Thursday, September 19, 2019

64. No Orchids for Miss Blandish by James Hadley Chase

Am I like the last person to discover James Hadley Chase and this book?  I picked it up for a dollar at a sidewalk sale outside of the Le Port de tete, based mainly on the nice '70s Penguin cover.  I was not expecting much.  A few pages in, the sparse prose, tough and pathetic criminals and desolate Kansas roads made me think this was something special.  I don't think I ever remember Westlake referenceing Hadly Chase, but this felt very much Parker-like in tone.

A down-and-out gangster learns that a young debutante is going to be going to a nightclub wearing a $50,000 pearl necklace and plans to steal it.  The heist goes badly wrong when her drunken beau fights back and gets shot.  The thugs decide then and there to kidnap her and hold her for ransom.  Things go worse for everybody involved.

This is a tough, nasty book with cool police procedure and logistical details.  The locations, the various members of the underworld, the cops and about halfway through the detective who finally starts figuring out how to break the case are all neat and well thought out.  It's rough, too.  Some dark shit goes on.  This is grown-up stuff.

Imagine my surprise when doing a cursory research on the author, not only do I learn that he is considered the king of thriller writers, but that he is English and never even visited the U.S. until much later in his career!  Well you learn something new every day and I am most happy to have been luckily educated in this way.  Also, great title and brutally, darkly funny.

I also learned that Hadley Chase revised this book in 1962 to update it and my understanding is that he may have softened it as well.  The copy I have was published in 1980 and while there is no mention that it is revised and it also has the original copyright date of 1939, I'll have to assume this is the revised version.  Damn, I bet the original is expensive and hard to find.  Worth it though, if it is harder than the revised version, which is pretty damned hard.  Here is a reference to an extensive breakdown of the various versions of the book.

What is says on the tin.


Anonymous said... probably has a lot to do with the book being remembered.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Yes, I had found that. Thanks for putting it in the comments. It's an interesting essay. Orwell's moral distaste is tempered by his appreciation of the writing. I wonder what he would have thought of Parker? :)