Mr. Westlake and Mr. Marlowe

As I mentioned when I started this blog, I’m a relative newcomer to crime/mystery fiction.  Sure, I encountered the usual stuff growing up, Poe, Doyle, Christie, a bunch of short story anthologies.  A little Hammett.  Lots of old movies.  But several years ago, more or less on a whim, I started reading the Parker novels, and when I ran out of those, I started on the Tobins, and when I ran out of those, I moved on to the books Westlake wrote under his real name.

And I began to be curious about his influences, and his contemporaries–about writers who were like him in some ways, who shared certain affinities, who covered some of the same ground.  If he mentioned an author favorably, I tried to read works by that author.  I also reasoned that if I really liked these particular books about a tough enigmatic armed robber, I might like other books about similar characters written by different authors.  Sometimes I did.  More often I didn’t.  But I learned things, either way.

Thanks to bloggers like Trent at Violent World of Parker and Nick Jones at Existential Ennui, who were similarly interested, I began to selectively explore the rest of the crime/mystery field, a fathomless genre, most of which remains a cipher to me, and quite honestly much of which doesn’t seem worth the deciphering (as Sturgeon’s Law helpfully informs us, 90% of everything is crap).  Ray Garraty, who has often posted here, was perhaps more helpful than anyone–as I helped him with his voracious book-collecting habit, often reading the books I ordered on his behalf, before dispatching them off to the general vicinity of the Urals.  We helped each other, as fellow enthusiasts so often do.

I’m still very far from being any kind of expert on the mystery genre, and doubt I ever shall be.  But I can honestly say I know more than most, for what that’s worth.  And coming at the field from a somewhat unusual perspective, I may have sometimes picked up on things that more experienced eyes missed.

One of the crime authors I became interested in for a time was Dan J. Marlowe.   And he is nothing if not interesting.

Marlowe was well into his 40’s when he became a professional writer, a very late start for anyone.  His wife had died, and after living a seemingly staid Middle American lifestyle for most of his life, full of grey flannel suits and offices, he just decided to pursue his long-suppressed creative ambitions full tilt.   He did not produce that many books, and most of his books are not that impressive–but a few of them became minor classics, and one achieved legendary cult status (though never a film adaptation, and at this point I doubt it ever will, unless Tarantino wants to do it).

Marlowe worked a lot with collaborators–two of whom were ex-military men, and those books mainly didn’t hold up that well.  Another was Al Nussbaum, formerly one of the most notorious bank robbers of all time–that collaboration worked out somewhat better, turned into a decidedly odd friendship that has inspired a lot of head scratching in various quarters.

Still, his best books were invariably written solo.  It seems a fairly safe bet to say that he didn’t have many good books in him, that his inspiration didn’t hold up over time, that his very late start negatively impacted his development as a writer.  But he enjoyed the authorial life, and wanted to go on producing crime/espionage paperbacks (mainly for Gold Medal) and getting paid for it.   The lifestyle agreed with him.  And who can argue with that?

Then he developed amnesia in the Mid-70’s–no, seriously, I didn’t crib this from a daytime drama!  He didn’t even remember writing his best book–he read it for the first time a second time, and didn’t remember a word of it.  Unless he was faking it.  Nobody knows for sure.  For all we know, he somehow got hold of an unpublished manuscript by Donald Westlake, about an actor with amnesia, and decided to see how that would work in real life.  I don’t believe that for one minute, of course.  But it’s just one of a slew of odd coincidences we’ll be looking at here.

In spite of being anything but a handsome man, he reportedly had many passionate affairs with a variety of women, but again, it’s hard to know where reality ends and fiction begins.  He also seems to have had a serious spanking fetish (giving, not receiving), that keeps turning up in his novels.  Hey, as long as it’s consensual…

He was politically conservative, as were most crime fiction authors of the time (Westlake was, in the main, an exception to that rule), but never predictably so. The small town he was living in when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated was somewhat shocked when he contributed an Op Ed to the local paper, in which he compared the late civil rights leader to Hitler, and said King, who he believed had started out fighting for a just cause, had brought his murder on himself by resorting to extremist methods and radical politics.  He meant this to be sympathetic, folks.   And let’s not get too superior about past racial attitudes, given who one of our Presidential nominees is now.

Honestly, the most interesting book connected to him may not be The Name of the Game is Death–it may well be Charles Kelly’s Gunshots In Another Room, a recently released unauthorized biography of Marlowe (there was nobody left to authorize it).  In spite of his relatively low status in the ranks of English letters, he’s a biographer’s wet dream.  His life is a better story than most of his stories.

As I see it, he wrote exactly four books worth reading (unless you’re one of those people who just have to read everything, and I can certainly respect that).

The Name of the Game is Death (1962)

Never Live Twice (1964)

Four For The Money (1966)

The Vengeance Man (1966)

And if you want to get pure about it, just the first. He basically said all he had to say with that one.  At his best, he had a weird sort of intensely detached immediacy that stands out from the crowd.   Most of his writing is derivative hackwork–written purely to the market.  But when he was fully engaged, he rose above the material he worked with.

Some would include Strongarm  on that list I just typed.  I found it mediocre.  Tastes vary.   One Endless Hour, the very belated sequel to The Name of the Game is Death, I don’t really consider to be a Marlowe novel.  According to Kelly, Al Nussbaum, the aforementioned bank robber, came up with most of the story ideas for that book, probably helped quite a bit in writing it, and although it’s a gripping suspenseful read–that feels like it should have been a film by Russ Meyer, or possibly John Waters, with maybe a pinch of Edward D. Wood Jr.–it comes nowhere near the level of the first book.  It’s mainly a Marlowe pastiche, even if Marlowe did all the actual writing.

Strange man.  Strange life.  And now I’m about to tell a strange story.  That may just be in my head.  It involves Donald Westlake.  And, not coincidentally, the next Westlake novel I have to review here.  So that’s why I’m doing this piece now, after putting it off for some time.  I still don’t really know what to make of it.  So I’ll put it out there, and you can decide for yourselves.

I don’t know if Westlake and Marlowe ever met, or even corresponded.  Al Nussbaum and Westlake corresponded briefly while Nussbaum was in prison (part of their exchange can be read in The Getaway Car).  He and Marlowe had other mutual acquaintances.  And they were most definitely aware of each other.

