RARA-AVIS: Frank Kane

Ted White (tedwhite@compusnet.com)
Mon, 15 Feb 1999 12:30:09 -0500 I've read quite a few of Frank Kane's books -- I have twenty on my
shelf, all Dell books -- mostly in the early sixties. I recall
discussing him with Larry Shaw once, and Larry telling me bits of
scuttlebut about the man -- damned little of which I can recall now,

He was a self-plagiarist. I remember telling Larry that I thought
I'd stumbled on his key book (I read them out of order, as I found
them) -- the one which was the prototype for the rest, because it had
*all* the scenes in it which turned up, reused, in various other
books. Some involved characters (I seem to recall a man who ran a
gambling den) and some bits of business (a shady character smokes
"funny" cigarettes, which Kane's protagonist turns down when they're
offered with the line, "No thanks -- I prefer mine with tobacco in
them.").... What was remarkable was the way Kane reused these bits
and scenes in fresh plots and contexts, from book to book -- virtually
word for word. Why did he do it? He must have realised his readers,
following his PI character, would encounter and recognize these as
recycled lines. Did he think they'd accept it as readily as readers
of DOC SAVAGE, say, accepted the potted biographies of Ham and Monk
and the others, recycled in each story and issue?

I have this image of Kane as a man who sat at a rented desk and
pounded his manual typewriter daily, while never taking off his hat.
I think this image comes to me from Shaw, who knew him, but I may have
fabricated it. I think of Kane as an oldstyle, lesser Frank Gruber,
pulp hack sort of a guy. I'll bet there was an ashtray overflowing
with cigarette butts right next to that typewriter, too.

--Ted White

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