Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books, December 16, 2011

Todd Mason will collect links for the next three weeks. But if you need a break, please take one.

Ed Gorman can be found here.
Check out Ed's latest release: BAD MOON RISING.

Forgotten Books: The Killer by Wade Miller

Wade Miller was of course Bob Wade and Bill Miller. They collaborated on a few dozen novels until Miller died of a heart attack in the office they shared. He was forty-one.

Much of their best work was done for Gold Medal. The Killer is a fine example. A rich man named Stennis owns a number of banks. His son works in one of them. During a robbery his son is killed. Stennis hires a big game hunter named Farrow to find the notorious bank robber Clel Bocock and his gang. When Farrow locates them he is to call Stennis who wants to be there to watch them die. Farrow is a unique character and not just because of the big game angle. He's middle-aged and feeling it, something rare in that era of crime fiction.

The search for Stennis--and the love story that involves Bocock's wife--takes Farrow from the swamps to Iowa (including, yes, Cedar Rapids) to Wisconsin to Colorado. The place description is extraordinary. Probably too much for today's readers but the Miller books are filled with strong cunning writing. Same for twists and turns. For the length of the first act you can never be sure who anybody is. They're all traveling under assumed names and with shadowy motives. The only thing that binds them is Clel Bocock.

For anybody who thinks that Gold Medals were largely routine crime stories, this is the novel you should pick up. Stark House published this a few years back (still available) along with Devil On Two Sticks, one of the most original mob novels I've ever read. There's also an excellent David Laurence Wilson introduction on the careers of the two writers.

Wade Miller got lost in the shuffle of bringing back the writers of the fifties and sixties. This book, so strong on character and place and plot turns, will demonstrate why more of their books should be in print.

Patti Abbott, SPIES, Michael Frayn (this review appeared first in 2009)

An elderly man returns to the scene of his childhood and remembers the games he played with a friend during the World War II. This book follows HEADLONG by Frayn, a brilliant novel about art forgery and the delicious play COPENHAGEN. I have a weakness for books where children get it all wrong, perhaps because I always did. And this book concerns two boys, overly caught up in the war, and inventing a role for one's mother during wartime England-spying on her and coming to the wrong conclusions. One boy convinces the other that his mother is a German spy and they are both to ready to accept this, following her, taking notes, making this pursuit their preoccupation. The plot eventually turns everything they believe on its ear. Frayn perfectly captures the voice of children of that time: their ability to focus on behavior that is perhaps lost to modern kids. I wonder if kids today would bother to put down their cellphones and Ipods. I also wonder if adults have lost their allure. It did remind me of THE GO-BETWEEN, another wonderful British book by L.P. Hartley. You can't go wrong with either of these choices.

Sergio Angelini
Yvette Banek
Brian Busby
Bill Crider
Scott Cupp
Chad Eagleton
Martin Edwards
Cullen Gallagher
Jerry House
Randy Johnson
George Kelley
B.V. Lawson
Doug Levin
Evan Lewis
Steve Lewis/Allen J. Hubbin
Todd Mason
J.F. Norris
Richard Pangburn
David Rachels
James Reasoner
Gerard Saylor
Ron Scheer
Kerrie Smith
Kevin Tipple


Kevin R. Tipple said...

Barry Ergang is back on my blog today with his review of THE FLOATING LADY MURDER (2000) by Daniel Stashower.


Anonymous said...

I believe the Frayn art forgery novel was HEADLONG, not HEADS UP.

Jeff M.

PS - We've seen a few of his plays. Naturally my favorite is the hilarious NOISES OFF.

Todd Mason said...

Frayn is one of those odd ducks who kept writing sf and kept being annoyed that people would "mistake" his sf for sf (at least Vonnegut had commercial reasons for wanting to segregate his works; Frayn's argument seems to have been, rather like that of the young Michael Crichton, "I didn't MEAN to write science fiction," which is about as relevant as whether he Meant to write a novel or a play...when you have, you have)(and I suppose his argument was somewhat better than that of Margaret Atwood's, where she admits she writes sf then notes that it can't be sf because it isn't about squids in space, or Hortense Calisher's intense resentment of the label, which seemed to based on nothing but poorly-articulated snobbery).

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I do really like Frayn though and love his early novella, SWEET DREAMS which I suppose is a bit of a fantasy. Actually, I'm off on Wednesday night to see the latest West End revival of the hilarious NOISES OFF which stars the evergreen Celia ("we're going to need considerably bigger buns") Imrie.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would love to write SF. If only I had the background. Seems to me you would need extensive reading and a science background.

NOISES OFF never grows old. It played here at the UG WSU theater for XMAS. Never read SWEET DREAMS.

Todd Mason said...

One needs extensive reading to do any sort or writing rather well...while sf is dependent on extrapolation, not all sf is dependent on scientific extrapolation. It helps, but is not necessary. Ray Bradbury, Zenna Henderson, A. E. van Vogt, and others have done some at least interesting sf w/o knowing a whole hell of a lot about science...of course, the likes of Frayn and Vonnegut and Atwood can't help themselves, and keep being drawn back to sf.