It was fun to spend some more time with my old pals Archie and Mr. Wolfe and that's probably what kept me going. In places the dialog didn't ring true, especially in the case of Saul Panzer, who seems to have been transformed here into another Archie. Still, as a man who ran out of new Rex Stout-penned Nero Wolfe adventures years ago, it was fun to revisit the characters.
If you like 'em fast-paced and hard-boiled, full of dames, gamblers, booze and guns, Paul Cain is the guy and even has some Chandleresque turns of phrase which is especially remarkable considering that his prose is terser than Hammet's.
This reads kinda like a Jean Shepherd book if Jean Shepherd had grown up 20 years later in a tougher family. Page-turning and often hilarious.
Not for everybody and a little frustrating at times because you wish he'd say so much more but for a first hand look at how movies were made in Hollywood in the 30s and 40s, especially in their pre-production and post-production phases, this is essential reading. Also, who can resist reading on in a diary that contains a line like, "Afterwards Dash, Lil and I went to the Brown Derby for lemonade."?
An almost hallucinatory mix of booze, broads, missing corpses, more booze, gangsters, grave robbing, gun play, even more booze and the occasional combination salad, The Lady in the Morgue plays out in '30s Chicago, with all the wisecracking detectives, street-savvy dames, and booze you could ever ask for. Oh, and the protagonists drink a lot of booze.
A land grab, incest, a nosy Private Investigator getting beaten, shady cops, crooked politicians, a femme fatale, in a very place-and-time-specific story. Chinatown? Nope! Maxwell Street Blues. P.I. Jules Landau has questionable ancestry and a cat with a taste for raw organ meats. He's also a vegetarian who buys his clothes in thrift stores. The cast is rounded out by not one but two sexy tattoo artists, 3 vicious meth heads, a University Official and Swanky Franky, a Hot Doug-inspired restaurateur who's not nearly as nice as the real Hot Doug.
Jules Landau is back and this time he's hired to investigate a murder that nobody else seems to care about. His investigation leads him into Chicago's strange and unpopular parking meter privatization, mass media cover-up, police corruption, and a human-trafficking ring run by a Russian mafia. Of course there's also more murder. Along the way we see his mentor waste away from cancer, his out-of-jail father sink slowly into dementia, and we learn more about his cop frenemy's relationship to both.
A beautiful couple, very much in love and very much in over their heads in the biggest diamond heist ever conceived.
A place called Hot Doug's closed down last fall, not because of lack of business but because Doug was tired of it. It was a terrific place to eat lunch and eat lunch there I did. Over 200 times. A new place has opened in the old space and I went there recently to try it out. It was great to be back in the place where I have so many fond memories but, while the food was fine, it just wasn't Hot Doug's. This is kind of how I feel about Archie in the Crosshairs. I've read the entire Nero Wolfe canon by Rex Stout which is about 55 books, some of them twice. I miss Nero and Archie but especially Archie. Reading Archie in the Crosshairs was a chance to reunite with one of my favorite fictional characters and I think Robert Goldsborough did a better job getting the tone right than I remember from the other Nero Wolfe book of his that I'd read, Murder in the Ball Park. Like methadone, it ain't heroin but if you're an addict it will get you through the night.
Now that Hot Doug's is no more, our memories and this book are all we have left. Between the two the legend of Hot Doug's will only continue to grow. It also contradicts Joni Mitchell, serving as positive evidence that sometimes you DO know what ya got BEFORE it gone.
Full Disclosure: My miniscule contributions to Hot Doug's The Book appear on pages 152 and 156.