Wednesday, September 23, 2009

THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH




Preston Sturgis reading.


I had to do a little work to get myself a copy of Dan J. Marlowe's THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH. I considered writing about it for Friday's but it is really not forgotten by most people reading this. But I had to talk about it because it was such a perfect gem. Wallace Stroby has a great review of it on his blog so I don't want to repeat what he has said better. Instead I just want to list what made it such a perfect book to me.


1) the complexity of the protagonist

2) the writing-lucid, tense, succinct

3) the way Marlow integrates a necessary back story into the plot. Now a lot of writers today would say, we don't need to know all of this about him. I disagree. Without this info, he's just a psycho. Now he's a psycho, yes, but with grounding.

4) the length of the book. Truly you couldn't take much more of this degree of excitement.

5) the atmosphere, which is just exactly right for the plot, character, etc.

6) the integration of the violent aspects with the prosaic ones

7) the motivation for what happens. Because of the back story, we get it.

8) the ending.


I could go on and on. What did you like about this book if you've read it? If not, what book would you nominate for a perfect little gem?

27 comments:

Dave Zeltserman said...

This is one of my favorites. IF you haven't read Solomon's Vineyard by Jonanthan Latimer yet, you should hunt that one down also. Don't look for any of the Earl Drake sequels to this one, though. Some people seem to like "One Endless Hour". I didn't. Everyone I've heard from, though, has been deeply disappointed by the rest of the Drake operation books, which are more "soft porn/men adventure" books than crime books. Marlowe did write some other good crime novels (although none approaching Name of the Game is Death)--Vengenace Man, Strongarm, Never Live Twice, are all good.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think someone just did that a Friday or two ago. I will hunt it down.

Tribe said...

Those Dan J. Marlowe books are fantastic thrillers full of amorality. Love those.

Jacob Weaver said...

I've been saving this one for a vacation in October so I can consume it in 1-2 sittings. I don't think I've heard one single negative word about it.

If you can find it, I would HIGHLY recommend Fredric Brown's "The Far Cry".

Todd Mason said...

I'll be among those to second Weaver's recommendation of THE FAR CRY, one of the several best Fredric Browns. SOLOMON'S VINEYARD, for some hassles over censorship back when, is one of those novels that even people who don't read much have been known to read...though I haven't, yet.

Todd Mason said...

My apparently most controversial suggestion of a nearly-perfect story of its sort is Michael Chabon's novella "The Final Solution," published in THE PARIS REVIEW and as a small book of its own, to mixed response. Even I think its slight deviation into outright fantasy toward the end is a weakness, though the critic and novelist John Clute has suggested that I'm wrong about that, that it's an illuminating master stroke in context. He's wrong, but he has a case.

Bill Crider said...

I love everything you mentioned. I had a brief correspondence with Marlowe long ago. A nice guy, and he wrote some dandy books. One Dave didn't mention is FOUR FOR THE MONEY.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've got my pen out again.
Jacob, where have you been?
Is there anything better than reading a book that lives up to its reputation. So many times, it seems they don't succeed in another time. But this one seems timeless. It could have been written last year-with the style especially. And the grittiness. Or maybe it was just me reading a completely different kind of book thirty-forty years ago.

Dana King said...

This isn't a book that's out of the public consciousness, as the movie is a classic, but HOMBRE fits the definition of a neat, tightly written package that has everything the reader needs, and absolutely nothing else. Possibly Elmore Leonard's finest work.

pattinase (abbott) said...

HOMBRE. I bet I can find that around here even.

John Weagly said...

I really enjoyed Fredric Brown's NIGHT OF THE JABBERWOCK. Tight, fun and I really liked that it took place all in one night.

And nice picture of Preston Sturges.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Preston is a favorite.
My list grows. I wish I were twenty again and I'd have a crack at reading all these. I have read some of Brown's shorts, which are amazing.

Frank Loose said...