Marlowe’s first five books were about a supremely rugged and muscular hotel bell captain named Johnny Killain, who doubled as a two-fisted private investigator, working out of New York.  I’d call them more enjoyably terrible than terribly enjoying.  Every hardboiled trope you can think of, and a few you haven’t (because nobody dares use them anymore).  In spite of his modest station in life, Killain can beat any man in a fight, take any woman he wants to bed.  I’m not saying I don’t enjoy that (Marlowe had a genuine knack for fight scenes and sex scenes), but reading the last Killain, Shake A Crooked Town (1961), I found my eyes rolling with some frequency.

I also found myself wondering at an odd coincidence–1961 was the year Donald Westlake’s Killing Time came out.  That, you may remember, is about a private detective working in a small town in upstate New York, where Westlake grew up.  The protagonist is short, chunky–physically a lot less impressive than Johnny Killain, and is in fact rather reminiscent of Hammett’s Continental Op–an everyman type.

The book is basically a variation on Red Harvest.  It makes no pretense of being anything else.  But Westlake has his own take on the idea.  Very different from Hammett’s.  It’s not his best work (it’s only his second novel under his own name), but it’s a far better book than Shake A Crooked Town–which is also set in a small corrupt town.  In upstate New York.  Where Marlowe never lived.

And even though both books are about the hero getting caught in the middle between rival factions vying for control of a small town (with radically different outcomes), it’s hard to see how one could have influenced the other.  Marlowe’s novel was released very early that year,  Westlake’s just months later.  Westlake had far more direct experience with the setting than Marlowe (and boy does it show).  They were both clearly reacting to Red Harvest.  The stories aren’t really that similar, and the heroes aren’t similar at all.

(I rather suspect Marlowe got the idea for making his hero a bell captain from Jim Thompson, who had in 1956 published a short story entitled Bellhop, based on his colorful experiences working hotels in wild corrupt boom towns out west.  Two-fisted bell captains were not something Marlowe just dreamed up out of thin air, and I suppose he might have met a few, but he was definitely reading a lot of Thompson, and probably everybody else writing this kind of crime fiction.)

Okay, so that’s a big bag of nothing.  But then, of course, we move to 1962.  When another strange coincidence occurs.  Both men published paperback novels about an amoral armed robber going on a bloody campaign of vengeance against someone who heisted his heist and killed his comrades in crime.  Both books are vivid gripping reads.  The Hunter is unquestionably the superior book overall, more disciplined, better written, with a protagonist who has far more potential than Marlowe’s–but this was the one time in their overlapping careers that Marlowe could be said to have given Westlake a run for his money.   He put everything he had into that one.

Both protagonists had an oddly irregular sex drive.  Marlowe’s (who I won’t refer to as Earl Drake, because that name never appears in the first book, and I just don’t want to acknowledge the others as being about the same guy) can only seem to get it up right after he’s engaged in violence of some kind.  This problem just went away completely in the later books, with no explanation.

Westlake’s heister (or rather, Stark’s) has no interest in sex while he’s working, then a very intense interest after the job is done, which lasts a few months, then fades away entirely until after his next job. I’ve explained in an earlier piece where I think Westlake got the idea for that (see Genealogy of a Hunter).

Marlowe’s idea, according to Kelly, may have come from the fact that he had a problem with his foreskin that sometimes made intercourse very painful for him (you know, there are downsides to having a biographer, even one as capable and devoted as Mr. Kelly, but thankfully the dead don’t embarrass easily).

Really, the crucial difference is that Marlowe’s guy has a sort of resigned tolerance to what he regards as a problem he and the women in his life have to put up with.  While Parker doesn’t give a damn, has no problem at all with his cyclical drives.  Everybody else has a problem, not him.  It’s not a disability.  It’s how he is.  If you don’t feel like having sex, why should that bother you?  When his cycle changes, later in the series, we’re given believable explanations for that.  Marlowe wasn’t that good at developing his characters over a series of books.  Westlake was as good at writing series fiction as anyone ever has been, or ever will be.

But yet again–hard to see how either of these books could have influenced the other.  They came out too close together, and they were being written right around the same time.  So again.  Coincidence.  But starting to get weird.  And you know what Freud said.

And one thing I’d like to know–Westlake wrote The Hunter specifically for the Gold Medal imprint–where The Name of the Game is Death was published.  Gold Medal rejected Westlake’s novel.  Because it was too hardcore for them?   Much as I think The Hunter is a better book, Marlowe’s protagonist (who calls himself Chet Arnold for most of the book, though we’re quite sure that’s not his real name), makes even Parker seem gentlemanly by comparison.

Parker mutilates his dead wife’s corpse after she kills herself (at his urging), so she won’t be identified right away (this being the same wife that shot him earlier in the book, but who claims to still love him).  Marlowe’s Chet rapes a woman more or less to see that look on her face (no erectile dysfunction there), then later shoots her several times in a rage. He has his reasons, she’s not a good person, she did terrible things, but you see what I mean about a movie adaptation being a challenge.

No, in all probability, they rejected Westlake’s novel because they already had their sociopathic armed robber book for the year, and didn’t feel like the market needed another one.  There were never a whole lot of books in this vein, even at the peak of the era of lurid paperbacks–it was a very specialized sub-genre, and the bad guys almost always died in the end.  Westlake seems to have gone to Dell after that, and they also turned him down.  And then to Pocket Books, where Bucklin Moon told him to rewrite the ending so Parker got away with everything, and then write a bunch more books about him.

Gold Medal might have asked for more books about Marlowe’s robber (who didn’t get away with anything, but was still alive at the end, if not very happy)–except Marlowe’s book was apparently was too hardcore for even the Gold Medal readership.  Not a big seller for them.  The Hunter seems to have done much better for Pocket.  As it well deserved to, but that’s got nothing to do with book sales, as anyone who has perused the best seller lists knows full well.

Skipping ahead to 1969, Marlowe, who had hit a bit of a slump, had been persuaded by Nussbaum and others to do a sequel to The Name of the Game is Death, and as already mentioned, it’s at least as much Nussbaum’s book as Marlowe’s, and it’s not nearly as good (though it sure ain’t dull).   Reception to this one was apparently more enthusiastic, though–the first book had acquired a reputation by then, and the market was more permissive (thanks in part to the Parker novels).

So Gold Medal wanted a third book, stat–it was published the same year as the second, 1969.  But they wanted the protagonist, now calling himself Earl Drake (a name Nussbaum came up with) to stop robbing banks.  They asked Marlowe to change the genre–from hardboiled crime fiction to spy thriller.

