domenica 30 dicembre 2012

Christianna Brand : Cat and Mouse, 1950



Cat and Mouse is one of the most acclaimed novels by Christianna Brand.
Julian Symons, the great critic and British novelist, wrote about Cat and Mouse: "Green for Danger is her most popular book, Cat and Mouse her best" (Julian Symons, Bloody Murder, Penguin Books, 1985, p. 192).
In my opinion, to say Cat and Mouse by Christianna Brand is her best novel, is an exaggerated judgment. But you know, Symons has been a bit exaggerated.
If Cat and Mouse is really a masterpiece or not, it is, however, a remarkable novel. And it is easy to understand: it was written by Christianna Brand, considered one of the last great representatives of the golden age of mystery.  
Born in 1907 and died in 1985, is still praised for those traits for which several years ago was reported. Anthony Boucher, the great critic and novelist, many years ago said "You have to reach for the greatest of the Great Names (Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen) to find Christianna Brand's rivals in the subtleties of the trade."
Christianna Brand had several leading figures in their novels: the main was the Inspector Cockrill, which appears not only in what is considered his masterpiece, Green for Danger (1944), but also at several others, among which we recall Suddenly at His Residence (1946), Death of Jezebel (1948), Tour de Force (1955). However, it was not the only one: in fact two other inspectors appeared in her novels. With the Inspector Charlesworth signed his debut in crime fiction (Death in High Heels, 1941), with another, the inspector Chucky, signed just Cat and Mouse (1950).
It can be said that perhaps she felt a duty to reconcile with her two characters less famous, Charlesworth and Chucky, but that this was the cause or not, it was with them she wrote her later novels: Charlesworth who had appeared at onset , was rebuked for her farewell’s novel, The Rose in Darkness (1979); Chucky instead had been made reappearing two years before in A Ring of Roses (1977).
Patricia Highsmith called Cat and Mouse "superb." Why?
First, there are a number of places and people of anthology, most of the Mystery’s properties than ever ": a typically English landscape, a Gothic castle, heavy secrets, elusive and ambiguous characters , lies and skillfully manipulated and mixed truths. Well ... all the best ingredients for a taut and vibrant novel, especially since the heroine must battle the unbelief of the people, affirming her truth in a spectacular and exhausting struggle against prejudice, as “another Don Quixote fighting against the windmills
The story is quickly told.
Katinka Jones is a journalist who is the holder of a column placed on a women's magazine. A beautiful day begins to receive letters from such Amista, who asks her advice on her love affair with a certain Carlyon. In some ways affected by the personality of Amista, he decides to go and learn, and so uses his vacation to go in Wales, which is also the homeland of his family.
In fact there is a Carlyon. He is the owner of a steep and inaccessible as well as sinister manor: it is perched in an awkward position and more to go there, you have to wade a river. But when Katinka went there, is faced with a real twist: nobody knows nothing about Amista, and as the staff of the house as Carlyon deny her existence. How is it possible?
But Katinka recognizes the castle, some details (for example a magnificent siamese cat Amista had just spoken about). The fact is that she remains amazed, especially as she remembers seeing in the hall, when she came to the door, on a pile of letters, one  sealed with a wax seal red-gold that she knows very well, because on it she read the name “Amista”. But, as it happens, just that letter, when she remembers her existence, no longer exists. Maybe that .. But Carlyon is adamant: no Amista there is in the manor, and so Katinka is put off .
