Friday, November 27, 2009

Book Review: James McKimmey, Winner Take All (1959)

While reading James McKimmey's Winner Take All, I formulated David's Law of Noir Absurdities: Absurdities are justifiable only in the service of a memorable plot that could not be executed without them. McKimmey's novel certainly begins absurdly: Our hero, Mark Steele, is minding his own business when a long-lost twin brother appears on his doorstep. Steele is streetwise and down on his luck. The long-lost twin is rich and not so tough, and he has a proposition for Steele. It seems that the rich twin has a $100,000 gambling debt, and, due to his lack of toughness, he would like to pay Steele to impersonate him and deal with the underworld types who want their money. (The proposition is slightly more complicated than this . . . but you get the basic idea.) So, I granted McKimmey his absurdities of premise, and I hoped to be rewarded with something memorable, but Winner Take All ultimately disappointed. There was one nice twist along the way, but in the end the book did not justify its absurdities and sank under its own artifice. Grade: C+

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