Friday, March 9, 2018

Earl Drake #02 - One Endless Hour

It took seven years for author Dan J. Marlowe to release the sequel to his masterpiece, 1962's caper novel “The Name of the Game is Death”. Between 1962 and 1969 he would release seven stand-alones, all through the Fawcett Gold Medal line and in the crime/caper genres. 1969's “One Endless Hour” picks up with a slightly modified prologue of the prior book's last chapter. In it, a severely burned Chet Arnold (later to go by the name Earl Drake for this and the series) survives a car chase and firefight, and ends up behind bars in a prison's hospital wing. 

The opening third of the novel is an elaborate but articulate escape plan hatched by Drake. These events purposely recalls Drake's turbulent childhood and defiance of authority. He's had back against the bricks numerous times and, aside from a few potential hangups, can escape prison. There's an immense story surrounding a surgeon from Pakistan and Drake's disfigured face and hands. In an unbelievable series of events, the surgeon is able to cosmetically repair most of Drake's face while returning use back to his hands. This was a bit of hyperbole on Marlowe's part and probably detracted from the story. We'll let it pass because it's conducive to the overall series. 

The middle of the novel is Drake's financial misfortune (with a little payback) and immense scouting and planning of the next bank job. He meets up with a couple of recommended accomplices and sacks a makeup artist briefly (Marlowe is never explicit here). The next bank job is a large facility in Philadelphia, but the three do a quick run at a smaller bank and score a measly $6K. 

The last third is the saving grace and makes up for the slower concoction of scout, plan rehabilitate. The bank job has the mandatory “wrench in the gears” and it's fun to watch the characters perform under stressful conditions. The wild ending is an absolute shocker that once again sets up the obligatory continuance in book three, 1969's “Operation Fireball”. While inferior to it's predecessor, this one is still highly recommended. Marlowe and Drake are an entertaining couple that deliver the goods.