Sunday, February 7, 2016

Ed Mcbain, Cut Me In

Ed McBain, Cut Me In
Hard Case Crime, 2016
Reprint of 1960 edition published as by Hunt Collins (Boardman Publishing)
Originally published in book form as The Proposition in 1955
In its current incarnation, a short novel (Cut Me In) and a longish short story (“Now Die In It").  In the novel, literary agency co-owner Josh Blake arrives at work after a night of binge drinking (he wakes up to find a lovely young lady half-dressed at his kitchen table and cannot remember her name). He and his partner Del Gilbert are (they think) representing Cam Stewart, who writes westerns, in the sale of the work to the movies and to TV.  Unfortunately, he finds his partner dead, and there is no trace of the letter authorizing their representation in the office safe.  And the photostatic copy that Blake has is soon stolen from him.  I forget just how implausible some of the early work by authors who subsequently achieve prominence can be.  In this one, Blake, after being kidnaped (to keep him from interrupting the announcement of Stewart’s acceptance of a movie offer), and shares 2 or 3 (it’s not clear) bottles of vodka and a truly wacky poker game with his kidnappers.  And then becomes immediately sober and drives off, much too late, to try to interfere.  The whole scene takes up maybe 5-7% of the book and is entirely unnecessary.  In the end, of course, Blake realizes who had been killing people, and calls in the sops.  Meanwhile,  in the short-story, Matt Cordell, who has lost his PI license, is asked by someone he knows to track down the man who has impregnated his friend’s sister-in-law (who is 17).  The case leads him to an ice cream parlor, where he discovers a clue that reveals all.  Both of these pieces are reasonably well-written, but with fairly obvious outcomes and characters who don’t really hold our interest.  Worthwhile as a piece of history, not as a piece of fiction.

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