Thursday, July 23, 2009

Robert Bloch's Shooting Star

Okay, this will be short and not very insightful. I read Robert Bloch's private eye novel Shooting Star (Ace 1958). It was reprinted by Hard Case Crime rather recently as a nice double book - and a good thing it was reprinted, since the original edition goes as far as $350 in Abebooks! The original also seems to be an Ace Double, so it's fitting the new book is also a double.

Okay, back to the book. This really doesn't seem to be going to be very short. As many of you probably know already from reading the book or reviews, it's a Hollywood novel, with a one-eyed private eye trying to clear a B-film actor's reputation so that a producer can put his old films into television. The cultural history here is very interesting and Bloch gives intriguing and authentic-looking glimpses of movie and TV industry - which he both knew from first-hand experience. The hero of the book, Mark Clayburn, is also an agent for pulp writers and a true-crime writer himself and Bloch gives a glimpse of that life, too, mentioning, at least, Anthony Boucher by name (I think some others, too, but I forgot who they were). I think I could've read more of the writer's life.

Bloch is a sure-handed writer, capable of making quick observations, and his dialogue is snappy at best. However, the book lags in the middle and I kind of lost interest - well, it's easy to lose interest with my kids around. But the first half of the book is very good, also with very acute social commentaries. It seems that Bloch could've written a more serious novel than the Ace Double format allowed him to. This isn't your typical private eye novel, though - the hero does get knocked out couple of times and there are nice babes around. I don't mind those clichés, but I minded more some of the sloppiness: one of the supposedly bad guys is suddenly revealed to be another supposedly bad guy's brother, which made me go: "Oh really?"

It was interesting to read this just after I'd finished a Toby Peters novel by Stuart Kaminsky. I can't remember the title now, but it also dealt with old B-films being shown on television. It was like I was given a lesson on the Hollywood history from the fourties and fifties.

I also give you the original cover for the Bloch book, and the Hard Case one, too, by Arthur Suydam. It's nice, all right, but I don't really think anyone had those kind of boobs in the early fifties, not even in Hollywood.

And no, I haven't still read the other novel of the double, Spiderweb, which seems to be more psychological suspense.

There's one problem with double books. Kauto or Ottilia took a photo of me reading the book and it looks like I'm a total moron reading a book the wrong end up!

Should I go on? This really didn't turn out to be very short.


Frank Loose said...

I prefer the original cover. Nice leg art.

Todd Mason said...

I think Bloch was consistently torn in his ambitions with his crime fact, most of his novels (certainly his sf novels are also more of a compromise between making the deadline so as to make the rent and larger ambitions, too, from the way I read them). His shorter fiction, as with many writers, often seems to me to be more fully realized. Not true of such (notably short) novels as PSYCHO and THE KIDNAPPER. I wouldn't be surprised if he half harbored a desire to make AMERICAN GOTHIC a bug-crusher, but he did well there, too, at shorter length.

Juri said...

Thanks, Todd, for your comment. I have read some of Bloch's short stories and they have been excellent. There's a good retrospective collection in Finnish from the nineties. It's been too long since I read Psycho, Dead Beat and another novel the title of which I can't remember at the moment to be able to comment. Psycho II was pretty good, as I recall.