RARA-AVIS: Re: John Spain correction

From: moorich2@aol.com
Date: 05 Oct 2004

In my earlier post on the Cleve F.Adams' novels published as by John Spain, I said there were two. Actually, there were three under that name: DIG ME A GRAVE (1942), DEATH IS LIKE THAT (1943), and THE EVIL STAR (1944). I forgot about Evil Star which I have a digest reprint of but so far it remains unread.

Adams seemed to delight in creating lead characters who were knuckle-dragging A-holes with limited intelligence. For example, in the novel he wrote with Robert Leslie Bellem under the name Franklin Charles (THE VICE CZAR MURDERS, Wilfred Funk 1941) the lead character is a detective named Rock. Halfway through the novel, Rock is trying to make sense of what had happened thus far.
"Rock dodged the blank wall at the end of this train of thought and tackled something else." After getting slugged for the umpteenth time: "...he was more or less greateful to the guy for kicking him on the chin. He didn't think the top of his head could have stood any more."

There usually are just enough of these to keep me bemused as I follow the dunderhead detective to the conclusion. One last quote from VICE CZAR (some of which may belong to Bellam): "I know which ball comes after the seven," Rock said. "Even looking at it from behind."

On my to read stack(s) is the final Rex McBride novel SHADY LADY published by Ace in 1955 (six years after Adams' death. Francis M. Nevins said it was
"his last and best novel...rich in character sketches and powerfully understated scenes which suggest that, had he lived longer, he might have grown into a writer rivaling Chandler."

I don't know that I agree with that last speculation because Adams' heroes were (to use Mike Nevins' words) "...a royal ass and a cosmic oaf. In Adams's cynical world there is no hero, and the detective is as rotten as everyone else, just tougher and luckier."

McBride is an interesting counterpoint to the Chandler knight going out into the mean streets but there are limits to how much time I want to spend in the company of a fascist, racist and in all ways brutal character capable of saying "An American Gestapo is goddam well what we need."

Richard Moore

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 05 Oct 2004 EDT