Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Give ’Em a Second Chance

Just like novelist Cara Black, Karl-Erik Lindkvist, a Swedish crime-fiction enthusiast and creator of The Ross Macdonald Files, missed the deadline for contributing to The Rap Sheet’s recent overlooked-books extravaganza. However, he’s now sent along his nomination--er, nominations--for the project:
The Judas Window (1938), by Carter Dickson (aka John Dickson Carr). There are probably as many opinions about which one of Carr’s locked-room mysteries is the best as there are admirers of his novels, and my suggestion is the Henry Merrivale novel The Judas Window. Sometimes Carr can be painfully hard to read because of his dry and tedious prose, but this skillfully plotted story, which combines a traditional courtroom drama with one of his most ingenious riddles, is very entertaining. The fireworks when the mystery is revealed makes the ending really powerful.

The Big Enchilada (1982), by L.A. Morse. I don’t know if this hard-boiled detective story, set in Los Angeles in the transition from the 1970s to the ’80s, is a parody of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels or if it is to be taken seriously, but it grabbed me right from the beginning and held me mesmerized until the end. The book is so sexist, politically incorrect, and cliché-ridden that I presume it is the latter alternative. P.I. Sam Hunter is a wise-cracking, mean bastard, but with his heart in the right place. This wouldn’t have worked so well if the story didn’t hold up, but it does. It is well plotted and much better than your run-of-the mill P.I. stuff, so I think it is a shame that Morse quit writing mysteries [after penning a second novel, Sleaze, published in 1985] and pursued a career as an artist instead. (Or maybe he just had these few stories in him?)

After more thought I’d like to suggest Fredric Brown’s
Murder Can Be Fun from 1948 to be added to those above.
Still more titles to add to your already voluminous to-be-read pile. Thank goodness the summer is upon us.


Karl-Erik Lindkvist said...

Sigh! I looked in wrong place for facts and made a mistake. "Murder Can Be Fun" was published in 1948 (but was recently reprinted by Blackmask.com, ISBN-10: 1596541164).

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks for pointing out that error, Karl-Erik. I've corrected the publication date in your posted copy.