Monday, November 22, 2010

More on Bond, James Bond

In my last post I noted my oft-scorned opinion that Casino Royale (2006) is the best Bond film.  I ran across an article by Lawrence Meyers which explains, far better than I ever could, why I am such a fan of Casino Royale.  He writes:

For viewers longing for the traditional Bond trappings involving Q, gadgets, cackling villains utilizing sci-fi technology, and eccentric nemeses like Jaws, let me suggest that they have become anachronistic.  Bond films were always one step ahead of the latest cinematic innovations – whether they be stunts or special effects.  Now, however, every film seems intent on pushing the envelope.   How can Bond compete with Avatar? To survive, the Bond series had to reinvent itself just as Star Trek did.

Rather than go bigger – how much bigger can you get than a car driving through a melting ice mansion? — the logical choice was to strip Bond down to its essence.  The innovations had to be in character, not in special effects or stunts.  This makes perfect sense, given that Bond had previously been more about characterization than character.  Short of seeing Bond’s vulnerability in his doomed love affair with Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, or with Sophie Marceau in The World Is Not Enough (a direct homage to the former), he is presented more as icon than human.

Given the shift in action (and horror) film aesthetics towards presenting material more realistically, and that the reboot’s intent is to examine how Bond developed into the more iconic character we know and love, the new milieu is entirely appropriate.  We would naturally expect him to be rough around the edges and undisciplined.  That approach alone calls for a removal of the expected Bondian elements.

The rest of Mr. Meyers' article may be found here.  Although I do not entirely agree with his high appraisal of Quantum of Solace, I very much agree that the Bond character needed to be stripped down to its essence.  The silliness of the Moore and later Brosnan films needed to be left far, far behind.  I thought Casino Royale did this and Craig delivered a Bond closer to Fleming’s Bond than had been seen in many years.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Casino Royale" by Ian Fleming

Penguin 2002 (Orig. 1953)

When, dazed and half-conscious, he raised himself on one knee, a ghastly rain of pieces of flesh and shreds of blood-soaked clothing fell on him and around him, mingled with branches and gravel. Then a shower of small twigs and leaves. From all sides came the sharp tinkle of falling glass. Above in the sky hung a mushroom of black smoke which rose and dissolved as he drunkenly watched it. There was an obscene smell of high explosive, of burning wood, and of, yes, that was it - roast mutton. . . . Bond felt himself starting to vomit.

What strikes me about the literary Bond is his humanity.  Fleming allows us to see inside his head, to share his thoughts which, yes, include even self-doubt.  Bond seems a real person as opposed to the robotic superman too often portrayed on the big screen.

I have very little experience with the Bond novels, having only previously read On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  On the other hand, I have seen every film multiple times - some more than I can count.  I have long felt that I investigated the real James Bond.  Once I saw the superb covers on the Penguin Ian Fleming Centenary editions, I knew the time had come. 

The opening lines of Casino Royale are often quoted and even memorized by fans, and justifiably so:

The scent smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning. Then the soul-erosion produced by high gambling - a compost of greed and fear and nervous tension - becomes unbearable and the senses awake and revolt from it.

Casino Royale involves Bond's efforts to take down Le Chifre, an associate of the Soviet's SMERSH organization, by financially ruining him at a high stakes baccarat  game. Bond’s baccarat showdown with Le Chiffre is gripping and the reader is able to easily follow the action given Fleming’s remarkably simple explanation of rather complex casino game.  It’s a better choice than the film's Texas Hold-Em.  In fact, Casino Royale is riveting from start to finish, slowing down only just slightly toward the end when Bond escapes to the countryside with Vesper.  This slow-down makes the ending perhaps even more affecting.  This is an ending that is far superior to the film's overblown Venice finale.  Vesper stands at the head of the Bond girl class as far as I’m concerned- either in print or on film. 

If you haven’t read Casino Royale - do it now.  If you haven’t seen the film - watch it.  I can’t yet say it’s the best Bond novel, hard to imagine them getting much better.  It is the best Bond film.  That’s right, I said it and I’m plenty use to catching shit for saying it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"Memory" by Donald Westlake

Hard Case Crime, 2010
Glen Orbik’s wonderful cover tells all you need to know about the beginnings of the nightmarish journey documented in Memory.  Actor, and erstwhile seducer of married women, Paul Cole, awakens in the hospital after his collision with the chair.  He is disoriented and confused, with a highly dysfunctional memory.  From the moment of that awakening, the reader is placed into the Cole’s shoes, sharing his thoughts, fears and general consternation with the nearly unnavigable world in which he finds himself.  Herein lies the principal brilliance of Westlake’s work in Memory.  We are not simply told what happens to Cole, we co-live it with him.   

