RARA-AVIS: 1940s: Howard Browne, Halo in Blood

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 17 Dec 2002

I have fewer 1940s books on my shelves than I'd thought, but I found one I hadn't read: Howard Browne's first Paul Pine mystery, HALO IN BLOOD
(1946). It's been mentioned in the archives a few times:

http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200106/0062.html http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200106/0209.html (I quote from A TASTE OF ASHES)

Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Doherty comment (severe spoilers): http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200107/0111.html http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/archives/200107/0123.html

HALO IN BLOOD is purely in the Chandler vein, but Browne's a fine writer and there's good dialogue with snappy metaphors and good wisecracks. It moves quickly, it's suitably complicated, and there are some twists and turns at the end that you won't expect. Pine's a noble detective, but a dame sees through him:

| "You've got a hard finish," she said slowly, not smiling now.
| "But I don't believe you are quite so hard underneath it. Perhaps that
| finish is there because you've seen too much of the wrong side of
| people. You go in for crisp speech and a complete lack of emotion. In a
| way you're playing a part ... and it's not always an attractive part.
| Yet there's plenty of strength to you, and a kind of hard-bitten code
| of ethics. A woman could find a lot of things in you that no other man
| could give her." She flashed a sudden smile at me. "Besides, you're
| rather good looking in the lean, battered sort of way that all sensible
| women find so attractive in a man."
| "How you do go on!" I said.

Pine gets knocked out twice. Here's one:

| Something made a noise behind me. It wasn't much of a noise.
| About as lound as a cigarette ash falling on a snowdrift. I
| started to turn around.
| I should have turned faster. Something came down on the back
| of my head. It couldn't have been the Queen Mary's anchor; there
| wasn't enough water around.
| I dived into a shoreless sea of black ink, pulled folds of black
| velvet over my head and burrowed into a coal pile.
| I was out.

I know Browne already has admirers on the list, but if you haven't read him, try a Paul Pine mystery or THIN AIR. If you like Chandler, you'll like Browne. It's like meeting someone new yet already knowing them.

I see that Browne is the subject of an article in the October 2002 issue of FIRSTS (the magazine about book collecting). Anyone read it?


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

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