Friday, December 12, 2008

Forgotten Books: DRIVE EAST ON 66 -- Richard Wormser

Okay, as I said yesterday, it was inevitable that after seeing the title of James H. Cobb's West on 66, I was going to read it. Today's book is the reason why. I read it around 40 years ago, and I have to wonder if maybe Cobb's read it, too.

A cop named Andy Bastian is hired to drive a kid named Ralph from California to Kansas, where Ralph will be put into what's called, in the novel,s 1961 way, an insane asylum. Ralph is brilliant, and his father's quite rich. Accompanying Ralph and Andy is Olga Beaumont, a psychologist who's along to care for Ralph. They don't get far before it's apparent they're being followed.

This isn't an adrenaline-fueled thriller like Cobb's book. The characters following along aren't hate-filled gangsters and hitmen. There are no heart-stopping car chases, hot sex, and shoot-outs. But that doesn't mean there's no suspense. It's just a quieter kind, and it's played out along a route that runs in the opposite direction, as the titles indicate.

James mentions that Cobb's book isn't quite a pitch-perfect recreation of a Gold Medal novel. Wormser's book is pitch-perfect, not as a re-creation but as an original. Read the first couple of pages, and you'll know what I mean, I think. Wormser's descriptions of the people, the landscape, and the seedy motels are on the money. I like all Wormser's GM books, including The Invader, which one an Edgar for best paperback. If you get a chance, give one a try and see what you think.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks, Bill. Anything with that number takes me back to Route 66, the TV show. Recently watched an episode and it wasn't bad. Lots of moody anxiety.

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  2. Wormser was a consistently entertaining writer. He also had a long career in the pulps and wrote a serial for ARGOSY that I've always wanted to read, just based on the title: "Gorilla Cargo".

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  3. That's a great title, all right. I wouldn't mind reading the story, so if you ever run across it, let me know.

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  4. Bill, when was it published? The price tag and cover design (I like that funky old time motel) look like 1961 or so?

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  5. Right on the money, Fred. The '61 books had a different binding glue and different paper for the covers; they're a lot more fragile than most GM books.

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  6. Richard Wormser was a fine writer. I'll have to pick up that novel, which is one of the few by Wormser that I don't have. I recently bought a slightly water-damaged copy of the December 19, 1936 Argosy issue with his story "Gorilla Cargo." I'll be glad to loan it to you and James once I read the story. The issue also has a story by Joel Townsley Rogers and serial segments by Lester Dent and H. Bedford Jones.

    I also have an excellent cookbook by Wormser SOUTHWEST COOKERY, OR, AT HOME ON THE RANGE (Doubleday 1969). The recipes I've tried cook up very well (not always true of cook books as witness the one by the two fat ladies in the UK) but even better is the writing. I do doubt I will ever try his recipes for Morcilla De Cabrito (Kid's Blood Pudding) or Carezita (Little Head).

    Richard Moore

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  7. Send me a review of "Gorilla Cargo" and I'll publish it on the blog. A cover scan would be nice, too.

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