From Ben Bouden GRAVETAPPING
Posted: 17 Apr 2014 02:16 PM PDT
Just Before Dark is the fifth (of five) horror novels written by Bill Crider and published as by Jack MacLane. It was published by Zebra in November 1990, and the cover art is terrific in a disturbing if tongue-in-cheek sort of way. It is dark—a purple smudge for sky—and features a cold metallic junkyard piled high. It reminds me of the first thirty minutes of the film “Wall-E” with the added appeal of skeletons strewn throughout. The artist is uncredited.
The opening paragraph:
“Frank Castella remembered dying.”
I haven’t read any of the “Jack MacLane” novels, but knowing the general high quality of Mr Crider’s work I plan to remedy that very soon. All five of the MacLane novels are currently available as ebooks.
This is the fifth in a new series of posts featuring cover and miscellany of books I find at thrift stores and used bookshops. It is reserved for books I purchased as much for the coer art as for the story or author.
221b Baker Street London NW1 6XE England
p. 59 "A person had to be quiet to hear what [the past] said, because the past talked in whispers of truth so random and fragile any preconceived opinion could blow it away before the opinion's organized and determined noise." (Sharon considers talking to her niece about her findings in the tomb, but holds back)
p. 73 after hearing Cardinal Pesci claim that nothing that happens is Israel is not political Folan thinks to himself: " [He] could have disputed that point for an hour and not begun to fully bury (sic) a statement so broad as to be untenable past junior high school. It was just the lazy man's way to explain away the cast and incomprehensible multitude of what went on."
p. 138 Flan to Sharon "Where do you get evidence that scientists are somehow more trustworthy than holy men?" She replies: "When you people give as much knowledge, as much light, instead of flames to the world, as archaeologists, I will give you that respect."
p. 208 Discussion between Sharon and Folan. She offers up "many possible scenarios" for why Mary Magdalene and the apostles would think they saw something that they didn't. "They were totally invested in Him. They must've been distraught." Mary could have entered the tomb and though it was empty. Peter had given up his life as a fisherman to follow Jesus. Matthew stopped being a tax collector. They made sacrifices to be with Him for life. Folan calls them "scenarios" and Sharon calls them possibilities. Fiction vs. reality
|The Dead Christ Mourned by Annibale Carracci (ca. 1604)|
(sometimes called The Three Maries)
Folan's scene w/ the true believer Mark, volunteer at the dig. "Why do you believe God's word?" This is recurring throughout the book. Folan questions everyone's beliefs, getting them to question themselves. Mark, after some obvious and naive attempts to convince Folan, finally replies: "I know my heart. If you need more, then I feel sorry for you."
1st instance of a fragile faith. Father Pierre Lavelle. Heart wrenching character. Was once a Communist but stopped e believing when the Communists became allied with Nazis (he says this based on his personal experience). Folan questions him on this ease of turning on/off a belief. Was it ever valid if it could be so easily given up? Is this why he so easily accepts that the skeleton is that of Jesus without any skepticism with out any proof to the contrary?
Lavelle kills himself! Is this going to get really ugly now?
|Richard Ben Sapir|
(Photo credit: Patricia Chute Sapir)
Detective work examples -- Folan learns of the odd biological phenomenon of skeletal little toes and pinkies crumbling to nothing over time.
Folan impressing Reb Nechtal with his knowledge of the Talmud. Loved this. Pints out the Talmud law about proper burial, manipulates this law to his own advantage. Does not tell the rabbi why the body needs to be studied but argues why it can be removed according to Talmud. Almost wins over the rabbi, but scores major points all the same, esp w/ the followers. They reach a compromise. p. 223 "The righteous Gentile is as blessed as the high priest himself." Wow!
Ugh. Folan and Sharon have sex. Repeatedly. Somehow I knew this would happen. Pisses me off.
Folan "lies to himself" repeatedly afterwards. He rationalizes his life as a celibate Jesuit. Sex seems to change him radically. This is going overboard. The "Sexual epiphany" is a literary device that belongs to a much older time period and to a much younger character, I think. I can't accept this in a book publ in 1983. Even from a priest -- who was not a virgin. He had sex prior to becoming a priest. That hang up about pre-ejaculation... Is this Folan's version of what happened to Lavelle when he left the tomb? Is that Sapir's point? Sex is belonging to another? Jesus is no longer Folan's best friend (he said that several times earlier in the book). Sharon is taking that place now. Hmm... Trying to justify this choice of Sapir's , but it's really bothering me.
Folan and Sharon are acting like crooked cops now! Co- conspirators trying to find evidence that will support their theories rather than looking at what they found at the dig, the evidence of the tomb.
The "specialists" are onto them. Pointed questions, F & S resort to deceit and become evasive. Sometimes outright lying. (Has sex turned Folan into a liar too?) Dr. Sproul, the bone expert, is giving them what they don't want. Calls the skeleton a laborer, possibly a carpenter. HA!
Hard Case Crime continues to resurrect Block’s early work, often written pseudonymously, from the 1950s and early ’60s. Gleefully mixing soft-core pornography with a thriller plot, Block churned out numerous of these bound-for-the-drugstore-paperback-rack quickies as he was gaining his sea legs for the more mature work that would come later. This one makes the most of its seedy border-town setting, jumping between El Paso and Juarez, as the paths of a gambler, divorcée, hitchhiker, stripper, and psycho killer come together in an inevitable bloodbath—but not before a series of steamy, yet surprisingly stylish, couplings (“There was a beginning, bittersweet and almost painful. There was a middle, fast and furious, a scherzo movement in a symphony of fire. And there was an ending, gasping, spent, two bodies washed up on a lonely, barren beach.”) Who knew what lurked on those paperback racks, nestled beside the sundries, awaiting the hungry eyes of surreptitious readers? And, yet, along with the titillation, Block’s inimitable craftsmanship shines through, along with flashes of his signature wit.
— Bill Ott
This post includes commentary from author T.E. Grau, an interview with LB, and his short story, LIKE A BONE IN THE THROAT.
To call him a giant in contemporary Noir and crime literature doesn’t seem up to snuff. In the last 55 years that Mr. Block has been professionally published, he has written under a litany of pen names, producing a nearly impossible to comprehend OVER ONE HUNDRED BOOKS (novels and short story collections), which have earned him a boatload of awards with such names as Edger, Shamus, Anthony, Maltese Falcon, Nero Wolfe, and Philip Marlowe. Add to this the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America, the Diamond Dagger for Life Achievement from the Crime Writers Association (UK), the Gumshoe Lifetime Achievement Award from Mystery Ink magazine, and the Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer for Lifetime Achievement in the short story. Oh, and it probably bears mentioning that he was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers Association, and was proclaimed a Grand Maitre du Roman Noir in France, where he was twice awarded the Societe 813 trophy. And hell, he owns a key to a city (Muncie, Indiana), which isn’t something you see on the keychain of just every scribbler.