Thursday, September 01, 2016

My Bouchercon 2016 panel: Peter Rabe and Murder Me For Nickels

Whereas Charles Williams loved to write about tough, self-reliant men who find themselves in situations tougher than they think they can cope with, his fellow star author at Gold Medal Books, Peter Rabe, specialized in men who clash with their crooked bosses, or try to protect them, or watch them disintegrate, or who suffer at their hands.

The Box (great title, terrific book), Kill the Boss Goodbye (crap title, excellent book), Benny Muscles In, A Shroud for Jesso, and Dig My Grave Deep all take up the theme, and that's just among the Rabe novels I've read.

Rabe's 1960 novel Murder Me For Nickels (great title, damn fine book) states the theme in a comic tone that shift from major key to minor, its mordant wisecracks where least expected gradually shifting to a tone of real menace.

The opening line is typical: "Walter Lippit makes music all over own." Sounds jaunty, even whimsical, but Lippit is a gangster who controls the local juke-box racket.

And there's this bit, in which the violent tone works its way under the jaunty theme of the first sentence. (You'll have to read the book for context):
“`You think, Jacky, with the pull you have in this company, we could all get another cup of coffee?'

“I did not think I could go through another five, or let’s say, three and a half minutes like this, even without sweet roll time. So I said no, I didn’t want to take advantage."
Rick Ollerman will talk about Peter Rabe as part of my panel called "From Hank to Hendrix: Beyond Chandler and Hammett: Lesser Known Writers of the Pulp and Paperback Original Eras" at Bouchercon 2016. It happens at 9 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Marriott, 555 Canal St., New Orleans, Room LaGalleries 1.  

© Peter Rozovsky 2016

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Blogger mybillcrider said...

Kill the Boss Goodbye might be a crap title, but it's a fine book.

September 01, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's a terrific book, though I think the best of the ones I've read is The Box.

September 01, 2016  
Blogger mybillcrider said...

I love The Box.

September 04, 2016  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Bill: I read Anatomy of a Killer this week, and I liked it. But I still say The Box us best. Rabe occasionally got closer to Jim Thompson territory than some of those Gold Medal writers did.

September 05, 2016  

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