Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paperback 673: A Taste For Blood / John B. West (Signet S1800)

Paperback 673: Signet S1800 (1st ptg, 1960)

Title: A Taste for Blood
Author: John B. West
Cover artist: Barye Phillips

Yours for: $6


Best things about this cover:
  • Jeez, that's a Lot of blood. Hard to admire the naked lady with slasher movie-level gore on the wall.
  • "Rocky Steele" is a name that one might call "over-compensating." It's a hair's breadth away from "Cock McJohnson."
  • I have this theory that the P.I. novel essentially died in 1954 with "The Long Goodbye"; it devolves into self-parody after that (though there had been elements of self-parody almost immediately after the P.I. novel became a thing). This book is a minor but perfect example of what I'm talking about. Toughness, hardness—it's a formula, a pose. I know there are many fine practitioners of the P.I. novel who have written since and write now, but it usually feels like the author is wearing old clothes—might make 'em look good, but they're still a costume. A form of nostalgia. Signifiers standing in for substance. [I hope it's clear that I'm speaking narrowly of the traditional P.I. novel here—the crime fiction genre more broadly is clearly thriving—though Sturgeon's Law, as always, applies]  


Best things about this back cover:
  • Wait, my accountant wrote a crime novel?
  • Ha ha, he's a physician! So let me start over: "Wait, my doctor wrote a crime novel!?"
  • These fake little back-cover bios, where authors are made to seem like men's magazine adventure heroes, always slay me. 

Page 123~

He thanked the operator and laid the phone down like it was a hand grenade and then turned back to me.

I'm no munitions expert, but is that what one does with a hand grenade? I'm having a hard time not picturing Rocky Steele just hurling the phone across the room then hitting the ground and covering his head.


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Pat said...

There were two Dr. John B. Wests. One was a noted noted respiratory physiologist and mountaineer. he worked with Edmund Hillary. He also wrote several books on respiratory medicine.
The other was a African-American graduate of Howard and Harvard that did migrate to Liberia and became a business man and writer. No mention of bing game hunting.

Random White Guy said...

It would be interesting to know if this hard-boiled thriller was written by an African American only to have some old white guy's photo get all the credit.

DemetriosX said...

Actually, when I saw the author photo and before I read the bio, I wondered if he might be black. They probably whitewashed the photo some, but I can see it. The bio also made me think of the "Robert Galbraith" author "bio" that has now been proven to be JK Rowling.

Graham Powell said...

That cover... it makes me wonder if the coat rack and bathrobe were added later.

Rittster said...

John B. West, as it shows in the photo, was black. Rocky Steele, if anybody's wondering, is white.