Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stopover For Murder (Terry Harknett aka Thomas H. Stone, 1973)

I don't particularly like the PI cases that involve personal crap. Too much drama and family shit. But premise in this one is pretty cool - our hero doesn't try to track down some teenage junkie runaway daughter of his old friend (to whom he usually owes a favor). In this one Chester Fortune simply wants to get laid. He's stuck at JFK for 12 hours waiting for his connecting flight so instead of killing time at the airport bar he decides to challenge his fortune with an ex-girlfriend Rhoda.

So it's a running-against-the-clock type of thriller. With our hero's libido clicking instead of some bomb triggering clock.

It moves with a super sonic speed. So fast that in fact it very quickly becomes comical because the amount of shit that happens to Chester in this short period (plus total mileage that he covers with his rented Ford) is just ridiculous.

But even with this crazy pace, it was still easy enough to follow. At least to some point. And I had an impression/expectation that all those gangsters, thugs, fashion photographers, pornographers, religious fanatics, washed up journalists, cops, street gangs, etc, etc were leading to something. I was wrong. Instead of getting tighter it slowly disintegrates and finally falls apart around the 10th chapter in which Fortune "breaks" the case. Ending with the mandatory "shocking" twist is pretty pathetic too, it simply doesn't hold water. I mean, for fuck's sake, could some old lady really kill a grown up woman, drag her corpse down the stairs of the apartment building and stuff it into a car trunk? Totally unnoticed?

Short and violent pulp. Was a little disappointed, especially after reading the much better Squeeze Play. Don't think I'll bother with the remaining two of the Fortune series.

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero
Chester Fortune, mulatto PI - "A Man of Violence in a Violent World"

Location
New York

Body count: 3

Dames
Rhoda Castle. Failed actress, now successful model (and porn star) trying to raise money for opening a theater.

Blackouts
Almost:

The room was by turns dark, intensely bright and then hazy, but unconsciousness was kept tantalisingly at a distance.
 
Title: 
Chester has to make a stopover in New York during witch his ex-girlfriend is murdered.

Edition:  
First Nel Paperback Edition, June 1973

Cover
Pretty silly illustration of timid and confused looking Chester.

Cool lines: /

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Deep End (Fredric Brown, 1952)

High-school kid is killed in an amusement park by a roller-coaster train during its morning test run and veteran newspaperman Sam Evans has a hunch that the whole thing was not an accident. To convince himself, he actually returns to the scene of this "accident" and stands besides the track while train is approaching. It (of course) makes such a noise that even earth starts to ramble and since unfortunate Jimmy wasn't deaf, this can only mean that he had been pushed under he wheels. Stolen wallet of an all American football star student was found in the victim's pocket, so ergo! its owner is a killer. Investigating journalism at its best!

In fact, this guy is a serial killer! After some digging up, it turns out that there were four accidents/murders in his high school recently and few hobos were found dead in the shady part of the town (jungles) where our psychopath likes to take night walks. It seems like his ill mental state originates from his infant years when he killed his sister.

Some of these findings/conclusions come from Sam's old flame Nina into whom he accidentally bumps. And she proves to be an invaluable source of information because (a) Nina is a social worker assigned to help victim's family, (b) she's also a teacher in the high school that killer attends and finally, (c) she used to fuck the killer. There are other hard to swallow coincidences like Sam's family doctor being the same one who tried to revive the killer's little sister ten years ago.

In short - it's a bit of a much a mess. Not very believable and pretty boring to be honest. Written in a first person narration which I usually like but in this one lots of time is spent on hero's inner thoughts (even dreams) and "thinking out loud" kind of rationalizing and deduction. Which is pretty shitty because Sam is not much of an investigator (asshole even reads Nina's private diary!). Instead of doing his job properly, he spends most of the time fucking Nina and whining about his failing marriage. To be honest, that former part was kind of amusing and probably pretty daring for the 50s. I mean, they are both so horny they don't even mind when she gets a period (she simply dismiss it by "I'm not very sick, darling; it was mostly a false alarm.")

Initially promising with that identity switch trick but unfortunately it just never really takes off.

2/5

Facts:

Hero:
Sam Evans, newspaperman

Location
Not specified. But it must be a pretty small town since everyone knows each other (and fucks each other and share the same doctors).

Body count
2 for sure, probably much more but it's never clarified which accidents were actual killings.

Object of desire:
But does a tiger need a motive? Oh, it has one often: hunger. But not always even that. A rogue tiger will kill for the pure savage joy of killing.
 
Dames
Sam's high-school sweetheart Nina who is quite tragic figure So excited and happy to meet Sam again that she jumps into bed with him the very same day. They soon start calling each other "darling" but then Sam betrays her confidence by reading her private diary.

Blackouts: /

Title: 
A bit of psychoanalytical crap from the Sam's dream: "I was standing at the deep end, just a foot or so from the edge."

Edition:  
Quill Mysterious Classic, 1980

Cover
Plain and forgettable. Always saddens me a bit to see reprints of the old masters with such cheap covers.

Cool lines
None. Unless you find stuff like this funny:

Ed is the Herald's city editor. A lot of editors are named Ed. It doesn't mean anything. I've known reporters named Frank and Ernest and once I knew a girl named Virginia.[The Coolest!] 

Am I missing something? Do these names reference some real people or literally characters?