According to Joseph Hoffmann’s well-known article on Marlowe,  Gold Medal made this request because they were now publishing the Parker novels, and once again, they felt like one ultra-violent armed robber was enough, and this time Marlowe was the odd man out.  Irony abounds in this story, as you see.

However, Marlowe never said anything about this (if he had, I would have at least one instance of him referring directly to Donald Westlake).  His story was that they wanted Drake to get dragooned into secret agent work because they were publishing John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee private eye series, which had started in 1964.

Charles Kelly found this very hard to swallow, and so do I.  Drake and McGee have nothing in common except a propensity for gunplay, and gunplay was the raison d’etre of every other book Gold Medal ever published.  Drake became more like McGee by turning secret agent, not less.   So why didn’t Marlowe just say they didn’t want another heister on the payroll?   What’s going on here?

The story is even more confusing when you consider that The Sour Lemon Score, the last Gold Medal Parker, came out that same year, 1969.  But negotiations probably took place the year before that.  Gold Medal was never on the best of terms with Westlake, though he gave them four great books.  If Marlowe had held out a little longer, maybe his criminal protagonist could have remained his old independent sociopathic self (not that he was ever what you’d call a goody-goody).

But my own feeling is that Marlowe didn’t have another book like Name of the Game in him by then, and it was probably easier for him to just crank out a bunch of formulaic espionage potboilers–not to mention more lucrative.  But again–coincidence?   And again–I don’t know.  Wherever one writer was, the other seemingly had to be somewhere else.   And if either of them ever said one word about this parallel track they were on for around a decade, I’m not aware of it.

I should also mention that One Endless Hour, the long-delayed sequel to The Name of the Game is Death (a book that Marlowe never originally intended to have a sequel) begins with the protagonist getting plastic surgery to change his appearance after he was badly burned in the previous book.  The Man With the Getaway Face, the brilliant and quickly penned sequel to The Hunter (a book that Westlake never originally intended to have a sequel) had, six years previously, begun with Parker getting plastic surgery to alter his appearance, so that he could avoid the retribution of his enemies from the first book.  Though that’s not so much a coincidence as a necessary development stemming from the endings of the two earlier books, and of course David Goodis had beaten both of them to the punch there with Dark Passage.

When Gold Medal turned Chet Arnold into Earl Drake, and made him the improbable hero of a long-running spy series, they promoted him as “Drake–The Man With Nobody’s Face.”  Which probably isn’t coincidental (or terribly coherent), but I don’t think Marlowe came up with that ad copy, any more than he came up with the name Earl Drake.

Now let me go back a bit, to 1963, when Westlake published The Score, one of the best of the Parker novels (honestly, one of the best novels I’ve ever read–I try to avoid fanboy gushing here, but it’s an amazing little book).  The premise is that a disgraced police captain of a small western mining town, who was fired for corruption, has proposed to Parker and some of his associates that they plunder all of the town’s assets in one night.  He doesn’t share his motives with them.

The premise of Marlowe’s Shake A Crooked Town is that Carl Thompson, the disgraced police chief of a small upstate New York burg who was fired for corruption (by equally corrupt cronies) comes to Killain, knowing his reputation for toughness, asking Killain to help him get his job back and throw these other bums in that sewn-up town out (for a fee, naturally).  There’s no heist, Thompson is murdered before they ever get back to his hometown, no indication he wanted to burn the whole place to the ground–his wife and kid are there.

Oh, and I should mention Killain is clearly about to take Thompson’s attractive French widow to bed as the story ends.  He knew her as an attractive tomboy (I believe the French would say ‘gamine’) when they fought together in the French Resistance many years before.  This is after he repeatedly beds the luscious town librarian, having previously bedded his longtime steady girlfriend in Manhattan. Plus a cute redheaded sixteen year old at the boarding house he’s staying at throws herself at him, but he turns her down flat, telling her to come back and see him in two years.  You see what I mean about the rolling eyes thing.

And this is a minor minor thing, but the big fight scene in Marlowe’s book comes when Killain tangles with a hulking brute named Jigger Kratz (and pulverizes him, I shouldn’t need to mention).  I would hope no parent would ever willingly name a child Jigger–maybe it’s a nickname.   I’ve only come across the name Jigger in one other book–Who Stole Sasson Manoon?, by Donald E. Westlake.  And in that book it’s the name of a cute young redhead who wants to be an actress.  You may remember I wondered in my review of that book where the hell Westlake got that name from.

Okay, I don’t believe these similarities are coincidence.   I think Westlake read Marlowe’s book, saw a useful plot component in a very bad novel, lifted it, remodeled it, and vastly improved upon it.

And one more thing–Westlake’s book ends with Parker going to bed with a woman who was sleeping with the disgraced police chief who lied to him and tried to use him, and ended up dead.  It does add a nice little ring of masculine triumph to the ending, doesn’t it?   But it’s so damned well written, my eyes never rolled even once.

Moving on to 1966, Marlowe produced Four For The Money, a sort of anti-heist novel.  The narrator/protagonist is Slick, a young hustler, not the violent type, who has just been released from jail.  While there, he got roped into a scheme concocted by Blackie, a hardened repeat offender, who is in the heavy, as Alan Grofield might put it.  There’s two other members of the string Blackie recruited in prison.  They’re all due to be released, and since Slick gets out first, he’s got to go to Desert City Nevada, a fictional gambling town, midway between Vegas and Reno in size.

His job is to set things up so that the gang can blend in once everybody else arrives, and look around for an easy target to hit.  When they do that, it quickly becomes apparent there are no easy targets to hit.  But Blackie, who spends a lot of time cleaning his little Mauser handgun, is obsessed with this job, and makes it clear that if his increasingly cold-footed colleagues pull out on him, he’ll just pull jobs on his own.  They know he’ll get caught and lead the law right to them. They’re all ex-cons, and they roomed together in the joint.  If Blackie goes down, they all do.

Here’s the kicker–they don’t really want to pull the job anymore.  Slick managed to buy a motel in town, to serve as a front for their operation, and it turned out to be a very lucrative business.  He met a nice girl (really nice, a short stacked brunette, who sounds an awful lot like the girls Jim Thompson protagonists keep getting hung up on, only not crazy).

Slick wants to settle down with this girl.  They’re all enjoying the straight life now, him and the other two guys in the string–they never want to go back to prison, and they don’t need one last big score.   But they have to pull the job so Blackie will go away and leave them alone.  Then they pull the job, and turns out Blackie always intended to kill them and take it all for himself.   You want to know what happens then, read the book.  One of Marlowe’s best, as I said.

