Friday, November 22, 2019

The Long Ride

James Earl McKimmey Jr. (1923-2011) achieved creative success as an author of crime novels, science fiction and the Ki-Gor series of Tarzanish pulp stories. His hadboiled novels were mostly published by Dell, and a handful of them have been reprinted by Stark House, including McKimmey’s 1961 “The Long Ride,” packed as a double along with “Cornered!” and an introduction by Bill Crider.

McKimmey was influenced by the early stand-alone work of John D. MacDonald, and this shines brightly through in “The Long Ride.” The paperback features a diverse cast of characters thrust together under dramatic circumstances where mayhem and violence unfold - MacDonald’s basic template. In this case, McKimmey came up with a completely original gambit to bring together the cast of characters.

Before Uber, ride-sharing was often organized through newspaper classified ads like this:

“Wanted: To share a ride to San Francisco with widowed lady. Call Mrs. Landry. Walnut seven five nine one.”

In “The Long Ride,” a group of seven travelers rideshare from fictional Loma City to San Francisco over several days brought together by the classified ad. The long-distance carpoolers are:

- Mrs. Landry, our vehicular hostess and driver of the station wagon

- A stone cold murderous bank robber posing as a benign retired soldier

- An unstable, one-armed, hard-luck case with $100,000 in found bank robbery proceeds

- The typist bride of the one-armed man

- A handsome, enigmatic widower with a secret reason for joining the road trip

- The beautiful divorced woman with an eye on the mystery man

- The obligatory, horny, spinster librarian

The opening chapters set the scene with a violent bank robbery and $100,000 in lost cash recovered by the one-armed innocent bystander. The idea that the bank robber and the dude who found the cash happen to answer the same classified ad confining them in the same station wagon seems to be an unbelievable coincidence that’s reasonably explained later in the narrative.

“The Long Ride” has a setup that Alfred Hitchcock would have found appealing, and I’m surprised it was never adapted for the screen. More than one passenger in the car is not who they claim to be, and those reveals make for the most satisfying elements of the paperback. Moreover, the alliances that form over the long car ride - both real and manipulative - kept me turning the pages long after normal employed people should have gone to bed.

To be sure, there are plot holes big enough to accommodate a 1950s station wagon. There’s so much about this book I’d like to say, but it would spoil the great surprises - some already ruined by the plot synopsis and introduction. Best to go into this one cold having read nothing more than this spoiler-free, Paperback Warrior review. However you do it, please check out “The Long Ride.” It’s a totally original premise that was nothing short of spectacular. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

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