Even though there are two titles on this latest reissue from Stark House Press, you can approach it as one large story, even with the seven years that separated their original publication. These two Dan J. Marlowe classics just don’t skip a beat or a bullet.
1962′s THE NAME OF THE GAME IS DEATH is the first book to feature Earl Drake. He goes by the name of Chet for the bulk of the book, which sets up the series that would follow. We get the whole backstory to this iconic crime-fiction character who easily could be compared to another icon, Richard Stark’s Parker, since both are hellbent on getting what’s coming to them.
But that’s where the comparisons end; Drake is his own type of trouble. In this entry, we read about his upbringing and how he entered into the world of crime. All this is told to us as Drake is in prison for a bank robbery that went all wrong. Sure, they got the money, but at a cost. The money is hidden and there are plenty of people who would like to get their hands on it.
Marlowe really seems to be writing without a net, just letting his creation lead him through these pages. Once Drake is released from prison, he has one thing on his mind: getting his money, but he takes his time, knowing full well he is being watched. This leads into a confrontation with a Florida cop who has a sadistic side a mile wide, leading to a brutal climax.
But don’t take a breath just yet, since 1969′s ONE ENDLESS HOUR picks right up where NAME OF THE GAME left of, to the point that the prologue is a rehash of the final chapters of the previous book. That’s totally understandable since this sequel took seven years to come out.
We find Drake exactly where Marlowe left him: once again in jail. But this time, Drake is playing this one smarter than everyone realizes, by playing a basket case in a prison for the criminally insane. He sees a way out by getting a facelift, courtesy of the prison doctors.
From this point, the story puts Drake with a new face and a burning desire for revenge on a certain cop. Once that’s all said and done, the novel moves into Drake teaming up with other criminals pulling a bank job. Things go from bad to worse rather quickly.
As I said before, these two tales can be seen as one large whole, which makes them perfect for Stark House to package together. Once again, Stark House packs in the extras we have come to expect, such as the requisite Marlowe bibliography, of which I’ve read his sole entry in the men’s adventure genre, GUERILLA GAMES. An introductory essay by Charles Kelly gives readers a brief, but informative history of Marlowe, while Gary Brandner’s closing essay is a really touching piece about when Marlowe was late in his life and trying to get back into writing.
This is yet another great reissue job by Stark House Press for a pair of books that are must-reads for any serious crime reader. —Bruce Grossman