Friday, February 06, 2009

Forgotten Books: AFTERNOON OF A LOSER -- Tom Pace

How'd you like to have gotten this blurb on your first novel? "The best first mystery novel I've read in the thirty years since The Big Sleep" -- Ross Macdonald. Wow. However, I have to say that Afternoon of a Loser, while a dandy book, doesn't quite live up to that commentary.

It's the story of a couple of cousins, Sam and Mark Donaldson. Mark has just been released from prison after serving 9 years for a murder he says he didn't commit. In the meantime, Sam has married Mark's ex-wife, the woman for whom lots of people believe Mark took the fall. Maybe even Sam believes that, because if Mark's innocent, who's guilty?

The setting is central Florida, not far from the Sebring race track, where Tom and Mack both once drove. There are some fine racing scenes and plenty of other well-done local color. Lots of tension and suspense, too. In fact, this book is so good that reading it is almost like finding a John D. MacDonald novel you've never read before. (MacDonald gave Pace a rave blurb for a later book.)

I suspect that Afternoon of a Loser is a truly forgotten book and that very few people other than me remember reading it forty years ago in its first edition. It's well worth picking up if you see it lying around in some dusty bookstore.


Cullen Gallagher said...

I think it would be hard for any book to live up to Ross MacDonald's blurb. But it does sound pretty good, I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled next time I'm at the bookstore.

Todd Mason said...

Tom Pace definitely sounds familiar...if he wrote several with auto-racing connections, and a great by-line for that, my father particularly might've picked one up in the late '60s, early '70s...and it might've gotten away before I got to read it.

Steve Lewis said...

Some forgotten, out of the way and dusty bookstore is right. While there are 28 copies of the hardcover editions, there are NO copies of the paperback offered on ABE right now.

Nor do I have a copy. I don't think I've ever seen a copy.

Pace wrote a couple of other crime fiction novels, both with a guy named Ben Garden in them. If he's still alive, and Al Hubin doesn't say otherwise, he'd be 80 this year. (Tom Pace, that is.)

From your review, it sure sounds like a book that somebody like Hard Case Crime ought to look into, if they're listening?

--- Steve

Bill Crider said...

I actually bought this one in hardback 40 years ago. Ran across the paperback the other day and picked it up, which spurred me to re-read it for the review.