Showing posts with label James McKimmey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James McKimmey. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2022

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 99

On this last double-digit episode of the Paperback Warrior Podcast, Tom and Eric delve into the life and career of an underrated crime-fiction author named James McKimmey. Tom talks about a new Day Keene reprint and Eric discusses two brand new Stark House Press editions. Reviews include a 1984 spy novel called The Girl from Addis by Ted Allbeury and House of Evil, a 1954 crime-noir by Clayre and Michael Lipman. Listen on any podcast app, paperbackwarrior.com or download directly HERE

Listen to "Episode 99: James McKimmey" on Spreaker.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Cornered!

James McKimmey (1923-2011) was a Nebraska native that studied architecture at the University of Nebraska. Later, he served in the 102nd Infantry Division during WW2 and returned home to write fiction for magazines and pulps. His first novel, The Perfect Victim, was published by Dell in 1957. McKimmey would go on to write westerns, science-fiction, and more crime-fiction, some of which have been reprinted by Stark House Press as twofers that we've covered here at Paperback Warrior. In 2016, Stark House reprinted The Long Ride and Cornered! as a twofer. We loved and reviewed The Long Ride and it was just a matter of time for us to read the second novel, Cornered!. It was originally published by Dell in 1960.

Tony Fearon ran a California mob family for years. Instead of allowing his premier gunman, Bill Quirter, to shoot his chief rival, Tony took it upon himself to deliver the killing blow. Inexperienced and enraged, Tony didn't think of witnesses, so he missed the beautiful Ann Burley, who just happened to be walking by. Tony went to prison based on Ann's testimony, and as Cornered! begins, Tony is a few hours away from eating cyanide via California's taxpayers. However, the cool caveat is that Tony has placed a hit on Ann. If Bill (the best gunman west of the Mississippi River) can track down and murder Ann before Tony dies, Tony will filter out a password through the prison so Bill can locate a cool $50,000 for the job. Tony will die happy knowing that the woman who put him behind bars is being killed on the same day. Alternatively, if Bill can't get the job done, Tony will go to his grave as a begrudged man and Bill will be $50,000 poorer (and still unemployed). Cool premise, huh?

I challenge anyone to find me a book with an opening chapter as exciting and memorable as this one. McKimmey's first chapter has Bill and a partner outside of the small Nebraska town of Arrow Junction. It's snowing, both are in a bad mood, and the target is within a few miles. However, a simple accident leads to a furious gunfight in a small gas station and Bill finds himself alone and on the run from the cops. After scampering around in the cold, Bill locates a small diner for shelter. Inside, he points a gun at the customers and stands his ground. 

Like The Perfect Victim, McKimmey has this uncanny talent of turning the reader into an everyday citizen of Small Town, USA. Over the course of a few hours, I became a citizen of Arrow Junction and felt like the town pastor, doctor, restaurant owner, station attendant, and fill-in sheriff were all people I've grown up with and had a fond fellowship for. McKimmey is just that good as he smoothly thrusts readers right into the action. In some ways, the book's plot development and through-story reminded me of Bill Pronzini's thuggish writing style. It's gritty, action-packed, and develops into a real slobber-knocker by the book's finale.

Cornered! is one of the best books I've read in ages. Any other plot points or insider wisdom would just ruin the experience for you. Do me a favor – get the book, read it, post comments below. In the meantime, I'm on record to provide the highest possible recommendation for James McKimmey and Cornered! 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Never Be Caught

“Never Be Caught” is a 50-page noir novella by James McKimmey originally printed as a U.K. hardcover in 1966 along with two other stories. It has been reprinted by Stark House in a collection of McKimmey’s hard-to-find short works now available in trade paperback and ebook formats.

The story begins in San Lupe, California about 80 miles north of Los Angeles - where Billy Marsh (age 22) has fallen in love with Maria Nivero (age 16). When the time comes for Billy to meet Maria’s mom, Mrs. Nivero is not thrilled about the relationship. Billy is a nice young man if a bit aimless - he’s a counter man at the local trucker’s cafĂ©. Despite her reservations, Mrs. Nivero gives her reluctant blessing and sends Billy on his way.

After Billy leaves mom’s house, she calls in a favor from a cop friend: do some homework on Billy and find out what his real story is. It takes no time at all for the cop to learn that Billy is a fugitive from San Francisco wanted for an armed robbery turned murder. The cops fail to get the jump on Billy in an exciting scene, and we have a couple on the run story as the young lovers flee from the police together.

McKimmey does such a great job with economical storytelling while shifting the third-person perspective between the hunters, the hunted and the helpers. It’s an exciting cat-and-mouse game building to a climactic suspenseful ending that won’t disappoint any lover of action-packed noir fiction.

I’m so glad I took the time to read “Never Be Caught.” The novella cemented my belief that McKimmey was yet another master of the genre unfairly forgotten by the modern era. I’m extra thankful for the publisher who found this obscure story and made the effort to reprint it. Without question, it would have been lost forever if it weren’t for this Stark House revival. Highly recommended.

The new Stark House Crime Classics release compiles the following fiction from James McKimmey:

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Long Ride

James Earl McKimmey (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 novel 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 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, ridesharing 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.
 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Perfect Victim

Author James McKimmey’s debut novel, Perfect Victim, was released by Dell Books in 1957. The novel has been reprinted by Stark House as a two-in-one featuring his second novel, Winner Take All, and a 2004 interview conducted by Scottish author and editor Allan Guthrie. McKimmey would later go on to write numerous genre entries, including westerns and science-fiction until his passing in 2011.

Perfect Victim is set in the tiny mid-western town of Willow Creek and introduces us to several characters, including the stereotypical cast of journalist, sheriff, banker, bully and waitress. At the heart of the matter is the mysterious murder of the town beauty, young waitress Grace. While the reader isn’t asking who done it (we were voyeurs on the scene), the rest of Willow Creek is. Like many books and shorts of this style, the real essence of Perfect Victim is exposing the good-hearted with the worst intentions. Hardly anyone is particularly wholesome, including the fingered guy – a traveling salesman who’s innocent but immoral. The only protagonist is the media (by design?), represented by the admirable George Cary.

At 135-pages of physical media, this isn’t a hard-boiled or detective piece. It’s labeled as “crime” but it’s loosely a human exam on small town’s dark crevices. There’s a murder, a body and a small dose of procedure. The book’s closing pages has a dark and violent orchestration amidst a fiery, noose-hungry town. McKimmey brings us full circle from retribution to salvation in this quality, albeit simple, effort. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Winner Take All

Mark Steele is an out-of-work Man of Adventure bumming around San Francisco when he hears a knock at the door. The man on the other side of the door is a stranger - but one who looks exactly like Steele. This is the opening scene of James McKimmey’s 1959 Dell paperback, Winner Take All. This obscure crime novel has been given a second life through a 2018 re-release from Stark House Press. This new re-issue is packaged with a 1957 “innocent man accused” novel called Perfect Victim, also by McKimmey, as well as a 2004 interview with the author by “Noir Originals” scribe and author Allan Guthrie. 


It turns out that Steele’s doppelgänger is a heretofore unknown twin brother who was separated at birth. And while Steele lived a hardscrabble life fighting in wars and taking care of himself, Byrd planted his flag into the privileged trappings of the idle rich - trust funds, women, booze, and gambling. As hardboiled genre fiction fans might expect, the reason that Byrd seeks out Steele was not for a tearful brotherly reunion. He comes with an offer: Can Steele pose as Byrd to negotiate a settlement on a large gambling debt owed to the mob? Seeing an opportunity to turn a buck and find some action, the braver brother accepts, and the story is off and running.

It would have been easy for McKimmey to structure the novel differently - by having the non-violent brother drafted to take the place of his soldier-of-fortune twin and find his own manhood in the process. Instead, the author puts us into the mind of the brother who is more comfortable in a world of violence and unpredictability, and that adds to the fun of this one. While the set-up of this short novel is rather contrived, the execution is superb - mostly due to the author’s skill with first-person crime novel narration. The book has all the trappings of the hardboiled crime stories of the paperback original era - thuggish mobsters, a sexy femme fatale (or two) and twisty double-cross plot devices. It’s a blast of a story - violent, sexy, and compelling - and well worth your time.