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The Name of the Game is Death - Dan J. Marlowe - Vintage Crime - Black Lizard series
Native son of Lowell MA has been lauded as the grittiest of the Hard Boiled writers. Getting his start in the late 50's, after his wife's lingering illness and subsequent death, would be author Marlowe chucked it all for drastic life change. He moved to NYC and got a small room in a dingy hotel and never looked back at the straight-laced business world he'd known.
4GameDeath4.jpg - 54.75 K     A few short stories and a novel soon emerged. Not unlike another Lowell son of the times, Marlowe's first "hit" came in the form of a "road" novel. Almost immediately his "voice" took off. With 1962's adrenaline rush of a masterpiece, The Name of the Game is Death he places a hardened bank robber, after a heist gone deadly wrong in Phoenix, into the role of would-be detective who is in search of his trusted but missing partner, not to mention, the loot. After a brief recuperation period for some hot lead he collected in his arm from a now dead bank guard, he travels 2500 miles, post haste, in a fully blown souped up Ford for $178,000 in bloodstained $100's and some good answers to bad questions. En route to Florida's swamp filled Gulf Coast and the spectacular climax we gain insight into just what makes an amoral, twisted young west Texas boy turn ice cold killer, and yet a completely loyal partner. If your a fan of Jim Thompson, David Goodis (more on him next time) stories, well, so was Marlowe. Although written a few years after the aforementioned authors "zenith" Marlowe wasn't simply mimicking his influences. He clearly had something special to add and while doing so, turned up the heat, big time. Every bullet, literary and lead, of which there's plenty of both, were well aimed with intent and resulted in direct hits. His story's protagonist changes names like a traffic light does colors, and has a real passion and sexual urge for what he feels is justified murder. He admits to his pistol hot mama, Hazel, it's the only thing that makes it "work" for him in the sack. Allowing him a second chance after their first failed fling, Hazel believes every word he says here on. If that's what it takes to get it on, then fire away cowboy.

    Now in Gator Crap FLA, a backwater intersection of a town, it seems as though everybody is on the take in one way or another. Although the plot twists a bit, and cleverly so, to regain course the unknown psychopath just lustfully pops the confusion and says "Hi Hi Hazel".
This is a real teeth-grinder from start to finish, coming in at a slim 138 pages. The narrative is sharp and you can't help to not only understand but even urge this sick-o on. Classic noir at it's best. Ya can't put it down.
    I first read it, like I said, around 12 years ago and was floored. Recently I grabbed a book at a Barnes & Noble closing, The Big Book of Noir, which also comes highly recommended. This book covers all aspects of American noir; film, magazines, books, radio and TV. In it was a chapter on some of the better, and lesser known U.S. authors where I ran across a piece on Dan J Marlowe. I recalled the name and having read this number one entry of his "must reads." I looked around the living room like a starving tiger, found it. Consumed it. Burp. And, as described and remembered, it is fast paced, with excellent plot twists, and an unbelievable character study of a guy who will pump 5 into you just 6 inches below the belt, with such tight grouping, a dart player would be proud, and then save the last round for your jaw bone, just so he doesn't have to listen to you scream while you slowly become a carpet stain. A little tough to find, even tougher to read. Not just a killing spree, but a compelling read that you will never forget. At least you'd better not!

4Tongking4.jpg - 102.64 K While we are on Dan, here's Armless O'Neil
    I collect tons of paperbacks. I like all kinds of books, ones with pictures, some that fold out...
   No, I actually I like to read many styles. I love biographies, history, sociology, books on art, photography, fiction, humor many kinds of books, but among them all I really love pulp fiction, hard-boiled (obviously) and adventure ones from the 20's through the big one; WWII.
    Set in exotic, which to me translates into those lurid, dank parts of the world that we never really officially colonized, we just sorta barged into and set up shop as drug, gun, girl, running ports of call. Hey, it's the American way. Of course the scam has been going on for thousands of years, we're relative newcomers to it. Just read up on the Opium Wars of the 1840's, from the Chinese side of it, where they referred to the British as unwashed Barbarians. Well that's the historic side of it and it is no less swathed in scandal, intrigue and decadence, and that holds its own special interest for me.
    But it's the gritty, just for kicks, fiction of soldiers of fortune that I like; Shanghai nights, wild women in Borneo, African tribes who would love to invite YOU for dinner. Desert nomads with bloodthirsty scimitars and oh, those unholy back alleys of the Chinatowns of the world where a buck'll get ya more than you can handle. That's what I'm talkin' about. There are tons of these out there, ready to be reread. Whole publishing houses devoted to this genre; Adventure House, Hard Case Crime and more. And in many cases, the authors themselves are just as fascinating and rough and tumble as their characters and have lived the lives they wrote about. Of course others were the J. Edgar Hoover types who sat at home wearing dresses and living vicariously through the men they created. not that there's anything wrong with that (zip me up Gunther? Thanks.)
    This was supposed to be an intro to an announcement of a book that just came out, but I could talk about this tripe all day; the penny-a-word world of pulp authors, and maybe I will at some point pick out a particular writer and do a piece just on them. Much as I'd like to do one on certain record labels. But before I head down that side track, back to the friggin' point of this pound of B.S. OMG, how can my cat tolerate me?
    Before becoming a successful paperback author in the 60's through the 90's of fairly non-descript, yet quite successful westerns, Dan Cushman wrote many stories for the pulps. Both the mags and those trashy little paperbacks. The publishing houses, like Signet and Gold Medal in the 50's loved his books cause they could adorn the covers with semi-naked, or in some cases full scale voluptuous naked titties with white dudes sweatin' it out in Pith helmets with a eunuch on either side fanning him with palms.
    Ah, the good old chauvinistic ugly American days, when men, real men, had names like Rod Steel and Rock Johnson and Lance d'Amour. None of this pillow-biting Justin Beiber crap. Among these real men were the adventures of hook-armed, Armless O'Neil. Set in Africa, these are well-written hard-boiled adventure stories that stir the pot just as well today as they did back when men were men and monkeys were frightened. Volume 1, entitled Seekers of the Glittering Fetish: The Complete Armless O'Neil Volume 1, contains his first six stories from the pages of Action Stories and Jungle Stories. So, it isn't really complete, much like O'Neil himself, as it has only the first six stories.
    Vol. 2 promises to make a whole man of him, or at least a whole series. Besides, a real man can get the job done with just one arm and the other tied behind his back. But, anyway, it, the book not the arm, is now available in exchange for your hard earned bucks, on Amazon. And it might cost ya an arm and a leg; $30. Ouch. But that's an itch I gotta scratch. Careful, watch that hook.
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The Unknown (1927)
4Chaney4.jpg - 68.78 K     Lon Chaney plays the armless knife-thrower Alonzo the Armless. Do I really need to add another sentence here? He has a crush on his colleague Nanon Zanzi (Joan Crawford), a woman that has a phobia for men's hands. Again, silence is golden. During filming of this movie, Chaney realized that he had a problem with his passion for over-the-top makeup This role acquired a straight jacket that strapped his arms so tight that his spine was damaged. "I can't play these crippled roles any more. That trouble with my spine is worse every time I do one, and it's beginning to worry me." When asked about her co-starring with the great Lon Chaney, Crawford admitted with dismay, "he never laid a hand on me."

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