Friday, August 27, 2010

Forgotten Books: DEATH OF A SOURCE -- Richard Moore

I've known Richard Moore for many years. If all has gone according to plan, he and I will both be at Armadillocon as you read this, and once again, for the hundredth time, I'll chastise him for spending the last 30 years making a living and taking care of his family when he should have been writing more books like this one from 1980.

Richard published another book with Raven House, Death in the Past, along with some distinguished stories in places like Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but nothing has appeared in many years. He's contributed his fanzines to DAPA-Em and OWLHOOT, and he's commented on this blog, but he hasn't done much other writing that I'm aware of. And that's too bad.

Let's start with the cover of the book. As I recall, a lot of RH books got two covers, one for the book racks and one for the subscribers. I don't know which this one is, and I'm too lazy to see if I have the other one. Anyway, this one's highly appropriate because the narrator, reporter Bob Whitfield, smokes approximately 356 packs of cigarettes in the course of the book. And that's not counting what others smoke. Times have changed.

But then that's part of the charm of the novel, which takes us back to the day when newspapers mattered; when cities had two dailies, morning and afternoon; when VDTs were just coming in and newspapers were beginning to enter the computer age; when businesses had W. A. T. S. lines for long-distance calls; when the big worry of rural law enforcement was marijuana, what with meth being unheard of.

The "source" of the title is a woman who tells Whitfield that she has a big story for him. Before they can meet, she's killed. Just a robbery, people think, but since she's from a prominent family, Whitfield is assigned to write a story about her life. Sure enough, his investigation into her death leads to a sinister conspiracy, and Whitfield gets to tell us quite a bit about crime, state politics, and current affairs.

My favorite comment in the book is this one when Whitfield describes a room in his apartment: "There are bookcases on three of the four walls, holding several thousand volumes, but I refuse to call it a library. No one has a library in their home except in novels by P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie, and those libraries probably wouldn't contain a single Ace Double Book."

If you see this book, grab it.

Update: Things didn't go as planned, so I'm not at the Armadillocon. But I'm chastising Richard though this post.


Scott Cupp said...

Your copy looks like my copy so it is probably a news stand one. Or such would be my guess

Todd Mason said...

Sorry you're both not at 'Dillo...but Richard has also been a strong and recurring contributor to such lists as Rara-Avis and FictionMags...

Anonymous said...

What a great pick! Of course, it's no KING OF THE RATTLESNAKES but maybe someday we'll get to see that one too.


Anonymous said...

I was a RAven House subscriber and my copy has the same cover, for what that's worth.


Unknown said...

I have a run of Raven House in storage, but it's too much trouble to check. Michael Seidman should have bought KING OF THE RATTLESNAKES.

Richard Moore said...

Thanks so much for the kind words Bill. I really am going to get back to writing fiction...I know I've promised that before but I will one day make good on it.

The cover is the subscriber cover. The newstand cover is much less of an eye-grabber of a typewriter keyboard with bloody keys. This one would have done better on the book racks.

About the smoking--I was quitting smoking when I was writing this novel. It seemed to help to have Bob Whitfield light up a cigarette everytime I wanted one. Trouble was I wanted a cigarette every minute of the waking day.

Becky and I are going to miss catching up with you and Judy at the con. We are loving a good dose of Austin. I had a couple of happy hour beers at the Continental Club listening to a group called Planet Casper==two guitars, a bass guitar and a drummer. Maybe I can work this into a story...hmmm.

Thanks again Bill!

pattinase (abbott) said...

In my next life I hope to visit Armadillicon.
Oh, the Continental Club. Heavenly.