Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books: THE LINKS and SOME DIE HARD by Stephen Mertz (1979)

Here are the links to this week's edition of Patti Abbott's world renown Friday's Forgotten Books. I'll be adding more links as I find (or hear about) them. I came across a few reviews posted earlier in the week and weren't sure if they were intended to be FFBs or not, so I guessed. If I missed yours, (or guessed wrong) shoot me. Shoot me, that is, an email, to

Sergio Angelini: Death at Half-Term by Josephine Bell
Matt Baker: Death Valley by Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek: Death of Jezabel by Christianna Brand
Les Blatt: Tragedy at Ravensthorpe by J.J. Connington
Brian Busby: The Long November by James Benson Nablo
Bill Crider: My Gun, Her Body (Dinah for Danger) by Jeff Bogard (Leslie Bernard)
Martin Edwards: Angel in the Case by Milward Kennedy
Curt Evans: Black Widow by Patrick Quentin (book & movie)
Rich Horton: Cleek of Scotland Yard by T.W. Hanshew
Jerry House: Hell-For-Leather by Jake Foster (James Reasoner and Ed Gorman)
Randy Johnson: The Saint Closes the Case by Leslie Charteris
Tracy K: The Davidian Report by Dorothy B. Hughes
George Kelley: Where the Summer Ends by Karl Edward Wagner
Rob Kitchin: I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich
B.V. Lawson: Fool's Gold by Ted Wood
Todd Mason: The Best of the West, Joe R. Lansdale, ed.
Neer: Oil! by Upton Sinclair
J.F. Norris: Bury Me Deep by Harold Q. Masur
James Reasoner: Private Eye Action As You Like It by Joe R. Lansdale & Lewis Shiner
Karyn Reeves: The Murders in Praed Street by John Rhode
Gerald Saylor: A Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane
Ron Scheer: Heartwood by James Lee Burke
Kerrie Smith: Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Kevin Tipple: The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald
TomCat: The Abandoned Room by Wadsworth Camp
Prashant C. Trikannad: Defending Jacob by William Landay

And now . . .

This cover doesn't look much like 1979, does it? That's because it ain't. It's a brand spanking new edition of this lost Mertz classic now available in both trade pb and eBook from Rough Edges Press. The original, in all it's 1979 glory, is below.

In the all-new afterward to the new edition, Steve reveals that the pen name on that first edition, "Stephen Brett," was a hat tip to Brett Halliday, author of the Michael Shayne series. At the time, Steve had been selling stories to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and Some Die Hard was his first novel (the number is now somewhere in the neighborhood of 60, and counting).

Steve also reveals that his working title for this one was "The Flying Corpse," which pretty much describes the core of the mystery. A rich guy, about to remove his wastrel son from his will, fears the son is about to murder him, and hires private detective "Rock" Dugan on a contingency basis. If the guy is murdered before the new will is signed, Dugan will get twenty grand to catch the killer. And sure enough, the guy is stabbed to death, while alone in the cockpit of an airborne glider. Yep, it's a locked room mystery in the sky.

I read the Manor House edition long ago and remembered nothing except I enjoyed it. So it was a pleasure to rediscover this novel in its new incarnation. And I was a bit surprised. I know Steve to be a long-time fan of the hard-boiled detective genre, so I expected a guy named Rock Dugan to be hard as nails. But that ain't so. Dugan lets his inner tough guy loose when necessary - particularly when he beats the crap out of a dirty police chief - but by and large he's a polite, sensitive and even romantic guy. Excluding that cop-beating scene, I'd rate him mediumboiled.

Mertz the mystery fan shows though in several places. We learn that Dugan too is a mystery fan, and in chapter one he's reading a Perry Mason mystery. Later, after meeting the soon-to-be murder victim, he ruminates on the similarities between his situation and that faced by Philip Marlowe in the opening scenes of The Big Sleep. He likens his problem to the locked room puzzles of Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr.  And later, after a conk on the head, Dugan tells us a real-life conk is harder to recover from than the fictional conks Mike Hammer used to get.

Altogether, Some Die Hard is a nicely rounded mystery with just about the right amounts of sex, violence and old-fashioned deduction. Unlike Race Williams, Dugan uses his brain - rather than his guns - to solve the case. And unMarlowelike as he is, I came across a couple of Chandlerlike lines:

I wouldn't have left Langdon Springs then for all the graft in Washington.
and . . .
And there he is - deader than Philadelphia on a Tuesday night. 

Some Die Hard was a great read - Again! Get it HERE.


Todd Mason said...

Cool. One does wonder how few people had navel piercings in 1978.

There's something in Blogspot that doesn't want to recognize my new/redux post for today, so here's that addy:'s alreay shaping up to be a typically handsome showcase list.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Sounds great Evan, thanks - must admit, I don't care for the new cover though - it's not exactly subtle! But what's inside the cover's the thing - thanks.

Jerry House said...

Mine's up, Evan: Hell-for-Leather Rider by "Jake Foster"(aka The Man from Nightshade Valley by James Reasoner & Ed Gorman).

George said...

My blog post is up. And I'm going to order SOME DIE HARD right now!

Gerard said...

And later, after a conk on the head, Dugan tells us a real-life conk is harder to recover from than the fictional conks Mike Hammer used to get.

Yep, Hammer gets knocked out twice in Twisted Thing.

J F Norris said...

Mine's up, Dave:

Bury Me Deep by Harold Q Masur

Very appropriate (and completely coincidental) this week while you're subbing for Patti that my post is your kind of book. If you don't know the Scott Jordan books you ought to read at least one. And since Bury Me Deep is newly reissued by Raven's Head Press I highly recommend you start by buying a copy today.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks folks. Hopefully I got you all covered.

neer said...


Here's mine:

Oil! by Upton Sinclair (1927)


Oscar Case said...

Mike Shayne, Mike Hammer, Phillip Marlowe and Rock Dugan, can't beat that.

Todd Mason said...

Two further thoughts on the original cover:

It, too, is a photo...and as such, is both typical of the relatively interesting photo covers Manor Books used, and that it looks like a mob hit means only that it could easily be a Manor family portrait.

And, fwiw, my contribution this week is a typical pile of older reviews together...somewhat atypipically including the comments from the original posts ('cause they raise some good issues, I think), of all these:

The Best of the West edited by Joe R. Lansdale
Razored Saddles edited by Joe R. Lansdale and Pat Lo Brutto
Wild Riders and Trouble Valley by Lee Hoffman
Sturgeon's West by Theodore Sturgeon and, in part, Don Ward
Time of the Wolves by Marcia Muller
Sixgun in Cheek and The Western Hall of Fame by or edited by Bill Pronzini (and edited by Dale L. Walker) among others
and the token eastern:
Who Fears the Devil? by Manly Wade Wellman

Thanks again!

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Evan, thanks very much for including my review. I didn't strictly have one for FFB. I read a couple of vintage books but didn't get the time to review them.

RJR said...

I also had a copy of the original book., Alas, it's long gone. I think I lost it in my divorce.

Evan Lewis said...

When I got divorced, I told her NO WAY are you getting your hands on my copy of Some Die Hard.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks. Dave!

Kelly Robinson said...

Thanks for the review and for collecting the links!