It’s a bit reminiscent of The Score–gang tries to plunder a town out in the desert–but not very.  I’ve no doubt Marlowe read Westlake’s book, but he’d have also read Lionel White’s The Big Caper, published in 1955.  That’s probably an influence on both of the later books, but much more on Marlowe’s than Westlake’s (White’s book has the same idea of a scary master criminal forcing people who want to go straight to pull a job with him, and there’s a romantic subplot, and etc).   I’ve read all three, and White’s is the weakest of the bunch. Having an idea first is not the same thing as doing it best.

So I would hope those of you who have read the next book in the queue, which is Drowned Hopes, already know what I’m getting at here.  There’s a character in that book named Tom Jimson.  People have assumed that’s an homage to Jim Thompson (as well as a certain noxious weed).  Westlake was adapting a Jim Thompson novel to the screen right around the same time he was working on that book, so no doubt it is a humorous anagrammatic tip of the hat.  But I also think it’s a cunning head fake.  He points in one direction while his eyes go another.  Tom Jimson was inspired in part by Blackie from Four For The Money.  

See, there’s no Jim Thompson novel that ends that way.   Thompson didn’t really write much about heisters–not his area.  Yeah, The Getaway, but it’s not very similar at all.  And honestly, Tom Jimson is a much better scarier funnier character than Marlowe’s Blackie, but he’s got that same dogged single-mindedness, the same touching devotion to guns,  the same general lack of regard for human life, that same nasty little one-track mind (and Westlake knew all about one-track minds, well before he ever read Marlowe’s book, so I’m not saying Tom is all Blackie–there’s lots more there, and we’ll talk about it).

Westlake once again seeing a good idea (this time in a pretty decent book) and making away with it.  I can’t know this, but I see what I see.  I just don’t know what it means.  I don’t know what any of this means.  I can just sort of fumble around in the dark, with insufficient information to go on, knowing there’s something there, but unable to make any kind of sense out of it.

Westlake and Marlowe had to be aware of each other, from the early 60’s onwards.  They undoubtedly kept up with each others’ work to some extent.  They knew their paths kept crossing and recrossing in the incestuous little branch of the mystery genre each was so well known for.  Many of the coincidences I’ve listed here are coincidences, nothing more–but they’re coincidences Westlake in particular would have noted with interest. Because Westlake didn’t believe in coincidences any more than Freud did.  “A realist is someone who thinks the world is simple enough to be understood.  It isn’t.”

So they borrowed ideas from each other, and from other writers, and they each did their own thing with them, and they co-existed, occupying the same space, without ever directly encountering each other, or perhaps understanding each other.  Such different men, writing such similar stories, in such variant ways.  If Westlake had started writing in his 40’s, and Marlowe in his 20’s, maybe their positions in the genre would be reversed.  Again–I don’t know.  I do know Marlowe died a few years before Westlake started work on Drowned Hopes.

Anyway, I thought it was worth mentioning.  What do you think?

I think I’m going to take a break for the holiday weekend, and then tackle one of Westlake’s longest novels–definitely his longest series novel.  The Dortmunder Epic par excellence.  Very long, and very densely packed with both story and trenchant social observation.  I swore I would not make this a four-parter.  And I won’t.  I’m a man of my word.  But you know me.  I’m sneaky.  I find loopholes.  I make mental reservations.

See, my feeling is that this book is actually four books in one volume.  So I’m going to write four separate book reviews.  That’s not at all the same thing as writing a four part review of one book.  Oh look, now you’re rolling your eyes.  Well, go ahead and roll ’em.

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36 Comments

Filed under Donald Westlake novels, John Dortmunder novels, Parker Novels, Richard Stark

36 responses to “Mr. Westlake and Mr. Marlowe

  1. rinaldo302

    I swear, I learn so much reading this blog. Thank you. One teeny irrelevant side issue: the name Jigger also turns up as the name of the villain (the protagonist’s criminal friend) in the musical Carousel.

    • Ah, maybe that’s where they both got it from. Honestly, it must have been a fairly common nickname at some point in time. But apart from being used as a rather informal unit of measurement in mixing drinks, I only ever came across even the word in The Grapes of Wrath, when it was used in a certain politically incorrect poem composed by an incidental character, and referring to the genitalia of an African American. And I think you can guess what word the aspiring poet rhymed it with.

  2. Ray Garraty

    That’s a nice investigation here, delve into sociology of literature. One expects that in the tight circle everyone reads everyone and borrows some elements. It’s also mass culture: the elements are all there and the same, they are just re-worked and re-arranged. Keep in mind those contracts when a writer had to produce a few books a year. You should get your story elements and characters somewhere. I don’t think you’re imagining things here.
    You’re imagining another thing: that Marlowe had written one good book. If that one is his best, then I don’t expect anything from his other novels.
    http://mysteryfile.com/blog/?p=40956

    • I know for a fact you have shelled out good money for much worse books. You didn’t pay one cent for Name of the Game, and now you are definitely complaining. 😉

  3. supremely rugged and muscular hotel bell captain

    “You’re going away for thirty years, sister, if they don’t hang you by that sweet neck. But first you have some beds to turn down.”

    • Johnny Killain never turned down a bed in his life, if there was a broad in it. Unless she was under-age, in which case he told her to come back in a few years. Scruples! And again, I’m not complaining. Sure beats the other Marlowe’s approach to the fair sex. Poor Annie Riordan. 😦

  4. The plot of Four For The Money also reminds me vaguely of Help I Am Being Held Prisoner. Harry Kent is in an OK situation — he gets to leave the prison sometimes, have some fun, date the nice girl he met, but these scary guys are forcing him to do a robbery.

    • And they all eventually go straight, and settle down in town. It’s a comic universe, and Marlowe couldn’t really do comedy. Phil Giffen is Blackie with a sense of proportion–he wants to do the job because he planned it, he’s got a sense of professional pride, but he was never going to doublecross anybody. There’s also a very heavily muscled safecracker in Marlowe’s book, a decent easygoing guy you still wouldn’t want to cross–Westlake made him into the frightening Billy Glinn, and threw in Jerry Bogentrodder for good measure.

      The other string member from Marlowe’s book is a much younger version of the character from The Name of the Game is Death, the same mercurial unstable personality, a bomb waiting to go off–but before the point of no return–same affection for animals, same temper, he just needs some seasoning (that he never gets). Marlowe identifies very strongly with that character–Westlake doesn’t do a variation on him. A tragic character, little potential for a comedy.

