The other day I saw this book on a thrift-shop shelf, and nabbed it immediately. My theory is that when you see a book with a cover like that, you buy it. After I looked the book over, I was even more pleased with the purchase than I'd expected to be. Criss-Cross is the reprint of Don Tracy's 1934 novel that forms the basis of the movie with the same name (starring Burt Lancaster, Yvonne de Carlo, and Dan Duryea (and I'm sure I've mentioned before that my father insisted on calilng him "Dan Diarrhea). It was also the basis for Stephen Soderbergh's The Underneath.
The book itself is sort of a proto-Gold Medal, published a good 15 years before GM went into the pb original business. Johnny Thompson falls for the wrong woman. He's not handsome or rich, just a down-on-his luck former boxer with a flat nose and a low-paying job as an armored-car guard. The woman marries a guy named Slim, who's a low-level heister. She doesn't love Slim, and, while she doesn't love Johnny, either, she doesn't mind a little extra-marital hanky-panky (this book's surprisingly sexy for a 1934 novel, about as frank as a typical '50s Gold Medal, in fact).
Slim finds out about the hanky-panky, and asks Johnny to help him knock over an armored car. Johnny goes along with the idea, knowing that Slim plans to kill him. Johnny's idea is to turn the tables, and he does. He comes out looking like a hero.
If you think that's the end, though, you're wrong. Being a hero isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when you're still hooked on the wrong woman. Johnny gets the idea that he can hear Slim laughing at him, though Slim's no longer among the living. And, sure enough, Slim has the last laugh.
This is a neat little noir, told in the flat, objective style that was coming on strong in the '30s. If you've only seen the movie, you might want to check it out.
And by the way, think a bit on Don Tracy. He wrote some nice pb originals himself later on, as well as some historical novels. I believe that as "Roger Fuller" he continued the Peyton Place series after Grace Metalious's death, as well as writing other media tie-ins (like Son of Flubber). He was a good writer, now mostly forgotten.