Friday, December 11, 2020

A Forgotten Book Inspires a New One: THE DAIN CURSE and ANGEL EYES

If you've seen my comments on Dashiell Hammett's second novel, The Dain Curse (HERE) you'll know I don't like it much. I've read it several times, and listened to it a couple more, and somehow keep hoping to enjoy it. But that never seems to happen. 

There is, however, a semi-happy ending, because - after all these years - the book has inspired another book that I do like. That's the latest in Ace Atkin's Spenser efforts, Angel EyesThe connection is mostly superficial, but it's undeniable, and evokes ever-so-slightly fonder memories of The Dain Curse

In Angel Eyes, Spenser heads for Los Angeles on a wandering daughter case. A Boston mother (and friend of Susan Silverman) hires him to find her missing daughter Gabby. "Gabby," we soon learn, is short for Gabrielle, and her last name is Leggett. To put the nail in the possibility of this being a coincidence, we next meet Gabby's ex-boyfriend, a twerp named Eric Collinson. 

For those of you who have escaped reading The Dain Curse, Gabrielle Leggett and Eric Collinson are the two main morons the Continental Op has to deal with as he navigates his way through the convoluted plot. There are other morons in that book, of course, and once two of them popped up in Angel Eyes I expected to find more. Ace Atkins showed surprising restraint, though, and employed only one Dain refugee in his book. That's Joseph Haldorn, leader of the kooky cult that gets its hooks into Gabby. 

The relationship of the three characters is pretty much the same in both books. Gabrielle is a dimwit, and Eric is dimmer. He's nuts about her, and she can take him or leave him. Haldorn is an ex-con who's founded a quasi-religious drug/sex cult to pad his pockets and slake his desires. His Temple of the Holy Grail from The Dain Curse is a multi-national health club scam called HELIOS. 

Other than that, though, Angel Eyes goes its own way. The only other Hammett connection is when a character makes a joking reference to Sam Spade. As a Spenser novel, it's everything we've come to expect from Ace Atkins: smart, fun, funny and very Parker-like. Spenser teams up with his former protege Zebulon Sixkill, now a Los Angeles P.I., and interacts with the rest of the regular West Coast cast - the seen-it-all cop Samuelson, gang boss Victor del Rio, and del Rio's foot-soldiers Chollo and Bobby Horse. Susan Silverman treks out to help, too. 

Do you have to read The Dain Curse to appreciate it all? No. Should you? I wish I could say yes, but I still haven't found a way to enjoy it myself, so I'll have to say no. 

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