Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, July 19, 2013

A Dram of Poison by Charlotte Armstrong

This MWA winner of the best novel of 1956 is unlike any other crime novel I've read. There is, in fact, no crime beyond an attempt at suicide and a communal effort to find the dram of poison. That the book is classified as either a mystery or a crime novel at all is odd. What it is is a love story, a story about two very nice people who find joy with each other by the story's end. It is somewhat suspenseful but what makes it shine is the originality of the writing, the sparkling dialogue, the unforgettable characters, most especially the star of the show: Mr. Gibson. The less I say about it the better. As Anthony Boucher said in writing a review of it in 1956, "Get It."

Ed Gorman ia the author of the Sam McCann and Dev Conrad series of crime novels.

THE HIDDEN by Bill Pronzini

The Hidden by Bill Pronzini

I know, I know, since this was published not long ago, it's hardly forgotten. But it is one of those books that deserved much more promotion and notice than it received. Bill Pronzini the master of mixing shattered lives and violence and The Hidden is almost claustrophobic in its shadowy Woolrichian power.

Bill Pronzini is not only a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America, he's a Grand Master of the dark and sinister noir novel. He demonstrates this again in one of his finest (perhaps the finest) books in his long career.

Jay Macklin is a failed man. A career as a baseball player was ended early by injury. As were other attempts at establishing himself. His decade-plus marriage to Shelby was so solid and good for a long time but unemployment and heart trouble (the latter something she doesn't know about) have taken their toll. Shelby finds herself attracted to a doctor at the hospital where she works as a paramedic.

The novel brings Jay and Shelby together in an anxious attempt to find their old love and respect. They travel to a cottage in rugged Northern California only to meet Brian and Claire Lomax, a married couple who has even more problems than they do. They also become aware of a serial killer who has been traveling this same area. A power failure seems symbolic of their marriage's final days.

Pronzini has always been at his best dealing with smashed lives. HIs descriptions of violent weather and pitiless nature only enhance the emotional turbulence that make the drama so rich. Gripping, sinister, unpredictable, The Hidden is a sinewy novel of treachery and terror by a true master of the form.

Sergio Angelini, THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER'S FARM, Gordon M. Williams
Les Blatt, PARTING BREATH, Catherine Aird
Bill Crider, BRIDGE OF BIRDS, Barry Hughart
Martin Edwards, THE MUMMY CASE MYSTERY, Dermot Morrah
Jerry House, DANCE OF DEATH, Jean Charlot
Randy Johnson, SKYROCKET STEELE, Ron Goulart
Nick Jones, LABRAVA, Elmore Leonard
Keishon, THE NEW CENTURIONS, Joseph Wambaugh
Evan Lewis, WEEKEND TO KILL, Frederick Nebel
J.F. Norris, BLUES FOR THE PRINCE, Bart Spicer
James Reasoner, RIDE A CROOKED TRAIL, Lewis B. Patten
Richard Robinson, STOLEN SEASON, David Lamb
Gerard Saylor, COLLUSION, Stuart Neville
Michael Slind, THE DAY OF THE RAM, William Campbell Gault
Kerrie Smith, DEATH OF A DUTCHMAN, Magdalen Nab
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, THE BLANK WALL, Elisabeth Xansay Holding
TomCat, THE CASE OF THE LONELY HEIRESS, Erle Stanley Gardner
James Winter, BASKET CASE, Carl Hiassen

And yes, I really enjoyed WORLD WAR Z to my surprise. It's up on CRIMESPREE CINEMA.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you liked A DRAM OF POISON. I thought you would. It's my favorite Armstrong book.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

I love Armstrong's work. I don't think she ever wrote a clunker.

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, I somehow missed "The Hidden." Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Todd Mason said...

Tardy but up and running:
FFB: INSIDE SCIENCE FICTION #53: The F&SF Parody Issue (1958)


Anonymous said...

I've only read one Armstrong--which I enjoyed, so can't figure out why I didn't read more; probably because the library didn't have any. I'll keep looking.

I was thinking of you this morning when a professor from Wayne State was interviewed on NPR about the Detroit bankruptcy. Useless to say I hope it doesn't affect you and Phil since obviously it will!


Gerard Saylor said...

Larry Watson was covered within the last couple weeks. I just read a release notice for his new novel, LET HIM GO (September).

Years after losing their son in a horseback riding accident, steadfast Margaret of 1951 North Dakota seeks to retrieve her grandson from the daughter-in-law who ran off with another man but finds her efforts challenged by her reluctant husband and the boy's troublemaking stepfamily.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Patti, what's the local impact of the Detroit bankruptcy? How serious is it out there? We have been reading about it here since Friday morning.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I imagine it will take weeks if not months to know. I worry about all the city employees and retirees who may lose part of their pension. Maybe federal money will come along but I doubt it. And with the legislature we have in Lansing, not much help will come from the State. They have shown no sympathy for Detroit in the past. Certainly the city is going to have to change its shape and consolidate housing, school, government. Right now there is a huge area with scattered houses. Over 75, 000 are abandoned. You cannot imagine what Detroit really looks like. A bomb couldn't do more damage.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Yes, I read that, especially the bit about demographics being responsible for this state of affairs. I believe Detroit's population is down to just 700, 000 from nearly two million because many people have left the city in search of better jobs and livelihood and they have taken significant dollars in
taxes with them. I guess the municipal and other local administration employees would be the worst hit. I hope a federal bailout package comes through soon. Thanks, Patti.

Todd Mason said...

I can imagine it. I was in Baltimore in the 1980s.