RARA-AVIS: Re: Mel D. Ames

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 24 May 2009

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    Re your question below:

    "Has anyone here read author Mel D. Ames? I had never heard of him before until today, when I found an anthology of his short stories from Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. Seeing how they'd been published in MSMM, I bought it immediately. The book is called 'Amazon. The Adventures of Detective-Lieutenant Cathy Carruthers.' has anyone heard of this character before?"

    If you've already received your copy, you've probably formed your own opinions, and, in any case, since you've bought it, my opinions are pretty much rendered moot.

    But that's never stopped me before.

    I'd never heard of the character before, but, intrigued by your description, I went out and borrowed a copy of AMAZON from a local library.

    The stories are basically structured as fair-play, solve-it-yourself puzzles, but written at much longer length than is usually the case. In my experience, a quick "solve-it-yourself" is usually a short-short, no more than 3000 words. These are all novelettes, running in the 8000- 10,000 word range, or about 25-35 pages.

    The style's more than a bit florid. Ames does not write lean and mean, like Hammett, nor colloquially poetic, like Chandler, nor fever-pitch passionate, like Spillane, but is melodramatically wordy, like Walter "Maxwell Grant" Gibson.


    Detective-Lieutenant Cathy Carruthers stood in the open doorway, surveying the room with a cold, calculating eye. No sign of emotion, no feminine impropriety, marred the composureof her finely-wrought features. She was six feet from head to heel, and blonde; and as she paced the hotel room in silent deliberation, she did things to a straight-cut, gray business suit that had never been intended. And even though the garment ended mid-thigh, it fell short of its given purpose; to subdue and otherwise divert attention from the superb body that moved within it. Her vital statistics had become classified information at Metro Central's Eleventh Precinct.

    That's the very first appearance of Lt. Carruthers in her very first story, "A Matter of Observation." The level of verbosity is almost Dickensian.

    The rest of the stories are written in a similar style. Lt. Carruthers's manner of speaking is hyper-formal, and she comes across not too unlike Nero Wolfe, if Nero Wolfe happened to be a tall, gorgeous blonde babe. Her assistant, the hunly Sergeant Mark Swanson, seems, in fact, to be playing Archie to her Nero, except that he's not narrating the stories.

    They're fun, and I imagine you'll enjoy them. But they're not especially memorable.

    Hitorical note: The first eleven Carruthers stories appeared in MSMM, but the series was interrupted by the demise of that magazine. Ames is Canadian, and a member of the Canadian Crime Writers (the Great White North version of MWA or CWA), and the last two Carruthers stories were first published in the second and third CWC anthologies, COLD BLOOD II and COLD BLOOD III.



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