Saturday, February 24, 2007

Books: Hard Case Crime Report

Usually I don’t read two Hard Case titles in a row, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Lucky at Cards, by Lawrence Block (originally published as The Sex Shuffle by Sheldon Lord, 1964). It’s a Lawrence Block novel. What do you think I’m going to say about it?

A card sharp gets run out of Chicago without the resources to make it to New York. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, he’s tempted by the squarejohn life – but even more tempted by the wife of his new best friend. A standard set-up, to be sure, but Block deploys some ingenious plotting. The closing scene nails that “surprising but inevitable” feel that David Mamet cites as storytelling’s holy grail. The missus in particular loved it.

The Peddler, by Richard S. Prather (1952). Perhaps the darkest Hard Case reprint yet. A young hothead realizes there’s a fortune to be made in prostitution, so he works his way methodically up the rackets. Prather makes absolutely no concessions to likability with his main character, which only makes his odyssey more compelling. A brutal ending caps a potent piece of work.

Tributes to the late Richard Prather continue to appear. By now you’ve probably seen the terrific piece by Stephen Marlowe about his collaboration with Prather on the Shell Scott/Chet Drum novel Double in Trouble that appeared at Ed Gorman’s blog, but I’m linking to it anyway. And Lee Goldberg offers some cherce Shell Scott lines.

Miscellaneous: Miscellany

While getting a haircut, I asked the barbers what they would do if Britney Spears pounded on the salon’s front door and demanded to have her head shaved. What followed was a conversation on tonsorial ethics that would have held Socrates rapt.

So I’m watching Spiders on the Sci-Fi Channel, because it’s on. Prompting Rosemarie to ask, “How many movies do you think you’ve seen where someone says, ‘Do you know how to fly this thing?’” I don’t know the answer, but I consider that one of the finest questions I’ve ever heard.