The story follows a relatively simple arc in which Cole’s day-to-day travails are documented.  A nasty police detective forces him to leave the town in which he is injured.  Surely, there is a clandestine motivation behind the detective’s actions - what was it?  Later, in a new town, he is picked up by the police and treated to a terrifying interrogation.  Once again, surely something big, but hidden, is afoot- what has Cole done?  

Every effort Cole makes to re-connect with his old life and reclaim his memory ends in tragedy.  He simply can’t understand what motivates the people around him and causes them to react to him so strangely and with such hostility.  Surely, at some point, Cole will finally find the key that will unlock the mysteries surrounding his situation and allow him to fully understand the links in the chain of his misfortune.  

For the reader, the feeling that a big event looms on the horizon grows.  The novel must be about more than Cole’s simple and depressing daily struggle with his condition.  Some kind of a catastrophe will reveal the source of Cole’s nightmares.  Something will either restore Cole’s memory or definitively end his small lingering ability to retain an identity.  Is the big event pages away or is the reader now thinking like Cole?  

Although I have a copy of the print edition of Memory in my Hard Case Crime collection, I was very fortunate to find an audiobook copy at my local library.  The BBC Audiobooks America edition is read by Stephen R. Thorne in an amazing performance.  Thorne’s voicing and characterization of Cole is masterful, and his work with some of the other players is amusing and engaging.  Difficult to say whether my reaction to the print edition would have been different, but I was completely enthralled by Memory. Paul Cole will not leave my memory anytime soon.  This is one of the heaviest works in the Hard Case canon. 
There are also excellent  BBC Audiobooks America versions of Parker novels read by Thorne.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Angel" by Gil Brewer

Avon No. 866, 1960

“When I saw the prowl car, I threw the gun down in the yard.  I thought of running, but there would have been no chance.  It would have been stupid.”

Nick Gavin had come to see his old friend Fred Westfall.  Fred called him talking about trouble, needing help.  Now Nick is standing in Fred’s front yard with a gun in his hand.  Fred ... Fred is dead man, lying at Nick's feet. Looks bad for Nick as the cops pull up, siren wailing.  Fred’s wife, Angel, watches as the cops haul Nick away.  Nick sees two shadowy figures escape in the darkness.

Nick is grilled by the cops but they eventually have to let him go after parrifin tests show that he didn’t fire the gun.  Nick immediately sets out to investigate what happened to Fred.  Soon after being released by the cops, Nick is waylaid by some thugs who beat him up and torch his car.  It’s a warning, they want him to leave Fred’s death alone and get out of town. Despite the beating, Nick manages to pull himself together and continue his investigation.

“Coming awake, I felt sticky but rested, though aching in body and head.  I dug up some eperin-codeine tablets I kept on hand and took four of them. By the time I finished getting dressed and having another slug of whiskey, all the pain was gone and I floated about an eighth of an inch above the floor.  Whiskey and codeine turned out to be a perfect route to unconscious wakefulness.”

Nick visits Fred’s brother Owen, a boat dealer.  Owen tells him that Fred deserved what he got, that he was involved in the theft of several of Owen’s boats.  Fred was the Cain to Owen's Abel.  Owen accuses Nick of being an accomplice and tells him to get lost.  Nick has some doubts about Fred but just can’t convince himself to believe Owen. 

Eventually Nick feels the heat is off enough to question Angel, and probe her he does.

“She was wearing scarlet, and she was slightly high. It seemed as if everything about her was a stark rebellion against any show of sorrow over the death of her husband. But scarlet or high, Angel Westfall was still a picture to behold.  Irregardless, as they say. It was one of those Chinese-type dresses, with a high slit and it fit her like a glass around a strong drink.” 

