Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Read: "Black Hats" by Patrick Culhane (Max Allan Collins)

Read: Black Hats by Patrick Culhane (Max Allan Collins), 2007, 9780060892531.

We drove down to Wichita today. I mentioned to my wife I could look up some crime locations from Scott Phillips. We went to a movie and ate at Yip Yips instead. We also went by a Barnes and Noble. In the discount section I saw a few copies of Wyatt Earp Speaks. I showed the book to my wife but did not buy it. I then saw a copy of Men's Adventure Magazines. I flipped through that one, saw Collins's name, and pointed that out to my wife. I did not buy that book either.

Wyatt Earp is 70 years old and summering in Los Angeles rather than work his Nevada mine in the heat. Earp occasionally trades on his fame (infamy) and does some private investigator work. One day Big Nose Kate - Doc Holliday's ex - shows up. Kate says she and Doc had a son. The son also became a dentist but lost his wife and child and has opened a speakeasy in New York City. Kate pays Earp $500, plus expenses, to travel to NYC and convince Johnny to quit the business.

Earp gets out there and finds out that the night club is a booming business. Johnny proclaims it the next Gold Rush. One problem: the mafia of Frankie Yale is demanding that Johnny sell his 5-year supply of booze to Yale and Yale becomes the club's wholesaler. Yale has Al Capone enforcing his will.

Earp ends up advising and working with Johnny. Bat Masterson joins in. Things happen. Capone and cronies machine gun the night club after close. Earp and Bat figure out how to secretly transport the off-site stored booze to the club. Shoot-out at the booze warehouse. Mafia gunmen dropped in Brooklyn as they Irish mob did it.

Earp and Bat know the problem will not go away. They get Johnny to get out of the business. Con job proceeds. Everyone lives happily ever after. Except for the dead guys.

1. Collins wrote that Harrison Ford is attached to a movie version of this. Ford is such a big name that I presume there is a better than average chance the film will get financing and be made.
2. I like the Quarry novels better. This was slower with less action. Only one current day gunfight - the booze warehouse - with flashbacks to the O.K. Corral and that fight's aftershocks. I hereby proclaim Black Hats to be more historical novel than crime novel.
3. In 1993 I went to Tombstone and saw the Vincent Price voiced automaton play. It was not very good.
4. I could tell while reading that Collins put a lot of work in the historical bits and pieces. His afterword makes that clear and I especially like his listing of good sources, and his criticism of poor sources. Whenever I see Collins write a comment online I pay attention. See the Jerry Lewis comments on If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger...
5. Back to the story: Earp is a killer. Earp is a card cheat. Earp likes to make money. Earp puts his faith and trust in few people. Earp has wanderlust. Earp is hard person to figure out.
6. From what Collins gives us I think trusting Earp would be risky. His word can be trusted but he seems like the type to pull out whenever it suits him. Earp praises Doc Holliday's loyalty as a friend - I wonder if that loyalty was something this fictional version of Earp lacked.
7. Earp is one of those guy's whose long and eventful life is defined by others into one or two brief events. Like a 20-year-old infantryman scarred by combat. But, Earp bore very few psychological scars aside from the loss of his brothers.

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