RARA-AVIS: '40s month: John Spain

From: abc@wt.net
Date: 08 Dec 2002

I thought I sent out an earlier message on John Spain, but it never showed up in my mailbox, so maybe I didn't. If you've already received it, you can just delete this now.

I was led to read a book by John Spain (who was really Cleve F. Adams) by a review in THE ANTHONY BOUCHER CHRONICLES, VOLUME II. Here's the review, from November 8, 1942:
"Confidential agent William Rye breaks up blackmail and murder in L. A. politics. Authentic hard school -- as close to Hammett himself as anything in recent years." Well, who wouldn't want to read a book like that? I had a copy around the house, so I dug it out.

It might not be Hammett, but it's certainly "authentic hard school." Bill Rye is a cynical op whose description will probably remind you of Hammett's description of Sam Spade
(or at least I was reminded). Rye works for a gent named Callahan, who raised himself from penniless immigrant to big-time operator and who now has plenty of political power
(and enemies), along with plenty of family problems (a straying wife, a wild weakling son). And now a woman shows up claiming to be his long-lost illegitimate daughter. People start getting killed, and the plot gets really complex. Rye isn't above bribery and perjury when it comes to protecting Callahan, and there's plenty of action, all done in the clean Black Mask style. Highly recommended.

Here's what Boucher has to say about the sequel, DEATH IS LIKE THAT, in his review of October 10, 1943: "The entire surviving cast of DIG ME A GRAVE, starring cynical Bill Rye, tangles with more L. A. murder and politics; the cast will be much smaller next time. Better-than-average hard stuff, but still more routine than the unforgettable first Spain."

As luck would have it, I also have a copy of this one. I'm going to read it, as they say in fandom, Real Soon Now.

Bill Crider

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Dec 2002 EST