Thursday, July 5, 2012

Paperback Flashback: One For Hell by Jada M. Davis

Celebrating vintage paperbacks--both the cheesy & the profound.
But mostly the cheesy.

Let's start with the cover, shall we?  A laughing pinup in a negligee stands over a salt-and-pepper-haired man who looks suspiciously like a wayward Mitt Romney clutching his chest as he's crumpled to the floor beside a bed (and is that a spot of blood coming from under his hand?).  One for Hell by Jada M. Davis screams political sex scandal to me.

But, after some careful and thorough internet detective work this morning, I find that One For Hell has been hailed as a classic noir novel on the order of Jim Thompson, one of my favorites of the hard-boiled typewriter.  In a nutshell, the story is about Willa Ree, a boxcar hobo who hops off the train in a small town, determined to pick it clean in a one-man crime spree, but who ends up become chief of police.  It's an easy plot to mock...but, frankly, when I turned to page 100, I found some pretty decent writing:

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What's easier to lampoon is the back cover of the Red Seal paperback (which I picked up in some now-forgotten antique store here in western Montana earlier this year):

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Jada who?  According to this website, Mr. Davis seemed to suffer from a life of hard luck and bad choices.  Brutal poverty in his Depression-era childhood, tuberculosis while serving with the Army in World War Two, volunteering (!) for "atomic medical experiments" after the war, and turning his back on a writing career to take a job with Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, "where he worked as a PR executive until his retirement."  That's the stuff novels are made of, my friend.

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