BLACKMAILER by George Axelrod
There were few cooler guys on TV in the Fifties than George Axelrod. I didn't see him that often--he did a few talk shows; a few arts shows--but I always thought Now that's the kind of guy I wish I could be. Hip but accessible.
Not only had Axelrod produced such fine B'way and movie hits as "The Seven Year Itch" and "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?," he'd adapted such novels as "The Manchurian Candidate" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" to the screen.
And on TV he was slick and and funny and serious about his craft.
Oh, and one more thing. He was the author of a genuine Gold Medal novel.
I bought BLACKMAILER a few years after it appeared...say forty-five years ago. Now you can get a Hard Case edition and even after all this time it holds up well, albeit as a tribute to a time long past but fondly remembered by some portions of my generation.
What Axelrod did here was take the elements of the standard hardboiled crime novel--good bad girls and bad bad men, the prospect of lots of cash--and mix them up with talent agents and movie stars. And relate all this in a voice that is both literate and a bit larky at times--and works surprisingly well, even in the scenes of violence. There's a faux Hemingway (who was God at that time), a faux Marilyn Monroe (who was Goddess at that time) and enough double-crossing to make you cross-eyed.
This is one of those kick-back novels. A beer or two, a night with nothing to do, a devout desire for pure escape. I enjoyed the hell out of it. Axelrod is one of those seminal figures of the fifties and early sixties (along with people such as David Suskind) who made talk show appearances lively and always at least a bit controversial. Intellectually controversial that is...as opposed to today with its Snookis and Kardashians.
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He was a hero of mine. I didn't know he had written a fine crime novel in addition to all else.
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