This Friday is blacker than most. Mr. Bill Crider has been a stalwart contributor to FFBs, and the recent loss of his wife Judy makes all this posting and reviewing seem trivial. I only met Judy once, and that was a long, long time ago, but I feel like I've been kicked in the gut. Why does death always happen to the wrong people?
It was a slow day at the FFB Corral. These the links I've found as of 2m Pacific Time. If I missed yours - or screwed it up - give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sergio Angelini: An Easter Egg Hunt by Gillian Freeman
Brian Busby: Farewell My Dreams by Robert Elie
Bill Crider; The Savage Day by Jack Higgins
William F. Deeck: The Case of the Platinum Blonde by Christopher Rush
Brian Greene: Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders/Charles Willeford
Rich Horton: A Fool There Was by Porter Emerson Browne
Randy Johnson: Poor, Poor Ophelia by Carolyn Weston
George Kelley: The Best of Astounding, James Gunn, Ed.
B.V. Lawson: Mistletoe from the Purple Sage by Barbara Burnett Smith
Todd Mason: S&S Detective Story Sept '46 & EQMM Sept '45
Neer: The Spider by Hanns Heinz Ewers
J.F. Norris: City of Whispering Stone by George C. Chesbro
Bill Pronzini: The Stalker by Bill Pronzini
James Reasoner: Hell in the Saddle by Ed Earl Repp
Kevin Tipple: Four of a Kind, Douglas Quinn, Ed.
And here's mine . . .
If you've been here before, you may have noticed I'm a big admirer of work of Mr. Cleve Franklin Adams. I've read and enjoyed all of his novels, but my favorites (as of this moment) are Sabotage, The Private Eye and this one, Dig Me a Grave.
Adams' many heroes, Rex McBride, Steve McCloud, John J. Flagg and their brethren, were all cut from the same cloth, the main difference being that some were slightly more amoral than others. Bill Rye, the protagonist of Dig Me a Grave is the most amoral of them all, and the most unusual, because he's sort of a hybrid. He's about 50% typical Adams Black Knight, and 50% Ned Beaumont.
Adams made no secret of his admiration for Dashiell Hammett. At least two of his novels, Sabotage and Decoy, paid homage to the plot of Red Harvest, and this book's lead characters were inspired by Ned Beaumont and Paul Madvig of The Glass Key.
Like Madvig, this book's Edward Callahan is a behind-the-scenes political boss, and like Beaumont, Bill Rye is his right-hand man. Adams captured Madvig's character perfectly, and the relationship between the two characters is spot on. He also made a valiant effort to reincarnate Beaumont in the body of Rye, but the characteristics of his own standard hero were too deeply ingrained to be suppressed. The result is that hybrid character, more mysterious and opaque than Rex McBride, but more emotional, and more amused with life, than Ned Beaumont.
Hammett's style in The Glass Key is much like that of The Maltese Falcon - ultra-objective, so that we're never told what the hero is thinking or feelings. We have to discern that from his words and actions. Adams makes a stab at that sort of objectivity here and there, but in other scenes we are privy to what's going on in Rye's head, making him more likable and more relatable than Beaumont.
The result is a novel that's more fun and (to me) more satisfying that The Glass Key. The prose of Hammett's novel is better crafted, of course, and the story more literate, but Dig Me a Grave delivers more smiles - especially if you've read The Glass Key, and know where it's coming from.
Commercial: For a closer look at Adams and his characters, you might take a squint at my article, "Cleve F. Adams: Black Knight, Cannibal and Forgotten Man" in Windy City Pulp Tales #14, available right HERE from Black Dog Books.