Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Name of the Game is Death

The Name of the Game Is Death (Drake, #1)The Name of the Game Is Death by Dan J. Marlowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When a bank robbery goes pear-shaped and he is wounded, Roy Martin (aka Chet Arnold) and his partner split up, with the plan being Roy will receive payments in the mail. When the money dries up under suspicious circumstances, Roy goes on a road trip to investigate. Will Arnold get his money?

The Name of the Game is Death is a hardboiled gem that's been on my radar for a long time. Why didn't I take it from the mountainous unread pile before now?

It reads like one of Richard Stark's Parker books told in the first person. The man known as Roy Martin, Chet Arnold, and later, Earl Drake, is a slightly less mechanical version of Parker, a man that doesn't kill indiscriminately but does what it takes to get the job done. In this case, the job is finding out why the bank job money stopped being sent. The main character is pretty brutal, especially by the standards of the time this was written. Women and men alike fall beneath his guns.

Marlowe's prose is economical and punchy, again, similar to Richard Stark's. The plot has some wrinkles in it but it's pretty much a detective yarn with a criminal doing the detecting. This isn't literary fiction and doesn't try to be. It's full of bullets, booze, blood, and broads, everything a pulp detective story needs. It also has great lines like "It was as cold as a whore's heart."

Fun Easter Egg - The name of the bar Chet Arnold frequents is The Dixie Pig, the same name as the bar in The Dark Tower. I know Stephen King was into detective yarns at some point so it's a pretty safe bet he read this one.

The Name of the Game is Death is a pretty slim book but it's as long as it needs to be. Maybe the advent of e-books will user in a new golden age of detective novels that are 200 pages are less. They don't make them like this Fawcet Gold Medal classic anymore. 4 out of 5 stars.

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