Thursday, November 9, 2017

Read: "Dig My Grave Deep" by Peter Rabe

Read: Dig My Grave Deep by Peter Rabe, 1956 (Stark House omnibus from 2014), 9781596545434 (omnibus edition).

Someone wrote this is a "hard-hitting story of political corruption". Hard hitting? Well, I suppose. There is some violence. Some very matter-of-fact and natural sex. Hard hitting does not feel right.

Daniel Port is a WWII vet who ended up working for a political boss in some unnamed city. Port was in NYC after the war when he met Political Boss and was hired on. Port has been in the city for a handful of years as a political fixer and strategist. Port gets out the vote, pays off the local politicians, rigs the city contracts, and other underhanded shenanigans that keep Ward Nine under the control of Political Boss.

But, Port has had enough and wants to leave town. Port had looked after his brother for several years. That brother is barely discussed in the book but we learn he was killed as part of Political Boss's operation. That death and Port's dissatisfaction leads Port to the local United Airlines office where he boss a ticket out of the city.

Political Boss hears that Port is leaving - mainly because Port keeps saying he is leaving. But, Boss leans on Port's sympathies and loyalties to Boss and Port agrees to stay on long enough to assure that Ward Nine will stay save of a redevelopment deal that would move voters away.

Things happen. Port recruits a spy against Political Boss's adversary. Port meets a waitress who is the new spy's sister and Port digs her. Port clashes with Political Boss's protege. Port silently whistles when he is nervous or excited and only drinks cold coffee. Port sleeps with a local prostitute who gives Port a lead.

Everything is written with spare language. There is little description of people or place. I only thought of the city as a generic city in 1956. There are streets, brick buildings, people walking around - daily life of families, sports, apple trees, or whatever are never discussed. The city could have been Cleveland, Buffalo, Newark, anywhere. The only things that mattered were Port and the relationships that he used to get his and Political Boss's way.

This is a crime novel but the violence is more of a tool; violence is another way to persuade or convince. I suppose coerce is more like it.

Anyhoo, I tried this one out because I've read plenty of references to Rabe novels but never tried one. Stark House has reprinted 21 (unless I miscounted) of his novels. This was part of a three novel omnibus featuring Daniel Port and I am currently in the middle of the second novel.


Chris said...

I've read all the Ports, and most of Rabe's other novels as well. The five books about Port are not his best work--he seemed to be experimenting with different types of mystery story in them, which is interesting, but makes the series a bit of a mish-mash. Port's not a strong enough character to bridge that gap. But I enjoyed them all to some extent. Rabe always wrote with conviction, and he was enormously talented. The Ports are, believe it or not, his most light-hearted optimistic stories.

Gerard Saylor said...

I'll have to read some other stories just to see how dark Rabe could get.