Friday, May 21, 2010
Forgotten Books: FIND MY KILLER -- Manly Wade Wellman
George Kelley's off on a Manly Wade Wellman binge, and that inspired me to pull Find My Killer off the shelves for a look. I'm a big admirer of Wellman's stories about John the Balladeer, as well as some of his other work. Not too long ago I reviewed his Sherlock Holmes pastiche (a collaboration with his son) here. I don't know why I didn't read Find My Killer long ago, but I'm glad I finally got around to it.
Let's start with the front cover. I like it, but it has absolutely nothing with the book. Must have been lying around the office. Looks a bit like western cover that's been altered. So forget the cover.
I don't usually show the back covers of books I review, but I thought the info on this one was so interesting that I couldn't resist. It gives some nice background on Wellman.
The book's a combination of the hardboiled private-eye novel with a John Dickson Carr locked-room mystery. It works better than you might think, thanks to the smooth first-person narration of Jackson Yates, a former cop who's just out of the army. He goes to work for J. D. Thatcher, a lawyer, one of whose clients wrote codicil to his will shortly before his death implying that he knew he'd be murdered. He leaves $5000 to the person who finds his killer. You might wonder why he didn't name the person he suspected. Well, what would be the fun in that?
There are plenty of clues, both real and false, and also some hardboiled action (Jackson undergoes a savage beating). Lots of stuff about guns, most of which bears on the plot. There's romance, too. J. D. Thatcher is a woman, and Jackson's attracted to her from the start. I didn't know what to expect when I started reading, but I enjoyed this one. Worth looking for if you're in a used-book store.