Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, March 13, 2015

From the archives


review by Heath Lowrance
The Name of the Game is Death, by Dan J. Marlowe
“Forgotten book” might be the wrong way to describe Dan J. Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death. For hard-core fans of brutal, fast-paced noir, the book is anything but forgotten-- it is, in fact, considered a cornerstone of the genre. But despite that, in the fifty years since its first publication it’s been out of print more often than in, and most casual readers of crime fiction have never heard of it. For me, The Name of the Game is Death is one of the essential five or ten books in the world of hardboiled/noir.
The story: a career criminal calling himself Roy Martin (more on his name later) holes up after a botched bank robbery, while his partner sends him monthly allotments of their take. But when the money stops coming, Martin suspects the worst and sets off to find out what happened. The small town he finds turns out to be a cesspool of corruption and hypocrisy that makes even Martin’s twisted morality seem sane and rational by comparison.
In the hands of most writers, this rather simple plot wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy, but Marlowe paints a vivid picture of Martin, not just through his actions but also in a set of chilling flashbacks to Martins’ youth and young manhood, where all the signs of a sociopathic personality begin to emerge. And the steps Martin takes to find out what happened to his partner and to retrieve his money reinforce him as a deeply disturbed man.
Quite simply, he enjoys killing and hurting people; in one memorable scene, he’s unable to become sexually aroused for intercourse, and admits to himself that the only thing that really turns him on is bloodshed-- in a later scene, he brutalizes a woman who attempted to set him up, and he’s able to “perform” without a hitch.
So all in all, Roy Martin is a seriously messed-up sociopath, with barely a redeeming feature-- aside from a fondness for animals. Why do we find ourselves almost rooting for him? Because almost everyone else he encounters is a hollow, lying hypocrite. Martin is the only character who is actually true to himself… much to the horror of everyone else.
The climax to Th e Name of the Game is Death is stunningly violent, very dark, and totally chilling-- not the sort of ending that would cause you to expect a sequel. And yet Marlowe did indeed bring the character back a few years later for a book that was almost-but-not-quite as good as the first, One Endless Hour. In that one we discover that Martin’s name is actually Drake (which is how he’s often referred to when discussing The Name of the Game is Death).
More books about “The Man with Nobody’s Face” would follow, each one a bit softer than the one before, until almost all signs of the near-psychopathic Martin were gone, replaced by a repentant crook who now worked for the government.
But lovers of dark, violent tales will always remember him as the blood-thirsty killer calling himself Roy Martin.

Sergio Angelini, THE COMPLETE CASES OF INSPECTOR ALLHOFF, D.L. Champion
Les Blatt, MURDER GONE MINOAN, Clyde B. Clason
Brian Busby, THE TOWN BELOW, Roger Lemelin
Bill Crider, ANY WOMAN HE WANTED, Whit Harrison
Martin Edwards, THE SECRET OF HIGH ELDERSHAM, John Rhode
Curt Evans, NO PAST IS DEAD: THE LAST TALK WITH LOLA FAYE, Thomas H. Cook
Ed Gorman, BONJOUR, TRISTESSE, Francoise Sagan
John Hegenberger, THE LAND, Robert K Swisher
Rick Horton, THE GREAT IMPERSONATION, E. Phillips Oppenheim
Jerry House, THE ZANZIBAR CAT, Joanna Russ
Randy Johnson, THIEVES FALL OUT, Gore Vidal
Nick Jones, WAR GAMES, Anthony Price
George Kelley, LOVECRAFT'S LEGACY, ed. Robert E. Weinberg
Margot Kinberg, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, Alan Brady
Rob Kitchin, BRIGHTON ROCK, Graham Greene
B.V. Lawson, THE SIX MEN, E. and M.A. Radford
Evan Lewis, DEAD AT THE TAKE-OFF, Lester Dent
Steve Lewis/William Deeck, THE MASTER MYSTERY, Austin J Small
Todd Mason/Mildred Perkins, 11/22/63, Stephen King
J.F. Norris, THE LATE MRS. D, Hillary Waugh
James Reasone, THE BUZZARDS OF ROCKY PASS, L.P. Holmes Pete Rozovsky, BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL, Elliott Chaze
Bill Selnes, PRARIE HARDBALL, Alison Gordon (recently deceased after a distinguished career in sports reporting and mystery fiction
Kerrie Smith, THE HUNTING DOGS, Jorn Lier Horst
R.T. CROSS, Ken Bruen
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, MASTERS OF NOIR, Vol 4
TracyK, DANCING WITH THE VIRGINS, Stephen Booth
Prashant Trikannad, THE CASE OF THE VELVET CLAWS, Erle Stanley Gardner

8 comments:

Kevin R. Tipple said...

As always, thank you for including my blog. I truly do appreciate it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I, you.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Thank you, Patti.

John said...

Mine is up now:

The Late Mrs D by Hillary Waugh

Charles Gramlich said...

More good books to go on my list.

Todd Mason said...

Jumped one in, via guest blogger!

Mildred Perkins on a Stephen King, whose work she has mixed feelings about, and this one is no exception.

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks, as ever, Patti, for including my post!

Anonymous said...

Very nice review of Dan's masterpiece.
Jed Power, author of the Dan Marlowe/Hampton Beach Crime Series