This one is probably the weakest of the four Sand Shocker’s we’ve read thus far, and wonder why it is included in the Sand’s Game omnibus, re-titled Too Late to Pray…perhaps for its connection to one of the short stories, “Flesh House.”
In Game of Passion/Too Late to Pray, Sand has been away for a while and seems the Syndicate has stopped sending killers. But he’s come back to his home city of Chicago to find out who killed a hooker he knew five years ago, working for Morpsie Steiner, a madam of a well-known brothel. Sand has history with Morpsie and she may have appeared in other books.
The plot is basic: Sand runs around town, beating up and killing people as he looks for clues and evidence, learning about the dead hooker’s ties with wealthy and political men that indicates she knew too much…and seems every low life gangster boyfriend she’s had was given an anonymous and generous amount of cash to break up with her. There are no plot twists as found in other Sand Shockers, or weird characters such as crippled domestic terrorists or, like in Warped Ambitions, a gorilla trainer with warped ambitions. This is standard tough guy noir fare with a predictable solving of the crime.
We get a quick glimpse of Morpsie’s son who answers the brothel door, a pimply young lad on vacation from an Ivy League law school…in the short story “Flesh House,” this son is about 10 years older, a legal eagle deep in Chicago politics with public office ambitions. So the story takes place a considerable time after the novel. Morpsie has been murdered, and after a few wild goose chases, Sand realizes it was the son, who changed his name but couldn’t have it come out that his mom was a pimp of female flesh — that would ruin his warped ambitions as mayor, assemblyman, senator, maybe president…
In his introduction to “Flesh House,” Bill Pronzini notes that there is enough material for a novel, and we can’t help but think Willie should have wrote this novel.