Thrill Crazy by Jerry M. Goff, Jr. (Merit Books, 1963)
I got this one in a lot from eBay, opened it, and was pleasantly surprised. This is an ultra-hardboiled sleazenoir set in Los Angeles. “One bullet killed three people,” says Bob Harding, Jr., the narrator who has set out to find who killed his father, Captain Robert Harding of the LAPD.
Bob is a high school English teacher, taking time off to sleuth. It’s funny how hardboiled he is, fist fighting and shooting guns, but attests this to being a cop’s son.
The murder seems to trace back to the L.A. underground mob, and a mysterious woman, Lisa Farrell, former mob moll, now a thrill crazy nympho and his father’s lover.
The terse writing is good, damn good, but like Chandler, sometimes you have no idea what the hell is going on — not sure if Goff was doing this intentionally, in that L.A. noir way, or if all his work is like that — I have ordered some of his other Merit Books titles, like Wanton Wench, Tropic of Carla, Rocco’s Babe, and Hot-Road Broad.
Looks like Goff did about two dozen of books for Merit only…not sure if Goff is a pen name, and whose, but he also wrote as Jerry Lane for Playtime and Private Editions. Seems Goff’s name was his real name, and he passed away in 2002 — a reader of this blog pointed out an obit in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Another lost writer in sleazecore alley. From what I have see, Merit focused on hardboiled men’s fiction with sex slant, like the Ennis Willie titles.
Why aren’t there publishers like this anymore? A shame.
Thrill Crazy gets a little too hard-boiled with flat characters at times. When the woman Bob is supposed to marry, the daughter of a detective, gets raped by the bad guy, Bob shows no emotion except to want to kill. Even the victim is flat: “What I was saving for you is no more.”
Plus, Bob becomes a cad, sleeping with Lisa, even though he knew his father was having sex with the woman.
The bullet that killed three? The bullet in his father, his mother’s death from a car crash in despair, and finally the thrill seeking wench…
We see it coming. Predictable, but sometimes hardboiled fiction is read for the language and violence, and sex, not the solving of the murder. Look how convoluted some of Chandler’s great works get — sometimes you have no idea where the plot is going in The Big Sleep (even William Faulkner was flabbergasted when writing the screenplay adapt) but you are entertained by the dialogue and narrative nonetheless.