RARA-AVIS: Jonathan Latimer

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 14 Nov 2002

I was thinking about reading 42 DAYS FOR MURDER, but then when someone else read it I thought I pick up something else, for the sake of coverage. I'm reading HEADED FOR A HEARSE (1935), by Jonathan Latimer, one of his Bill Crane books.

There's a fellow who's in jail for murdering his wife, and he's going to be executed in six days. There are a few points of evidence that might clear him, and some people get together to work on it. Now, this is a bit like Cornell Woolrich's PHANTOM LADY (1942). Its first chapter is "The Hundred and Fiftieth Day Before the Execution." A man's on death row and the only thing that can save him is finding the mysterious woman of the title. The vise is tightening from the first line and doom is imminent.

In the Latimer book, on the other hand, the convict bribes the warden to have meetings in the jail. The first day, Bill Crane, his partner, and two beautiful women, all go have a nice lunch, which is described in detail. Then they break and reunite for dinner, where a witness may talk to them. They go to a fancy club and what they eat and drink is listed again. Then the witness is shot in the face in the middle of the club, but no-one's particularly concerned.

I read SOLOMON'S VINEYARD (1941) a while ago and can't remember anything about it except it was tough and good. This one's described as being a screwball hardboiled locked-room mystery. It's a lot more relaxed than I'd expected. All the meals keep making me hungry, too.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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