Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Keir Graff

Keir Graff is the author of the novels Cold Lessons (under the pseudonym Michael McCulloch), My Fellow Americans, One Nation, Under God, and The Price of Liberty.

A couple of weeks ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm reading One for Hell, by Jada M. Davis, and loving it. Originally published as a Gold Medal paperback, and soon to be reprinted by the wonderful Stark House Press, it's a dark, bare-knuckled brawler set in a West Texas oil boomtown. There's a good ensemble of characters, but the story is mostly told by Willa Ree, a tough ex-con who drops off a freight train and decides the town of Breton is ripe for the plucking. By breakfast he's hired on to the local police force by a corrupt city councilman, and before long he's chief of police -- none of which stops him from a carrying out a campaign of burglaries. But Ree may be too smart for his own good. Or maybe he's not as smart as he thinks.

One for Hell is terse, atmospheric, dark, violent -- and deliciously good. It reads like Sinclair Lewis by way of Jim Thompson. A lot of pulp novels were imitative and unoriginal but, sometimes true originals emerged, voices that hadn't been heard before or since and were incapable of being copied. Davis was one of those, although, sadly, he only published one other novel. A former soldier and newspaperman who knew the turf he novelized, he ended his career as a PR executive for the telephone company. He rose from extreme poverty to extreme comfort, and I can only wonder whether a little more poverty would have given us a few more novels like these. If you'd rather read about devils than angels, this is the book for you.
Visit Keir Graff's website.

The Page 69 Test: One Nation, Under God.

The Page 69 Test: The Price of Liberty.

--Marshal Zeringue