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John Wainwright: four crime novels

As I mentioned earlier, I read four novels by British writer John Wainwright to be mentioned in my forth-coming book on British crime paperbackers. I've been at it for over ten years and I thought it would finally come out next Summer, but we'll have to see about that, as I still have loads of work to do. But now John Wainwright has finally been done with.

Wainwright is best known - if known at all today - for his police procedurals. He wrote some dozens of them saying he got his inspiration from Ed McBain and his 87th Precinct series and that clearly shows. The settings are realistic and Wainwright shows some critical insight into the society he writes about. There are lots of characters, all colourful. The police are a mixed bunch, some of them are almost crooks themselves, taking law into their own hands, some of them just look on from the side and realize there's no use getting mixed with their colleagues' doings. The actual crooks are very much crooks: sleazy low-life scum. This is one of the weakest things in Wainwright's police novels. He shows real contempt when he writes about the lower class people and their inhabitats. In Wainwright's novels there's also lots of dialogue. One can imagine being in a police station amidst all the nervous talk and shouting.

I read The Big Tickle (1969; Kurja päivä kuolla in Finnish) and Talent for Murder (1967; Huhtikuun murhat in Finnish) and liked the latter more, even though the former is more clearly set in the reality of the streets. The novel suffers from bad Finnish translation though.

Wainwright also wrote some middle-class tragedies. I read two of them, The Distaff Factor (1982; Tuomion jälkeen in Finnish) and Cul-de-sac (1984; Umpikuja in Finnish). Georges Simenon spoke highly of the latter, and it is indeed the better of the two in its depiction of a sad marriage that ends in the death of the wife. It's already declared an accident, when an eye-witness comes forward saying it was a murder, done by the woman's husband. Cul-de-sac is a dense book with a pleasing climax. I hope I'm not giving anything away saying Wainwright uses the same technique that made Gillian Flynn famous with her Gone Girl.

The Distaff Factor starts with a promising idea: the husband of a middle-class woman is declared guilty of maiming and killing three prostitutes. This one also has a twist in the middle and yet another in the end, but I wasn't entirely satisfied. The book drags somewhat in the middle and the end climax is both misogynistic and somewhat implausible. Yet it also shows Wainwright could really write tragedy.

Wainwright wasn't a paperback in his native land, but his books came out as paperback here in Finland, that's why I'm including him in my book.

Blast From The Past #5

Blast From The Past #5

Dr. No (1962)
Directed by Terence Young


James Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate the disappearance of a fellow British agent. The trail leads him to the underground base of Dr. No, who is plotting to disrupt an early American manned space launch with a radio beam weapon


Cast
 Directed by Shaun Terence Young (1915-1994)
Produced by Harry Saltzman (1915-1994) and Albert R. Broccoli (1909-1996)

Sean Connery as James Bond
Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder
Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No
Jack Lord as Felix Leiter
Bernard Lee as M
Anthony Dawson as Professor R.J. Dent
Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench
Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny
Peter Burton as Major Boothroyd
 

Forgotten Books: Cross Country by Herbert Kastle



Forgotten Books: Cross Country by Herbert Kastle


FORGOTTEN BOOKS: CROSS COUNTRY

Herbert D. Kastle wrote a number of science fiction stories in magazines of the 1950s. That's where I first read him. Later in the 1960s he was writing those fat sexy bestseller-type novels that owed more to marketing and Harold Robbins than his presumed muse. Then in 1974 he wrote CROSS COUNTRY. Here's a quote from one of the reviews: "This novel seems to occupy the same dark and twisted territory as the works of Jim Thompson. Characters interact in a dance of barely suppressed psychopathological urges and desires that is as grotesquely fascinating as a multi-car pileup on the freeway. It may leave you feeling unclean afterwards, but chances are you will not forget it."

Damn straight. It really is a sewer of sex and terror and blood-soaked suspense. I read it in one long sitting. If it's trash, as some called it at the time, it is spellbinding trash.

IMDB sums up the story line succintly: "After a woman is found butchered in her New York apartment, suspicion falls on her estranged husband, an ad executive who has suddenly left town on a cross-country road trip. He takes along a beautiful girl he met in a bar and a drifter he picked up along the way. A cop sets out after the husband, but he's more interested in shaking him down than bringing him back."

Kastle masterfully controls his long nightmare journey and you buy into his paranoia. He shows you an American wasteland of truck stops, motels, convenience stores connected by interstate highway and darkness. By book's end everyone will betray everyone else. This is survival of the fittest enacted by a Yuppie businessman, sociopathic hippies and a crooked cop. The sheer nastiness of Kastle's existential vision make this book impossible to forget. Thirty-some years after I first read it I still think of it from time to time when hundreds of other novels have fled from memory.

It's a vision of hell that fascinates you as it troubles your conscience.

Austin Grossman – You

Austin Grossman – You:

Austin Grossman, his editor Josh Kendall, and the Poetry Genius community annotate the opening chapters of You. It’s like a mad cross between a book club and VH1’s pop-up videos.

Shark Fighter

Shark Fighter, by Nicholas Brady No date stated (1976), Belmont-Tower Books One of Len Levinson's more elusive novels, Shark Fighter was published under the pseudonym “Nicholas Brady,” which was a house name at Belmont-Tower (who couldn’t even be bothered to put a publication year on the book). According to Len, BT editor Peter McCurtin came up with the concept, of a man fighting sharks for