RARA-AVIS: RE: Frank Gruber

From: dlochte ( dlochte@adelphia.net)
Date: 02 Jun 2002

Joy writes:

 I was reminded of an exciting adventure book I thought was by Frank Gruber
 that took place in South America and concerned llamas. "The Red
 or other>"? So I Googled, and didn't see anything close by the time I was
 distracted by the story of his friendship with and influence on L. Ron
 Hubbard. Does this book sound familiar to anyone?

I'm a big Gruber fan and have read just about everything he's written that has appeared between hard covers. Don't recall any "The Red ..." or any books dealing with llamas. I may have missed one of his later novels. Those were his adventure tales, usually involving spies. They're not nearly as entertaining as his earlier series books. Of those the Simon Lash series definitely qualify as hard-boiled.

<<In my surfing, I came across a lot of his used books and bought French Key.>>

"The French Key" is one of his best, IMO, the first of the Johnny Fletcher-Sam Cragg novels. They're sort of noir lite. Fletcher and Cragg are con men who think of themselves as book salesmen. They set up on street corners. Cragg, a muscle-bound type, strips to the waist and wraps a chain around his chest. Fletcher, the smooth talker, does the pitch, selling the self-help book, "Every Man A Samson." When a crowd gathers, Cragg expands his chest, pops the chains and Fletcher peddles the books. The gimmick is that, in each adventure, they wind up entering another "world." Horse-racing, cockfighting, comic-strip artistry, coin collecting, Vegas gambling, the recording industry. Gruber evidently researched each background carefully. He also seemed to have a slightly larcenous mindset or he'd known quite a few con men, because the stunts Fletcher pulls are pretty impressive.

Dick Lochte

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