Sunday, August 25, 2013

Badge of Evil (Whit Masterson, 1956)

Book on which my favorite Orson Wells movie Touch of Evil is based on. To be perfectly honest I had no idea that movie was even based on a book until back blurb on this one caught my attention in the bookstore. And since I'm obviously not Orson's die hard fan, I do must admit that he did one hell of a job on his screenplay. One of those rare occasions where the movie is much better than the original book.

It's simply not hard boiled enough. Story about dirty cops set in police stations and DA office should be driven by strong characters and sharp dialogues moving forward with a speed of light. Smoking, drinking, cursing, fighting etc etc etc. Or at least be solid police procedural. Instead we get predictable "one against all, good against evil" tale of the white knight fighting for the ungrateful lady Justice against flawed system orchestrated by the weak politicians and compromised media.

And family shit, lots of it. Mitch's wife Connie is so pure, cool, beautiful, full of understanding and dedication for her hubby that she doesn't even bitch too much about their ever postponed family vacation. I don't think that any of authors had seen Fritz Lang's masterpiece The Big Heat released few years prior. Because if they did, I think Connie would (should) be blown into the pieces sometimes at the end of the first act making Mitch go on bloody revenge rampage. But nothing like that happens - our hero is confused and scared most of the times and gets lucky break at the end.

Also didn't like the writing style much. Too technical and formulaic so it never really takes off. Once the McCoy's evidence fixing is established as a fact, plot becomes almost non-existent and the whole thing shifts into boring drama/thriller mode. Hard to say, but my speculation would be that maybe these kind of narration problems can occur as a result of collaboration of two writers working on the same book.

Decent enough stuff that unfortunately hasn't aged very well. But still immensely cool to read it if you like Touch of Evil. Totally incredible how Wells managed to turn this unquestionably original, but somehow mediocre novel into a timeless mastepriece.



Mitch Holt, 35, assistant district attorney

He knew that soon he would be in a position to open his own private practice without unduly endangering the eating habits of his family.

Some big town in southern California near the Mexican border. I assume that would be San Diego (it's definitely not LA) but probably authors were vague about this intentionally to emphasize metaphor about corruption and weak legal system across the whole America.

Body count: 4 (2 suicides)

None really. His whining wife Connie hardly counts for a dame.

Blackouts: /

Obviously it alludes to McCoy but I would hardly categorize a poor bastard as an evil one. He was merely an overworked asshole with a god complex. And since the title "Badge of an overworked asshole with a god complex" really does sound stupid, let's not bitch about it too much.

Good old fashioned one, like all covers of Prologue Books are. Maybe it would be cool to put little figures of Holt, McCoy and Quinlan into the web.

Cool lines:  
To be a successful prosecutor was the same as being a successful salesman or a successful preacher. You had to believe in your product.

He settled for a stubby .32 pistol that had both convenience and authority.

The bullet tugged at the lapel of  Holt's coat in passing and then went on its way with a complaining whine of having missed.[The Coolest!]

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