Thursday, June 24, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Killer by Wade Miller

Wade Miller was of course Bob Wade and Bill Miller. They collaborated on a few dozen novels until Miller died of a heart attack in the office they shared. He was forty-one.

Much of their finest work was done for Gold Medal. The Killer is a fine example. A rich man named Stennis owns a number of banks. His son works in one of them. During a robbery his son is killed. Stennis hires a big game hunter named Farrow to find the notorious bank robber Clel Bocock and his gang. When Farrow locates them he is to call Stennis who wants to be there to watch them die. Farrow is a unique character and not just because of the big game angle. He's middle-aged and feeling it, something rare in that era of crime fiction.

The search for Stennis--and the love story that involves Bocock's wife--takes Farrow from the swamps to Iowa (including, yes, Cedar Rapids) to Wisconsin to Colorado. The place description is extraordinary. Probably too much for today's readers but the Miller books are filled with strong cunning writing. Same for twists and turns. For the length of the first act you can never be sure who anybody is. They're all traveling under assumed names and with shadowy motives. The only thing that binds them is Clel Bocock.

For anybody who thinks that Gold Medals were largely routine crime stories, this is the noel you should pick up. Stark House published this a few years back (still available) along with Devil On Two Sticks, one of the most original mob novels I've ever read. There's also an excellent David Laurence Wilson introduction on the careers of the two writers.

Wade Miller got lost in the shuffle of bringing back the writers of the fifties and sixties. This book, so strong on character and place and plot turns, will demonstrate why more of their books should be in print.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Got it, Ed. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read this one from Stark House. Thanks for the heads up, Ed. It looks like a good choice, esp. with David's Intro.

Ed Lynskey

Charlieopera said...

Will order very promptly. Robert Wade (while with the San Diego Union Tribune?) has been more than generous in his analysis of Stella so it's about time I'm brought up to date.

Jesus, who knew!

Every day I wake up to find just how little I really do know. It's become reassuring ...

Todd Mason said...

The world remains full of surprises, some even good. I've been meaning to pick this one up from previous recommendations...and Stark House's packaging shows taste and, well, a certain appropriate starkness (I'm a sucker for a pretty image of a woman, perhaps even more than most men, but I suspect the appeal of their covers goes beyond me and those like me).