Archive for the ‘87th Precinct’ Category

LongGoodbyeI told Susan the other day that I liked Dashiell Hammett as a writer better than Raymond Chandler. But that was before I read The Long Goodbye. Yikes, was that good! Unlike the Maltese Falcon by Hammett which has three film versions which I wanted to watch, The Long Goodbye has two, one with DIck Powell and one with Elliot Gould as Marlowe. Neither actor is Marlowe, as far as I’m concerned, so no watching the movie for me. But that’s way off topic.

I really don’t want to go into the plot too much. It’s much better if you read it cold. But Marlowe, a ‘cheapie’ according to one gangster is hobnobbing with the rich set and of course gets into trouble, beaten up once or twice, etc. It also shows Marlowe’s ‘romantic’, ‘justice for all’ side. Once Marlowe is on your side, you’ve got a true friend.

There are so many passages I want to quote. Every page has one. Unlike modern authors’ descriptions of people (designer label, etc.) Chandler has a knack. So I’ll quote from the first page. “There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can.” What writing!!!!!

Chandler seemed to use the book as an oratory on the ills of the world from crime to big business to dishonest politicians to drugs. It’s funny how nothing has changed since 1953.

As I’ve continued reading pulp mysteries (1953 was towards the end of the pulps), I more and more realize that there are no more ‘hard-boiled dicks’. They died with Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe and some of the other pulp detectives. Connelly’s Harry Bosch and Parker’s Spenser and McBain’s Steve Carella may aspire to such status but the writing style and thus the heroes have gone by the wayside. Quite the shame. But, hey, I haven’t exhausted the pulp genre and I understand that The Mysterious Bookshop will be issuing some reprints and there’s an unreleased Hammett book (The Hunter and Other Stories) coming out in the Fall. So, I’ll still have plenty to read.

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Archer Mayor’s Joe Gunther series is one of those steady series that you look forward to every year or two, as Mayor completes another episode. Having said that, I’m still catching up. I think I have 5 more to go, to be up to date. There are 22 books in the series, so that’s a pretty steep investment of time.

Second Mouse starts out with a dead body that apparently died of natural causes. Joe Gunther, head of the Vermont Bureau of Investigation hears the call on his police radio and, being in the neighborhood, stops by. VBI only takes major cases, but he was curious.

Of course the case leaves some questions/doubts in his mind and it eventually falls into his domain. The book is basically two cases that merge into one. Michelle Fisher is the dead body. Her live in boyfriend, Archie, died several months before and his father is trying to evict from the house she and Archie rented from him.

Mel, Ellis and Nancy are three petty thieves. Mel is the brains, Ellis is his cohort and Nancy is his wife. They’ve got a record a mile long. Mel is always full of new schemes, always involving the other two. This time it’s a drug deal.

One of the things that makes a mystery good is identifying with the characters, becoming part of the family, so to speak and Joe Gunther seems like family. I’ve watched him grow, get a girlfriend (and now lose her), change jobs, deal with his brother and parents, the whole bit. Joe’s not philosopical like Moe Prager (Reed Farrel Coleman). He’s more like Steve Carella from Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series; kinda like a close friend.

If you’re looking for a new mystery, a new venue (Vermont) and a new friend, start with Open Season (written in 1988) and keep going. That’s my suggestion.

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