuck, he asks his religious friend to pray to God to break the case (I kid you fucking not) or simply relies on his instinct. And those parts are hilarious too, check it out:

Hell - I can't explain all the processes of reasoning that lead a man to do what he does. In women they call it intuition. In guys guess it's just plain "nose".

Huh?

It's simply bad. And not in a good way either. Blurb on the cover says "Written in the Mickey Spillane Style" and it's pretty accurate. Only I wouldn't exactly call it a style, it's more like a copy.

It made me little intrigued about Jimmy Shannon and did try to find more about him but even Google couldn't come up with nothing really useful. But Ruff Boy is listed on the Thrilling Detective website and it looks like this is his only novel. There's no other info there except for a quote from Bill Pronzini's book Gun in Cheek saying that Ruff is possibly "the least intelligent private eye ever." Cool stuff, Gun in Cheek just made my to-do list.

2/5

Facts:

Hero
Ruff Morgan aka "Ruff Boy", ex news reporter, now P.I.

Not very likable. One of those obnoxious know-all macho type assholes. Would be nice to say "please" or "thank you" every now and then when he's bossing everyone around. Btw,  for some reason he's commanding/coordinating half of the NYPD. Plus his jokes are pretty lame unless you find crap like this funny: "Jim whistled low and it wasn't Beethoven"

Oh, yeah - and why does he do it?

Why do I stay in it? Because I hate crooks. I hate rackets. I hate guys who make fools of jerks who won't stop pouring their hard-earned cash into jerk traps.

Deep stuff indeed...

Location
New York

Body count
10, not counting undercover cop Jane's mother suffering a stroke after witnessing her daughter getting killed. Also not counting at least 10 "hoods and boys" who die in the final shoot-out.

Object of desire: 
Chemical formula for Trivium. I can give you a part of it (the other one died together with professor Crocker): df 5 PHY 51 ADFR 5

Dames
Conservative, Spillane-ish kind of a mother and a whore types of women. There's his fiance Katy who is a beautiful, pure and innocent (literally - she's still a virgin) and then there's Jerry, the scheming and greedy dame. But still, our horny Ruff Boy has no problem fucking Jerry for five straight days. The whole thing is pretty misogynistic and hard to digest since Jerry gets beaten on at least three occasions.

Blackouts
He passes out for the first time on the very first page which has to be this blog's record! It goes like this:

That's when he jammed my left eye so far back in my head that it went to work with the brain department. I sailed across the counter and landed in Hattie the hat-check girl's lap. Good night Ruff Boy Morgan!

Not bad at all, I liked the brain department part. And there's more in the first chapter:

- About the twentieth smack in my eye, I blacked out. The last thing I remember was a drag on my twist and a taste of my own blood.
- I blacked out for a minute. But you got to a point where pain isn't important.
- I passed out completely

And we are far from finished! There are two more: on one occasion he's flying like a kite over New York (which is pretty cool) and on the other one there was  simply "Wham-bo! on the back of my skull"  
 
Title:  
Ruff and Jerry are kept prisoners in some futuristic laboratory made of glass walls where:

Now I learned the secret of these doorless and lockless walls. That almost needlelike key could be inserted into an almost invisible hole. A veritable Devil's passkey!

Edition:  
Signet, 1953

Cover
Slight variation of  "The 3 S's - Sex, sadism and the smoking gun" theme. It depicts a scene in which our poor unfortunate Jerry gets belted across the mouth and intimidated by Brock and Torrence.

Cool lines:  
None really. It's pretty poorly written and usage of slang goes as far as the usual kissers, dames and mugs. Plus there are these exclamations Boy! Brother! Gosh! which are little amusing (after the initial WTF) at the beginning but they soon become really annoying.

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