Monday 21 June 2010

New Rabe: Dig My Grave Deep

"New Rabe"? "New Rave"? Geddit? No? Sod yer then. Best I could do for this latest series (hopefully) of posts, which will focus on my Peter Rabe acquisitions. I've mentioned Rabe once or twice before. Full name Peter Rabinowitsch, he was an American crime fiction writer who produced around thirty novels in the 1950s/60s/70s. His first book, From Here to Maternity (1955), was actually about the birth of his first son (and also illustrated by him), but after that he turned to crime (so to speak) and produced a raft of hard-boiled novels, mostly for Gold Medal. Donald Westlake wrote of him: "Peter Rabe wrote the best books with the worst titles of anybody I can think of." (Rabe's own titles were famously largely rejected by his publishers in favour of often bizarre ones thought up by said publishers. Benny Muscles In and Kill the Boss Good-Bye, anyone?)

I already own a couple of Rabe first editions:

A 1959 first UK edition of Journey into Terror (originally published in the US in 1957), and a 1958 US first edition of Blood on the Desert (both paperback – all of Rabe's books were published in paperback). And now I have a third:

A 1957 first edition UK edition of Dig My Grave Deep, published Frederick Muller/Gold Medal (originally published in the US in 1956), with a cover painting by Lu Kimmel. This is the first of Rabe's series of novels featuring gangster Daniel Port. I've just started reading it – Port wants to quit the mob life, but his boss won't let him go, so he agrees to sort out the ward of the city he oversees, and then he can hopefully leave. The writing is straightforward, description kept to a minimum, and characters are never obvious. Port has a scheme in mind, but thus far we're not party to it. He's no Parker – he's younger for one thing, and not as terse – but he's clearly as smart as Parker in his own way, and certainly as guarded. It's a good, clear read so far, and bodes well for further Rabe reads – of which I should have a few more soon...

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