"...those who enjoy the darker side of the genre are in for some serious thrills with this..."
Laura Wilson, The Guardian
Published in the UK by Polygon (March 19th, '09) and in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Nov '09).
WEB OF MURDER
by Harry Whittington
reviewed by Mike Dennis
Charley Brower is a pretty smart guy. That’s what he thought, anyway. Shoot, a big, smart lawyer like him? Shouldn’t be any trouble at all to kill his rich wife for her money, then make off with his secretary. No sir. No trouble at all.
Turns out Charley is maybe a little too smart.
That’s the general idea in Web Of Murder, a tight little noir novel from 1958 by one of the masters of the genre, Harry Whittington.
Charley saves guilty clients from the electric chair and has every material possession he could want: a Cadillac, cashmere jackets, and a big home. The home, however, is in his wife Cora’s name and that bothers him. For that matter, his wife bothers him.
Cora spends her time straightening out her house and getting on Charley’s nerves. They’re both in their middle thirties, but are already starting the physical slide into middle age. You know Charley’s brain is ticking when he says, “I was showing my age, but with Cora, I had to look at it.” You can’t sink any deeper into noir than that.
He becomes obsessed with Laura, a coy little babe who takes his dictation and types up his briefs. Soon, they tumble into bed together and before the sheets are dry, Charley realizes that Cora has to go.
Harry Whittington, unfortunately, has been nearly forgotten in the sweep of time. He was an incredibly prolific author, cranking out upwards of 200 novels during his career, which tapered off in the late 1960s. At one point, he wrote 85 novels in twelve years, seven in one month! He wrote under his own name, as well as some fifteen pseudonyms, and easily crossed genres from mystery into western and even pornography.
But his forte was noir.
Web Of Murder is a slim little book, probably fewer than 35,000 words, but it tells its tale extremely well. The characters are well-drawn and the plot is never really rushed. When it came to pulp paperback authors, Whittington was one of the best, and he holds up to this day.
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Copyright © Mike Dennis, 2009
After a long career as a professional musician, MIKE DENNIS moved from Key West to Las Vegas to become a professional poker player. His first novel, The Take, a noir tale of human desperation, will be published in 2010. His short story Pickup Across The River was published online at A Twist Of Noir, and another story, Block, is now available in the 2009 Wizards of Words Anthology.