Friday, October 1, 2010

Paperback 357: Night Train / Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald) (Lion Library LL40)

Paperback 357: Lion Library LL40 (2nd ptg / 1st thus, 1955)

Title: Night Train
Author: Kenneth Millar
Cover artist: Samson Pollen

Yours for: $22


Best things about this cover:
  • I think there is a single scene in this book that is set in a jazz club. Why they have completely de-crime-fictionized this cover, I don't know ("A Bold Story of Fierce Desire"??), but I'm glad they did—the painting is fantastic: vibrant and chaotic. You rarely see a black woman in the position of sexy dame on these covers—very nice.
  • I like the guy right behind her—the guy you are very likely to miss if you're sucked into either the playing/dancing or the steamy glance between Ms. Bar Lady and Mr. Ne'er-Do-Well. The guy behind her—he's the one I want to know. He's either tailing that guy, or he's just thinking "Really? That guy? She must be working some angle..."
  • Love the guy in the foreground with the cigar! He is sooo happy to have that cigar!
  • What is up with the letter spacing on the tagline? Letters get closer together as title moves left to right. It's like a 3rd grader wrote it by hand and ran out of room as she approached the right margin


Best things about this back cover:
  • This is (pretty much) the cover of the original Lion edition of this book (which I own ... hey, wait, I've already blogged it—it's here! Check out the art parallels)
  • Ross Macdonald was (understandably) saddled with the "Chandler/Hammett" mantle early on in his career, and despite a period of phenomenal fame (peaking around 1970), he just wasn't the artist either Hammett or Chandler was, and hasn't had their longevity. I know I am in the minority here, but I'm not a big Macdonald fan; I especially don't care for the Lew Archer stuff. Archer's just a smarmy, dull, self-righteous Marlowe. A Not-Marlowe. A Marl-faux. Sadly, he's also the model for virtually every P.I. that came after him.
  • There is more than a "trace" of Freud in Macdonald's work; when reading Macdonald, I often feel like I'm reading a novel whose sole purpose is to illustrate some concept from Psychology 101. If I remember correctly, though, this pre-Lew Archer stuff is pretty tight and entertaining.

Page 123~

Mrs. Tessinger was extraordinarily vivacious. Her bosom seemed higher than ever, and her waist tighter.

That's a nice, lecherous eye the narrator has there.


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Tulse said...

That cover looks like the funnest place ever. Any other fun place I can think of, it's funner than that.

renee in tucson said...

Is it just me, or does her left breast seem to have a life of its own? Maybe it would be less striking if the right one also seemed, mmm, animated.

datrappert said...

Definitely agree with your assessment of MacDonald as a writer. I admit to having only read a couple of his early Lew Archer books, but both come across as someone trying (and failing) to write prose as well as Chandler while also trying to have the plots make sense (unlike much of Chandler.) It just doesn't work.

JamiSings said...

Like how the guy behind the main dame sticks out to you, for me it's the single white chick in green. They stick her at the back and yet somehow she sticks out. Maybe because she's the only one wearing a hat? Like they're saying, "See the blonde chick slumming it!"

Thomas Parker said...

Your taste is your taste, but if you're judging the man on his early stuff, you're doing him a disservice. Read The Chill; if you don't like that one, you're at least disliking the best he was capable of. I think it's one of the best hardboiled mysteries ever done by anyone.

DemetriosX said...

Maybe it's just because I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, but I love that went with the Pasadena Star-News for their major critical quote on the back. Toss in Columbia (which one!?) and Albuquerque on the front and you've got an odd selection of papers.

Smoking Guy on the back cover is giving the other guy (who looks like Jack Lord) exactly the same look that Unobtrusive Guy is giving Mr. Ne'er-Do-Well on the front. Intriguing.