Friday, September 20, 2013

Forgotten Books: The Kill -- Douglas Heyes

Back in 2011 I did my FFB post on The Kiss-Off, by Douglas Heyes.  By coincidence, Jeff Pierce did his Kirkus column that same week on another book by Heyes, The Kill.  Since I enjoyed The Kiss-Off, I got out my copy of The Kill and set it aside to read.  It took me a while to get to it, but I finally did.  

In case you didn't click on the link above, here's what I said about Heyes in my post: If you do a quick Internet search for "Douglas Heyes," you can find out about his movie and TV careers. He was a prolific writer in both media, he developed TV series (North and South), he directed (Kitten with a Whip), and he even had a bit part or two. But you can find nothing about his fiction writing, and that's too bad. Heyes doesn't deserve to be forgotten. After reading The Kill, I remain convinced that Heyes is a writer to remember.  (And Pierce's article has a lot more to say about Heyes' career in movies and TV than I did; check it out.)

The Kill is set in Los Angeles in 1938, and it has a great opening: "I won't be taken alive.  Not that I wouldn't rather be?"  So immediately we wonder, who is this guy and how did he get into such a mess.  

The guy is a private-eye name Ray Ripley (believe it or not), and he got into this mess the way all private-eyes do, by accepting a job that he probably shouldn't have because he needs the money.  Almost immediately he finds himself accused of a murder he didn't commit (and later we discover that it's not really even a murder, exactly).  The big surprise, though, is the mysterious man named "George," who turns out to be someone you won't be expecting. 

There's a lot of great '30s atmosphere in the book, and you'll recognize some of the locations even though they aren't named (the Bradbury building, for one).  Lots of action, good writing, and some good surprises.  If you enjoy pulpy p.i. fiction, this one's worth checking out.


Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I am a fan of Heyes' work for film and TV (where he occasionally used the pseudonym Matthew Howard) - is it possible that this was a sort of off-shoot from CITY OF ANGELS, the short-lived TV show starring Wayne Rogers that he worked on?

mybillcrider said...

The review on The Rap Sheet mentions a couple of City of Angels references in the book.

BVLawson said...

Thanks for posting this, Bill. FYI, I'm afraid the only version of "Kitten With a Whip" I've seen was the MST3K edition.

mybillcrider said...

Stark House has a new edition of the book, so maybe that will be an incentive to seek out the original movie.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing KITTEN WITH A WHIP as one of those "free previews" we used to get on Friday nights when we went to whatever movie was playing that week. It was quite the change from BYE BYE BIRDIE and VIVA LAS VEGAS!


Rick Robinson said...

I bought THE KISS-OFF as a result of that earlier post, and it's sitting on a shelf thus far unread. Feeling a little overwhelmed at this point.

Darn good thing I'm not at Bouchercon, George says it's "book heaven". Oh my.

Kelly Robinson said...

Count me in as another person familiar with KITTEN WITH A WHIP, but I knew nothing of his fiction.