Friday, July 28, 2017

FFB, July 28, 2017

( From the archives: Chad Eagleton)
THE RED RIGHT HAND, Joel Townsley Rogers

People say that nothing good comes cheap.

My local library used to have a book sale every Wednesday with a huge section of 10 cent paperbacks. That’s where I found my copy of Joel Townsley Rogers' The Red Right Hand.

At best, I hoped for a few hours of entertainment. At worst…I hoped for a few hours of entertainment.

What I got was something much more—an amazingly well-plotted and sinister thriller. A nightmarish fever dream that’s reminiscent of a David Lynch film—when he’s on his game and puts aside all the arty gobbledygook of creamed corn and rabbit-headed protagonists.

Inis St. Erme and Elinor Darrie are on their way to Vermont to be married. On a lonely New England road, they are attacked by a hitchhiker, a strange little man with sharp teeth and twisted, corkscrew legs. Elinor manages to escape. St. Erme is not so lucky. The mad dwarf kidnaps him, dragging him along on a demented joyride that ends with several other townspeople dead and St. Erme’s corpse found along the roadside—his right hand hacked off at the wrist.

The mad dwarf’s rampage should have taken him directly past Dr. Henry Riddle and his stalled coupe. But Riddle didn’t see anything—no killer, no St. Erme, and no car.

Why? It’s the question that pulls Riddle into the hallucinatory murder spree, and plunges him into a surrealist nightmare that leaves him questioning his own sanity. As the action moves back and forth over the course of a single, tense night, Riddle tries to make sense of the events, his words shifting—sometimes brief, clipped, to the point; sometimes formalized, complex sentences befitting a learned man with a well-ordered brain; others a feverish frenzy pouring forth from the subconscious, a stream of images seething and writhing, the disjointed thoughts of a madman. All of which builds toward an unforeseen climax.

Originally published as a short story and then expanded into a novel, The Red Right Hand has been reprinted several times. (My own copy is from 1964, cost 50 cents, and was issued by Pyramid Books as part of their “Green Door Mystery” line.) Copies are easily found.

You should get yours before someone figures out that something this good does comes cheap and corrects the error.

Sergio Angelini, THE NIGHT MANAGER, John LeCarre
Joe Barone, LEGACY OF THE DEAD, Charles Todd
Brian Busby, WHERE IS JENNY NOW? Frances Shelly Wees
Bill Crider, ENCHANTED PILGRIMAGE, Clifford D. Simak
Martin Edwards, THE BLACKMAILERS, Ernest Tristain
Richard Horton, TREMOR OF INTENT, Antthony Burgess
Jerry House, THE RADIO MAN, Roger Sherman Hoar
George Kelley, WODEHOUSE ON CRIME, P.G. Wodehouse
Margot Kinberg, BLOODY WATERS, Carolina Garcie-Aguilera
B.V. Lawson, AN AIR THAT KILLS, Margaret Millar
Steve Lewis, APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH, Agatha Christie
Todd Mason, Spillane Parodies and Pastiches by Jean Kerr, Fritz Leiber and Howard Browne
Neer, ENVIOUS CASCA, Georgette Heyer
J.F. Norris, THE THING AT THEIR HEELS, Harrington Hext
Steven Nestor (THE RAP SHEET) DOG SOLDIERS, Robert Stone
Matt Paust, GOODBYE MR. CHIPS and WAS IT MURDER, James Hilton
James Reasoner, CHILDREN OF THE SUN, Edmund Hamilton
Gerard Saylor, MAN ON THE BALCONY, Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
TomCat, CASE OF THE SMOKING CHIMNEY, Erle Stanley Gardner
TracyK, CITY OF DRAGONS    Kelly Stanley


J F Norris said...

And I thought I was early for a change. Just finished proofing at 7:02 AM yet the list is already posted. [...sigh...]

Here's mine:

The Thing at Their Heels by Harrington Hext

Todd Mason said...

Up and at 'em---things have been rougher than usual. But at least we can wish Bill a happy birthday!

FFStories: Spillane Parodies/Pastiches by Jean Kerr, Fritz Leiber and Howard Browne

Jerry House said...

You woke up earlier than I did today, Patti.

Mine's up now, THE RADIO MAN by Ralph Milne Farley.

Graham Powell said...

Chad is absolutely right about The Red Right Hand. It's a wonderful book and deserves to be better known.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I love THE RED RIGHT HAND, such an unexpected pleasure.

Barry Ergang said...

THE RED RIGHT HAND is a jewel--I read it a couple of times years ago. From what I've seen on some websites, though, it's one that hardcore mystery aficionados either love or hate, few falling somewhere in between.

TracyK said...

Thanks for featuring that review of THE RED RIGHT HAND, you reminded me that I have been wanting to read that. I just went and bought a copy online, and found a Pyramid Books Green Door edition. I collect those and months ago when I looked there were not any available.

Anonymous said...

I definitely need to read The Red Right Hand, Patti. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for including my post this week.

Mathew Paust said...

Wonderful line: "At best, I hoped for a few hours of entertainment. At worst…I hoped for a few hours of entertainment." I hope The Red Right Hand is on Kindle!