But fate is in wait: on the return trip, Katinka gets a sprained ankle, and in those conditions can not retrace his steps, for which Carlyon is forced (reluctantly) to grant hospitality. What gives to Katinka the opportunity to investigate.
Katinka soon knows a self-styled policeman. Despite she for the duration of the novel doesn’t  trust him, in fact he is truely a police officer: he is the Inspector Chucky, who is investigating about Carlyon and those who dwell with him in the manor.
It develops a double investigation that proceeds along two parallel tracks: Chucky in every way tries to penetrate the atmosphere of darkness, while Jones walks alone, based on feminine instinct
and on a series of circumstances that slowly she highlights: in the manor there is a secret, and she must find out.
It is given by a mysterious woman, her face disfigured, that she is able to identify: she is Amista? And why is she disfigured? And why Carlyon does deny the existence
of her.
In essence, the two investigators (one professional, Chucky, and the amateur, Katinka) go together, even if they do not know and while Chucky who is secretly in love with Katinka, he endeavors to put her in security and to prevent her by continuing to proceder on a road that is full of dangers, she doesn’t know what to think about the man who claims to be a cop but that she doesn’t believe him and then she mistrusts.
Other negative and claims characters in the novel there are not , because if it can be called a full-fledged very classic mystery, for the small number of suspects and by the turn whom the events take from the beginning, and by the whirlwind of unexpected events that punctuate the story, the novel is also a thriller: a hybrid novel, half Mystery, half Thriller. Spasmodic in some circumstances, it loses strength when it is understood that among so many people, one may be to blame.
But blame of what?
In the attic of the manor,  Chucky and Katinka find three sets of old clothes that do not seem to have been worn by the same person
: what connection they have with the rest?
The disfigured woman, a real monster, appears to be the wife of Carlyon, which, however, denies once again that she is Amista. Who is she then?
She will die smashed into the void, before the eyes of Katinka.
The end will deliver us the blamer and the explanation of the many questions scattered throughout the course of the plot: who is the disfigured woman, Amista does exist or not, and to whom belong the three sets of clothes found in the attic?
The peculiarity of this disturbing mystery-thriller atmosphere is fleeting, and the characters are never what appear to be at first: even at the end she will be forced to accept the truth that Chucky is really that inspector police that she never believed he was. Carlyon is not what he seemed, the disfigured woman as well, and even the personal service and the milkmaid.
Many Chinese boxes that continually open and close causing disruption.
One could say that the main merit by Brand in the writing of this novel, is to have played with the characters and the reader, putting the clues in plain view but hiding the scope at the same time by a process that we refer to Agatha Christie. However peculiar by Christianna Brand are the stylistic virtuosity, under which she can, given a certain thing, to turn it, I don’t  know how many times, and each time showing a hidden aspect and least important: in this way she can, with a number of characters very tight , to characterize them in a superb manner, and also if she highlights at the paucity of suspects an insurmountable limit, which from the first pages convinces the reader that the possible culprit may be only one, and this takes a lot of bite to the suspense, precisely because of her unique ability continually to turn
the situation and put the player in the confusion, making him doubt even their legitimate beliefs, she succeeds to maintain high expectations at the novel.

