Following on the tail of Richard Deming’s Kiss and Kill comes Frank Kane’s The Dead Stand-In–the second novel in Armchair Fiction’s two-fer. At just over 70 pages, this tale rattles along with very little down time. The novella’s protagonist is Kane’s series character, PI Johnny Liddell. While the story has nothing new to add to the genre, and has the usual tropes, it’s entertaining, and with a colourful cast of characters, it’s a lively, if somewhat predictable read.
Johnny Liddell fits a general image of the 50s low-rent PI. He has a red-headed secretary, no clients and a mountain of bills, so when he gets a note telling him that there’s $500 up for grabs if he goes to the Savoy Grill, he takes the bait. When the mystery note writer fails to show, Liddell thinks he’s been stood up, but then he gets a call from a woman (naturally with a “sultry” husky voice) who refuses to identify herself. She hires Liddell to look into the death of hitman Larry Hollister who was shot to death by police a few weeks previously. The official version is that Hollister was a “gun-crazy hood who was burned down resisting arrest.” Liddell thinks the case is a waste of time but with a $500 fee dangling, he takes the case. It doesn’t take much digging before Liddell sniffs a rat. …
The tale has a few interesting twists, and it’s loaded with the PI tropes. Liddell is a tough guy who gets help from his woman–Muggsy. There are some low-life gangsters, a shady nightclub and a platinum blonde singer who’s “hard, cold, and expensive.” As I said, there’s nothing new here but The Dead Stand-In, a pulp read, has its entertaining moments.
The redhead got up from her chair, brought her glass over to the coffee table. She picked up a cigarette from the humidor, chain-lit it from the one in Liddell’s mouth. “I’ve bumped into him around, but I never knew him too well. He wasn’t exactly my type.” She blew a stream of feathery smoke at the ceiling, squinted through it. “He was the kind of a guy that asked for killing, I guess. Everybody hated him, but most of the people he dealt with were too afraid of him to show it.”
“By the carload. He practically had them working in shifts.”
8 responses to “The Dead Stand-In: Frank Kane (1956)”
Sounds like fun. I don’t think I would want to read it if it was 300 pages long but it’s so short.
Yes, to quote Max, “it doesn’t outstay its welcome.”
Not lighting my fire sorry
No need to apologise.
Guy, I’m quite worried about your bloody diet. How about something soothing?
This is my default state.
It sounds fun but forgettable, but as that quote from me suggests I do think that not overstaying one’s welcome has definite merit. Besides, sometimes fun but forgettable is fine. Not everything need echo down the years of our lives.
Yes fun but forgettable–although I have thought quite a bit about Kiss and Kill. The MO is calculatingly cold and disturbing. This was the perfect read for me at the time.