Friday, April 2, 2010

Forgotten Book: The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis

I’d forgotten how much fun this book is. Doan (no first name given) is private detective sent to the sleepy Mexican village of Los Altos to convince a refugee from the law to remain there – or so it seems. Doan is fat, soft-looking, mild-mannered and seemingly harmless. But he’s also quick as a snake, a deadly shot, a great liar and unconcerned with scruples.

With him is Carstairs, the Great Dane he won in a poker game. While Great Danes are normally big, Carstairs bigger, more on the lines of a horse, and described as “sort of a new species.”  He’s cranky, vain, and obstinate, but obeys commands such as  “Up-si-daisy”, “Boom”,  and “Hike” when he feels like it.  He and Doan make a great team.

And these two are only the beginning of this book’s wacky characters. Almost everyone in Davis's cockeyed world is either goofy or somewhat larcenous. The closest thing I know of in contemporary fiction is I.J. Parnham’s Fergus and Randolph western series, which I reviewed HERE.

The Mouse in the Mountain (1943) appeared as Rendezvous with Fear in Great Britain, and was abridged for Handi-Books as Dead Little Rich Girl.

Davis is known and admired today mainly for his three Doan and Carstairs novels (the others are Sally in the Alley, 1943, and Oh, Murderer Mine, 1946) and a collection of five Max Latin, p.i, stories from Dime Detective. But he wrote much, much more, for Black Mask, Detective Tales, Detective Fiction Weekly and many other mags. One major market was Argosy, where he sold not only mystery stories but adventure stories, historicals and westerns. The Doan and Carstairs books are once again available, but there's a ton of work that still needs reprinting.

I posted one of his Detective Fiction Weekly stories, “Never Say Die”, here yesterday, and invite you to check it out. I’ll be putting up more of his work soon.

Visit Patti Abbott's pattinase for links to more of this week's Forgotten Books.

13 comments:

Richard Prosch said...

Does Davis' sense of humor continue on through his short fiction too?

Richard R. said...

This one looks great. I wonder is the cover artist on the book you show first is identified? That style looks very familiar but I can't place it.

Who is publishing these now?

Richard R. said...

Never mind the second question, I found it (Rue Morgue) and have ordered the set.

Evan Lewis said...

Been a long time since I read his short stuff, Rich. I'll have to let you know. Some of that attitude comes through in yesterday's story "Never Say Die", even though it's not as screwball as this series.

The artist is not identified, Rick. Same for the second book Sally in the Alley, which appears to be the same artist. The three novels were reprinted by Rue Morgue Press and are available from Amazon. Amazon also offers Kindle versions, including one of the first Doan & Carstairs story, an Argosy novelette called "Holocaust House".

Ed Gorman said...

Thanks for promoting Norbert Davis. He's my favorite pulp writer. I really appreciate you reprinting his short stories, too. Think you'll ever do a western? Thanks again.

Evan Lewis said...

Per your special request, Ed, I'll get to work scanning the Davis tale "Their Guardian from Hell" from the March 1937 issue of Star Western. I'll give you a heads-up when I post it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Way back when this began, someone recommended Sally in the Alley and I have meant to try Davis ever since. Thanks for the reminder.

irenzero said...

I read this one a while back and have been meaning to check out some more Norbert Davis.

Rittster said...

Great review. Nothing for me to argue about this time, shucks.

Patti, SALLY'S IN THE ALLEY is my favorite of the three D&C novels. THE MOUSE IN THE MOUNTAIN is very close, but D&C aren't in every scene, and the scenes without them lose a bit of comic flavor. In the last book, OH, MURDERER MINE, the humor is broader. Davis takes some excellent satirical pokes at academia, though.

Richard R. said...

The books are on the way, except Mouse, which is back-ordered. Do I need to read these in order?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Apropos of nothing, I lived in Los Altos. Not the sleepy village in Mexico, the sleepy one in California. The house I co-rented with a friend was dubbed Sin City. A kid in Apa-Five with me named Frank Miller grew up to become a comic artist and movie maker. One of his movies was Sin City. Coincidence?

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