Sunday, August 08, 2004

Dan J. Marlowe

I've decided to do a little writing about Dan J. Marlowe for Steve Lewis's Mystery*File, so I've been re-reading some of Marlowe's books. Wow. I think he's a seriously under-rated Gold Medal writer. Everything I've been reading seems as fresh now as it did 35 or 40 years ago: Strongarm, The Name of the Game is Death, and One Endless Hour. The only thing wrong with Strongarm is the prologue, which seems unnecessary to me, especially since the novel has a terrific opening scene. Makes me wonder if the editors asked Marlowe to add the prologue. And when it comes to the other two books, you have to wonder if anybody ever wrote a better pair for Gold Medal. These were done before "Earl Drake" became a series character (probably another editorial suggestion), and he was as hard and as mean as they come. One Endless Hour also has a prologue, which sort of catches you up on who Drake is if you happened to miss The Name of the Game is Death. Which you shouldn't. One of the best Gold Medal books ever.

6 comments:

Vince said...

You're right on the money about THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH. I picked up a copy a few months ago and was completely blown away. Strong stuff. I've heard that later editions of the book were altered when Drake became a series character, but I don't know if that's true. If it is, I'm not sure which version I read. Seemed like lean, nasty stand-alone to me.

Bill said...

The original version of THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH was published in 1962, in the bad old days when GM was using the worst glue in the history of paperbacking. It's far more brittle than other glues, and the books published during that time tend to fall apart easily. The "revised" edition came out ten years later, and it's clearly a "series" book. The cover plugs "Drake, the man with nobody's face" or something along those lines. I don't know what changes were made in that one. I've never read it. Anyway, if you like NAME OF THE GAME, I can recommend ONE ENDLESS HOUR, a direct sequel.

Duane Swierczynski said...

Bill--I'm so glad you'll be doing a piece on Dan J. Marlowe. He's one of my favorite writers, and you're right, seriously underrated. I also enjoyed THE VENGEANCE MAN, which hits the ground running and doesn't stop. It is a bit of a shame what happened to the Drake character as the series progressed... the world didn't need another secret government agent. It needed Drake, as he appeared in the two original novels.

I've read about Marlowe's earlier novels... do you know if they worth tracking down?

Bill said...

Duane, I have those books that Marlowe did for Avon, but I haven't read them. I should get around to doing that. I love THE VENGEANCE MAN, too. I once wrote Marlowe about that one and asked if it had possibly been influenced by Jim Thompson. He said that it had. I wish I still had that letter, but somehow it got lost when we moved here 20 years ago.

Lee Goldberg said...

The first three DRAKE novels are fantastic -- and I never would have discovered them if it wasn't for a recommendation from you a few months ago. The next few books in the series get progressively worse... watering down the characters in tired spy plots. One of the later ones won an Edgar anyway, I think... perhaps one day I'll try that one. I've also got THE VENGEANCE MAN, and a book he co-wrote with someone else, to read.

Also now, thanks to you and Ed, I'm on a serious Whittington kick after devouring A MOMENT TO PREY, FORGIVE ME KILLER and WEB OF MURDER. What a fantastic writer...

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