Monday, March 24, 2014

David Handler

David Handler’s first book in the Berger and Mitry series, The Cold Blue Blood, was a Dilys Award finalist and BookSense Top Ten pick. Handler is also the author of eight novels about the witty and dapper celebrity ghostwriter Stewart Hoag and his faithful, neurotic basset hound, Lulu, including Edgar and American Mystery Award winner The Man Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald.

His new novel is The Coal Black Asphalt Tomb.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Handler's reply:
The brutally long, cold winter is still hanging on here in Southern New England. The news headlines seem to be getting bleaker and more depressing every day. Me? I’m curled up with my favorite hard-boiled crime novel of all time, Build My Gallows High, by the late, great Geoffrey Homes, which was the pen name of a San Francisco newspaperman named Daniel Mainwaring.

If you don’t know Geoffrey Homes you really should. He was one of the very best hard-boiled crime writers of the 1940s. And if you don’t know Build My Gallows High -- a twisty, wicked tale of a detective who goes searching for a gangster’s treacherous girlfriend only to end up falling for her himself -- well, yes, you do. Or you do if you’re a fan of film noir. When Homes adapted Build My Gallows High as a screenplay for RKO in 1947 the title got changed to Out of the Past. That’s right, the iconic noir masterpiece starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, directed by Jacques Tourneur, was based on this book.

Are you with me now?

If you’re a fan of the movie I promise you that you’ll love the book. Homes did have to move some pieces around structurally. He changed the name of Robert Mitchum’s character from Red Bailey to Jeff Bailey. Also the name of Jane Greer’s character from Mumsie McGonigle to Kathie Moffat. But it’s all here – the razor sharp dialogue, the wicked double-crosses and this gifted author’s wonderful prose. Here is what Red thinks the first time he ever lays eyes on Mumsie: “She was a slim, lovely little thing with eyes too big for her face and the serene look often seen on nuns.”

Clearly, this was a man who didn’t stand a chance.

Homes wrote a ton of excellent series mysteries before he ever wrote Build My Gallows High. To me, he is one of the most underappreciated writers of his era. Not to mention the unsung godfather of film noir. Because, let’s face it, if it hadn’t been for Build My Gallows High there would be no Out of the Past. No Mitchum being the ultimate loser hero. No Jane Greer being the ultimate bad girl.

Honestly? That’s too horrible a concept to even imagine. I just can’t.
Visit David Handler's website.

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2011).

Writers Read: David Handler (October 2012).

Writers Read: David Handler (August 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue