Enter Without Desire from 1954 was the fourth published novel from Ed Lacy whose real name was Leonard Zinberg (1911-1968). The paperback was originally released by Avon, and has been reprinted several times since then. It remains available today as an ebook for 99 cents from an outfit called Grotto Pulp Fiction. I’ve always enjoyed Lacy’s work and recently came into possession of a dollar. As such, I decided to download the novel into my Kindle and give it a shot.
As the story begins, Marshal Jameson is a failing artistic sculptor who leaves his reclusive Long Island shack and hitchhikes to New York City on New Years Eve looking for some fun and companionship. To get out of the cold drizzle, Marshal joins the studio audience of a radio game show. He’s selected to be a contestant and paired up with a beautiful audience member named Elma to answer questions on the air in exchange for a cash prize. Thankfully, the author shares with the reader that Elma has big breasts.
As paperback “meet-cute” gambits go, this one is pretty good. Together, Marshal and Elma win a pile of cash on the radio show and decide to spend New Year’s Eve together. Having not been around a woman in months, Elma really gets Marshal’s body chemistry bubbling. Flush with winnings, the couple decides to spend New Years Eve together, and Marshal (as well as the author and the reader) falls madly in love with Elma. The majority of the novel is a very mainstream and nice romance story (albeit from a completely male perspective), and only because this is an Ed Lacy book was I certain that things would eventually get seriously dark.
The plot with Elma takes a pause for sizable flashbacks giving the reader a little more history of Marshal the sculptor’s life before he discovered clay back when he was a young ad-man. Fans of the TV show “Mad Men” will enjoy this segment. His service in WW2 and the war’s aftermath is the focus of another long flashback that brings us forward in time to the fateful New Years Eve when Marshal met Elma.
Be forewarned that the paperback’s first two-thirds is almost devoid of any crime, action, or suspense. The author drops a couple hints along the way about where this is heading as Elma mentions her estranged husband. The book’s second half jumps around in time until the full picture becomes clear to the reader. The last third is a rather compelling crime story about a murder and its tricky aftermath.
To be clear, I loved, loved, loved this book. However, I recognize it’s only a crime novel in the broadest sense of the word. The first person narration was really well-done, and the story of Marshal and Elma is fantastic relationship drama. Basically, Enter Without Desire is a mainstream novel that evolves into a compelling crime-story with a twisty, violent climax. As long as you know what you are getting, you’re likely to enjoy this book as much as I did. Recommended.
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