Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
A 1950s-Style Noir Mystery Set in 1950s New York
Reviewed by Mark Lardas
“Deadline: New York,” by Jim Lester, Jim Lester Books, 2021, 272 pages, $9.99 (paperback), $2.99 (ebook)
Jake August writes pulp fiction. He was a Navy Criminal Investigation Division officer, before he got shot in a brothel in Occupied Japan and got invalided out of the service. Now, in 1952 he writes paperback novels for Rattlesnake Books.
“Deadline: New York,” a mystery by Jim Lester, explores the emerging world of paperback publishing in the early 1950s. New York State Senator Benjamin McClellan is starting a crusade against paperbacks, arguing they are rotting the morals of America’s youth. Rattlesnake Books is high on his list of offenders.
Jake is ignoring McClellan’s crusade. He has books to write. The adventure novels he churns out are not the Great American War Novel documenting his experiences in World War II. He is not yet ready to write that. Writing paperbacks pay the bills and keep him busy, and Jake is all for both.
Then Abbey O’Brian enlists Jake to look into the suicide of her fiancé, Donald Karp. She is a secretary at Rattlesnake, where Karp was another writer. She does not believe he committed suicide, but the New York cops have closed their investigation. She wants Jake to use his CID skills to find out what really happened. Reluctantly, Jake agrees to look into the matter for her. He does not expect much.
He soon discovers he was wrong. The police investigation smells like a cover up. As he probes the case, he starts getting pushback. His apartment is searched. He becomes the target of physical attacks. There is a conspiracy to keep the death quiet, rooted in a mysterious organization called The Brotherhood. It all seems tied to McClellan’s purity campaign.
Jake soon finds allies. Some, like Heather Locke, want to find the truth about Karp’s death. Another writer in Rattlesnake’s stable, she writes action fiction under a male pen name. She is also Karp’s sister. Another is Solomon Gold, who runs The Gold Mine, Jake’s favorite tavern. He is an ex-New York City cop, with a thirst for justice.
“Deadline: New York” is an old-fashioned mystery, a throwback to the noir fiction of the 1950s in which the novel is set. It true to its pulp fiction roots, which form the background for the story. Lester captures the gritty feel of 1950s New York City, including the tenor of the times. A novel set in the world of Mickey Spillane and Chester Heimes, it will appeal to their fans.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.