Friday, December 16, 2016

FFB: A Run in Diamonds -- Alex Saxon (Bill Pronzini)

A Run in Diamonds was published in 1973, and it's very much of its time.  Often when people say that, it sounds disparaging and condescending, and I don't mean it that way at all.  In this case, it's a compliment.  I mean, look at that cover with the guy wearing two-tone shoes, bell-bottom jeans, and a wide white belt.  That's the way people should dress.  I miss the old days.

But enough about the sartorial qualities of the cover.  The book's protagonist is a man named Carmody, who appears in several short stories by Pronzini, including the one which was expanded into this novel.   I'm not sure why the Alex Saxon name was used here, since the stories are all under Pronzini's own name.  Maybe this was intended as the first of a series of men's adventure novels, since it has a lot in common with that genre, including a higher sleaze factor than Pronzini's novels under his own name.  Not that the sleaze factor is very high.

Carmody lives on the island of Majorca and is a true tough guy who takes work as a bodyguard and does other jobs that require certain skills.  This time he's hired by a woman named Gillian Waltham to guard her while she transports some stolen diamonds from Majorca to Amsterdam.  After the transfer of the diamonds, she wants him to help her disappear completely.  He has his suspicions about the job, but he takes it, and soon afterward the twists and turns begin.  Of course Gillian was lying about almost everything, but that's the least of Carmody's problems.  There's a mysterious patrón, a killer who loves his work, and betrayals all around.

Pronzini was at the beginning of his career with this book, but his skill is already evident.  The local color is fine throughout, and the plotting is dandy.  The characters are colorful, and the action scenes are very good.  

A Run in Diamonds was published along with the Carmody stories in a collection called Carmody's Run, published as by Bill Pronzini.

Bonus feature:  Since this is Pronzini/Muller day, I thought I'd reprint my account of a visit to Bill and Marcia about a year and a half ago, along with some links to my previous reviews.  The links are below the story of the visit.

A Visit with the Mullzinis:

I'm visiting my daughter, Angela, and her husband, Tom, in sunny Sonoma, California.  Today, Art Scott and Bruce Taylor came over from Livermore and Napa, respectively, and kidnapped me.  Sort of.  They said they had a big surprise for me, but they wouldn't say what it was.  They just bundled me into Bruce's Honda CRV and took off for and undisclosed location somewhere in California.  The surprise was a visit to the home of Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller, two great writers whom it was a pleasure to see.  But the real purpose of the visit was the guided tour of the finest collection of crime fiction west of the Mississippi: hardbacks, paperbacks, and pulps included.  I've never seen such great stuff all in one place.  There's no need for me to enumerate things.  If you can think of a key crime fiction title, it was there.  In jacket and signed.  Okay, maybe not all of them, but wow.  Just wow.  And the pulps were amazing.  The paperbacks, too.   At least I own a couple of the paperbacks.  Maybe one or two of the hardbacks.  None of the pulps.  It was tough not to writhe in envy, but I managed it.  Bill, generous to a fault, even gave me a couple of his dupes.  Art and Bruce gave me even more books.  I have small pile of near mint Laser books and some other great crime paperbacks to take home with me.  This was better than the Kayo haul  And when we came back to Sonoma, Tom grilled some New York strip steaks, and Angela had mashed potatoes and salad and butter cake ready to go.  All in all, a great day.

Links:
My review of The Sins of Jordan Wise.
My review of Vixen.
My review of Strangers.

16 comments:

George said...

Love the photo! Books, books, books! I remember reading A RUN IN DIAMONDS back in the Seventies. I think my favorite Bill Pronzini novel is SNOWBOUND.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Reminded how insanely jealous I was of this trip. :)

Todd Mason said...

So, the sleaze comes in with some sexual shenanigans? Always fun.

Do you prefer the shot story collection?

Also, have you still not gathered any pulps over the years?

Bill Crider said...

Still haven't gathered many pulps. Don't have room. I like the stories, but the novel is fun.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Great seeing the picture again and reliving that trip vicariously (the only way I'm going to get to do it). I read A RUN IN DIAMONDS in 1976 and got it signed by Bill in 1983. I reread it when reading the stories in CARMODY'S RUN in 1994. Great stuff.

Bill Crider said...

He signed my copy of this in 1982 at the SF Bouchercon.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

1983 New York. That was the one where Mike Nevins brought out a suitcase of books for John D. MacDonald to sign.

We had the post-Bouchercon DAPA-EM party in Brooklyn.

I miss the old days.

Art Scott said...

I miss the old days, too. But the new days can be pretty good sometimes, like that day with you at Bill & Marcia's.

Bill Pronzini said...

My turn for a wow. Grazie for the nice review. And for reprinting the account of your visit, which I enjoyed as much as you did; I seldom have the chance to show off my collection to a knowledgable and appreciative fellow collector.

You're right that A RUN IN DIAMONDS was intended as the first of a series, hence the Alex Saxon pseudonym. Didn't happen because my editor left Pocket Books before the book was published and her replacement had no interest in a second Carmody. Incidentally the version of the novel that appears in CARMODY'S RUN is a revised and shortened one. I'm my own harshest critic and I felt the revision was necessary to clean up some overwriting in the original.

Bill Pronzini said...

Forgot to add that I miss the old days, too. A lot.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks for clearing up that series thing. Overwriting? I didn't notice any. Maybe I need to read the shortened version.

Lawrence Person said...

Did he have a signed first in jacket of Red Harvest? That's a pretty pricey one.

Bill Crider said...

I didn't look for that one, but I'll bet he has it.

Bill Pronzini said...

Nope. I have a first of RED HARVEST, but unsigned and only in a facsimile jacket. Extremely pricey book, well out of my price range in an original dj.

Bill Crider said...

What you have is not bad at all.

Mathew Paust said...

I got busted on Majorca nearly 50 years ago. Must read this one!