Tuesday, August 06, 2013

17. The Mistress by Carter Brown

Carter Brown is one of those crime fiction authors whose existence can be discouraging both for the reader and the writer.  He was actually a British guy living in Australia and he cranked out 332 (!) novels under the Carter Brown pseudonym, not to mention dozens of westerns, sci-fi and romances under other names.  His books were ubiquitous in the U.S. in the 50s and 60s, said to be a favorite of JFK.  What's particularly distressing is not just the sheer quantity (at one point, he was contracted to write two short and one long novel a month), but that he was also subject to painful writer's block!.  It makes the potential writer realize how much writing is just hard, hard work.

The Mistress begins with a sheriff's niece found shot dead on the front steps of the sherrif's house in Pine City, a small town somewhere not too far from Vegas.  The protagonist is the brash lieutenant, Al Wheeler, who always second-guesses his chief's simplistic solution.  In this case, it's the independent bookmaker who had just been ran out of Vegas by the syndicate, had taken up shop in Pine City and in whom the niece had fallen in with.  He is too obvious of a culprit for the lieutenant, who starts digging deeper.  It's a fun ride, with some good detecting and an interesting set up.  I correctly guessed who the murderer was early in, because he was telegraphed as such an asshole, even though not obviously connected to the crime at the beginning.  One of the principle characters is a top-shelf stripper, whose abnormal routine was quite fun (she appears on stage just for a moment in the spotlight completely nude and then comes back dressed and starts the dance).  However, that she quickly hops in bed with Wheeler and basically is in love with him for the entire second half of the book was pushing even my tolerance for unbelievable genre and period sexual mores. 

So it's a decent book and that is what makes Carter Brown so discouraging for the reader.  It's not garbage, it's actually good enough that you wouldn't mind reading more.  But there are just so many and nothing that really stands out about them that gives you anything to grab on to.  Is there a highlight or a particular series I should look into?  It's all so much that one kind of just wants to ignore his entire ouevre.  Though interestingly, I rarely come across old copies of Carter Brown.

1 comment:

Kelly Robinson said...

Holy crap, that's a lot of books. There are writers that are technically a whole gang of people that don't have that kind of output.