Done: Fifty-to-One by Charles Ardai, 2008, 9780843959680.
Took a while to get to this one. Boy #1 was working the Scout dunk tank in Commons Park and I was superfluous. There was already a Scout Leader on duty so I walked over to find something to read for a while. There were still some unread Hard Case Crime novels on the paperback spinners so I checked this one out.
This is a good novel but it raises a few questions. #1 is Why does Ardai not write more books? I know he must spend a lot of time reading and editing but the guy does some real fine stuff. I see only three novels by him in Worldcat.
Ardai wanted to do something special since Fifty-to-One is the fiftieth novel published by Hard Case Crime. So he wrote a story where Hard Case was around 50 years ago and then incorporates all the lines titles as chapter headings.
Small town South Dakota girl Tricia Heverstadt follows her older sister Coral out to New York City in 1958. Tricia's bus drops her at Union Station and she catches a cab to her sister's boarding house. Coral tells her to leave NYC, go back to SD, and Tricia cannot stay. Tricia sits down and cries. A swell walks by saying, Hey, I know a hotel you can stay at. The Swell takes her money and gives her a business card with address. Tricia goes to the address and sees she has been swindled, the address is an office building.
Tricia starts to break down but straightens up, goes upstairs and figures to knock doors. A modeling agency on the 3rd floor hires her, under her promptly decided on pseudonym of Trixie, as a dancer for a nightclub singer. The agency runs a dorm-of-sorts in the building. Tricia/Trixie meets The Swell. The Swell is Charley who owns Hard Case crime. Trixie belts Charley. Charley says he'll pay back. Trixie also takes on the task to write a crime novel for $500.
Eight weeks go by and Trixie dances at nights in the mobster owned nightclub and types during the day. Trixie makes up the whole novel but after publishing the amazing coincidence is that the club's safe is robbed of three million dollars in the same fashion as the novel. Uh-oh
Trouble ensues. Mobsters beating and threatening. Revelations about Coral. Bad guys introduced. A couple people murdered. Scumbag behavior.
Trixie in peril. Trixie in grave peril. Trixie in graver peril. Trixie's sister and new friends in graver peril.
Women boxers. Loose women. Ruthless men. Ruthless women. Race horses.
Characters knocked unconscious. Mobsters who scheme against each other. Blackmail.
1950s New York geography. Gratuitous Don Westlake. Gratuitous Laurence Block.
Ardai has Trixie running around New York avoiding the cops and the mob and trying to find out who stole the money. A fun book.
1. Anacronism: Cops carrying radios? Did cops carry hand units in 1958? I have no idea but figure they would have used car radios or telephones.
2. One of those books that takes sweat and toil and is eaten up in just a few hours.