Friday, January 28, 2011

11.03 The Fatal Foursome by Frank Kane

About Face (1947, AKA Death About Face, The Fatal Foursome) by Frank Kane
Paperback, Dell

I collect a lot of old pulp paperbacks, mainly in the sci-fi and crime genres, but I don't tend to read a lot of them. Many are just too old to safely read, some I have more for the cultural value but mainly I just have too damn many other books to read. Occasionally, I'll get an up-condition dupe and that allows the crappier one to become a reading copy. I've always loved the look of these Victor Kalin drawn mysteries by Frank Kane.

The thing is, when you read a 1947 hard boiled detective novel it often comes across as being pretty derivative from the modern perspective. Of course, at that time they weren't really derivative stories at all. At worst, the authors of this era were emulating one another and writing to sell. Kane was a prolific journeyman writer during the pulp era. Among other things he wrote a huge number of short stories for the pulps and featured his detective Johnny Liddell in over 30 novels. Unfortunately, Kane's reputation has never been as glossy as some of his peers like Hammett or Chandler. Thrilling Detective writes of the Liddell series: "a solid series, nothing really exceptional, but it gets the job done, sorta like Johnny."

In The Fatal Foursome, Liddell is sent out from the east coast to Hollywood to investigate the seeming disappearance of an up and coming actor. In the course of his investigation three more bodies turn up right around the same places he is. Suspicion is that he is getting too close to the truth. There is some fun stuff in here - the scrappy yet comely cub reporter who is after the story...and Johnny, the hard drinking ME who is an old buddy - especially the characters.

This was the first book in the series by Kane and if it's any indication the Liddell books will always be in the 2nd tier of early crime fiction.

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