      Harry is Slick, Marlowe’s narrator–but instead of being a con artist forced to be a heister, he’s a practical joker forced to be a heister, and nobody in the string knows who he really is, or what he really did. In both cases, though, he finds himself–and a great girl–in the small town his situation forces him to live in–but he tells his girl the truth about himself the night he meets her. Marlowe’s, best as you can tell, never did.

      And again, Westlake’s book is a lot better. But again, you can see how he’s reacting to Marlowe. And I missed it entirely. Cunningly concealed in the surface details of a very different narrative.

      You read Four For The Money, Mike? If you got all that from my review, I’m very impressed. With my synopsis. 😉

      • Like I said, never heard of the guy. FFTM is $3.03 (really three-oh-three) on Kindle. Sold.

        • Okay, then I’m really impressed.

          With my synopsis, but also with your ability to extrapolate from it.

          I’ve read a bunch of other Marlowe novels, and didn’t see anything Westlake might have borrowed in them. Honestly, the two I have pictured up top–one of his Marlowe’s worst (though still enjoyable) books, and one of his best (and least typical) efforts–are the only ones where I thought the similarities that keep recurring between them in this period were anything other than coincidental. And honestly, the coincidental stuff is much more interesting. Genre authors take from each other with both hands, all the damn time. With so many deadlines to meet, they don’t really have much choice.

  5. The Name of the Game is Death is $2.99 for the Kindle. Sounds like a plan.

    • A great buy. But somehow, I just had to have a copy of the original paperback, with that iconic Gold Medal cover. To me, that’s the definitive Gold Medal, and yet it was a flop for them (and this was a publisher that routinely had books that sold a million copies or more).

      So much of a writer’s career hinges on luck. If that book had been a huge seller for Marlowe, he might have buckled down and written more books about the character right away. By the time he got back to that guy, he’d lost a lot of his edge (they both had). Maybe he didn’t have the potential for a long-running series in his original form, and maybe Marlowe couldn’t have fashioned a sequel half as good as Westlake did for Parker–something that opened up all kinds of potential storylines. Maybe his heister was the kind who burns out quickly, and had to be turned into a more conventional type in order to be a series character.

      But Westlake got lucky–Bucklin Moon read The Hunter, saw the potential, gave Westlake the time and freedom to experiment. A good editor is the best kind of luck any writer can encounter. But Westlake had to make that luck happen–he could have just given up on the book, after being rejected at least twice. He kept shopping it around. He knew he had something.

      • If your eyes ever get as bad as mine are (God forbid), you’ll welcome a device with adjustable font sizes.

        • I use a device like that all the time. Makes my life a lot easier (so many more books available, and they take up so much less space). And yeah, most of those Gold Medals have really small type. It’s just that in this particular case, I don’t care.

          And my eyes are terrible, but so far that invention of the Mad Arab, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham (whew!) has kept me reading. I don’t even need bifocals. Because my eyes are such different strengths, just my regular glasses give me the same deal.

  6. I finished The Name of the Game is Death. It starts out like a house afire: the narrator (Chet) leads a bloody armed bank robbery gone mostly wrong, then goes on the lam (still bloody), and travels to find with his partner, who’s disappeared while holding the loot (yup, more blood). Now comes a long, frankly dull section where he tries to blend in and suck up to the local powers that be (which he does but that never matters) while trying to find out what happens to his partner and the money. Eventually he figures out who’s taken them both (a while after the reader has), and things speed up to a satisfyingly bloody climax. Shorten the middle section to a chapter or two, and this could be a classic of sorts.

    There’s one scene that I think is even more violent than the way you described it. The blonde postmistress agrees to a date with Chet because she’s arranged for her boyfriend the cop to find them in a motel room and beat the crap out of Chet. This is a game they play frequently, that turns them both on. (The same game turns up in Brothers, William Goldman’s genuinely awful sequel to Marathon Man. I don’t know if that’s coincidence or not. By the way, “genuinely awful” is an understatement. If you’ve never heard of it, count your blessings.) Chet outsmarts them, so he and the blonde aren’t interrupted. It reads like she’s resigned herself to having sex with Chet, so to punish her he sodomizes her instead. For about eight hours.

    • Hmm–doesn’t read that way in my copy, which is the original text–Marlowe rewrote the book somewhat for a later edition, which may be what you have. There’s no details about what exactly he does to her, just that she’s walking funny afterwards, and muttering that her lawman boyfriend will kill Chet (at which point Chet reminds her that her guy is the jealous type, extremely violent, and will assume she was a willing partner).

      Chet meets her afterwards, she’s looking daggers at him, and he says something about her maybe not being able to sit down, asks her what ‘colour’ welts she’s wearing these days (hah, never noticed this before–my British reprint of the Gold Medal original– identical in every other respect, including cover art and pagination–sticks in that pointless silent ‘u’ the Brits use–they actually employed somebody over there to read through each book and stick that ‘u’ in there, because those damn bloody Yanks can’t get away with rationalizing our spelling practices!).

      Given that Marlowe was into spanking women (but wasn’t yet writing openly about that, as he did in some later books, where the women all love getting their behinds warmed), I assume that’s what Lucille is angry about. I don’t remember any references to anal in any of his sex scenes. I never read the rewritten edition of this book.

      If you have the rewritten version, you might have missed this–Chet tries to have a (fully consensual) encounter with Hazel, the tall redheaded bar owner (who becomes his steady girlfriend from the third book onwards, and is a whole lot less interesting in those books). He can’t perform, and she’s understanding (ouch), but wants to know what the problem is. He’s already told us he never really knows for sure if he’s going to be able to get it up before an encounter, except in certain situations. He tells her he marches to a different band.

      “What’s the music?” she asked me directly.

      “Excitement,” I said after I caught myself. I’d nearly blurted out the truth. I’d nearly said “guns.” With that air crackling with tension and a gun in my hand I’m nine feet tall and the best damn man you ever saw, right afterward. There’s another time too. I’m not so proud of that.

      Which I interpret as him saying he can get it up when he’s taking a woman by force (maybe spanking her?), something he’d never do to Hazel (or any nice girl), because he genuinely likes her, but maybe also because she’s six feet tall and powerfully built, and he’s 5’10 and on the scrawny side. Even if she was into roleplaying, the ravishment would lack credibility.