Angel is a mad-woman and Nick becomes convinced of Fred's innocence.  He eventually finds himself in the middle of a complex criminal scheme and he has to navigate treachery, death and the cops while trying to unmask Fred’s killer.  At 96 pages, Angel is short. Brewer easily holds the reader’s attention with some of his better quick hard-boiled prose.  I was pleased that the story didn’t become too much of a typical “man wrongfully accused” tale, of which there are way too many among my stack of PBOs.  Rather, Angel stayed tightly focused on the central characters and Nick’s investigation.  A lightning quick and hard little noir, Angel is worthy of your attention if you're lucky enough to run across a copy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Quarry In the Middle" by Max Allan Collins

 Hard Case Crime, 2009
“Feed lettuce to the bunny and eat the bunny.” - Dashiel Hammett

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” - Akira Kurosawa

“An assassin can display a sublime altruism.” -Sergio Leone

Collins begins Quarry In the Middle with these quotes from masters of the man-in-the-middle tale.  This Quarry adventure takes place at some point in the middle of Quarry’s career.  He has split with the Broker and has taken to stealing his business by informing the Broker’s marks of their impending deaths and offering to take care of the problem - for a fee of course.

Quarry follows one of the Broker’s hit-man employees to a sleazy little casino town on the banks of the Mississippi, appropriately called Haydee’s Port.  There he discovers the hit-man’s target is Richard Cornell, the owner of one of two rival casinos in Haydee’s Port.  Quarry strikes a deal with Cornell and eliminates the Broker’s hit-man.  Cornell also hires Quarry to investigate who wanted him dead.  Eventually Quarry finds himself in between Cornell and the owner of the rival casino.  Quarry, to a certain extent, plays one side against the other, angling to walk away with a fistful of dollars.    

Quarry in the Middle is full of the humor and action one may expect with any Quarry novel.  In particular there is a fantastic action set piece in which Quarry is taken out onto the river by a couple of thugs who have orders to kill him and dump him.  In well-crafted scene of explosive violence, Quarry turns the tables on the thugs and leaves them floating in the mighty Miss.  Quarry is like an evil James Bond - taking care of business, bedding the ladies and doing it all with style.
Collins’ Quarry novels have been among my favorites in the Hard Case Crime lineup.    It is a major bummer that the release of Quarry’s Ex has been delayed (hopefully just delayed) by Dorchester Publishing’s decision to go all digital. Anybody have one of those advanced reading copies they want to unload?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"House of Flesh" by Bruno Fischer

Gold Medal No. 123, 1950

House of Flesh employs one of my favorite pulp noir themes - a man obsessed with a rotten but irresistible woman. It concerns Harry, a professional basketball player who decides to spend the off-season in rural New England to rest his mind and recover from an injury.  He stays in the guest house of retired lawyer Conrad Hickey, who entertains himself by painting nudes. 

Harry is visited by his ex-wife Gale, a statuesque blond playgirl.  Her profligate ways quickly scandalize him when they go for a swim at the local creek:

Gale’s bathing suit only approximated one. It consisted of a skimpy white cloth wound about her loins like an undersized diaper and a narrower strip partially across her magnificent breasts. It was the kind of thing worn by the more daring on the beaches of the French Riviera, but it was hardly the sort of attire for a creek in a small and highly conventional village. North Set wasn’t a tourist place where natives got used to that sort of thing. So they stared—the older women scandalized, the younger women envious, the men of all ages enraptured.

Not sure a diaper, even if diminutive, is the best descriptor for a beautiful woman’s skimpy swimsuit.  Anyway, Gale leaves a dog in Harry’s care and this leads him to the house of Lela Doane and her husband Kenneth, who is the local veterinarian.  Harry quickly finds himself entranced by Lela, even though he can’t quite understand why.  It’s also hard for the reader to understand why because Lela is portrayed as a rather plain woman of average appearance and flat affect.  This is one of my minor quibbles with the novel.  Gale is an interesting and attractive bad girl, Lela not so much.  As Harry maneuvers to find out more about Lela he learns of terrible rumors surrounding her husband Kenneth and the disappearance of his first wife.  The Doanes’ austere and isolated home, which is guarded by fierce dogs, only fuels the rumors. 
As is often the case in this type of a pulp tale Harry also is involved with a sweet, pure and perfect local girl, Polly Wellman.  Of course, he just can’t bring himself to be content with Polly when the mysterious Lela beckons.  As also is common, Lela is imbued with an almost supernatural presence.  Her seduction of Harry is ritualistic.  When she finally captures Harry and they fall into rapture, her plainness and flat personality are replaced by an unearthly beauty and animal intensity.  Like all great femmes fatales she is an evil angel, a succubus. 

