Thursday, March 13, 2008

Million Dollar Murder (aka Four Dead Mice) -- Thomas Black

So who's Thomas Black? I know nothing more about him than that he wrote this book narrated by private-eye Al Delaney. The book was published in hardcover by Rinehart and went through at least two printings in paperback from Bantam (my copy is of the second). After that, as far as I know, Black and Delaney disappeared. Maybe Black is a pen name. I looked on the Thrilling Detective website and found no trace of either him or Delaney, but maybe I wasn't careful enough.

Anyway, what about the book? Well, it sure has a complicated plot. Al Delaney works for a big detective agency, and he's called in when one of their clients, a bakery, wants to find out about four dead mice found in the dough. From there we get into an old crime, a dead man, a currently planned caper, and lots of tangled relationships. And a San Quentin Quail. That's what Delaney calls her, and this part of the book might make some readers these days a big squeamish. The SSQ is about fourteen, but she has a lot of appeal to adult men. And she's sexually active. She even appeals to Delaney. She's murdered fairly early on, and it's her murder that drives him through the rest of the plot. When it's finally all wrapped up, you might be like me, with your jaw dropped to the floor, or you might just go with it.

I liked the narration, and I even liked the complexity for a while. Then it all got away from me and veered over into the too-hard-to-believe. I'd read another book by black, though, if there was one.


10 comments:

  1. Speaking of San Quentin Quail . . . a couple of years ago I read an Ed Lacy book (sorry, I don't recall the title) set in the South Pacific in which the hero regularly has sex with a thirteen-year-old island girl as if it's the most normal thing in the world, and no one else in the book seems to think anything about it, either. Just another example of things that a writer used to be able to get away with that they can't now.

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  2. Today on Bookgasm there's a review of TANNER ON ICE, and the reviewer expresses a little squeaminshness about the oversexed 14-year-old girl in the novel. I wonder if Block had read MILLION DOLLAR MURDER.

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  3. This was the fourth novel featuring Al Delaney. They were published in the late forties(the first three)and this one in the early fifties(AKA Four Dead Mice).

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  4. And it's not as if teen girls aren't going out with or being hired/rented by adult men, among even less savory arrangements, within a few miles of any of us save the Very isolated. And occasionally of boys by/with women, and other arrays. I'm not sure we weren't supposed to be scandalized at midcentury, any more than we can pretend it isn't happening now.

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  5. And is she "San Quentin Quai" because she's "jailbait"?

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  6. Anonymous1:17 PM

    I only found one Thomas Black book on abebooks--this one--but I did see 3 Thomas B. Black boos.

    RJR

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  7. Randy says in his comment that there are others. I need to check out my copy of Hubin.

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  8. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Bill, the Thomas B. Black books from Mercury Press are Delaney books.

    RJR

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  9. Thanks, Bob. I guess that middle initial threw off the listing in the places I looked.

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