Re: RARA-AVIS: More questions about more books

From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 16 Jan 2000

Roy Epstein wrote:

> I recently found a couple: A HOUSE IN NAPLES and CODE
> NAME GADGET. Anybody read em? Opinions?

HOUSE IN NAPLES is one of the good ones. CODE NAME GADGET is one of the worst, part of a series of poor spy thrillers he wrote near the end of his career.

Other good Rabe novels would include: KILL THE BOSS GOODBYE (one of Donald Westlake's favorites, and a very sharp piece of writing, with something of the icy feel of Richard Stark), ANATOMY OF A KILLER (probably Rabe's best, it was originally published in a tiny hardcover edition that's virtually unobtainble, but can be found reprinted in Ed Gorman's DARK CRIMES anthology, which is in most libraries -- bless you Ed Gorman), THE BOX (reprinted, again by Ed Gorman, in PURE PULP), MURDER ME FOR NICKLES (a change of pace for Rabe, this is a hardboiled comedy, although all of Rabe's work contains elements of grim humor), and MY LOVELY EXECUTIONER.

Those are the best. Among the worst: GIRL ON A BIG BRASS BED, THE SPY WHO WAS 3 FEET TALL and CODE NAME GADGET (tiresome spy pastiches), WAR OF THE DONS and BLACK MAFIA (ganster crap riding the crest of Puzo's THE GODFATHER); then another attempt to do a series, this time about a dull guy named Danial Port: BRING ME ANOTHER CORPSE, IT'S MY FUNERAL, DIG MY GRAVE DEEP, THE OUT IS DEATH and TIME ENOUGH TO DIE; a couple of bad standalones: JOURNEY INTO TERROR and STOP mTHIS MAN.

The rest of his novels fall between the two poles, partial successes with some good writing and some bad. Rabe tended to crank books out at white heat, and, like the little girl with the curl on her forehead, when he was good he was great and when he was bad he was horrid. Reading him at random, you're just as likely to pick up a piece of junk and quit on him as to pick up one of his classics and want to read everything he wrote.

Hope this helps you cut your way through the jungle.


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