RARA-AVIS: DC writers: Richard Starnes

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 23 Dec 2001

Richard Starnes was a newspaper reporter/editor who wrote three novels featuring reporter Barney Forge. AND WHEN SHE WAS BAD SHE WAS MURDERED
(Lippincott 1950) and ANOTHER MUG FOR THE BIER (Lippincott 1950) were based in Washington and Alexandria, Virginia. Starnes at the time worked for the Washington Daily News as an editor. His character Forge was a reporter covered Capitol Hill. When Starnes transferred to his chain's New York paper, he moved Forge to New York for the final novel in the series THE OTHER BODY IN GRANT'S TOMB.

The Forge novels are enjoyable reads mixing humor with sharp observations on the Washington scene. Starnes was likely influenced by the then popular Craig Rice as these novels have that alcohol-fueled madcap feel. Starnes has more of a hardboiled edge and some of the turns of phrase have a Chandlerish feel.

Reporter Forge is the first person narrator but in the first two books he serves as the Archie Goodwin to an Alexandria pathologist Dr. St. George Peachy, who did the crime solving. By the third book the doctor had a lesser role and the last was billed as "The tough, new Barney Forge mystery."

One of the annoying aspects of the novels is Starnes' compulsion toward cute names like Dr. Peachy. There is also a pet goal named Ewe-All. Ross Thomas also did this with names but he was better at it.

The novels went through several printings with Lippincott and Pocket Books and are not hard to find. I would recommend ANOTHER MUG FOR THE BIER as the murder takes place at the Senate Office Building (now known as the Russell Building) and has some acute observations on political and social life in Washington.

Starnes stopped for many years after those three novels but resurfaced in the late 1960s with a few spy novels beginning with REQUIEM IN UTOPIA (1967).

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