From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 07 Nov 2002

Born in Iowa in 1902, Paul Cain became a writer for the Black Mask pulp magazine in 1932, when the magazine was at the height of its popularity. Although he claims to have traveled around the world as both an artist and a gambler, almost no hard factual information on his life exists before he started at Black Mask. Four hardboiled stories for Black Mask formed the basis of his only novel, FAST ONE. Cain left the magazine in 1936 when Shaw was fired. Like many of the hardboiled writers of the time, he took up scriptwriting. Unlike some, he was successful at it, and wrote many scripts for several studios. He died in 1966.

FAST ONE is the fast-paced story of tough guy Gerry Kells, who has recently left New York and moved to Los Angeles, where he profits by placing bets on fixed horse races. He gets caught up in the middle of gangster war over control of the city, and makes the decision to take over the town for himself.

Told in a third person narrative in terse, lean sentences, the book is not only very hardboiled, but also noir. Gerry Kells's pitting of all the factions against one another is reminiscent of Hammett's RED HARVEST. When I first read the book, it seemed like the tempo was jerky, the quick scene transitions awkward, producing the literary equivalent of whiplash. Upon revisiting the first part, it seems even worse. Also, credibility is stretched thin by the three times Kells is knocked unconscious and, upon awakening, springs into strenuous action.

But these are slight complaints really, and no reason to miss out on hard-driving action and a hell-bound plot. Raymond Chandler called FAST ONE the "high point in the ultra hardboiled manner." He had high praise for the ending, describing it "as murderous and at the same time poignant as anything in that manner that has ever been written."

Besides the novel, seven stories are collected in the out- of-print SEVEN SLAYERS. Crippen and Landru will be coming out this month with a collection of 14 independent (not the four that made up FAST ONE) stories, appropriately named FOURTEEN SLAYERS. See http://www.crippenlandru.com for details.
  Note: Biographical information came from William Marling's excellent hardboiled detective site: http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/engl/marling/hardboiled


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