Friday, May 02, 2014

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, May 2, 2014

Two weeks from day: May 16: Crime fiction of the 1950s.


Rob reviewed this book a few weeks ago, and since I loved the movie, I decided to give the book a try. I have read almost nothing set in Argentina. This was an excellent place to start. It's the story of a police office, about to retire, who decides to take up writing to occupy his time. We watch as he debates how to frame the story, what the POV should be--the questions all writers must answer for themselves.

Thinking back over his cases, he chooses the case that always haunted his the most: the rape and murder of a young woman. Sacheri weaves the story of this case with the politics of the country at the time--the late seventies--when Argentina was in the midst of what became known as a dirty war.. How the justice meted out by the criminal justice system was entirely caught up in the politics of the country. And he also shows what happens when a government or criminal justice system does not meet the expectations of the victims of crime. There is just enough detail of Benjamin Chapparo''s personal life to make it something fully satisfying. Highly recommended.

The Jugger, Richard Stark, reviewed by Ed Gorman


How this for an opener? I'm about to review the worst book Donald E. Westlake ever wrote. Don't take my word for it. Here's Westlake himself speaking.

"I spoiled a book by having him do something he wouldn’t do. The sixth book in the series is called The Jugger, and that book is one of the worst failures I’ve ever had. The problem with it is, in the beginning of the book this guy calls him and says “I’m in trouble out here and these guys are leaning on me and I need help,” and Parker goes to help him. I mean, he wouldn’t do that, and in fact, the guy wouldn’t even think to call him! (laughs)"

I found this quote on The Violent World of Parker website, a goodie. More" Westlake has more than once cited The Jugger as a failure, and although I’ve never seen it straight from the horse’s mouth, I’ve heard he considers it the worst book he’s ever written. Well, Mr. Westlake, if this is the worst you can do after cranking out more books than I can count, I am in great envy of your abilities.

"Mr. Westlake is wrong about Parker acting out of character in The Jugger. He seems to have forgotten the details, which is perfectly understandable, as the book was written in 1965 and he probably has not had much reason to revisit it if he doesn’t care for it that much."

Me again: I frequently find myself liking books most other people don't and vice-versa. The Jugger's a good example. No it's not a great Parker adventure but it's got a lot of early Sixties atmosphere, a cast of truly despicable characters and a constantly shifting plot.

What we have here is a kind of psychodrama. We have a dumb but crafty Sheriff, a smart but unlucky FBI man, a dumb but uncrafty lady friend of a pathetic dead guy who'd been trying to find an imaginary sum of money hidden by Joe Sheer.

It goes like this. Parker and Sheer worked together sometimes and then Sheer got old and all he did was serve as a way station for Parker. If you wanted to talk to the big man you had to call Sheer who'd screen you. But when Parter got a nervous communication from Sheer he got concerned that maybe the old man was coming apart and would blow Parker's cover. He had to go to the small Midwestern city and make sure that didn't happen.

But when he got there Sheer was dead. And the (imaginary) enormous amount of stolen money was nowhere to be found--yes there;s money but it's modest compared to what others think. So Parker proceeds to deal with both problems. Under the name of Willis.

The Psychodrama: The Sheriff is a dope but a brutal one and Parker has to string him along in order to learn what he needs to. Watching Parter mislead him is a game worth watching. The Sheriff is a human pit bull. He's capable of killing Parker at any moment. But then Parker is more than willing to strike first. On the other hand the FBI man is slick and political. Mitt Romney could play him. Quoting Norman Mailer on a writer he didn't like: "He's as full of shit as a Thanksgiving turkey." But he suspects that this guy Willis is really a big catch under another name. He's already signing a book contract and learning to wave in parades.

So The Jugger ain't perfect and ain't gonna win none of them NYC awards but I don't care. I just enjoyed this particular take on Parker's world. I read it in two dazzled sittings.

Sergio Angelini, MR. CAMPION'S FAREWELL, Mike Ripley
Yvette Banek, THE RUBBER BAND, Rex Stout
Brian Busby, EXPO SUMMER, Eileen Fitzgerald
Bill Crider. THE FUGITIVE STARS, Daniel Ransom
Curt Evans, A PENNY A WORDER, Cornell Woolrich
Rick Horton, THE CHANGED BRIDES, Mrs. E.D.E.N Southworth
Jerry House, PULPTIME, Peter Cannon
Randy Johnson, SEE THEM DIE, Ed McBain
Nick Jones, HIDE TIDE, P.M. Hubbard
George Kelley, DRUM BEAT, Stephen Marlowe
Margot Kinberg, THE RED QUEEN DIES, Frankie Y. Bailey
Rob Kitchin, BIRD DOG, Philip Reed
B.V. Lawson, MRS. MADELYN MACK, DETECTIVE, Hugh Cosgo Weir
Evan Lewis, "Smart Guy" Cleve F. Adams
Steve Lewis/William F. Deeck, MUM'S THE WORD FOR MURDER, Brett Halliday (Asa Baker)
J.F. Norri, THE GLASS SPEAR, S.H. Courtier
James Reasoner, BEYOND ALL DESIRE, Tom Philips
Richard Robinson, READING JOHN BUDE
Gerard Saylor, LIVE AND LET DIE, Ian Fleming
Ron Scheer, FLINT'S TRUTH, Richard Wheeler
Kevin Tipple, THE FEEDSTOCK CHRONICLES, Travis Erwin
TomCat, MURDER OUT OF ANGER, A.C. Baantjer


Charles Gramlich said...

I've often thought I should read the Jugger but have never got around to it. I don't even have a copy.

Todd Mason said...

Sick and busy, I resort to Reduxing again:

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

Thanka for including me Patti even if my review is hardly of an overlooked book! :)

John said...

It's 10 AM and that means my contribution is done and posted.

The Glass Spear by S. H. Courtier

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks as ever for including my post, Patti! Great variety here too, as always.

Yvette said...

Patti, against all odds, I have one posted today.

Clare2e said...

It may be nuts, but The Jugger is one of my faves. Sure it starts funny for Parker, and maybe that spoils it, but all the shovel business and the thick tension with the sheriff is beloved by me. So many little scenes in a little house and it's absolutely suspenseful. I really had no idea what Parker will do or have to do-- now I know, and my breath still catches.

TracyK said...

I enjoyed the review of THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, I am going to read that book "sometime soon".