Friday, August 08, 2008

Friday's forgotten book: James Cross: Root of Evil

Finally I had a chance to chime in with Patti Abbott's Friday's Forgotten Book blog thing. I've been posting - in Finnish - the entries of my first book, Pulpografia, in another blog of mine here and when I came across James Cross's Root of Evil I thought I should say something about it in English, too.

I found this novel when I was going through some magazines at the university library and noticed there was a serial in a magazine called Mies (Male or Man) in 1959. It was by a writer not known to me, James Cross. The story looked interesting, so I took a look at Allen Hubin's bibliography and noticed Cross was actually named Hugh Parry and that he had four crime novels to his name. Then I spotted a book by James Cross in a second hand book store. It was called Root of Evil and even though I don't have the book at hand (I think it's in a box in the cellar..), I do remember it was a British paperback reprint. Quick glance told me it was the same book that was serialized in the mag.

So I read the book instead of the serialization. And man, I was sure glad I read it, since Root of Evil is a fast-moving tale of intrigue, murder and extortion. Two brothers buy a house and find a huge treasure of old coins in the backyard. They dig them up and after thinking about it for a while, they decide to keep them. First the taxman comes in, but then come the local criminals and then comes the greedy ex-wife and even if that's not enough, the military also tries to get their hands on the money. From what I remember of the book, it was told in a snappy, hardboiled style in the first narration. It's a very entertaining and well-written book.
Cross seems to have written some short stories, one for Playboy in 1967, and I seem to remember someone saying that he had a story in Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions. That aside, I've never heard or read anyone commenting on his work. Root of Evil should merit at least a mention.
Sorry for the lousy picture - it was the only one I found on Abebooks. It's a Crest reprint from 1958; the original edition is from Messner, 1957.


Unknown said...

I agree, Juri. This one shouldn't be forgotten. I remember how much I liked it when I read it long ago.

Juri said...

I knew you had read it, Bill.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Juri. I have never heard of it but will seek it out.