Friday, May 15, 2009

Book Review: Robert Bloch, Shooting Star (1958) & Spiderweb (1954)

Truly inspired packaging from Hard Case Crime. This two-fer makes me misty-eyed for bygone days that I am too young to remember. Now if only the novels were better. . . . On a micro level, these books are well done. Robert Bloch has writerly chops to spare, and I enjoyed almost every page. But on a macro level, these books are completely forgettable. The protagonist of Shooting Star is Mark Clayburn, a small-time literary agent who, because he works in the true-crime field, also has a private investigator's license. This combination has interesting possibilities, but they go untapped. The literary agent fades mostly from view; the private investigator takes center stage; and Clayburn emerges as a super-low-cal Philip Marlowe wallowing in the muck of Hollywood. Also set in California, Spiderweb traffics at first in the noir-friendly universe of psychic charlatans but then veers into a fairly conventional blackmail story. In this realm, try William Lindsay Gresham's Nightmare Alley or Cornell Woolrich's Night Has a Thousand Eyes instead. Grade: C+

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