Hard Case Crime are never anything less than fascinating in the way they choose their material. The new work is always unusual and often subtly subversive, where the "lost" classics can range from surprisingly brilliant (The Comedy is Finished by Donald E Westlake) to fascinating curiosities that have an interest beyond the words on the page (The Cocktail Waitress by James M Cain).
Vidal's "lost" pulp novel, Thieves Fall Out, is more a fascinating curiosity than . Its a straighforward slice of globe-trotting pulp where the bad guys are predictably "swarthy" and the women are alternately beautiful love interests or beautiful femme fatales (one of whom gets to utter the possibly immortal line, "No one can make love with a gun.")
The two-fisted hero of the piece, Pete Wells, is roped by one of these femme fatales into smuggling a possibly cursed necklace (a subplot that's never really expanded on) out of Egypt. Along the way he falls for a nightclub singer, and falls afoul of a local police inspector by the slightly conspicuous name of Mohammed Ali.
The action is formulaic, and while the writing may not be considered by many readers to the be the best Vidal had to offer, there's a kind of snarling joke underpinning the action, as though Vidal is perfectly aware of the cliche's he's employing. There's a few one liners to sweeten the plot, some convincing scene setting, and an excellent sequence towards the end of the novel where Wells and the nightclub singer have to escape a Cairo that has erupted into political chaos.
If you're a Vidal fan, its likely you'll either find this to be a curio or to simply something forgettable he pumped out in his early years for the cash (there have been a few articles that suggest he wasn't sure about its re-release and had he been alive would not have approved the novel's re-appearance).
But if you're a fan of pulp adventure, then its a pretty pure example of the form - if it seems like disposable fiction. then that's because it was supposed to be. And had Vidal chosen to pursue further novels like this, its possible he would have developed a very different kind of following, as his skill at the form - along with his ability to take it just the right side of seriously - is actually evident in the construction (even if he suffers from rushed prose on occasion). Yes, some of the attitudes are dated, and yes, to modern eyes some of it is eye-rollingly predictable, but Thieves Fall Out is a breezy old-fashioned adventure story filled with enough interesting little moments that mark a writer growing into his own voice to add that extra layer of interest.
Although I spend much of my time reading for edits rather than pleasure, I still try and fit in reading for fun. This occasional blog will record brief thoughts on some of the books I'm reading on my "off time"
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