Pietro De Palma

domenica 23 dicembre 2012

Ngaio Marsh : Artists in Crime, 1938



Ngaio Marsh, cultivated the hobby of painting. This artistic inclination is expressed several times during its production. An example in which the hobby of painting finds expression, is Artists in Crime, 1938.
Agatha Troy has initiated a study of painting in Tatler's End House. Lady Alleyn Dane's Lodge, mother of Roderick, visited in the past, along with his offspring, a "personal" by Agatha Troy, and both were impressed by the touch of the painter. After meeting on the ship "Suva", Roderick is also affected by the personality of the artist, but doesn’t plan to be pregnant to her eyes: he doesn’t know that she, in turn is regretted to have made a poor figure, with a person she thought trivial, and instead had proved sensitive. So the conditions are there. And Roderick in a letter pleases his mother to go and pay a visit to Agatha.
The fact is that one day, the two meet again: why? The fact is Agatha organized at her home an internship painting, centered on the "naked", with promising students: Cedric Malmsey, Wolf Garcia, Francis Ormerin, Phillida Lee, Watt Hatchett, Basil Pilgrim, Valmai Seacliff. Who would ever think that even during a stage of painting, could germinate the seed of crime? Yet among the students, there is the model Sonia Gluck, that far from making only his work, that to pose nude, she is also quite uninhibited in her dealings with the opposite sex, so as to generate a lot of guys, relationships conflict: there are people who want have sex with Sonia, there are people who had already sex, someone is being blackmailed by her, in short .. a fine assortment of potential murderers. Because the blackmailed people , someone who had had sex or who want have sex, it turns out that does not cultivate friendly relations towards her.
So one day, Sonia is invited to try a scene, taken from a fairy tale Malmsley has been commissioned to illustrate: a woman murdered by the wife of her lover, pierced by a dagger through the slats of the bench on which she is lying.
Sonia was invited several times to assume the pose requested by Agatha, but the drapery and the axis of the platform, her beautiful naked body does not fit, so soon, in the intolerance of the students asked to portray, which must clear all the time what they draw, at the constant changes of posture of the model, Agatha with a piece of chalk draws the shape of his body on the bench, so that she can no longer take another posture that one drawn. The boys are left, after placing a knife between the boards in the portrait position as if it had sunk into the body of the lover murdered. And then they left for the weekend: most of the guys go away, while Garcia remains for a bit of time.
When they resume painting, Agatha is not at home: however, the boys, under the guidance of Katty Bostock, a famous painter which Troy has leased his house during his absence for a year, laying and resume the session, taking advantage contour designed by Agatha, although much of it is hidden by the drapery, the boys ask Sonia recline herself on the bench, as well as Agatha in the first session had requested.
The pose is awkward, Sonia does not want to get well, and then Valmai who announced her engagement to Basil before she went, and leaving her empty apartment (or almost: there was still Garcia), annoyed by the attitude of Sonia , forces her to lie down on the bench. The fact is that Sonia, emits a gasp and she surrenders. When Katty rushes, noticing the expression of the girl, and directs her , while making an effort because it seems that she does not want to come off the bench, the body of Sonia has a long dagger in the back: died instantly.
Accident or murder ..? The knife used in the first session had been removed with difficulty by the axes, at presence of Agatha, so its presence testifies that someone has taken over and has voluntarily stuck it in the platform, making it the strength to penetrate between wooden boards, and has inserted it in the position that it had the first time, that is, so that through the ribs it penetrated the heart. Then was placed by those who knew what was his original position: ergo, there must be someone present at the first session.
Roderick is sent to the scene of the crime. Agatha is back and has learned that the "bitch Sonia," as she had previously appealed, was killed. The new meeting between Roderick and Agatha, is dedicated to officialdom, despite he wants to make the meeting less formal. But the answer to Agatha, the beginning is not that Roderick would have. Moreover, from the evidence obtained, it soon emerges that several have been reticent in something.