      And my understanding is that this passage was either rewritten or just plain written out of the later edition, because it didn’t match up with the later books, where Chet has no sexual problems at all (let me know). Come to think of it, this could be one of the reasons The Name of the Game is Death didn’t do so well with the heavily male Gold Medal readership, even though Chet rocks Hazel’s world in bed shortly afterwards. Then comes the rape scene with Lucille. There’s no particular act of violence that comes before he tries tries again (maybe just the anticipation of it?), so Marlowe wasn’t really trying to make the pattern consistent. He had an interesting idea, but he didn’t develop it, which is fairly typical of him.

      Something else I never noticed before–Jed, the friendly young guy Chet becomes pals with in that Florida town, makes a comment about how New York is just a lot of small towns, and that’s something Westlake often mentioned in his books. Including Memory, which of course almost nobody had read at the time. Marlowe spent some time in New York, but was never as familiar with it as Westlake. I wish I knew what the hell was going on between those two. Was there some kind of correspondence we don’t know about? Mental telepathy?

      Oh well, not everything can be explained in a world that’s not simple enough to be understood. Most Marlowe books don’t remind me of Westlake at all, particularly the later ones. But some of the early ones, there are weird affinities. Westlake got better as a writer as time went on. Marlowe went the other way. Even before the amnesia.

      As to the Levin novel, basically both books are describing a variation on a scam called the Badger Game. Probably still some folks out there playing it.

      PS: Much as I understand why nobody ever made a film of Marlowe’s novel, it’s a damned shame they didn’t try for maybe a somewhat edited version back in the 90’s–Bruce Willis as Chet–Suzie Plakson as K’Ehleyr, I mean Hazel. Whole lotta woman. 😉

      • Now that I’ve had breakfast, let me respond to your review–bearing in mind that you read an electronic edition, that may have been the rewritten version (still fundamentally the same book, and some people even think the rewrite is better in certain respects). Let’s also remember that I read a British reprint that was identical in all regards to the first American edition other than some archaic spellings. So bearing all that in mind–how would a certain Jim Thompson sheriff (who also first appeared in a Gold Medal paperback) have put it? “Well now, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but then again, I’m not saying you’re right neither.”

        Every time I read that book, it grabs me, and won’t let go. Yes, the middle part too. To me, that’s a necessary lull in the storm, so that Marlowe can build to the fiery climax. It’s a very well-paced book.

        But that middle part is where you see the flaws in Marlowe’s style most clearly. He makes Chet too chatty, too inclined to share–he wants to humanize his sociopath, make us like him, in spite of ourselves. He wants us to know about all these interests Chet has, apart from stealing and shooting and raping and stuff. And because these are activities Marlowe himself is interested in, there is a bit of a Mary Sue aspect to that.

        Interests like horses–and his comments on thoroughbreds are on the money, and seemingly prescient, though he cheated a mite there. Yes, a broodmare sired by Count Fleet produced a great champion, named Kelso–who was born in 1957. That’s obviously who Marlowe is thinking about, and it didn’t take any kind of horse savvy for Chet to confidently make that prediction given when this book was written. Which probably means this story is actually taking place in the 50’s. Which I think is where many of Marlowe’s 60’s novels are actually set. If not even sooner. He was that kind of writer.

        I’m a sucker for animals, as you know, dogs especially, and German Shepherds I particularly admire, though I’ve never owned a purebred (Max’s mother was a purebred Shepherd, or so I’m told). So could be I that I rate this book higher than some would, simply because I can so strongly identify with those aspects of the story–because I can understand a man who likes animals better than people, but still likes some human companionship now and again. When he refuses to run Kaiser down, and says “Somebody else will have to explain it to you” I don’t need any explanation. I get it. Any dog lover would.

        But then Marlowe slaps you in the face with the reality that this guy, affable though he can be at times, is a stone cold killer, who justifies his lifelong criminal rampage by telling us about how as a boy he lost his cute kitten to some bully, who he then started beating the shit out of, and wouldn’t stop, no matter how hard his father beat him. As a character in The Princess Bride might say, Chet has an overdeveloped sense of vengeance. Like Parker, he’s got this button in his brain you do not want to push, but unlike Parker, he wants to justify his actions, explain them. And he needs to do more than just make the people who push that button dead–he needs to make them suffer. Which to me, makes him less than Parker. More to the point, he’s a character that is all used up by the end. But he still ended up being in a lot more books, none of which are even close to the level of this one.

        The structure of the novel–alternating between the protagonist’s present and past–is interesting. Biography of a Killer. And some that biography, we know for a fact, is Marlowe’s. He’s saying “This could have been me, if things had gone differently.” I tend to doubt that, but he was reportedly cool under fire–this one time he and some friends repossessed an automobile, and this guy was taking potshots at them, holes appearing in the windows, and Marlowe just sat there, calmly reading the owner’s manual until he found the relevant passage on how to get the car moving, not even slightly scared by the bullets whizzing past his head. A really really strange guy.

        It’s compelling, this book. It’s also crude, and often tasteless. There’s a certain amateur quality to it, but it’s inspired amateurism–a talented journeyman finding that one really good book he had in him. It’s everything Westlake said the Gold Medal crime books were at their best. It’s interesting. But is it a classic? Depends who you ask. I mean, some people think the Edsel is a classic. 😉

        • “My name isn’t Chet Arnold. You killed my kitty-cat. Prepare to get the shit beaten out of you.”

          And, yeah, after Chet takes a dislike to the doctor, he goes way out of his way to create a reason to kill the guy, something that wouldn’t occur to Parker in a million years.

          • Which is fine, it’s a different character. But it underlines why Parker was and is a great series character, and ‘Earl Drake’ ultimately wasn’t. There is absolutely nothing more we could learn about this guy after the first book. We know all there is to know. So he had to be changed, and changing him ruined him.

      • Yes, we read the same version, which doesn’t say “sodomize”; it says “abuse”. Which I suppose might mean spanking, but since it’s not described, I assumed it was something more taboo. I thought the question about welts was Chet implying that the cop beat her afterward for being unfaithful.

        • I think I came to the same conclusion, the first time I read it. But then, after reading later Marlowe novels, and that biography, I drew a different conclusion.

  7. Now I’ve finished Four for the Money, and overall I’d recommend it. Slick is a great character: he’s the guy who’s always been a bit too smart for his own good, too quick to see the shortcuts, but when forced by circumstances (the cops and his girl) to tread the straight path, the same smarts make him a success there. The guy that didn’t work for me was Blackie. For the story to work, he has to be scary, but Smitty could take him apart, Slick could think rings around him, and the kid can bust him in the mouth with no response either than a hollow threat to shoot him. Make Blackie more like Chet Arnold, and you’d really have something.

    • The Chet Arnold of the group is the kid, of course. The same character, but at the start of his criminal career (which in this case is brief). Oh, and without the spanking fetish, maybe that comes later in life, I dunno.

      I think Name of the Game is much better, but it is refreshing to see Marlowe take a lighter approach (this they could have easily made a movie of, but never did). By no means were all his endings dark–most of them weren’t–but I’d say this is easily the best of his books that avoids the really twisted stuff. Slick is a very unusual protagonist for him. No murderous impulses, no odd sexual peccadilloes, and much like Roy Dillon in The Grifters, he wasn’t really born for the life he’s in (or outgrew it). But with no Oedipal impulses to hold him back, he’s free to remake himself. I would assume Marlowe read all the Jim Thompson he could lay his hands on, and much more in the same general vein (which is to say jugular).

      I’d suggest that it’s precisely because Blackie doesn’t entirely work as a character that Westlake borrowed aspects of him to make Tom Jimson. He’s more of a plot complication than a person–there to remind us why Slick and Smitty earned their second chance, even though they committed a very serious crime (and then uncommitted it).

      However, it’s worth pointing out that Tiny could easily just reach over and crush Tom’s skinny neck with one hand, and their problems are over. In both cases, the problem is that this one character is a killer, and none of the others are. In Marlowe’s story, Tommy has the potential, but he needs a trigger for his rage. In Westlake’s story, Tiny talks a good game, but has he ever really killed anybody? If he did, he’d be permanently exiled from the Dortmunder string.

      You can sort of vaguely imagine him actually killing in the past–maybe some of his stories are true–but mainly he just tells stories about the terrible things he’s done to people so he won’t have to actually do terrible things to people. He tries that approach on Tom, but Tom mainly just exhibits professional interest.

      So that’s what Westlake borrowed–this guy has an obsession to get cash from this particular source, he’s using these other guys who are less on the bend than him, and he’s not in a mood to share when it’s over. In both books, the rest of the string has no real enthusiasm for the job, but they’d like the money, and they stand to get in serious trouble if the bad seed goes ahead and does it without them. Westlake had to add the additional motivation of mass murder. And Westlake also has his gang feel the pull of the straight life in a small town, but they, unlike Slick and Smitty, were born to be bad. Just not entirely bad.

      But so many differences–Tom’s double-cross is no surprise to either us or the gang. Tom has a sense of humor, a lot of interesting sidebars to his character–he’s more dangerous, because he’s smarter, figures all the angles but one. He’s less realistic, really–but the Dortmunders aren’t about realism. Still, you could say Marlowe’s book is better as a single focused narrative, whereas Drowned Hopes is more of a compendium of stories held together by a unifying plot thread. Marlowe never wrote anything remotely like Drowned Hopes, and I don’t think he could have. But if he had, very unlikely any of the publishers he’d written for would have accepted it.

      We don’t really know how much Marlowe wrote–he may have written sleaze under pseudonyms, as Westlake did, but it’s much less well documented. He may have written actual porn. Kelly isn’t sure. So I’m certainly not. We know both more and less about him than we do about Westlake. But in the end, the books are what matter.

  8. One more thing about The Name of the Game is Death: the baseball trivia is all crap. The 1928 Series between the Pirates and the Yankees? Nope, that was 1927. (Yes, the ’27 Yankees, the year Ruth hit 60, possibly the best team in history. ) . And the year Cobb and Speaker both played for the A’s (which *was* ’28), neither Heilman nor Fothergill was the third outfielder; they both played for the Tigers. Actually, since Speaker played only 64 games, the question, which assumes that he and Cobb both started, doesn’t even make sense.

    • In that whole biography about Marlowe, I don’t remember baseball coming up once–possibly not a major interest of his. Nor could he easily look it all up, writing in the early 60’s. Guys writing Gold Medal paperback crime novels rarely if ever looked anything up. It’s not that kind of book.

      Perhaps a more important question to ask–why is he having his narrator tell us all this? Why do we need to know what he thinks about baseball and racehorses?

      Now, if Marlowe were known as a baseball trivia whiz, I’d say he had Chet make those mistakes on purpose–to tell us he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. He speaks authoritatively on every subject, even when he’s not well-versed in it, because that’s his personality. He can’t admit personal weaknesses, or gaps in his knowledge, and obviously he’s got plenty of both. That may have been a problem with Marlowe himself. That may be a problem with lots of people. I may have that problem myself. At times. 😐

      Westlake wrote a fair bit about organized crime, and he clearly knew the bare minimum of its history. But he’s more careful about exposing gaps in his knowledge. He writes more strategically, to avoid committing himself in areas he’s not sure about. If a protagonist or narrator of his makes a mistake like that, I’m pretty sure it’s deliberate on the author’s part. With Marlowe, we just don’t know enough about him.

      And of course, the one thing we know about his memory is that he seems to have lost it. If he couldn’t remember writing the book itself, probably the question of whether he could remember what year the Pirates played the Yankees (when he was ten years old) would have seemed trivial indeed.

      But this is something I don’t think anybody writing about this book has ever brought up. Nobody ever thought to check (or do you actually carry all this around in your head, Mike?) How many more mistakes like this are there in Chet’s bloody stream of consciousness? Is this a glitch, or a feature?

      Either way, this is as inside baseball as it gets.

      Oh thank you for the pun, sir. 😉

      • Okay, what’s the point of having a digital copy of a biography if you don’t use the search function? ‘baseball’–this is what comes up.

        He also became a fixture downdown at Smalley’s Bar and Grill. There he spent his evenings at “the longest bar in Huron County,” smoking, talking sports and politics, periodically lifting a single finger to order another 7 and 7 (Seagram’s Seven Crown whiskey and 7UP) and playing pool (“Hell of a shot!” he’d exclaim whenever an opponent sunk a ball).

        “He was always interesting, never ran out of something interesting to talk about,” Gempel said. “He had a wealth of knowledge, a mind that wouldn’t quit,” Marlowe was always up for a trip to Detroit to watch Tigers baseball or Lions football, and he hadn’t lost his love for gambling, though he didn’t play the part of the high roller.

        Okay, so what does this tell us? Clearly he did fancy himself a sports trivia maven, and would hold forth with authority on just about any subject–just like his murderous protagonist, who had pretty much exactly the same childhood as him, and who he clearly identifies with pretty much completely–a road not taken, and maybe he even half-regrets that–bit of a Walter Mitty. Crime fiction’s answer to Clifford Clavin, one is tempted to say. Actually John Ratzenberger wouldn’t be a half-bad choice to play him in a movie.

