Thursday, June 29, 2006
Swing Low, Swing Dead -- Frank Gruber
This is Frank Gruber's only paperback original about Johnny Fletcher. It's a Belmont Book from 1964, and it's about song theft, something that probably wasn't uncommon in the 1950s. Maybe it's not uncommon even now, but this book reads as if it were written six or seven years before it was published. It would be interesting to know if it was a trunk book.
But I digress. Johnny Fletcher and his sidekick, Sam Cragg, share a room at a small hotel. They're essentially conmen, though when asked they claim to be book salesmen because that's their line. They set up on the street and sell body-building books out of a suitcase. Sam Cragg demonstrates how he can snap chains by explanding his manly chest. Did I mention that he and Fletcher live together in a hotel room? Not that there's anything wrong with that, and besides, these guys get involved with all kinds of hot chicks. They're not overcompensating, either. At least I don't think they are.
But I digress again. What happens is that Sam wins a song in a crap game, and then the guy who wrote it is poisoned, and then it turns out that someone's already recorded the song and has a big hit with it. All this is straightened out in the end. Gruber tells everything in a straightforward, no-frills way. Very light entertainment, not necessarily for everyone. Worth checking out as an artefact of a by-gone time, though.