As Harry gets pulled further into a strange obsession with Lela, he also gets pulled further into investigating the rumors surrounding the Doanes.  Some human remains are found, Kenneth discovers Harry and Lela’s affair and mayhem ensues.  My other minor quibble with the novel is that near the end Harry makes some assumptions that are too stupid to be believable.  Consequently, portions of the ending felt contrived.

House of Flesh may be read online here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Nobody's Angel" by Jack Clark

Hard Case Crime, 2010

"You want to see some bad neighborhoods," I offered. "I’ll show you some bad neighborhoods."

    Ever wonder what it would be like to get behind the wheel of a cab in a large and frenetic city?  Look no further, Nobody’s Angel takes us right into the harrowing world of Chicago cabdriver Eddie Miles and provides a detailed and fascinating view of what its like to turn a buck navigating the stygian nightmare of Chicago in a cab.  Eddie’s Chicago, which very likely does not consist of much, if any, fictional embellishment, is a  jungle of crime-ridden housing projects, crumbling and abandoned industrial centers and even entire neighborhoods laid to waste and never reclaimed.  Eddie carefully navigates this urban nightmare where everyone, it seems, is either predator or prey.  Any cabbie with sense carefully travels between the City’s islands of rich neighborhoods while employing all manner of tactics to avoid venturing off the carefully beaten path and into the nightmare.

    Clark gives the reader a primer on all things related to life as a cabbie in Chi-Town, right down to quotes from the municipal code.  We are taken along on his nightly journeys and share his heartbreak and nostalgia for the lost City he loves.  Life in the cab is a constant battle.  Every passenger is evaluated and diagnosed as a threat, a safe fare or a sucker that will pay steep for Eddie’s services.  The stakes are higher than ever as Chicago’s cabbies find themselves under attack by a serial killer. 

    Interestingly, Eddie finds himself in the middle of a couple of mysteries, including the serial killer matter, but advancement of that plot is not the prime focus of the novel.  Major plot points relating to the mysteries are dealt with in quick and explosive fashion, while the bulk of the novel concerns Eddie’s routine nightly adventures with fares, his interactions with his fellow cabbies, and ruminations on his personal life.  Despite this, the story never became slow for me.  Rather, the novel’s exposition of Eddie’s day-to-day life is what makes it special.   I was enthralled from start to finish.

    By the way, in case you are unfamiliar with the origin of Nobody’s Angel: Jack Clark actually is a Chicago cabbie that wrote the novel in his spare time and even paid to have copies printed up himself, which he then sold to passengers.  He convinced Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime to take a look.  Charles, in turn, thankfully made it available to those not lucky enough to catch a ride in Jack’s cab.  It ranks among HCC’s best.   

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Satan Is A Woman" by Gil Brewer

 Gold Medal No. 169, 1951
   Satan Is a Woman was Brewer’s first title for Gold Medal and he was writing in top form.  Brewer’s best novels are based upon a similar motif - the lead character’s blind obsession with a rotten but irresistible woman.  In Satan Is a Woman, this motif is set against a background and sub-plot that is actually quite compelling and adds a richness that some of Brewer’s similar stories lack.  At its core, Satan Is a Woman is actually a story about two brothers and their attempts to save each other from themselves.

    The story begins with Tad Cole hiding out in his brother Larry’s beach cottage.  Tad is wanted for killing two men.   Larry owns a bar right on the beach, steps away from his cottage.  He makes a decent living and knows he should be content but he can’t escape the feeling that something is missing, he is lonely.  More than anything, however, he wants to help Tad get free from his crimes and start over.  As the police being to narrow their search for Tad around Larry’s beach cottage, Tad decides he will turn himself in and avoid implicating Larry in his crimes.  Tad has a long history of trying to keep Larry from following in his footsteps.  Perhaps the most important piece of advice Tad ever gave to Larry was to avoid fast women and “stick to the beer and pretzels type.” 

    After Tad turns himself in Larry vows to do whatever it takes to find Tad a good lawyer and help him get out of prison.  Enter Joan, a beautiful blond who breezes into Larry’s bar.  “She was everything I’d wanted. Everything. She was the dream, the last word, the hope. She was it.”

