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The third murderer by Carroll John Daly

The third murderer

by Carroll John Daly

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Holy moley, this thing was bad. The concept was okay--no more or less convoluted than the plotline of any other hard-boiled crime story of its era--but it had been a long time since I'd read Carroll John Daly, and I'd forgotten just how clumsy his execution was. The Third Murderer is another Race Williams adventure, but this time Daly skimps on the action to try his hand at extended dialogue scenes (perhaps in a nod to Dashiell Hammett, whose groundbreaking The Maltese Falcon had met with both critical and popular success the previous year). Dialogue was Daly's weak point, however, and here the halting stammers of his characters are downright painful to read: "Race, Race, give me a break. Give me a--. You can't hold me like this and turn me in to the police. You don't know what it may mean. Why, why--let me go. Let me go." What was going through Daly's mind when he wrote this stuff? Did it sound like realistic human speech to him? I have no idea, but this book is filled to bursting with it. (Abundant evidence of the author's ongoing preoccupation with the word "lad", too: I'm a lad who doesn't mind firing his gun when the need arises, here was a lad who understood my plain talk, he had a couple of lads guarding the front door, etc.)

Yes, Carroll John Daly was the first, but if every subsequent hard-boiled writer had imitated his style, the tough private eye of the '20s and '30s would be remembered as nothing more than a bad joke today. Fortunately, Hammett arrived hot on Daly's heels and became the standard-bearer of the genre. My rating: one and a half stars. ( )
  Jonathan_M | Sep 19, 2017 |
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