Thursday, January 3, 2019

Devil in Dungarees

During his life, Marvin H. Albert (1924-1996) was a prolific writer of mystery, noir, Western, and high adventure novels using the pseudonyms of Nick Quarry, Anthony Rome, Ian McAlister, Albert Conroy, and others. He also wrote many books under his own name, including several movie novelizations. In 1960, Crest Books released a 198-page paperback original called “Devil in Dungarees” under the pen name, Albert Conroy. Automat Press has recently re-released the orphaned novel as a Kindle eBook for three bucks.

After nailing young Peggy - maybe 20, maybe younger - in a motel cabin, police officer Walt Bonner is feeling the nerves. You see, he agreed to participate in a bank heist with some guys he barely knows. If it works, Bonner and Peggy - the titular devil who wears her tight blue jeans without panties - can run away to Cuba together and spend their lives porking in a rum-induced haze.

We learn pretty early in the novel that Peggy’s not a completely loyal sex partner. In fact, she plans to take off with another member of the heist crew leaving Detective Bonner without a girl or his share of the loot. The bank robbery itself happens early in the story, and most of the book is dedicated to the aftermath. As far as literary heists go, this one was well-planned and professionally executed. The benefits of having a bent cop in on the planning becomes very apparent - until things go south. The author was clearly channeling the paperbacks of Lionel White and Richard Stark when he wrote this one, and he seems to have mastered the formula.

Albert’s wrote “Devil in Dungarees” in a wandering third-person narration that slides seamlessly from one character’s mind to another’s. There’s an admirable self-assurance to his style that lets the reader know you’re in good hands through the twists, turns, and double-crosses. The paperback’s action toggles between a heist getaway story and a credible police procedural. The sex scenes are well-described and the action is a few notches more graphically violent than most 1960 crime paperbacks.

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about “Devil in Dungarees.” It was a sexy, action-packed heist thriller among the best I’ve ever read. Marvin Albert was the real deal, and I now want to explore more novels by him. Highly recommended.