Is Valmai Seacliff who "murdered before their eyes," the girl, which led her to take the position that the victim refused. Between the two women has never gone good blood: two women is rare that they can live well in tight elbow, especially if they are going to use both of their charm as a weapon of power: Sonia is a whore, Valmai a nymphomaniac. However, Valmai has an alibi as safe as a rock: she was at a friends house with Pilgrim, located several miles from the site of the crime and her alibi was confirmed by Pilgrim and by the couple of friends. However paradoxical it may be, the murderer who should be her, seems she is not, because the real murderess put the knife between the boards and waited for Sonia die on her own, or someone forced her to be pierced. Main suspect is Garcia, who has disappeared: no one knows where he ended up. He is thought to be the murderer, because it is learned that he had an affair with Sonia.
The investigation continues and as it turns out, the group of young promises of painting is nothing more than a den of snakes, a crowd of would-be assassins, each having a more or less valid reason for wanting to get their hands on the model: Agatha Troy had hated when in a fit of jealousy, or envy, Sonia had disfigured his portrayal of Valmai Seacliff; Garcia, had threatened to kill her if she still annoyed with the promise of marriage (after he had made her pregnant ) Basil Pilgrim also had a motive, because they had had sex together and he did not want to, as she threatened to do, this thing might be found by Valmai; it turns out Malmsey had one more valuable motive: he was blackmailed from her, for one thing concerning his reputation as a promising young painting.
So few could bear her, indeed only one: Phillida Lee, a pupil of Agatha.
But everything revolves around Garcia, who many think is the culprit, until the keenness of Alleyn, is found the London studio
of Garcia and here, is recovered his body, died a few days. Garcia was murdered with nitric acid: a bottle of acid, used to bite engravings, half is found nearby. The acid has savagely killed, torturing him in the last moments of life.
Who will ever killed him ? The murderer of the same model? Or he killed the model and someone killed him? Questions that will be answered in the frantic and extraordinary final.
Sixth novel Roderick Alleyn, it's like all those of the Marsh which I am honored to have read, once again, masterfully conceived. Perhaps never before in this novel, the author plays with the reader and tries to take him by the nose, providing already some distance the most logical signs of who could be the murderer. Moreover, I say, for those who have read other novels by Marsh with Roderick Alleyn, in this novel, for the first time Roderick and Agatha meet each other, and for the first time the two fall in love. The novel thus has a special place in the marshian production. Especially since the first meeting of Roderick and Agatha, after their disastrous encounter on the ship’s deck
, on which they are embarked, they would never think that one day ... will meet during a police investigation because of a murder.
The ability to provide all the clues to the reader and at the same time teasing him, is clearly established. In the very first scene we find manifested the dialogue from which you could then look for things that happen and are explained later in the novel. Furthermore, the same murder finds its expression in something that happens at the beginning of the novel, and you do not understand the importance, until to the final. What I do not understand, and which has a fundamental importance, is as did the murderer, if he had stuck a knife between the planks of the platform during the weekend, to be sure Sonia would surely be dead the following Monday: Sonia could refuse to install, and someone could not force her to take that position. In other words, the voluntary murder was not premeditated and it happened by chance? Or were valid premises that happen it? And why ? Clarified these questions, you will nail the murderer to his responsibilities. A murderer as bad as ever, an unparalleled perfidy.
The murder is discovered at the end for a hole in a glove, for a car too bright in fuel consumption, and some photographs.
Brilliant style and fluid, never banal dialogue, the plot is remarkable in contortions, in the figures of real or alleged suspects, true or false murderers, breathtaking descriptions, in the love story who is born.
How to write and describe is a trademark: clever writer, very refined, often Ngaio Marsh invented situations in which artists were involved. Moreover in many statements, she was very frank, very little reluctant to take refuge behind convenient phrases.
The same plot unfolds smoothly, without ever betraying the expectations, without bother or annoy, because when she drops a track, is quick to find another one, maybe that it crosses one before giving a new destination.
And like the snake eating its own tail, the novel ends where it begins and where it ends, it begins.
With a sleight of hand. In which Agatha Christie was good, but in which Ngaio Marsh was not from less.
In short, an excellent novel.

