RARA-AVIS: DAMES, DANGER, DEATH by Brett Halliday, et al. (edited by Leo Mar gulies)

From: Todd Mason ( Todd.Mason@tvguide.com)
Date: 30 Dec 2002

As one pretty tired of the oft-expressed anti-short-fiction bias here at RA, the '40s month gave me an excuse (however weak, given that most of its contents are from MANHUNT's heyday a decade later) to read Leo Margulies's 1960 Pyramid Books antho DAMES, DANGER, DEATH. The major 1940s entry, the only one copyrighted and probably the only one written in the '40s, is a
"real" Brett Halliday (Davis Dresser) Mike Shayne story, "Death Goes to the Post," from the underappreciated (STREET & SMITH'S) DETECTIVE STORY
(MAGAZINE) in 1942 (not as literate as EQMM, not as impressive as BLACK MASK or DIME DETECTIVE in their best years--perhaps...I shall have to read some to say, to look past the classics to what else dwelled within any particular number--but a good cross-section of all the kinds of pulp--and wartime digest--crime fiction in the issues I have read, most actually from a British reprint run). Unsurprisingly, this early Shayne is a hell of a lot fresher than the ghostwritten items hacked out for MSMM I recall, and one can see the seeds of Hammer and all the less romantic children of Marlowe, less emotionally distant offspring of the Op, here.

The book opens and closes with two pseudonymous stories by Salvatore Lombino, at time of writing not yet, I think, legally Evan Hunter, and only jokingly Curt Cannon, who in "Now Die in It" is about as deft a parody/pastiche-straddler of Hammer (from a 1953 MANHUNT) as was Howard Browne's "The Veiled Woman" from a slightly earlier FANTASTIC. Curt Cannon is both author and protag, doncha know, much like Ellery Queen, and he gets tied up with teenagers who run "nightclubs" of sorts out of their families' rec' rooms and the nymphomaniac who patronizes one in particular. She, too, can't get enough abuse-as-foreplay. It's a nice touch that this percussive fellow starts out as a down-and-out flophouse resident, reminiscent of what I've heard of Barry "Mike Barry" Malzberg's later Executioner-style series wherein apparently no bones are made about the psychosis of the protagonist.
"Classification: Dead" as by Richard Marsten, is mostly notable for the depth of hatred Lombino/Hunter evinces for both abortionists and abortion as a concept. Henry Kane has a decent Peter Chambers story here, "Sweet Charlie"; Frank Kane, a more ridiculously terse attempt at ultra HB Johnny Liddell story, "Sleep Without Dreams" (somehow, it doesn't surprise me that Liddell stories would eventually pop up in the bottom-of-the market WEB DETECTIVE by the turn of the '60s). Richard Prather's Shell Scott "Squeeze Play" bounces along as nicely as you'd expect; Richard Deming's "Optical Illusion" is disappointing when compared to his later work, which I've tended to enjoy, but is a solid if unexciting example of the criminal-with-scruples-and-injured-vanity taking on his rivals. Best in book is Jonathan Craig's "A Lady of Talent," a police procedural of sorts in this book supposedly of PI stories, and the story which really gets at the urban High Lonesome of hb, with a fully human touch that the others tend to fall short of. And not because they're short fiction, but because this is a Margulies antho, or so I gather from the others attributed to him and published by Pyramid at about the same time, such as his WEIRD TALES, wherein he was more interested, apparently, in overlooked and somewhat interesting, than in actually Good work.

Picked up Maxim Jakubowski's MAMMOTH BOOK OF PULP FICTION, in its new instant-remainder hc edition from Castle as PULP FICTION, and after reacquainting myself with Hammett's "Too Many Have Lived," I'm now a good chunk of the way into a Charles Williams seaborne hb novella, and how you folks who are are willing to pass up a 60-page story of this caliber because it's not 110 pages (or "Too Many" at a mere 20 or so), I'll never understand. TM

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
# majordomo@icomm.ca.  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Dec 2002 EST