Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday's Forgotten Book: Hartley Howard Double Bill

Okay, let's be honest about this: I haven't finished these two novels I'm about to introduce. I've been away and travelling and one of the books was forgotten behind and when I was able to get back to it, I couldn't anymore remember what had been going on. The other one then didn't simply feel rewarding enough.

Then why am I writing about these books? Because I'd really like to get my book on British crime paperbackers done. Hartley Howard's books were originally published in hardcover in England, but all of them were paperback in Finnish translation. They also have something of a paperbackish feel to them: Hartley Howard's private eye hero Glenn Bowman feels a mix between Mike Hammer and Lew Archer. The earlier of the two books, A Hearse for Cinderella (1956, translated as Kaikki menetettävänä/Everything to Lose; see the photo, illustrated by Bertil Hegland), starts like Kiss Me Deadly: Glenn Bowman is driving in his car late at night and almost runs over a young woman dressed only in an overcoat. Bowman takes the girl to the doctor to find out the girl escapes the minute he's taking the doctor to see her. Escapes - or is kidnapped. The plot is a bit too convoluted to be fluently followed, but there is big stuff at stake here.

Epitaph for Joanna, published much later (1972), reminds me more of Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books and is more serious in tone. Bowman comes across as a really sad type, being all the time all alone without any friends - which was typical to the private eyes of the bygone days. Did Archer or Philip Marlowe ever have any friends? The same goes for Bowman as well. The plot also reminds me of Ross Macdonald, with the stuff from the past affecting the present-day lives of the book's characters. In this book, the stuff from the past is the accidental death of a young woman called Joanna a decade earlier.

The biggest problem with Howard's books is that his scenes are a bit too long and stilted. The melancholy of Glenn Bowman is too meticulously told, the reader - at least I am - is too easily bored with Bowman's whinings. Less would do. The plots are over-complicated to be at times so thin. The books might read better in the original English, I read these in Finnish translation and the old Finnish paperback translations are not usually very good. But nevertheless I'm going to give Hartley Howard another shot or two.

More Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's blog here

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