Friday, May 3, 2013

Forgotten Books: WHAT PRICE MURDER by Cleve F. Adams (1942)

Like his friend Raymond Chandler, Cleve F. Adams cut all of his pulp detectives (several of whom later became book detectives) from the same cloth. And some are more the same than others. As with Chandler, this came in mighty handy when cannibalizing his pulp work to package it into novels.

Stephen McCloud, the hero of What Price Murder (1946), is so much like Adams’ number one detective Rex McBride that they share the same description (dark skinned with gleaming white teeth, who some might mistake for a Sioux), same personality (surly and aggrieved), same drinking habits (heavy and often), same relationship with the police (hatred and mistrust), same taste in friends (cab drivers and bellhops), and the same taste in clothes (camel's hair overcoat and Borsalino).

There are two minor differences. While McBride (whose five novels are reviewed HERE) is a private dick retained by a big insurance company, McCloud is employed in-house by a big insurance company. And while McBride is in love with (but fools around on) a single woman who sometimes scorns him, McCloud is in love with (but fools around on) a married woman who sometimes scorns him - but who's married to an even bigger heel than McCloud.

So. As a big fan of the Rex McBride series, I got plenty of enjoyment out of What Price Murder, too. McCloud is racing to recover two million dollars in stolen diamonds - by whatever means necessary - before his boss is forced to pay out on the insurance claim. And it’s tough going. When he’s not getting drunk or chasing women, he’s getting conked on the head, robbed, and running from the cops on suspicion of murder. For an Adams hero, of course, that’s all in a day’s work. And it makes for a fine read.

On the dust jacket, Vincent Starrett says:
He is far and away the best writer of the hardboiled school who has come along in recent memory to delight those of us who, in the safety of our homes, like to be frightened by events which, if we were part of them, would send us scurrying to the nearest sanitarium… For exhilarating adventure, rowdy humor, and cynical awareness of much of the contemporary scene, it would be difficult to find a more entertaining raconteur than Mr. Adams.

More Forgotten Books at pattinase!


Richard R. said...

Has Stark House collected any of these?

Evan Lewis said...

Nope. No Adams reprints in the last 50 years, far as I know. A ding-dang shame.