I actually kicked the month off at the very beginning with a
review of Spillane's VENGEANCE IS MINE but since then I have
not been able to finish a 50s hardboiled or noir novel. I
faltered 2/3rds of the way through a Gil Brewer and it was my
fault. Great novel and I will finish it soon and report. I
tried to regress to the 1940s with Manly Wellman's FIND MY
KILLER and it opened nicely and I cruised along but then by
the wayside it fell.
The closest I came to finishing a suitable story from the
1950s was John Cheever's THE HOUSEBREAKER OF SHADY HILL but
although features a crime and had moments of high suspense,
it does not belong on this list.
At last, near the end of the month, I picked up Bernard
Wolfe's THE GREAT PRINCE DIED from 1959 and was swept away by
a fine writer and a so-far great novel. But not time yet to
finish it. I promise a later report.
Meanwhile the mention of THE LONG GOODBYE by Chandler reminds
me of his wonderful rif in that novel that begins "There are
blondes and blondes and it is almost a joke word nowadays." I
thought recently that one of the classic moments in any
hardboiled novel is the entrance of "Her," the beauty who
will be at the center of the story, the one who can cause old
Moby to stir from the depths. Damn near every classic HB tail
has that description. I should go back to Cain and the others
and check them out. It is a moment that inspires the best in
And thanks miker for the Al Conroy quotes. I don't have that
one but Marv Albert clearly had a focus upstairs when he
wrote that one.
I am looking forward to the latest version of "Dragnet" on
Sunday. The NY Times gave it a great review and compared it
favorably to the competing
"Kingpin". The Washington Post gave it grudging compliments with negative comparisons to Webb's original.
This morning on a cable channel I tuned into a 1955 Columbia
movie "The Night Holds Terror" which fits the police
procedural format including a voice over that features an
announcer who comes close to the "voice of God" sound that
was so admired back in my days in radio. The film makes great
use of locations. In fact, it all looks to be shot on
location in LA and out in the desert. The plot is a gang on
the run takes over a house and eventually leaves with the
husband as a hostage to make certain the wife will not call
the police. They discover he is the son of a wealthy man and
decide to seek a ransom. The cast was wonderful for a low
budget film. The ring leader of the gang is John Cassavetes
in what has to be one of his earliest roles. His acting has
that natural, improvisational look even in what had to be a
scripted film. The screen crackles with his heat. With him,
however, is Vince Edwards who with his smoldering, dark
intensity matches Cassavetes with cool to hot. The viewer's
eye hops from one to the other when they are both on screen.
The kidnapped husband is played by Jack Kelly, latter to be
on TV's "Maverick" and the supporting cast includes Jonathan
Hale and Jack Kruschen (who I think was now and then on Jack
Webb's radio "Dragnet." The most interesting scenes for me
were those showing telephone workers trying to trace the
calls in that pre-transitor and pre-computer age. The relays
were all mechanical and workers raced from bank to bank of
the clicking walls of relays to track down each digit of the
telephone number and then checking paper card index files for
the address. The suspense remains to this day but I had to
think that someone may one day want to check it out as a
record of a technology of historical interest.
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