Thursday, August 30, 2018

Run, Brother, Run!

Between 1947 and 1966, Thomas B. Dewey wrote dozens of hardboiled mystery novels - most of which featured successful P.I. series characters, Pete Schofield and Mac. He also wrote a couple stand-alone crime novels under the pseudonym “Tom Brandt,” including 1954’s “Run, Brother, Run!” The original 25 cent paperback may be hard to find, but Wildside Press now has it available as an eBook for a buck and a paperback reprint for a ten-spot.

As the novel opens, Jim Stuart is a financially-struggling Chicago private investigator working undercover in a prison as an inmate for an insurance industry client. He’s monitoring the activities of a prolific jewel thief named Big John Halloran, whose latest heist landed Big John in prison but failed to recover any of the valuable jewels he stole. As such, the insurance company hired Jim to pose as an inmate in hopes that Big John would provide a clue leading to the recovery of the stolen jewels.

Jim’s inmate cover is that of a bank robber, and this attracts Big John’s attention. Things get complicated when Big John hatches a prison break plan with his crime partner that relies on Jim’s participation. Killing a prison guard would create unwanted collateral damage in the undercover assignment, but escaping with Big John might lead Jim to the hidden jewels.

The prison break and getaway occur fairly early in the novel, so a sizable segment of the fast-moving book’s first half occurs while the crew is hiding out in Big John’s secluded mountain lodge. Big John imports a group of girls to entertain the escapees with bawdy songs, striptease acts, and sex. This creates a dilemma for Jim as one of the girls knew him years ago in Chicago under his real name. Will she remember him, alert Big John, and blow the assignment? And then how can he ensure her silence?

Eventually, Big John invites Jim to participate in a heist that a repugnant criminalassoxiTe has planned. Although this goes beyond the scope of Jim’s undercover assignment, he agrees in hopes that his involvement and proximity to Big John may lead him to the jewels and the successful completion of this assignment.

The plot twists and turns in some interesting ways, and to the novel’s credit, I was never really sure where it was headed. Dewey’s writing is superb, and Jim’s undercover high-wire act is perpetually nerve-wracking for the reader to experience through the first-person narration of the protagonist. Finally the ending was sufficiently bloody and violent to please the action junkies along for this ride. Overall, a solid crime novel from a reliable author in classic era. Recommended.