Death By Gold Bar
Hard Case Crime is performing a public service by giving old pulp thrillers a second life. Many of the books published by this small imprint are long-forgotten, usually out-of-print books by authors who may have gone on to great fame and others which faded into obscurity. Among the latter is Peter Rabe, whose 1955 thriller Stop This Man! was republished by Hard Case Crime in August 2009. This effective potboiler makes for a fast, absorbing read.
The story opens with slashing cuts from one setting and character to another so fast it looks like Michael Bay not only learned to read but wrote a book to boot. Finally, we are introduced to Tony Catell, the hero by default of the story. Tony waits for a train to Detroit carrying a special cargo in his briefcase, a 36-pound gold ingot. A parolee who promises himself never to go back to jail, Tony believes he has finally hit the big time. Tony has a hard time realizing a payday for the gold. Unbeknowst to him, the bar was in a university science lab for some mysterious experimentation. As he now learns from a confederate, the experiments involved nuclear power, leaving the bar dangerously radioactive.
As both he and his loot are hot, Tony takes off from Detroit to Los Angeles, where all kinds of complications ensue. He comes to L.A. to meet up with a buyer for the gold, a local crime boss. At the same time, he plans to get to know a showgirl he is in love/lust with who has already gone west. Like every other aspect of this caper, the sale does not go so easily. Tony, who planned to retire on his sale of the gold, first must organize and pull a job for his potential buyer first. The job goes off without a hitch but the FBI and a boozy dame from his past ensure that nothing about Tony’s stay in California will be anything but a pleasant vacation.
This book’s employ punchy language radiates a rough, tough view of the world. Far from sounding like self-caricature, this language works to propel the reader into a world almost as foreign as another planet. From a drunken woman who calls her many boyfriends “Lovin’ Cup” to a veteran L.A. “dip” (pickpocket) who picks a mark to cover the meal he just ordered in a diner, this novel is crammed full with colorful characters who add to the atmosphere. The conclusion brings unhappy endings for all the main characters, leaving the reader not depressed but invigorated. Stop This Man! succeeds on its own terms of unsentimental people doing mean things to each other.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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