RARA-AVIS: If You Have Tears

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 18 Jun 2001

I was disappointed in IF YOU HAVE TEARS by John Evans/Howard Browne. In the memoir published in INCREDIBLE INK, Browne said it was his attempt to do a James M. Cain novel and that is certainly true in both plot and style. A shorter version was in Mammoth Detective, one of the pulps he edited. Surprisingly, that story was later reprinted in Esquire. The story was expanded into a novel and first published by Mystery House in 1947 and had several paperback editions.

The plot is a variation on Cain's THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE with the first person protagonist a solid banker approaching middle age who falls for his new secretary. Soon events lead him to embezzle $15,000 from the bank. When he has to cover that amount or face disclosure and ruin, he recalls his wife's insurance policy and begins planning her murder.

The opening chapters that set up the situation are well done but as the plot begins to move, everything falters. Coincidence, bad luck, out-of-character stupidity govern every twist of the plot. The protagonist has to be the unluckiest SOB who ever went down the murder path. Long before the end, I ceased to care about his fate.

It would be interesting to read the original, shorter magazine version. The various unlikely plot twists may be the result of padding out a solid story to novel length.

There are some good lines. My favorite: "They'll love you in hell, baby."

Richard Moore

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