Friday, May 08, 2009

Forgotten Books: LIVE BAIT FOR MURDER -- William Herber

Some books are forgotten with reason: They're just not memorable.  I'd say Live Bait for Murder fits that category.  It's a mid-'50s private-eye novel, the sequel to one called Some Die Slow (which I recall as being better than this one).  There's a nice Hooks cover on the reprint, but mine is spoiled by the writing someone did on it.

The p.i. narrator is Jame Rehm.  In the opening chapter, he's about to marry the girl of his dreams, but the FBI tells him that he's needed for a mission.  "The fate of the world" hangs on its success.  He's to tell no one, not even his bride-to-be.  Rehm evades the Feebies and gets married, but they snatch him up and convince him he has to do the job.  Which is where I run into trouble with the plot.  There's no reason they have to use Rehm.  He has no special talents and he knows no one involved in the plot.  The FBI could have used anyone.  Even an FBI guy.  The rest of the book is the pursuit of certain papers that contain all of Russia's secrets.  That's right. All of them.  "The fate of the world" is mentioned again and again.  Rehm blunders along.  There's train travel (a nice bonus) and one good surprise, but that's about it.  Nothing lifts the book out of the ordinary.  Matt Helm came along a few years later and did this sort of thing a hundred times better.

Herber continued to publish for years, and maybe some of the later books are more to my taste than this one.  I'd probably pick one up if I ever ran across it, but I wouldn't go looking for it.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Well, I do like the cover. There's that at least.

Todd Mason said...

The Paranoid Style in American (and Not Just American) Fiction. Only You, Average Joe, Have Been Selected for this great mission, or had this duty thrust upon you. The good writer is responsible for making up a good and/or entertaining reason why Average Jill has had such burden placed, but then there are all the indifferent or distracted or worse writers...who could still get into print with the fodder. So, Bill, why'd you pick this one up/back up? The cover, or the memory of SOME DIE SLOW? (It seems the cover defiler found it OK too, at least as in OK shape or something.)

Unknown said...

It happened to be on top of a stack when I was looking for a quick read. I seemed to remember that SOME DIE SLOW was pretty good. It must have been better than this one.