Re: RARA-AVIS: recent reads etc

From: James Reasoner (
Date: 17 Nov 2010

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    NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH has been published in a number of different versions because Chase was forced to revise it due to censorship laws, lawsuits, etc. A friend of mine who's read the original says that it's by far the best version. I wouldn't know, not having read any of them.

    I agree, though, that Chase's attempts at Americanisms are pretty bad, and pretty funny, at times. I'm not sure he's that much worse than some American authors I've read who attempt to write British books. His plots are usually interesting, and some of his endings are so over-the-top as to be almost surreal. I enjoy reading his books, but only every now and then.

    James Reasoner

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: tomarmstrongmusic
      Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 1:02 PM
      Subject: RARA-AVIS: recent reads etc

      Well the NYRB has been doing a bangup job, and I thank those on here who recommended some of their recent reissue titles. I have recently read William Lindsay Gresham's "Nightmare Alley", "Rogue Male" by Geoffry Household, and Don Carpenter's "Hard Rain Falling" and they are all fantastic.

      "Nightmare Alley" is singular and remarkable. Hideous and engulfing. One quibble, the sequence near the end where he hops the freight train with the black labor activist? To me it stuck out like a sore thumb; while their dialogue was interesting, it seemed artificial, a bit stuck in there so Gresham could argue Socialist collectivism against his own myopic personal despair. Did anyone else have that reaction? Otherwise it was a driving narrative, and the characters were complex. Quite a rumination on the evil that men (and women!) do.

      "Hard Rain Falling" is a very different story about a guy who grows up a criminal, then experiences a transformation when he's finally, truly loved by someone. Really really good. There's a section of the book where he's put in juvie solitary for several months. Bravura writing. Kinda reminds me of Simenon's "Dirty Snow" or...

      "Rogue Male". A fugitive would-be assasin goes to ground, quite literally, and is penned in by an adversary. Reduced to the state of a trapped animal, he experiences painful epiphanies and has to face and become his true self. Gripping and memorable.

      On the other hand, I picked up a David Hadley Chase book out of curiosity. I'm slogging my way through "No Orchids For Miss Blandish". I can only read it for a little while at a time. His wordsmithing is only serviceable, his Englishness shows through when he gets American dialogue and idioms all wrong, and the misogyny is totally rank. However the story itself holds my interest, and like Harry Whittington his plotting is his best skill, so I'll finish it. Not with relish, tho. Can't say as I'll be rushing out to read anything else by this dude. Guys like Edward Anderson and WR Burnett captured the essence of these kinds of characters a hell of a lot better.

      Tom Armstrong


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