Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Danger Is My Line (Stephen Marlowe, 1960)

I read Drum Beat - Madrid recently and quite liked it. Nice mix of a private eye mystery and spy thriller with a decent story (there are actually two of them) and a bit of a globetrotting plus some sex thrown in. This one follows such a template but is far inferior.

The opening part, let's call it the "P.I." section, that takes place in Washington is okay and, although pretty short, it sets up things nicely. A guy found not guilty of murder confesses the crime and sells his story to some newspaper publisher. There's also a beautiful blonde, and we don't need to wait long for the first corpse to appear. It didn't exactly grab me by the throat, but it wasn't bad.

But then it just goes from pretty good to somewhat decent to kind of okay-ish to... a bit boring, and towards the end, it's just a struggle to get over the line.

The story is too fragmented, and numerous action scenes are too static. The damn thing hardly moves anywhere, and it is usually in the wrong direction when it does. And you know that the writer wasn't very confident (dare I say skillful?) when in the middle of the novel you come across a two-page recap that reminds the readers what the hell they've been reading so far.

In short - disappointment. Stephen Marlowe and his Chester Drum post were long overdue on this blog, but I wish it would be for some other book. This one is memorable only for one of the most idiotic takes on the cold war (see 'Object of Desire' section of the facts below) and maybe also for some pretty ridiculous LSD trips descriptions.



His eyes examined my card for the first time.  It said I was Chester Drum. I did confidential investigations, I had an office in the Farrell Building on F Street in downtown Washington and could be seen with or without appointment or any way at all.

Bad guy(s):
"He runs the show. You want a name for it, I'll give you one. He's the chief hatchetman for the Reds. He can make men dance on five continents."

Washington, Reykjavik, Akureyri (400 km from Reykjavik), Stockholm

Body count:  
9 + Wally's dog Benards. Interestingly, the main villain survives in this one and only gets away with a broken arm.

Object of desire: 
Preventing a fishing war between Iceland and UK that Commies would like to exploit.

Huh? Let's see how this gets explained to our hero: 

"And Chet, if the key to world mastery, thanks to intercontinental missiles whose shortest route lies over the Pole, is the Arctic Ocean, then the key to the Arctic is Iceland, Now do you see where we stand?"

Makes sense now, doesn't it?

Maja Kolding, a small blonde with ice-blue eyes only a little colder than the Rhone glacier. Unfortunately, after the opening, she's mostly out of the picture.

Baroness Margaretha:
She was not quite  twice the size of Anita Ekberg, and all of it in splendid proportion... She was that kind of woman. Her eyes were green, her large breasts fought against the white wisp of the Bikini top, her hips, bare for a couple of devastating inches above the Bikini bottom, were broad and firm-fleshed, her long legs were as tanned as a beach-boy's and as shapely as a Grecian statue's. She was an insolent-eyed, thick-lipped sex-bomb of a woman, to end all insolent-eyed, thick-lipped sex-bombs. she was probably a Swede.

Stewardess Freya, a fine-boned, almost delicate. brunette:
It was as if there were two Freyas - the one pleasantly and lightly seductive who did all the talking, the other silent and deeper with an almost astonishing understated desire and need. Alone either one of them would have been a memorable occasion for a man who likes such memorable occasions. Together they could have stirred even an octogenarian.

And when both Freyas finally have sex with Drum, the whole thing is described pretty - oh well - octogenarian-ish:

It was swift and explosive and then it built - a slow mounting fusion of lips, arms, legs, bodies - to magic.

And to conclude this section - there's a cool blurb on the cover saying: "She was a daydream turned into a nightmare - the most lethal beauty Chester Drum had ever met"

Nice one indeed, although I'm not 100% sure whether it refers to the Baroness or to Freya.

She held it [the rifle] by the metal barrel and was swinging it like a baseball bat. I dove for the ground and got halfway down before the heavy walnut stock took the top of my head off.

The peculiar thing about this one is that afterwards, Drum still manages to walk for three hours before collapsing. But let us not question this too much since even "Dr. Ericksson says it sometimes happens like that, even with severe concussion.

Anyway, he loses his consciousnesses twice more, but neither one is especially memorable:
Dark sky split and spun sickeningly a hundred and eighty degrees until it was beneath my feet, and I plunged in,

The blow drove me to my knees and a dark closed on my brain, squeezing out consciousness.

One of the early Drum titles in the form of:

is my 

I think it's fair to say that it is one of the coolest. Except for, of course, "Killers Are My Meat"!

Gold Medal #947, First Printing, January 1960

Iconic and super cool illustration by Barye Phillips (I think).

Cool lines
With her left hand she shut the door and leaned on it. That made her right-handed, because in her right hand, and pointing it where such things will be pointed, she held a small, snub-barreled revolver, a belly-gun.
The phone went on ringing. the shower went on hissing and drumming. I went on living - for a while.

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