Glad you enjoyed the book, Patti. I am in the group that thinks the second Drake book, One Endless Hour is quite good. Not as tight and gripping as Name, but still a solid read. I agree with Dave's assessment that the rest in the series fall short. But, the publisher made Marlowe change Drake from an amoral thief to a "sorta spy" and a nicer guy. From what i've been told, the reason for this is the publisher already had the Parker series and didn't want two similar series.

George said...

I've always been partial to Dan J. Marlowe's VENGEANCE MAN from 1966. I think it's ever been reprinted by Black Lizard so finding a copy might not be too difficult. Marlowe was writing in a white-hot style back then and VENGEANCE MAN sizzles.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess if they wanted to keep the character, they had to soften him. But I think his background made him understandable. If he just hadn't run over that dog.

Ed Gorman said...

The year Name of The Game came out I was working construction (pushing a wheelbarrow--I have no skills) and at the end of the day I stopped by this little drugstore on my way home to check out the paperbacks. These were the New Gold Medal packages instituted by Knox Burger and the one for Game was a killer. And so was the book. I was supposed to go out for some beers that night but I stayed in my room and read the book. What a knock out. Something brand new. And you're absolutely right, Patti--the backstory made it true, one of the problems I have with some of today's fiction. We carry our pasts on our shoulders like a cross. How can we get rid of it in fiction? I agree with Dave Z and Bill C on the Marlowe recommendations and Todd M on The Far Cry--one of the most sinister sad and almost otherwordly novels I've ever read. To me (and I'll get a lot of argument here) it's Brown's masterpiece..

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love that you gave me a story to go with it, Ed.
Our handyman told us today he had never met a couple with fewer skills than we have so I know the feeling. He didn't mean it as an insult-he was kind of amazed. Since he was also a lawyer and a teacher, he has credibility and maybe they should have a reality show for people who can't put a nail in the wall without bending it. Who is the least competent couple.
FAR CRY, okay. I know I like his short stories-he invented flash I think-so this one is a sure thing.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for this suggestion!! I haven't read it, but it sounds terrific.

My contribution for "The Perfect Little Gem" is No Experience Necessary , a novelette by Robert Colby. It's a great little suspense/thriller that's all about the characters. It's got enough action to keep you reading, enough suspense to keep you wondering, and some delightfully untrustworthy characters. I've read it a dozen times and still enjoy it.

James Reasoner said...

I'll give a thumbs-up to ONE ENDLESS HOUR and Latimer's SOLOMON'S VINEYARD, though neither are anywhere near as good as NAME OF THE GAME, which is one of the best books I've ever read in any genre. Someone needs to reprint Whittington's A WOMAN POSSESSED, a Beacon Book (I think) that he wrote as Whit Harrison. I remember racing through that one in a single sitting and thinking that it was about as relentless a suspense novel as I'd ever read.

Todd Mason said...

"I know I like his short stories-he invented flash I think-so this one is a sure thing."

De Maupassant might have something to say about that. And Twain, Bierce, "Saki." But no one has loved vignettes (did de Maupassant adopt the term for literature?) more than Brown.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A new name for me, Margot. Thanks. Yes, I can't imagine anyone who can pull off a better little noir gem in 180 pages. Todd, as usual, puts me to shame by mentioning writers across genres that produced flash. I have never read Saki but the others, a bit. But the Brown ones I have read are something special.

Todd Mason said...

You must introduce yourself to the Munro doctrine. I was about to note how relict I was to forget Aesop, among the other brief fabulists.

Brown loved the form and set the standard for his time. As well as taking it in many directions.

Todd Mason said...

Colby was a prolific and good contributor to ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in the '60s-'80s...the "Paint the Town ___" series, particularly, sticks in the memory.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Todd-you truly have an encyclopedic mind.
Fables have too many roosters, scorpions and foxes in them.

Todd Mason said...

http://www.mysteryfile.com/Colby/Tribute.html

Peter Enfantino's eulogy, liberally quoting Ed Gorman.

(the link above is also on my name on this comment.)

Don't forget the frogs!--Fox Bricklayer

Charles Gramlich said...

I'll have to look for this one. Dan Marlowe. Isn't that a perfect name for a crime writer?

pattinase (abbott) said...

Ain't it just?