Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Book: Kickback, by Garry Disher (1991)

For a while now, Lee Goldberg has been touting Disher’s novels about professional thief Wyatt as Australia’s answer to the Parker books by Richard Stark, aka Donald E. Westlake. And you know how I feel about Westlake.

Turns out Lee’s right. Kickback is streamlined and lethal. Wyatt, pushing 40 and no longer able to wait for the best jobs, decides to take down a crooked lawyer’s stash of money. He’ll have to tangle with a South African hit man, partners who may not be on the level, and Sugarfoot Younger, a dimwitted hoodlum who doesn’t realize his nickname was given to him ironically. But what Sugarfoot lacks in brains he makes up for in nastiness.

Wyatt’s no slouch himself. Here’s his philosophy: “Let me down and I’ll kill you. You’d do the same to me. That’s all we need to know about each other.”

I found a pair of Disher’s novels in a used book store last year. Fortunately Kickback is the first in the series. The other one I bought is the third, but I’ll probably read it anyway.

Movie: Unholy Partners (1941)

More housekeeping. I caught the beginning of this Mervyn LeRoy movie on TCM and was instantly hooked. Eight months later, I finally watched the rest of it. I’m slow but thorough.

New York editor Edward G. Robinson returns from his WWI service with the idea of recreating the tabloid-style newspaper he ran for the troops. Lots of crime stories, gory photographs galore. As he puts it, “The war made life cheap, which made emotions cheap.” When no money men step up to back him, he turns to gangster Edward Arnold. It’s a perfect relationship – until Robinson pushes a story that Arnold wants hushed up.

The dialogue crackles and Marsha Hunt introduces “After You’ve Gone.” Sadly, the movie is not available on video. Neither is Sam Fuller’s Park Row, another drama about the rollicking early days of the newspaper business that I’ve always wanted to see. Hmm. There could be a boxed set in this.