Friday, June 17, 2011

Forgotten Books: UP JUMPED THE DEVIL by Cleve F. Adams

Remember Rex McBride? He debuted in Sabotage (1940) and returned in And Sudden Death (1940) and Decoy (1940), all previously featured as Forgotten Books.

This fourth volume of the series, from 1943, boasts the coolest title, lending itself to some of the coolest artwork. Why then, when Signet reprinted the book in 1950, did they retitle it Murder All Over? Beats me! (BTW, beware of the Handi-Books edition. It's abridged.)

Reading Cleve F. Adams is always a joy. My brain slides right into the familiar rhythm of his prose and the jaded attitudes of his heroes. In Up Jumped the Devil, Rex is in San Francisco on the trail of a fabulous string of diamonds known as the Adelphi necklace. It’s gone missing, and the company that insured it for a hundred grand has hired Rex to get it back.

He’s up against the fatcat owner, a Cesar Romero lookalike sniffing around the owner’s wife and adopted daughter, a dirty cop who hates his guts, an unscrupulous diamond dealer, a gambling den magnate and an assortment of small time hoods and grifters. And just to make things tougher, the FBI is using him as a stalking horse in their investigation of sabotaged war plants on the West Coast.

For this one, Adams employed the art of “cannibalization” made famous by his friend Raymond Chandler. The first third of the book began life as the novelette “Exodus” in the Jan. 13, 1940 issue of Detective Fiction Weekly. In the story, the detective is a McBride clone named Regan. Some of the supporting cast retained their names in the novel, while others were rechristened. That same issue of the mag featured Part 5 of the 6-part Rex McBride serial published later that year as And Sudden Death. While "Exodus" later proved to be a fine title for a movie - and a great Bob Marley song - I consider "Up Jumped the Devil" a big improvement.

If you haven’t read Adams, the first two pages of “Exodus” (below) will give you a good taste.

On this reading, the character of Rex McBride struck an extra chord, and I got the possibly crackpot notion that John Sandford, author of the Prey series, might be a Cleve F. Adams fan. Like McBride, Sandford’s hero Lucas Davenport is dark complexioned, a fancy dresser and a womanizer. Both like to spend money on themselves, both have quick, violent tempers, and both have contacts at all levels of society. How about it, Mr. S? Is Lucas is Rex’s nephew?

(click to enlarge)

Crave more Adams? I posted scans the complete short story "Jigsaw" right HERE.

For links to more Forgotten Books from the usual suspects, visit pattinase


George said...

I have the Handi-books version of UP JUMPED THE DEVIL, but I love the cover with the skeletons on that hardcover dust jacket!

Anonymous said...

Arrrrgh! What are the chances there will be some Adams at the Book Fair?

J F Norris said...

Did someone say BOOK FAIR? Where? Where? If it's out your way, Rick, I'll never make it. Too poor to travel until the fall for Bouchercon.

I have THE CROOKING FINGER (one of the coolest Dell Mapback covers) and CONTRABAND and I think two others. Have yet to dip into any of Adams' writing. But I probably should have been reading him rather than Earl Norman. Oy!

Evan Lewis said...

The Rose City Book Fair is next weekend here in Portland, John, so you still have time to hitchhike.

Will they have any Adams books? I'd bet against it.

I think Contraband is the book that both R.L. Bellem and W.T. Ballard put together after Adams' death, expanding it from a DFW novelette. I'll be comparing the two stories sometime soon.