Monday, August 15, 2016

Richard S. Prather and Stephen Marlowe, or What are your favorite author team-ups and cross-overs?

As much as I love Richard S. Prather's extravagant descriptions of luxuriantly appointed women ("She'd just turned twenty one, but had obviously signaled for the turn a long time ago."), they can wear thin over the length of a novel. And the one book by Stephen Marlowe I had tried to read before last week gave me a headache with its political yammering.

But when Prather's Shell Scott and Marlowe's Chester Drum teamed up for Double in Trouble in 1959, the excess flew out the window, each author concentrated on what I presume he did best, and the contrast between the ebullient Scott and the somber Drum provides extra fun.  Marlowe's descriptions of women who catch Drum's eye seem touchingly chaste next to Prather's enthusiasm, for one. (The novel alternates chapters narrated by Scott and Drum. I assume Prather wrote the Scott chapters and Marlowe the Drums, but who knows? Maybe each took a stab at the other's style.)

I don't know Marlowe's style well enough to judge whether he altered it all for Double in Trouble. But one of Prather's descriptions leavens the joy with a bit of concern. The result is just beautiful, screwy but affecting and empathetic, and it may be my favorite description of them all:
"She was a big, healthy tomato with plenty of tomato juice in her, but somehow without all the usual seasonings."
Your turn now. What are your favorite crime-fiction collaborations, particularly if they involve both authors' characters teaming up? Why do you like them?

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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10 Comments:

Blogger Art Taylor said...

This was fun to read! And I'm left trying to think of collaborations like this.... I enjoyed some of the Faceoff collection from a couple of years back, for example, but.... I'm not sure what I've read at novel length like this! (Scouring memory banks.....)

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Richard Robinson said...

I enjoyed Twospot by Bill Pronzini and Collin Wilcox.

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Art: Thanks.

I had not heard of that Faceoff collection, but that would be just the sort of thing I had in mind. The closest thing I had heard of were the two collaborations between Donald Westlake and Joe Gores in which one chapter in a novel by each of the writers would include a chapter featuring characters from both writers.

I think crossovers are a lot more common in superhero comics, where they have always struck me as a marketing device more than anything else. Apparently, though, crossovers exert great fascination: http://www.crossoveruniverse.com/2014/12/crossover-covers-32-cadillacsdrowned.html

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Richard: Did that book include both authors' characters? If do, did the authors do what Prather and Marlowe did: Alternate chapters each from the viewpoint of the author's own character? I wonder if anyone else, in crime fiction or out, has done precisely what Prather and Marlowe did here.

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Jerry House said...

A number of stories collected in THE PEOPLE VS. WITHERS AND MALONE had Craig Rice's John J. Malone team up with Stuart Palmer's hildegarde Withers. If I remember correctly, these were told from a single point of view.

Bill Pronzini and his wife Marcia Muller joined his western detective Quincannon with her modern-day detective Elena Oliverez in BEYOND THE GRAVE, with chapters alternating between the present and the past. Pronzini's Nameless Detective and Muller's Sharon McCone share the same literary background and have crossed paths a few times, most notably in the novel DOUBLE.

I'm sure there are a number of other character crossovers involving different authors, butu these were the ones that came to mind immediately.

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Jerry, I forgot about the Malone-Withers stories. I have read, liked, and even written about some of them: http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/2010/07/crime-fiction-team-ups.html

That was an inspired pairing of two characters so far apart in temperament and behavior that the results were bound to be good.

August 16, 2016  
Blogger Richard Robinson said...

Peter, yes and yes. The book alternates with the two San Francisco-based detectives, Pronzini's "Nameless" and Wilcox' Lieutenant Frank Hastings, until the end when they are in the concluding chapters together.

August 17, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's enticing. The delay in the two detectives' meeting until well into the book is just one more way of building up the suspense. I wonder to what extent the newer book's structure is a tribute to the older. Pronzini has edited anthologies in addition to his own writing, so I presume he knows his crime fiction history and is aware of the Marlowe-Prather collaboration.

August 17, 2016  
Blogger Art Taylor said...

I think you're right about the crossover being more popular in comics--and maybe on TV too. I've seen shows where characters make appearances in one another's shows sometimes (ratings grab, I guess).

Interesting about the Westlake/Gores collaborations. I need to check those out!

August 17, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Those chapters are a giddy treat for readers who know both authors and both sets of characters, And they work just fine for readers who don't.

I see that Faceoff includes a collaboration between Ian Ranking and Peter James. I got a nice photo of them palling around at Crimefest this year. I had no idea at the time that they had written together.

August 17, 2016  

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