Saturday, August 28, 2010

Encore Review: Homicide Johnny by Steve Fisher

This book wasn’t quite what I expected.

I amassed a lot of Steve Fisher novels twenty years back, when I was deep in the throes of hardboiled mania. I’d seen Lady In The Lake (with that incredible Fisher sceenplay) several times and scuttlebutt said he was a great hardboiled writer. But near as I recall, I never got around to reading one of his books.

Enter Homicide Johnny. Interesting title. Excellent cover. Originally published in 1940 by “Stephen Gould”, this was (I think) Fisher's fifth novel, right before I Wake Up Screaming.

I expected hardboiled. Well, it is - a little. But only in the attitude of our hero, small town homicide detective Johnny West. (Why such a small town needs a homicide specialist is never addressed, but we’ll let that go.) The prose is nicely crafted, even eloquent in spots, but never what I would call tough.

I expected sharp, memorable wise-guy dialogue, something on par with my favorite line from Lady in the Lake, where Robert Montgomery says to Audrey Totter, “Imagine you needing ice cubes.” Well, the dialogue is sharp, breezy, and sometimes playful, but it never sizzles. Johnny's investigative partner is town librarian Penny Lane (yep, no fooling), and the repartee between the two is sometimes reminiscent of The Thin Man. But I finished the book this morning, and couldn’t quote you a single line. 

I expected more thriller than mystery. Nope. This is an old-fashioned no-nonsense mystery. Every character we meet has a motive for the murders. When they’re caught in lies, they cover up with new lies, maintaining their suspect status right until the end. In the last chapter, when Johnny tells Penny he's almost figured it out, we get a one-page reminder of who the eight suspects are and what they’re doing right before Johnny’s big reveal. On the next page Johnny tells Penny (and the reader) that all the clues are out there and if she (they) were paying close attention the murderer should be obvious. Then, once the killer is exposed, Johnny talks for seven straight pages explaining to the murderer exactly what happened and why - stuff the killer already knows, of course, but the reader doesn’t. By today's standards, it's less than sophisticated.

About the cover: A fine job (as always) by Rudolph Belarski, but not quite true to the story. There is a hot blonde in the book, but she never takes off her starchy white nurse uniform. And there’s a scene where librarian Penny Lane pumps several bullets into an attacker in a basement, but her hair is the color of mahogany, and bare shoulders and heaving bosom are hardly her style. Nor is there any reason to believe it is unduly, uh… chilly in the basement.

If I’ve made Homicide Johnny sound like a bad book, I apologize. It was a quick read and I enjoyed it. I expect you’ll enjoy it even more, because you’ll know what to expect. A brand new paperback reprint is available on Amazon from a publisher called “Black Mask”, about which I know nothing. Amazon also offers a kindle version for $3.19.


Amanda said...

Great cover! Sounds like it might be a fun read

Deka Black said...

I like the cover. If tou get rid of the gun seems a very nice woman ^^

Evan Lewis said...

This same blonde appears on a number of other Rudolph Belarski covers (and sometimes her hair is not blonde). She must have been one of his favorite models. It would be interesting to see photos of her.

oakleyses said...

michael kors outlet, louis vuitton, true religion outlet, christian louboutin shoes, nike free, coach purses, nike air max, polo ralph lauren outlet, louis vuitton handbags, burberry outlet online, michael kors outlet online, coach outlet, michael kors outlet store, prada outlet, true religion, nike air max, coach outlet, polo ralph lauren, longchamp outlet online, coach outlet store online, red bottom shoes, burberry outlet online, kate spade outlet online, michael kors outlet online, nike shoes, kate spade handbags, christian louboutin outlet, michael kors outlet online, air max pas cher, jordan shoes, true religion outlet, nike air max, louboutin shoes, tiffany and co jewelry, louis vuitton outlet online, longchamp handbags, prada handbags, michael kors outlet online, longchamp outlet, gucci handbags, tiffany jewelry, louis vuitton outlet, chanel handbags, louis vuitton outlet, tory burch outlet, ray ban outlet

oakleyses said...

lululemon, scarpe hogan, burberry pas cher, hermes pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, tn pas cher, hollister, converse pas cher, ray ban pas cher, oakley pas cher, ralph lauren, lacoste pas cher, sac louis vuitton, nike air max, ralph lauren pas cher, sac michael kors, new balance pas cher, mulberry, vans pas cher, air jordan, nike trainers, nike blazer pas cher, michael kors uk, air max, barbour, ray ban uk, louis vuitton pas cher, timberland, longchamp pas cher, abercrombie and fitch, chaussure louboutin, north face, nike roshe run, vans outlet, hollister, mac cosmetics, nike roshe, longchamp, nike huarache, north face pas cher, nike air force, louis vuitton uk, michael kors canada, nike free pas cher, guess pas cher, hollister, nike free, longchamp, roshe run, louis vuitton

oakleyses said...

moncler, ugg, moncler, moncler outlet, north face outlet, canada goose, instyler ionic styler, canada goose outlet, mcm handbags, insanity workout, abercrombie and fitch, north face jackets, chi flat iron, ugg boots, celine handbags, nike air max, soccer jerseys, p90x workout, new balance outlet, valentino shoes, ghd, moncler, canada goose outlet, giuseppe zanotti, lululemon outlet, mont blanc pens, rolex watches, babyliss pro, wedding dresses, birkin bag, uggs outlet, bottega veneta, jimmy choo shoes, ugg soldes, canada goose uk, uggs on sale, reebok shoes, canada goose pas cher, iphone 6 case, canada goose outlet, ugg outlet, nfl jerseys, herve leger, soccer shoes, beats headphones, ferragamo shoes, asics shoes, hollister clothing, baseball bats, marc jacobs outlet