Friday, October 02, 2009

Forgotten Books: THE ASSASSINATOR -- David Vowell

How forgotten is this book? Well, it was nominated for an Edgar® in 1976, and the last time I looked at the Edgar® database, the title was listed incorrectly (as The Assassination). It's a first-person police procedural in the Dragnet vein, about a serial killer. And it's 138 pages long. Now that's my kind of book.

When I read this book back in the middle '70s, I was taken by the narrative voice, which reminded me a bit of Joe Friday, but not quite. Maybe it's time to mention that the only other book I have by David Vowell is Dragnet: 1968. I haven't read that one, but Vowell was also the writer on a number of the much-maligned '60s revival of Dragnet on TV.

Reading The Assassinator now, I find it disturbingly homophobic, something I didn't notice thirty-odd years ago, to my shame, I guess. I was still taken in by the voice, though. Imagine a book, even one as short as this, with almost no dialog. That's what you have here. It's a tough trick to pull of, but Vowell does it, and you almost don't even notice it. The procedural part's good, too, very Dragnet, as I said. Good book if you can get past the gay-bashing, and worth a read. It sure won't take you long.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Funny how we didn't notice sexism and homophobia then. Now it shrieks at us.

George said...

That's a very interesting cover on THE ASSASSINATOR. I'll have to look for it.

Richard Robinson said...

Patti - it doesn't "shriek" for me. I notice it, put it in the time frame - something I do when I read an "old" book anyway - and go on reading. I'd be more bothered if someone went back and tried to clean it up, removing all references that editor thought to be currently inappropriate. Who knows but that someone else might then do the same in 20 years and so on until there's nothing left of the original. As an example, imagine someone concerned about animal cruelty taking all references - including in the title - to cowboys using or wearing spurs. Then we'd have - what? The Naked Stirrup" ?

So whether it's sexism, the "N word", gay bashing or just 10-cent phone calls and a bottle in the glove box, I say let it stay and read past it.

(...gets off soap box...)

Richard Robinson said...

Bill - Good choice. I checked, my local library doesn't seem to have this... guess I'm out of luck. :-)

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Richard S. Wheeler said...

Well, that image of Rock Hudson on the cover sort of made the point, didn't it?

Fred Blosser said...

Wonder if Vowell wrote that episode about the hippie couple who left their baby alone in the tub while they toked up?

Ted the Younger said...

Fred, I think you hit it on the "head".