Sunday, January 07, 2007

Book: Dead Horse, by Walter Satterthwait (2006)

It’s always nice to have the first novel of the year be a winner. But it’s hard to go wrong with Walter Satterthwait, whose Phil Beaumont/Jane Turner books are an unalloyed treat.

Dead Horse is about Raoul Whitfield, the Black Mask veteran who was the highest-paid mystery writer of the late 1920s. His second wife, Emily, was a socialite who made their lavish life on the desert ranch of the title possible. Then Emily committed suicide – or so it would appear. The question of what really happened to her that night is only one of the mysteries raised in Walter’s evocative book.

My experience with Whitfield is limited to his 1930 novel Green Ice. I’d been told that it and Paul Cain’s Fast One were the most hard-boiled books ever published. I still haven’t tracked the Cain down, but I did dig up a copy of Green Ice. Hard-boiled it is, so much so that parts of it are indigestible. But Walter’s book has me ready to take another crack at it.

A.I. Bezzerides, RIP

What a remarkable 98 years the man had. He wrote the novels Long Haul (filmed as They Drive by Night) and Thieves’ Market (which became Thieves’ Highway). He penned the screenplays for On Dangerous Ground and the great Kiss Me Deadly. And in his spare time he created TV’s The Big Valley. Two documentaries were made about him in 2005. I’d be happy to see either one.