Pietro De Palma

sabato 15 dicembre 2012

Joseph Jefferson Farjeon : Seven Dead, 1939


Joseph Jefferson Farjeon : Seven Dead, 1939 (La casa dei sette cadaveri,  – traduz. Dario Pratesi – Polillo Editore, Collana “I Bassotti” N. 101 – 2011 – Pagg. 278).



Let's start by saying that "La Casa dei Sette Cadaveri" (Seven Dead, 1939), which is shown on the inside front cover flap, such as "new", it is not: Aldo Martello Publisher, Milan, in the 50s,  published in his series of paperbacks, entitled "The Mystery of the Dawn Treader", several Farjeon, and among them, "La palla da cricket" (The cricket ball), the date of which is indicated print December 12, 1951, marked by the number series "26" and Translation of Raffaella Lotteri. It is a different title, but the novel .. it was the same.
The novel begins with a fireworks display that would leave portend a novel crackling in Benwick, a petty thief tries to make a shot in a house and there is, in a sealed room from the outside (not a room closed) seven bodies : six men and one woman.
In the room nothing special except the shutters nailed and the chimney blocked by the old newspapers to prevent the draft of air, and an old cricket ball over the mantel, with a mysterious note written in code behind. In addition, a portrait of little girl pierced by a bullet.
Now, the reader might expect a tight investigation, at least one post-mortem examination that revealed the cause of the massacre, and yet there is nothing. Instead, the investigation moves quite unusually in France, Boulogne, where the homeowner and his nephew (the family Fenner) are fixed on the day of the massacre: it would therefore be assumed that they could be involved in something, the more so in a room above, in the house of the massacre, are a pair of shoes were found at the center of the floor and a dress dropped to the floor on the carpet, a sign of a sudden departure
.
Then it is legitimate for the police transmitted an alarm to Interpol or otherwise through diplomatic channels you would put in contact with the French police to stop the two. Instead .. nothing.
A journalist happened in that neighborhood, Hazeldean, conducts the investigations ( that would have to be up to a cop) and goes to Boulogne.
And even in this there is a certain hint of improbability. But if we add to this that the journalist finds at the Pension of Madame Paula in Boulogne Fenner with his niece, on the basis of a postcard view on the mantelpiece of their house next to the cricket ball, and that from the beginning of the his arrival, without knowing anything, he considers the girl completely unaware of what happened, and afraid even to reveal her the massacre that took place in her house, well then at this point it makes us laugh: Farjeon is dated, but dated to the great ! To him, women are holy, incapable of committing a crime, and even so fragile that they can be affected by the detection of a crime. And so they are not liable to suspicion. Farjeon had never read Agatha Christie, for example?
In short, if the crime presaged survey lockout, there is not this: there is instead an investigation of this journalist , that even for the police carries out his investigations, so as to force the inspector Kendall to stuff the ribs just a man, an investigation which leads to reveal the board undergrowth of subterfuge, reticence, silence, the use by criminals, that would have been better placed in serial stories of the early '900. But beyond the conventional, the speech goes on in a maze of assumptions (which may suggest only that the master of the house, the husband of Madame Paula, died in suspicious circumstances; that such a Pierre, is a stinker as well as swindler; the maid Marie is a poor frightened by Pierre; Madame Paula, in love with Fenner, does not want a stranger in the house nosy and tries to move him. Meanwhile, there is an equally unlikely peddler of thirst  who checks on all sides (he is a disguised cop.) All in one hundred pages, on p. 54 to 154; pages, without doing a disservice to those who fight for grains translations, would have reduced heavily without them felt the material need.
Pooh, after a hundred pages of dialogue dull and sometimes unnecessary (also in French), here reappears Kendall (and the action response to Benwick) and investigating with his sergeant, he arrives at the surprising conclusions: the murderer escaped, first with a bicycle, then with an airplane (and this can be understood from the clues); how he can instead identify the means by which it is served to the seven to reach the house, and assign it to a boat that are towing then and there before his eyes, it's all a say : he imagines all seven in the boat, and then fixed and it is the used medium: he comes to a conclusion not with a reasoning but with a precognition.
And only now it turns out the cause of death: gas. Kendall finds an underground room, a laboratory, perhaps a former bunker in the garden around the house,  two dead cats and something left behind including an old tube that looks like (and he will compare it after successfully) adapt well to lock of the locked room in which are found the bodies. Kendall also reconstructs the dramatic sequences and he explains how the framework has been pierced by a bullet. At this point it feels finally the need to track Fenner, uncle and niece.So Kendall goes to France. Well, to be honest, Farjeon not immediately says the cause of death, because so he "may lengthen the stock."
In the famous pension are the seller of thirst, killed, the Fenner’s niece, locked in a room, the reporter knocked out previously, the waitress disappeared along with Fenner, and then the murderer (one of two murderers), who was arrested.
Here the action stops. It takes presumably after the time when Kendall takes stock of the investigations: Kendall tells everything that has been discovered in the course of the past weeks: Fenner in love with Madame Paula killed her husband whom she hated; Fenner had taken the dowry of his niece to finance studies on the gas he discovered and to pay the Madame Paula husband from which was blackmailed, Pierre had killed the seller of thirst, and then the ried to get rid of Marie who instead was saved by the police.
Everything was connected to a shipwreck: Fenner was found clinging to a raft at sea and rescued by another ship, where they were the future husband of Madame Paula, Dr. Jones (the ship's doctor) and Pierre who was a steward. And from here, all was started. But it did not explain the seven corpses. Kendall analyzes then the odd ticket with the number and he assumes it is the latitude and longitude of a place, which comes found south of the Atlantic Ocean.
The process of the story, the explanation of what happened before, reveals how Farjeon was an author of the old school. Also in two Conan Doyle’s novels with Sherlock Holmes, there’s a narrative procedure similar: A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear. In which after the first part, there is another that explains all. It's as if Farjeon had lived in another time and in another space. All the great writers from the '20s to the late '30s were established, and they had brought the considerable contributions to the detective novel, it is as if they had never existed (in his opinion).


