The third adventure featuring private eye Doan and his remarkable sidekick, a gigantic fawn-colored Great Dane named Carstairs. (Copyright un-renewed)
inute. I'm just catching up with you. You have the barefaced insolence to warn me. I think I'll slap your face."
"Don't," Doan warned. "Carstairs will bite you if you do. Not that he cares anything about me, but he would feel it was a reflection on him."
Melissa looked at Carstairs. He was lying down on the floor with his eyes shut.
"Don't let him fool you," said Doan. "He's ready to go into instant action. He's just pretending he's not interested."
"Hmmm," said Melissa. "You know, this is all sort of fascinating in a repugnant way, and I know I've seen this Trent party before, but I can't remember where. Have you any idea where I could have seen him?"
"Yes," said Doan.
"His wife is Heloise of Hollywood."
"Heloise," Melissa repeated. "Of Hollywood. Oh!"
"Oh," Doan agreed.
"Now wait," said Melissa. "Now wait a minute...I know! He's Handsome Lover Boy!"
"Yup," said Doan.
"Stay right here!" Melissa ordered. "I'll b
What's really remarkable about Norbert Davis's "Oh, Murderer Mine" is how brilliantly, and giddily, it riffs off the essence pulp detective fiction of its era.
This is the jazz of American literature: the seamy underbelly of human behaviour exposed through murder and mayhem but not taking anything too seriously.
Davis published this in 1946 -- there are direct references to the then recent demise of Hitler -- yet 70 years the prose is fully alive. That's not too shabby for "pop pulp culture".
"They've got him stuck away ow in a nuthouse somewhere in a room wallpapered with mattresses. The doctors say he'll never get better."
"He sold medicines at carnivals and fairs -- Kickapoo Joy Juice and Colonel Ouster's Calibrated Cure-All -- and stuff like that. Heloise was his come-on. She used to dress in spangled diapers and a necklace and juggle knives to attract a crowd so Big Tub could work them over. He was good at it, from all accounts."
What's not to love, with dialog like that?
Carstairs, and Doan as sidekick and translator, raises this otherwise ordinary hard-boiled detective story to a higher plane, and a different genre.
The Carstairs/Doan stories (Carstairs insists on top billing. He does, after all, have a vastly superior pedigree.) are more humour than mystery; and at their best truly amusing humour. The mystery is just as secondary as that in Dorothy Sayers books. Davis may not reach that literary level; but his Carstairs books are well worth a read, and a fine, funny way to while away a quiet evening.
These are great! Pure fun, with a hard-boiled detective at the center of it all.
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