Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bouchercon 2016, the books: "This is a job for the meat wagon, Ed," a look at Frank Kane

Two members of my council of experts on vintage paperbacks at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans said Frank Kane tended to repeat passages whole from book to book. I haven't read enough Kane to judge his book-to-book repetition, but his 1951 novel Bullet Proof, another of the vintage paperbacks I bought at Mystery Mike's table in the book room, contains loads of repetition all by itself. The protagonist or his friends and adversaries "scowled" on Pages 72, 83, 87, 91, 103, 108, 111, 140, 154, and 176, for example.

Characters groan on pages 86, 95, 108, 136, and 155, and when they're doing neither, they moan and grunt a lot. And that was before I started counting, around Page 72. It's a fair bet that P.I. Johnny Liddell; his gangster adversaries (several of whom Kane describes as "silky"); the cops with whom he scraps but ultimately grows to enjoy mutual respect; his feisty, beautiful reporter love interest; his curvaceous red-headed secretary; the oleaginous district attorney;  the victim; and others scowled more frequently than even I was able to detect.

Kane also  chooses an odd locution when his characters ask questions and repeats it throughout the novel: "`Where are you going?' Liddell wanted to know."  From book to book, from page to page, Kane apparently practiced extreme economy of thought; why come up with new words when old ones will do?  But you know what? Kane was fresh where it mattered. Squabbles between police and private investigators are one of the hoariest staples of P.I. novels, but Kane adds a vicious, funny swipe from a medical examiner aimed at the querulous cop over an autopsy table:
"Inspector Herlihy slammed his hat down on the table, ran his fingers through the thick mane of his hair. `How the hell can you tell it's a thirty-two until you get the damn bullet out?' he roared.
 "The medical examiner dropped his topcoat on the couch, took off his jacket, started to started to roll up his sleeves. `I can't, if you're going to get technical about it, inspector. Not any more than you can tell when you find a hole under your sink whether it was made by a mouse or an elephant.'"
And that's one reason Frank Kane is so much fun to read. (Read my discussion of Kane's novel Liz and why Kane was a better writer than Stieg Larsson.)

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Blogger seana graham said...

Great example of why Frank Kane might be very fun to read.

September 28, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He is lots of fun. The article about to which I like in this post, from the Thrilling Detective Web site, also notes his tendency to repeat passages. I would have thought that sort of thing would bother me, but it does not in the least. I don't remember noticing that sort of repetition in the one previous novel of his that I had read, oddly enough. Perhaps he did that sort of thing only at certain times in his career. Kane would make a good subject for a future "Beyond Hammett and Chandler" panel.

September 28, 2016  

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