With the assessment of the data of latitude and longitude, Kendall finds a small island in the South Atlantic: the wreck of which he had been the victim Fenner had happened there. And so the inspector, the journalist, the niece of Fenner and other people find evidence that the castaways have landed and lived there. They find even the diary of one of them and so they reconstruct the story of that shipwreck which is the basis of everything.
Not tell you how it goes. Only the final reads well, and the reversals that bring a little 'suspense in the novel, which otherwise it would be, in my opinion, predictable.
All in all a nice novel, weighed down by too many pages (I would seem to many superfluous dialogues), not a masterpiece but with rollovers end, lowering the whole and allow you to finish the novel with a final revelation that changes the cards on the table, and with a tragic ending, very very cinematographic.

 Pietro De Palma

martedì 4 dicembre 2012

A romantic and desperate Willeford



Charles Willeford : Pick-Up, 1955.

What is a Noir?
Noir is usually a novel or a thriller or a mystery that hides instead is a story most brutal of crimes, and sometimes it can be both the one and the other. But if this really is Noir, the novel I've read, Pick-Up by Charles Willeford, what is it? We read that should be a Noir and Willeford wrote Noirs, but .. this is a Noir? I do not know.
Maybe yes, maybe no. Now I explain.
In a Noir, as we say today, term that says all and says nothing, there should be first a murderer/murderess, a thief, a burglar, a rapist, in short, a bastard: he/she is not here.
There should be a victim, slayed, skinned, cut into pieces, poisoned, hanged, stabbed, killed in short: she’s not here.
There should be a motive: revenge, greed, hatred, jealousy.
None of this.
Maybe there is nothing but the murderer is covered with an alibi: none at all.
But really what’s this novel?
It is not a violent Noir. It’s rather an Atmosphere Noir. It’s a pulp.
It’s a history of social degradation:it is the story of two chronic alcoholics who by chance one day they find each other and fall in love. Then one of two dies and ..
He is Harry and she is Helen, he is a failed painter, no one has bought his paintings and so it ended up as a cook, porter, to carry out the work most unlikely, then consume its modest money earned, in
the hiring of a hovel, where he lives, including paintings, dirty socks, dirty dishes and bottles of gin, and she, drunk woman with amnesia who can not remember where is her suitcase and her purse.
One day Harry meets Helen: Another damned, like him, who ran away from home, and now lives, swigging whiskey and gin at all hours, always dead drunk. Helen is beautiful, damn good, and between the two clicks something, a spark, in fact they end up in bed, and he realizes that knowing that we still do. And so they begin to live together. And only now, the trouble starts.
Already. Because the two but by thinking the same way, and being two derelicts, two dregs of society, lost two alcoholics, have a different vision of life: he loves her and alcohol, she loves alcohol and him. It's not quite the same thing. And compared to living together, those two are a contradiction: whereas normally it is the male who wants sex and the woman thinks the construction of the family, here is the opposite: he thinks about how to make ends meet, to work to support herself, and she just wants to be with him. And when she is not with him, he's drinking. He wants to be alone with him, and does not care that he maintains. Harry understands .. then.
Because Helen, in his desire to drink, drown his plays and also drowns herself. She does not care to live anymore. And for what? Has already attempted suicide, throwing down 24 tablets of aspirin, the night he had married: he wanted to be loved and to make love, and to this marriage she had come virgin, and she was raped by her husband that savagely raped her. And she has remained wildly traumatized. Now for her sex can be a way of life, which then means to drink, i.e. to forget.
Harry had met her that she could not remember where she put his suitcase and even her purse when she ran away from her mother, from whom she had taken refuge after the trauma of the wedding night.
