Monday, October 01, 2007

Death and the Single Girl -- Elliott Lewis

Elliott Lewis wrote seven or eight books in his series about Jim Bennett, who's sort of a private-eye. I read a couple of them 25 years ago or so and wasn't impressed, but the other day I thought maybe I'd try again, mainly because somewhere or other I got the idea the Lewis is the same Elliott Lewis who had one of the great careers in radio as an actor, director, and producer. He was Remley on The Phil Harris Show, Archie Goodwin on Nero Wolfe, and he did a zillion other things. He went on to do pretty well in TV, too. But his novels (at least the ones I've read) just don't work.

Death and the Single Girl, Bennett gets a call from his ex-wife, who asks for his help. She goes to dinner with a guy whose car explodes in the parking lot, and later another guy she's been seeing is murdered. However, after her first call to Bennett, she tells him she doesn't need his help. She says she wants him to leave her alone. He doesn't, of course.

Here's the bad news: If the ex had just told him the truth at first, the whole book would have been a lot shorter.
Here's the worse news: There is no way, not in a million years, that the reader would ever be able to figure out who the killer is. You can guess it pretty easily, but no clues point to the killer, and when the connections are made at the end, they're just, well, ridiculous.

The writing's okay, but I can't recommend the book or the series. Listen to an episode of Nero Wolfe or The Phil Harris Show instead.


Anonymous said...

I always meant to read one of Lewis's books, partly because of family loyalty -- at least he has the same last name -- and because I listened to the same radio shows that you did as a kid.

Also meant to, as I day, but I never have. Your comments don't put his books any higher on my list, but on the other hand, I'm going to keep them. You never know.

Juri said...

There are two Lewises translated in Finnish and if I'm ever going to do a sequel to Pulpografia, I'll have to read them. Will report back. (Will I be blogging after, say, twenty years?)

Unknown said...

Sure you will.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Always interesting to find out info on one of my personal heroes--I knew Elliott dabbled extensively in both radio and television direction-production but had no clue re: his literary aspirations. Thanks for the heads-up, Bill!

Unknown said...

I just wish the books were better.