Monday, October 19, 2015

Steal Big, by Lionel White May, 1960 Fawcett Gold Medal

From Glorious Trash:

for the entire review go here:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Steal Big

Steal Big, by Lionel White
May, 1960  Fawcett Gold Medal

Known as the “king of the capers,” Lionel White is apparently most 
remembered as the guy who wrote the novel that Stanley Kubrick’s 
1956 film The Killing was based on. That novel was titled Clean Break
and it’s one I don’t have; strangely, for an author who was once so 
popular and well-published, White’s books appear to be pretty scarce 
on the used books market. I don’t think any of them have been reprinted, 
even by Hard Case Crime. At the very least, his books are overpriced 
these days, but I was able to score this one cheap.

Steal Big is a classic heist story. A professional thief named Donovan 
has just gotten out of prison and is already planning his next big 
caper: this one should bring in at least half a million dollars. 
He’s put together a team of five people, and they’re also the 
classic diverse lot demanded by this subgenre, from an
 alcoholic old woman to an ex-boxer. Or as Donovan himself 
considers them:

An evil old woman who could steal the pennies from a dead 
man’s eyes. A puny, psychopathic sadist who likes to kill for the f
un of it. A punch-drunk moron who by all rights should be in a 
side show. A college boy who hates the world because he figured 
he took a bum rap. A girl who isn’t dry behind the ears yet and who 
only wants to go for the ride because she thinks she’ll get enough 
money out of it to spring her old man out of the clink.

The putting together of the team is another hallmark of the heist 
story, but White skips it here; Donovan, who is described himself 
as getting on in years, has already put his team together when the
novel begins. Told in third-person, the book hopscotches across the 
perspectives of these characters, sometimes jarringly so 
(White is a firm POV-hopper, with perspectives changing between 
paragraphs with no space to warn the reader). However, W
hite also plays interesting tricks with time. 
He writes sequences and then doubles back a
nd write them from the perspectives of other characters, 
which occasionaly lends the narrative a bit of a surprise factor.

1 comment:

Ron Clinton said...

I'm a big fan of White's work, and STEAL BIG is generally emblematic of why; it's not White at his best, but it's quite good. As far as Hard Case Crime ("I don’t think any of them have been reprinted, even by Hard Case Crime"), I got the impression by a comment made by Charles Ardai that unfortunately he's not a fan of White: "Why do you think I’ve never reprinted a Lionel White book? The man was a decent author (not fantastic, but decent), but in almost every book he had a near-rape scene that was clearly supposed to be titillating. I don’t enjoy reading it, I don’t think our readers would like it much either, the books aren’t so amazing in other ways as to make me ache with regret over missing the chance to bring one back into print, and there are plenty of other books that are. So: I find other books to reprint. Issue resolved."