Monday, January 09, 2012

Nipples and Spinoza

Donald E. Westlake's The Comedy Is Finished put me in a Hard Case frame of mind. I'm reading Lester Dent's Honey in His Mouth now, with Westlake's Memory on deck.

Dent wrote Honey in His Mouth in 1956, toward the end of a career spent largely writing Doc Savage, and the book is full of South American dictators, tight dresses that stay on, and frank one-word delineations of what lies beneath. It also shows an intellectual streak reminiscent of Woody Allen's essays and hard to imagine in popular culture today:
"Harsh listened with a black expression. Jesus, he thought, who had ever heard of such stuff being sprung on a man. However, Miss Muirz had a reading voice that was low and cultured and musical, and her dress had an interesting way of snuggling up when she took a deep breath so that her nipples stuck out at him. But he did not care greatly for Spinoza."
The book is obviously a product of its time, in other words, but without seeming dated. How does Dent manage this? With a light touch, a wild plot, and a grifter protagonist, Walter Harsh, refreshingly upfront about his life's goal: money.

More, perhaps, later.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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2 Comments:

Blogger Dave Knadler said...

I went through a Doc Savage as a callow youth. Never gave much thought to who might have written it.

"...her nipples stuck out at him. But he did not care greatly for Spinoza." That's classic. Love that cover, too.

January 11, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Even if you had given thought to who wrote Doc Savage, you likely would not have come up with Lester Dent's name. His stories appeared under the Doc Savage house name -- Kenneth Something or Other, I think.

I wonder if the period from the mid-'50s to mid-'60s was a kind of high point for European intellectual references in American popular culture, what with nipples and Spinoza and Woody Allen's essays and all. It's an interesting phenomenon and one that has no parallel today that I know of.

Hard Case Crime's covers are a throwback -- not just in the old Gold Medal style, but each with a painting commissioned for the purpose. I saw a blog post recently included pictures from a Hard Case model photo shoot. Those babes looked dangerous.

January 11, 2012  

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