Friday, March 26, 2010

Forgotten Book: And Sudden Death by Cleve F. Adams

A couple of weeks ago I reread (and reviewed) Cleve F. Adams’ first novel Sabotage, and enjoyed it so much I was eager to reread the second. This is it, and I was not disappointed. There’s something infectious about Adams’ voice and style that just makes me want to keep reading. Luckily, I have another dozen of his books on hand. 

And Sudden Death (1940) first appeared as a 6-part serial in Detective Fiction Weekly under the title “Homicide: Honolulu Bound”. It's a direct sequel (at least in sub-plot) to Sabotage. Private detective Rex McBride is still smarting over what happened to his lady love in the first book, and she is often on his mind.

This time, Rex’s job is to follow a woman to Hawaii, where she just might be planning to rendezvous with her husband - a man who betrayed his business partners and absconded with two million dollars. In 1940, that must have been a ton of dough.

The case, of course, is not that simple. He’s soon caught up in a web of espionage and revenge, and needs all his skills at womanizing and consuming vast quantities of liquor to come out on top.

In the Sabotage review, I addressed the charge by some 80s-era critics that McBride is a racist. This book offers evidence to the contrary. While other characters express distrust of Japanese folk, Rex does not. When the fellow on the pulp cover asks to borrow his binoculars, Rex agrees. He finds he genuinely likes the guy and invites him to shoot craps. Even later, when they become adversaries, McBride retains his respect for him.

The title comes from a line late in the book, when McBride predicts, “I don’t know just how soon, but sometime in the very near future there’s going to be murder and sudden death.” Guess what? He’s right on both counts.

And Sudden Death was reprinted at least once in digest (with a hideous cover) but I don’t believe it ever appeared in a regular paperback. Too bad. It’s a good read, and I’m looking forward to the next book, Decoy.

(click to enlarge)

For your reading pleasure, I recently posted a complete Cleve F. Adams novelette called "Jigsaw".

For links to more of today's Forgotten Books, visit Patti Abbott's pattinase.


Rittster said...


Is the book cover with the floating skull the digest illustration you think is hideous? If so, c'mon man, that cover is fantastic! A huge skull adorned with hawaiian leis, floating on the ocean against the background of a purple sky--how can you not love that? Ah well, as some guy said somewhere at some point in time, "There just ain't no accouting for taste."

P.S. If I'm wrong and that isn't the cover you're referring to, just chalk it up to one of my many daily blunders.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Nothing better than an compelling voice. It can make you its prisoner.

Evan Lewis said...

So true, Patti.

Click on that skull digest cover, Rittster, so you can see it full size. That sucker is ugly.

George said...

I'm going to have to go hunting for some Cleve F. Adams after reading this!

Richard R. said...

No comment on the cover, but the book, as did the previous one, sounds pretty interesting.

Steve Lewis said...

Count me on the side of those who think that's a ugly cover. But the rest of it's a pretty good book, that's for sure.

Evan Lewis said...

To be fair, I touched up a few creases and brightened the faded colors on that digest with photoshop. And you can't see the spine roll in the picture. It may actually be more (or less) ugly in real life than it appears here.

Rittster said...


What can I say? It's just tacky enough for me to like it. Although, since you mention your digital enhancements, if I had the book in hand I might think differently.

Rittster said...

I should also mention that it's just ridiculous enough for me to like it. I mean, Hawaiian leis around a skull--the concept itself is enough to tickle me, but the artists's rendering, where the leis slope over one eye and they almost looks like a pirate's eye patch, is the real genious of the art. And I like the Crayola-like coloring of the purple sky. Cheezy and tacky--but brilliant. And I'll fight any man in the crowd who thinks otherwise! (that line is from some old movie I don't remember).

But to belabor my earlier point, you specifically mention that the colors were faded before you photoshoped it, and that it has creases and a spine roll. So those factors might very well negatively effect my opinion of the cover's grotesque beauty.

P.S. I bet from all those wonderful insights you wouldn't guess, in a million years, that I've never taken an art appreciation class.

Cap'n Bob said...

Odd that you and James Reasoner did books located in Hawaii this week. I like just about any cover with a skull.

Juri said...

The cover's not very well drawn, but the concept is intriguing.