Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Vengeance Man By Dan J. Marlowe

“Nobody laughs at me and gets away with it.

Not even my cheating wife—a couple of bullets through the guts took care of her.

Not even the crooked senator.

Not even the blackmailing lesbian.
Not even the extortionist who'd taken the incriminating pictures.

But there were still some wise guys left who really believed they could kill me before I kill them. That's what damn fools are made of...” –The Back Cover
Original printing 1962, this is a 1974 reprint. 9fc cover price, 191 pages
Dan J. Marlowe’s The Vengeance Man is one hard-boiled murder story by, and a pretty sick and twisted one at that. A departure from the standard noir novel, Vengeance Man follows Jim Wilson, an out-and-out sociopath, as he ruthlessly climbs to power in the south. The book opens with Wilson shooting his adulteress wife in a motel after setting up a series of events to make it seem like a “crime of passion,” rather than the calculated murder it actually was. Soon released from jail because of juror sentiment rather than a technicality, Wilson embarks on a reign of terror that both revenges himself upon people, and, of course, benefits him financially.
Marlowe waits until after the inaugural murder to reveal that not only is Jim Wilson the sole benefactor of his late wife’s small fortune, but that he was cheating as well. In fact, all of his acts of revenge are undermined by the double standards he has for himself. Fortunately, we’re not expected to like Wilson, or any of the immoral characters throughout this book, considering they all spend the novel backstabbing and climbing over each other like obstacles. In just under 200 pages, our protagonist murders, blackmails, steals, and even rapes, in a one man orgy of hatred and greed. This doesn’t sound like a pleasant book, but Marlowe pulls it off almost perfectly.
The man could write. Oftentimes, Marlowe reminded me of Faulkner—a perverted and violent Faulkner, but Faulkner nonetheless. You get the vibe that Wilson, as the narrator, gives up trying to sugar coat his story after the first chapter. He goes on to unleash a torrent of woman-hating, absolute greed, and ferocity, all of which somehow didn’t get watered down by an editor. The end result: The Vengeance Man is a powerful book. Anti-hero in Jim Wilson is surrounded by a cast of characters just as immoral and debauched as he is, all of whom are in over their heads and are punished much worse than they deserve.

I recommend this book, but not to someone looking to get a chuckle out of a book with a shitty cover, as this is some intense reading. I know this write-up was all very vague, but almost any details would have been spoilers, this being a noir novel after all.

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