Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Blondes Die Young -- Bill Peters (William P. McGivern)
The other day I commented on a novel by William P. McGivern, and Ed Gorman had this to say in the comments section: "Thanks for bringing McGivern to our attention. I became friendly with Dorothy B. Hughes the last five years of her life and we often talked about writers who had faded after their deaths. She considered McGivern one of the two or three best hardboiled writers of his generation. She always said that he was a serious writer, kind of a pulp Graham Greene. And I sure agree. There are at least eight or nine of his titles that would be in print in a just world and But Death Runs Faster is one of them. He did a post-war novel set in the jazz clubs of Chicago called Blondes Die Young---under the pen-name Bill Peters--and the historical element is fascinating. Because what he's describing is the pre-beat era that was already there--crash pads, cheap wine parties, poetry readings, heavy duty jazz and of course so much marijuana I got a contact high just reading it. He was a fine fine writer and Blondes could also easily have been a Gold Medal, too. His masterpiece was Odds Against Tomorrow, which is spiritually one of those most violent and nihlistic novels I've ever read until the very end."
After reading Ed's comment, I naturally had to check the shelves to see if I had a copy of Blondes Die Young. Sure enough, there it was, in a nice Popular Library pb edition. "Time On Her Hands -- Men On Her Mind." They don't write blurbs like that anymore. Naturally I had to read the book.
And, sure enough, Ed was absolutely right. This one could easily have been published by Gold Medal. It's boiled a lot harder than But Death Runs Faster. Lots of violence and brutality, and some of the reviews compare the book to those by Mickey Spillane. But the narrator, Bill Canalli, takes more punishment than even Mike Hammer. He gets in a lot more sack time, too, if you know what I mean and I think you do. One think I liked the book is the neat variation on Spillane's themes that McGivern works out here. I won't say anything else about that, but if you ever get a chance to read the book, you'll see what I mean. Check it out.