Dedicated to Joseph Reading, who read westerns religiously--"but not the fancy ones."
My review of A SEPARATION in up at CRIMESPREE CINEMA.
John D. MacDonald, it is. Friday, April 14th is the date. Everyone who chances by is welcom e to do a review. If you don't have a blog I will be happy to post it. Just let me know.
I am claiming APRIL EVIL since I have had it on my shelf for ten years at least. I don't know if we should coordinate books or not, but I hate being chairmany so if we have multiple reviews, we have multiple reviews. I hope this turns out even half as well as the Westlake one. And speaking of John D. MacDonald, Ed has used his amazing psychic powers to come up with this.
Ed Gorman is the author of the Dev Conrad series, the Sam McCann series, numerous westerns and other good stuff. You can find him here.
The Executioners by John D. MacDonald
Last night I picked up The Executioners (Cape Fear) for bedtime reading and read to page 102 before turning out the light. Yes, a few of his flaws on are on display, especially cutesy-poo man-woman dialogue but mostly in first half of the first act. But except for that this is a virtually perfect suspense novel. MacDonald wisely hews to the Hitchcock rule--suspense comes from knowing that the bomb is under the chair. MacDonald plants the bomb in the first chapter and then slowly lets the wick burn lower and lower. Several lesser incidents anticipate the final explosion.
Cady isn't Robert Mitchum's Cady but he could be his cousin. The scene where the family buries the dog Cady kills is as fresh and moving as it was the first time I read it. The wife is a tough woman, not the Polly Bergen version. And protagonist Sam, while not a typical MacDonald tough guy, is not the cipher he seems to be in the movie. JDM gives him real depth here.
The Executioners would be written very differently today. It would be angrier, bloodier, more brutal in terms of Cady's psychology (Mitchum got it exactly). But for me The Executioners bears re-reading because it's one of the best stories told by one of the best storytellers of my time on the planet.
Next week, March 16th, Todd will be the toastmaster. I will leave a link to his site.
AN UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN, P.D. James. (Patti Abbott)
Although James is certainly not a forgotten writer, especially with A DEATH AT PEMBERLY out as I write this, I think this is one of her least read novels since it didn't feature Adam Dagleish. It was the first James' book I read though and I liked it very much. The very young female detective, Cordelia Gray, was something new to me. And she was just about my age.
Her first case (after the suicide of her elderly mentor in a detective agency) involved the death of Cambridge dropout, Mark Callender, who died hanging by the neck with a smudge of lipstick on his mouth. Cordelia is hired to prove this was no suicide. Or, if it was, what sparked it. She finds out that and more.
Now if you look at the reviews this novel receives on Good Reads, it is clearly not a favorite of James' fans. And reading it forty years later is probably not seeing it at its best. It's a period piece in a way.
It sparked a lot of discussion at the time. Women were not a integral part of police forces, of courtrooms, of army units, and certainly not PIs. Cordelia Gray was the forerunner of the female PIs written about in the forty years since. Because Cordelia was portrayed as feminine, naive and inexperienced rather than like the ballsy women Grafton, Paretsky and Muller wrote about a bit later, she seems as much a relic as Mrs. Marple today. But at the time, it felt right. At the time, it was a step forward. You have only to look at the female policeman on LIFE ON MARS to see what they were up against. (Not to take my world view from TV, but it's a quick example)
Cordelia only appears in one more novel, THE SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN. Too bad. I would have liked to see what happened to her.
Elisabeth Grace Foley