Speaking Volumes, the audio company that has brought out several of my novels on CD, is branching out into e-books and print editions. I’m pleased to announce that all four “Eliot Ness in Cleveland” novels are now available in what look to be handsome editions (my author’s copies have not arrived yet). This is the first new printing of MURDER BY THE NUMBERS since its original publication in 1993, so that title in particular may be of interest.
Butcher’s Dozen: Print | E-Book
Each Ness novel is based on a real investigation by the famous Untouchable during his very exciting tenure as the Public Safety Director of Cleveland – less written about than his Chicago days, the Cleveland years mark Ness’s major contributions to crimebusting. THE DARK CITY has him cleaning up a notoriously corrupt police department (with a guest apperance by Nathan Heller), BUTCHER’S DOZEN (the best known of the novels) is the first book-length look at the famous Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, BULLET PROOF has Ness taking on corrupt unions, and MURDER BY THE NUMBERS finds Ness making an unlikely alliance with black numbers gangsters to defeat the famous Mayfield Road Mob’s takeover of a “colored” racket. The latter book explores Cleveland as the source of Chester Himes’ imaginary Harlem in his Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones crime novels, featuring the real-life black cop who provided the basis for those famous characters.
Murder by the Numbers: Print | E-Book
These novels formed the basis for the second act of my play (and film) ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE.
A very smart review of Mickey Spillane’s classic MY GUN IS QUICK favorably mentions my introduction to that Penguin collection of the first three Mike Hammer novels. Nice to see somebody “getting” Mickey Spillane.
David Rachels’ web site, NOIRBOILED, often has interesting stuff on display, including mini-interviews with authors and “poems” culled from crime novels. He has panned several of my novels and he gives a patronizing, half-heartedly positive review to the current reprint of QUARRY. He’s a smart guy, so it’s worth a look, but I don’t agree at all with his labeling of the Quarry series as chiefly a Richard Stark imitation. His description of QUARRY as a novel built on the Stark approach/structure doesn’t show much insight to either approach or structure – a good deal of the magic of the Parker novels is the section midway that either devotes a chunk to a single point of view other than Parker’s or gives single point-of-view chapters to various characters, enabling Stark to play games with time (a trick Don Westlake admitted to me having learned from Kubrick’s THE KILLING). QUARRY, a first-person novel built much more on the traditional private eye paradigm than that of Stark’s quirky crook books, is far, far less indebted to Richard Stark than the Nolans, which began as outright Stark pastiche (though I believe they grew into something of their own). To really understand what I am doing in the Quarry novels – or for that matter what Stark is doing in the Parker novels – a reviewer would need a better grasp of W.R. Burnett, Horace McCoy, Dan Marlowe and Jim Thompson than Rachels reveals. Rachels also does not appear aware that – after the first book, anyway – Parker never kills a civilian, and he skips entirely any consideration of the key role Vietnam plays in both Quarry the killer and Collins the novelist.
My friend Ed Gorman – one of the best living crime writers – has always been generous to me in his reviews. He continues that tradition in a wonderful review of SPREE, the final (to date, anyway) Nolan and Jon novel. He talks a lot about the Comfort family, and I happen to agree with him that that criminal hillbilly clan is among my proudest achievements. By the way, the Comforts were named as an overt reference to one of my favorite novels, Stella Gibbons’ classic COLD COMFORT FARM. One of the books begins with a sentence that includes the phrase “Cole Comfort’s farm.”
Next week I will talk about the avalanche of Collins material that 2011 will bring. Golden Age or Apocalypse…your call.