Friday, July 03, 2009

Forgotten Books: PAGODA -- James Atlee Phillips

If you think The Green Wound, a Gold Medal book also issued as The Green Wound Contract, was the first of Philip Atlee's books about Joe Gall, you're wrong by 12 or 13 years. The first one was Pagoda, published in hardback by Macmillan in 1951 and in paperback by Bantam in 1952. Obviously this one was intended as a standalone book, and technically it's not part of the series. It's not even told in first person like the rest of the Gall books. But Gall's the same hardboiled guy, and Atlee writes about him very well, no matter how he's handling the narration.  There's the same terse style, the same swift flow of the story.

As you can see from the back cover, this is Joe Gall's backstory.  It's set in Burma, and Gall's a flyer.  If you've read the series books, you no doubt recall Gall's many references to flying over "the hump" in Burma.  Here's the story of some of those experiences.  Atlee does the setting very well indeed, as he did in all the Gall books.  If you liked the series, you'll like Pagoda.  If you like good hardboiled writing, you'll probably like Pagoda.  Dated?  Sure, in the same way that Hammett and Chandler are dated, which is to say only in the details.  Check it out.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Some day you're going to review one I've read. Funny how we have both read crime books our whole lives, but an different group.

George said...

I have fond memories of this book. I don't think it's ever been reprinted.

Jake Murdock said...

I remember this one. After I started the Joe Gall series, I came across Pagoda later. I always liked how Pagoda was more of a detective-style novel. Fist-a-cuff stuff.

Great cover and great memories


James Reasoner said...

PAGODA was the first book I searched out on your recommendation, soon after we first met many, many years ago. And a fine book it is, too.