Friday, July 09, 2010

Forgotten Books: SHAKEDOWN -- Richard Ellington

Richard Ellington wrote only a handful of private-eye novels before disappearing from the publishing scene. One of them was Just Killing Time, reprinted in paperback as Shakedown.

A woman shows up at the office of Steve Drake with a fishy story about needing someone to watch her back when she meets with her lover in Central Park late at night. Drake takes the job, and the woman is murdered. Drake decides to look into things a bit, and he's hired for another job as consultant on at one-hour p. i. TV show that's broadcast live. And then he's hired by the wife of the producer to help her because someone's trying to shake down her and her lover. Sure enough, the shaker-downer is murdered, and Drake finds the body. And sure enough, there's a connection with the first murder.

This book originally appeared in 1953, when lots of private-eye fiction was being published. Some of it wasn't so good, but Ellington's a real pro. The writing's smooth, the plotting's clever, and Drake makes an interesting medium-boiled protagonist. There's plenty of '50s attitude here, and that might be hard for some people to get past, as it probably is in other books I've mentioned. The motive for the murders is about as early '50s as you can get, in fact. None of this bothers me at all. Ellington's worth reading, and I'm glad I picked up this book.


  1. Anonymous7:41 AM

    I'm guessing that was a very unsubtle Mitchum cover.


  2. That dangling cigarette...don't see that very often now.

  3. I've read two of Ellington's novels -- SHOOT THE WORKS and IT'S A CRIME, both of them Steve Drake novels and both of which have excellent paperback covers -- and remember liking them a lot. I need to find his other books, including this one.

  4. This one really sounds good to me. Thanks for the review and insight, Ellington isn't an author I'd heard of - or have forgotten - before.

  5. I think some Steve Drake short stories appeared in MANHUNT?

  6. Bantam did some really interesting covers in this period. They were veering away from the pulp style, but not yet into the realism. Nice.