The two love each other, but since they are made aware that they will not go on for long, trying for the first time to kill, with blades, except that Harry does not sink too .. and then they save.
Back to life, they think to get help from someone, maybe in a public hospital: go to St. Paul where doctors investigate more than the attempted suicide, why Harry and Helen are together. Why? The reason will be revealed at the end.
Are discharged, and reluctantly, the two will be aided by her mother, but Harry hates, hates him, treats him like an animal. But anyway, it helps them by giving $ 25 a week. Obviously they are not enough to pay the rent, food and whiskey, and so he looks for a job. But she did not care about anything: she wants to be with him, he wants someone to spend hours to talk to. Not finding him, while he works Apron, goes to bars, without thinking about what might happen. The first time Harry realizes it, he finds her in a seedy bar in the company of marines, who would like to fuck her, and so they barely paid to drink. This time Harry is able to bring her home because the Marines have mercy (he says they are married and have children as well), but again, he finds her in the company of a sailor half drunk that is caressing and touching her breast from under the private parts: this time Harry breaks a bottle and scarring his face.
Now she is unable to stop when she hears the stimulus of whiskey in the coffee even drink it in the morning. And so one fine day, every ounce of energy, not gaining other decision, they decide to re-kill, but they do it this time with the gas flap: they open a small flap saves Harry, but not Helen.
He pleads guilty, says he murdered her, strangled, reveals all, confesses beacause he wants to die, craves the gas chamber: no one understands why one so desires to die. They are used to ruthless killers, and clever: this is the first man  who rejects the lawyer, who confesses, and wants desperately Gas chamber. The fact is that Harry, with his history, with the fact that he was painting, it becomes a case, and everyone wants a picture of him, and some people even offers him sexually, with the complicity of Benson, a jailer became his friend.
But in the gas chamber Harry will never get: why? Why is not he the murderer. Who is it then?
I do not say. But I repeat that in my opinion this is not a Noir, and if it is, it is a different Noir.
That leaves you only a great emptiness.
And that hurts damn bad, like a punch in the stomach received.
A vintage Charles Willeford, his second novel, and you can see everything! It is not Miami Blues or The Way We Die Now: here there aren’t bastards and psychopaths, but the degraded humanity, that yes there is! It 's a very sad Willeford, almost atmospheric, and occasionally resurface his experiences, for example painting and military career.
Even more so when in the last two lines of the novel, you know that Willeford used a pseudo-detective story to talk about something else, of social and racism in America that freedoms of others peoples is becoming a champion. But it is not always able to heal his wounds social and racial.
Because the story hidden in the narrated here is the story, in America in the fifties and sixties, a union impossible. And everything, seasoned with a sauce that tastes like sad depression, insanity, alcoholism, to forget the broken dreams. The last two lines are by anthology. You know, you are forced to understand, if you have not already. In truth he scatters clues in conversations. And is capable who pulls them. I do not say, however, where to look for them, otherwise I reveal a lot of the novel.
This is Willeford, this is Pick-Up..
Its title Pick-Up, in reality it should have been, in the first draft, Until I Am Dead. And you would probably be better reconnected directly to the novel, where Pick Up is much more indirect but fierce.
I must say in all honesty that it reminded me a Horace McCoy’s novel, “I would have stayed home, where there is also social degradation, and alienation , failed dreams and violent depressions.
And besides, when Willeford began writing novels in 1953 with High Priest of California, Horace McCoy was already famous and soon to be failed so it is not unlikely that Willeford has learned a lot from McCoy at first, then with evolving years.


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