    Joan has rented a beach cottage next to Larry’s and the two quickly strike up a relationship.  It’s obvious to Larry from nearly the beginning that something about Joan isn’t right, but he is instantly and hopelessly captivated by her.  Brewer is great at incorporating symbolism of his characters' fates into his stories.  As Larry and Joan take their first swim together:

“Hands circled my ankles and gripped.  I went down, pulled down, knowing Joan was pulling and never realizing a woman had such strength. Down and down. I hadn’t had a chance to get my breath. I was dizzy. Still dizzy. Down, down, down. We were on the bottom.”

    The story unfolds with Larry alternately obsessing over Joan and attempting to refocus on his quest to free Tad.  As time passes it becomes more and more clear to Larry that Joan is a rotten egg, if not completely deranged.  Yet the more apparent Joan’s nature becomes apparent the worse Larry is enthralled by her.  Brewer allows the story to develop at just the right pace as we see Larry’s self-destruction begin as a seed planted by Joan which slowly grows and envelops him in a seemingly inescapable prison of obsession. Joan insists that Larry could never provide them with the life they need and deserve with his simple income from the bar.  Slowly but surely she pulls Larry onto the same path that Tad so desperately had kept Larry away from.  Larry tries to fight it, but finds himself unable to resist because of his overwhelming desire for her. 

“But all the time I kept feeling worse.  Because it was like returning to some hellish dream. My desire for Joan seemed to mount all the time, instead of decreasing.  Her leg would touch mine, and I’d want her. I’d want her from the sound of her voice, with my back turned. From the touch of her hand. From the smell of her. I would have wanted her just seeing her shoes sitting on the floor, maybe. But being with her meant all the rest of the hell. With more of it to come. And if I touched her . . . ."

    While trying to find a lawyer to help Tad, Larry meets a legal secretary, whom Brewer cleverly monikers Grace.  She is a beautiful but simple woman that takes pity on, and a liking to, Larry. One night Larry realizes where Joan is leading him and makes a break for it, running away and falling into a nightmarish drunken odyssey, from which Grace saves him.  By this point, however, it is too late.  In another piece of symbolism Joan and a policeman come and find Larry and pull him back into their world - the real world of crime and punishment in which grace does not exist.  Joan immediately whisks Larry back into her dirty business and within her hellish thrall.

“Her lips were fierce, her tongue lashed like a flame itself, and there was no gentleness, only a wire-tight hunger; a vivid, savage want. And through it all, even against the closed lids of my eyes, I could see the red demonic flickerings of the fire out there in the dump.”

      At the novel’s finale Joan is revealed in all of her evil majesty and Larry finally and fully realizes his folly. 

“Joan . . . I couldn’t believe what I saw and heard. It couldn’t be Joan. Yet, it was. Her face was a contorted mask, her once golden hair lank and dark against her head. I seemed to actually feel it. All the evil in the world radiated from her face, and the way she held her shapely body, a thing of twisted angles.”

    The ending of Satan Is a Woman manages to be surprising, satisfying and, dare I say, even a bit touching.  It ranks among Brewer’s best pieces of work.

Friday, July 23, 2010

"The Big Bang" by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

I listen to a lot of audiobooks and I was very happy to recently run across the audiobook version of The Big Bang at my local library.  The novel is excellently performed by Stacy Keach.  Listening to him made me really want to check out the old Hammer tv show, starring Keach.  He has just the right amount of tough guy growl for Mike Hammer and does a pretty good job characterizing the other players in the book. 

The Big Bang has been reviewed a million times all over the web so I’ll avoid the usual background about the origins of the novel.  I must, however, comment that Collins’ work on the novel was just excellent.  It felt like 100% Spillane to me from start to finish.  If anything, Collins brings a welcome tightening of the writing and pace of the story.  One of my only criticisms of Spillane’s original Hammer novels is that they can be slow in spots and the writing is, at times, rather clunky.  Doesn’t matter to me though because I don’t read Spillane hoping for the artistry of Chandler.  I read it because Mike Hammer and the instant justice dispensed by his .45 are a breath of fresh air. 

Why do I say that?  Not because I’m an advocate of vigilante justice in real life or because I think that society should regress and re-adopt those bad aspects of our culture which have been thankfully shed since the 50s and 60s.  Rather, I’ll go on record saying that I think the feminization of society is, on the whole, a bad thing and that there still should be a place in today’s world for a man’s man, both in real life and in entertainment.  James Bond, Dirty Harry, Mike Hammer – gone.  Replaced by emotionally conflicted action heroes like Jason Bourne or, worse, with sensitive and smartly dressed vampires that prefer to romance the ladies rather than drink their blood.  Will the world survive when Clint Eastwood dies?  I’m not so sure. Maybe Ted Nugent will keep things on track.

Anyway, back to The Big Bang.  It’s a classic Hammer tale involving drugs, dames, mafiosos and wanna-be criminal masterminds.  The plot is simple with the usual interview type scenes spliced with the occasional eruption of violence.  And boy, does it erupt.  The most interesting part of the story, to me, is that the scheme Hammer ultimately reveals forces him into making a difficult and disturbing decision.  Is there a grey area for Mike Hammer?  How far would he go to fight the ever increasing scourge of drugs?  At what point does the end no longer justify the means?  The ending of the Big Bang may have been meant to answer those questions, but I prefer to think of it as being somewhat ambiguous as to Hammer’s ultimate decisions.  Does this mean that I’m not actually committed to the Hammer vision, but prefer my action heroes to be the conflicted type?  Well, I hope not. I do know that all those metrosexuals out there would benefit from throwing in a copy of The Big Bang audiobook instead of the latest Jack Johnson cd.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

"Guilty Bystander" by Wade Miller

Signet No. 1089

The room wouldn’t stay still. It kept swinging in slow, creaking circles like a carousel running down. He was lost in a fog - a hot, sticky fog. A voice echoed down an empty street toward him, calling his name. Georgia’s voice. He waited for it to fade away as it always did.

So begins Guilty Bystander as Max Thursday is awoken from a drunken stupor by his ex-wife Georgia.  Thursday is in the room of the seedy hotel at which he works as a house detective for room and board.  The bottle has cost him nearly everything and he doesn’t seem to care.  Georgia comes to Max in hysterics, having found her son and her new husband missing. She asks her ex for his help, even while half suspecting that he might be involved.

The kidnapping of his son, and some prodding from Georgia, motivate Max enough to sober up and start an investigation.  The hunt takes him all over San Diego, from the bowels of a cargo ship to a crime ridden National City neighborhood.  Max manages to work his way through a complex criminal conspiracy involving mafiosos, some grisly shotgun murders, a trashy femme fatal and a fortune in stolen pearls.  The second half of the novel is fast paced with some great shootouts and a pretty decent surprise ending.  I really enjoyed the San Diego setting, nice change from N.Y. or L.A., especially if you are somewhat familiar with the locations discussed in the book.

I have previously read a couple of Miller novels and I can state without reservation their writing is a step above your typical pulp.  The Thursday series is considered by many to be an excellent but under appreciated body of work, perhaps even ranking up there with the likes of Chandler and Hammett.  I certainly found Guilty Bystander to be a good read, but I’m not ready to proclaim Thursday to be the second coming of Marlowe or Spade. Thursday himself certainly represents a realistic, if not entirely sympathetic or engaging, private investigator.  I have read comments bemoaning Thursdays anonymity in the face of Mike Hammer’s popularity.  Thursday deserves more attention, but not at the expense of Hammer.

Guilty Bystander is good hard boiled stuff, but I don't know that it ranks with the best.  For example, Lt. Austin Clapp, Thursday’s best, and perhaps only friend, speechifies to Georgia:

Mrs. Mace, I’m tired of hearing about innocent bystanders.  From where I stand every John Doe in this town is responsible for a killer. Killers are made, not born - and who’s responsible?  The public or society or whatever you want to call it.  As long as things like this happen there is no such thing as an innocent bystander.  And that includes you - and me.”

A hard-boiled sentiment from a world-weary homicide detective, but one that’s actually pretty stupid considering the nature of the bad guys and the child victim in Guilty Bystander.  If Thursday’s little boy was something other than an innocent bystander or if society was guilty of creating the novel’s various scumbags, I wasn’t convinced.  Nothing in Guilty Bystander resonated for me at anywhere near the level of many of the better hard-boiled bits from Spillane - like Hammer’s revenge vow in the first few pages of I The Jury.

At any rate, Thursday is not supposed to be an avenging angel tough guy, but more of a tragic noir figure that may or may not save the day. Guilty Bystander is certainly a solid entry among classic pulp P.I. novels, if not quite qualifying as the cream of the crop.  I look forward to exploring Thursday’s further misadventures.