The Brass Monkey

Flickriver: Photoset 'Phantom Books (Australia)' by MICKSIDGE

Harry Whittington, King of the paperback writers, could write pulp like no one’s business. And, in Brass Monkey, he offers his readers a novel that is absolutely overflowing with pulpy goodness. When I look for pulpy novels from the fifties, this is precisely what I look for.

What makes this novel so great? Although it all takes place on Oahu in the years before Hawaii’s statehood, it is a novel that is dark and despairing. It is a novel that is filled with people who have the blues, people in loveless marriages, people who’ve pretty much given up on anything.

You have two small town guys who somehow end up on the island. One had his heart ripped to shreds and decided to get even by marrying a millionaire heiress whose love he can never return. Though he has a detective office, it’s closed six days a week and he doesn’t give a damn and his rich wife supports him – failure that he is. And, his buddy has three failed marriages and no prospects – not really. They are not really buddies but something snaps when James can’t accept suicide as an explanation for his friend’s death.

The story is filled with the usual pulp tropes of murder, marijuana, blackmail, dancing girls, femme Fatales and the like. But what makes it so terrific is Whittington’s mastery of the language which allows him to describe things so vividly you can feel the sweat and taste and smell.

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