Monday, August 01, 2005
But Death Runs Faster -- William P. McGivern
When I was a kid, I knew William P. McGivern as the author of frothy fantasy stories for magazines like Fantastic. I had no idea he was married to Maureen Daly, the author of a book called Seventeenth Summer, which I read in high school mainly because Daly supposedly wrote it when she was still in her teens. (I loved it, but I didn't tell anybody then that I'd read it because it was "a girl's book.") And I found out only later that McGivern was the author of such hardboiled classics as The Big Heat and Rogue Cop.
But Death Runs Faster (from 1948) isn't hardboiled. About medium, I'd say. And it's a formal mystery story, right down to the gathering of suspects at the end. The plot is the one about the office bully, the guy everyone hates and has a motive to kill. Of course he's murdered, and of course the narrator, Steve Blake, is the prime suspect. All that being said, McGivern presents the material in a way that would have made the book fit right in if it had been published five or six years later as a Gold Medal original. It's that good.
What might make the book even more interesting to some of you is that at the beginning of the novel, Blake takes on the editorship of a pulp detective magazine. (The office bully is his associate editor.) McGivern has a little fun with some pulp writer characters, and gives a some insight into how a pulp magazine was (or should have been) run. I found all of this highly entertaining. What I liked was how the writers all talk about Proust and Stendahl instead of, say, Carroll John Daly. And of course they talk about money, too. If you can find a copy of this book, check it out.