        But would he really have made so many serious errors on a subject he talked about so frequently? In an environment full of sports trivia buffs, would somebody who made such glaring errors in public really have been able to set himself up as a sort of barroom pundit? We’re left with three possibilities.

        1)He made the mistakes on purpose, for readers who, like him, were trivia mavens, to tell us Chet, who resembles him in so many ways, is unable to admit when he’s wrong, or even to consider the possibility. A know-it-all can’t admit he doesn’t, in fact, know it all. That’s why Chet, quite contrary to most of Marlowe’s other protagonists, is constantly bending our ears on subjects that have absolutely no bearing on what’s going on. He’s trying to prove something to us, and ends up proving the opposite. And at the end of the book, in about the worst situation a person could be in, he still refuses to admit he could have been wrong. In The Vengeance Man, his protagonist is in a similarly bad situation at the end, and it’s all his fault because he’s, you know, vengeful. He says he doensn’t know what he could have done differently. Marlowe was often a shallow writer, but not always.

        2)Marlowe was writing so fast, he made mistakes (1928 could be a simple typo–don’t laugh, I bet that happened a lot in this kind of publishing) and didn’t ever get around to fixing them.

        3)He was already having memory issues by the time he wrote the book, and doing his best to cover them up.

        What do you think?

        Here’s a little known fact–though I like to read the odd historical work about it, I don’t know spit about baseball. Though I know there was something called a spitball. 😉

  9. periodically lifting a single finger to order another 7 and 7

    Heh. That’s how Bunny, who can’t speak, orders.

    Anyway, it’s not Chet who’s the self-professed expert, it’s the local bartender, whom Chet butters up by deferring to him on baseball lore. My guess is that these were honest mistakes by Marlowe, because if they’re hints that the bartender isn’t all that (much less that Chet knows he isn’t), they’re very subtle, and this is not a subtle book.

    And of course you’re right that in those days, a writer couldn’t just type http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/PHA/1928.shtml into his browser.

    • I really wish I had one of those memories, you know, the kind where you never forget anything. What are those called again? Eclectic!

      Rereading the passage (I had to do it eventually, once I found it, and Google Books wasn’t that helpful this time), I see that the bartender has never even been to a major league game. Bars and barbershops in America were filled with people whose heads were full of trivia about subjects they actually weren’t all that expert about, and the arguments could get pretty intense (Westlake is having fun with this every time Dortmunder enters the OJ Bar and Grill). And has that changed, I wonder? Mainly in that now they can get on their phones and check who’s right. Saves a lot of fistfights.

      1928 could just be a typo (his or the publisher’s), which is the simplest answer. The other stuff is really obscure and even a real buff could get it wrong. Chet says he remembers that series himself, and he remembers that was the year he got expelled from school for beating the crap out of the fat kid who killed his kitten. That’s the important part. But whatever the reason for the mistakes is, I bet he got letters for months (years!) about each and every one of them. Because there really are a lot of baseball trivia nuts out there. Hope he didn’t make any mistakes about the guns. 😮

      • Until the early 60s, you could draw a line from D.C to St Louis, and these was no major league baseball south of it. Houston got a team in ’62, the Braves moved to Atlanta in ’66, the Senators to Dallas in ’72, then Miami and Tampa got new teams in ’93 and ’98 respectively. About half the teams do their Spring Training in Florida (the others in Arizona), and there’s a lot of minor league ball in the South too; there was even more before TV sports coverage was ubiquitous. (Totally off topic, some of the saddest things I’ve ever read are the stories of black players from civilized places like California sent as young men to play minor league ball in the segregated Deep South.)

        Anyway, there were lots of baseball fans in the South, They might follow the team that trained or had a minor league affiliate nearby, or one a local boy played for. They could follow baseball via The Sporting News, as the bartender did, and overall they’d be as knowledgable as someone who lived in, say, Pittsburgh and went to a Pirates game once in a while.

        This is already too long, so let me add one more thing. Even at this remove, I could name most of the ’27 Yankees lineup. Not the pitchers so much, except for Urban Shocker because he’s named Urban Shocker. But Ruth and Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Meusel and Combs filling out the outfield, and Jumping Joe Dugan at third. Murderers Row, they were called. The Pirates, other than Big and Little Poison, not so much.

        • Oh I get that you can be a buff about baseball stats without going to the games, but there are things you can’t get from numbers. True, he could watch it on TV. Maybe the point of that aside is to say that Chet has been around, and most people he meets have led very enclosed lives.

          Hell, I live a very short bus ride from Yankee Stadium. Haven’t been to a game in over twenty years–and that was before I moved to this neighborhood. I’ve talked to older guys who are big fans–they don’t go themselves–too expensive now.

          As I said, I like reading about baseball history, but I don’t retain most of it. Lineups, scores–not relevant to me. Personalities–that’s more like it. John McGraw, now that was a personality.

          What have we learned from all this?–even that nice little catch you made about how Bunny orders his drinks the same way Marlowe did (even his biographer doesn’t make that connection). The truth of Isaiah Berlin’s asssertion that when a man writes fiction, he tells the truth about himself.

          But he does so, quite often, circuitously.

          😉

          • McGraw was a shady character. Christy Mathewson was his exact opposite; known as The Christian Gentleman, so trustworthy that if an umpire missed a play they’d ask Christy, knowing he’d be honest even if it hurt his team. Yet the two of them were not only teammates but also best friends.

            • I read an entire book about them. The Old Ball Game. I also live about a ten minute walk from where they used to work (seriously, my nabe is like a shrine to baseball history). It’s a housing project now. The John T. Brush Stairway is still over there. That’s how you get down Coogan’s Bluff. And now of course most people only know Coogan’s Bluff from a so-so Clint Eastwood movie. Well, Susan Clark is hot in it. What were we talking about?

              PS: McGraw played a rough game, and he played to win, but I don’t know that I’d call him ‘shady.’ “questionable, vague, dim, shadowy, indistinct, dark, dusky, and shaded”–he was none of those things. Okay, maybe a little dark, but that’s a good man’s failing. 😉

      • IIRC, it was the quasi-pseudonymous “Dr. A” who wrote (in The Sensuous Dirty Old Man) that he had a pretty near photographic memory — he could remember anything that was pretty near a photograph. . . .

  10. Urban Shocker! Wow, he should have been part of this! . . .

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