Friday, April 5, 2013

Forgotten Books: KILL THE BOSS GOOD-BY by Peter Rabe

When I started reading hardboiled fiction back in the eighties, folks were raving about Peter Rabe - so I picked up a few paperbacks. Still got 'em, too, but I never got around to reading the guy until last week. My reaction? Jeez, what took me so long?

Kill the Boss Good-by, originally published by Gold Medal in 1956, grabbed me right from the start and never let go. The action centers around the not-so-old crime boss of the fictional Southwestern city of San Pietro. The boss, Tom Fell, runs the local gambling racket, as well as the horseracing track. He's the biggest fish in the San Pietro pond, but holds his position only at the pleasure of the upper tier mob bosses in Los Angeles.

Trouble is, Fell seems to be losing his grip - not only on his operation, but on reality. As the story starts, he's been out of sight for a month, having checked himself into a sanitarium. Only his wife and his most trusted flunky know where he is, and his little gambling empire is coming apart at the seams. Things are so bad that his brother-in-law the mayor is not getting his regular payoff, and the cops have grown so bold as to start raiding his gambling joints. Meantime, the L.A. guys are testing a new number two, to see if he has the stuff to take over Fell's territory.

After this setup, we meet Fell himself, and he's not what you'd expect. He's actually a likable guy, who's faithful to his wife and generous to his employees. He even shows great restraint in dealing with the guy who's angling to take over his job. He's sort of a nicer version of Tony Soprano. But though he appears to be functioning fine, he's feeling too fine, making him overconfident, ultra-ambitious and impatient with anyone who can't keep pace with him. And that means everybody, including the only two people who actually care for him.

Peter Rabe paints a fascinating portrait of Fell and the world that's rapidly slipping away from him. After buzzing through this one, I'm anxious to read the story Stark House paired it with, the 1958 Gold Medal thriller Mission for Vengeance. And Stark House has published at least five other Rabe doubles, and once Rabe triple, so there's plenty more where these came from.



More Forgotten Books at pattinase.

8 comments:

Brian Drake said...

I hope Stark House eventually releases the Daniel Port novels.

Evan Lewis said...

I didn't know Rabe had written a series.

Now I hope so too.

Louis XIV, "The Sun King" (Nick Jones) said...

Peter Rabe did indeed write a series...

George said...

Rabe's novels can be uneven, but they pack a punch.

Ron Scheer said...

Sounds like he had fun writing this one. Among western writers, Henry Reese had this wry twist on the story conventions, too. Thanks.

Ron Scheer said...

Sorry, that's John Henry Reese.

Richard said...

Rabe's The Silent Wall from Stark House is excellent.

Cap'n Bob said...

You get the stupidest spammers.