Friday, February 12, 2016

"Watch Me Kill You!" by Norbert Davis


The first card I drew for the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge this year was the 2 of Spades. Thus this was a Wild Card choice and I could pick any short story I wanted. This threw me for a loop as I was looking for more structure on that particular day, but I knew I had several books of short stories that I wanted to read in order, so I went looking for them. The book I chose was The Complete Cases of Max Latin by Norbert Davis, and the first story in that book is "Watch Me Kill You!".

Max Latin is a private detective with a difference; his office is a table in a restaurant where he spends much of his time. He presents himself as a shady character, and at the beginning of this story he has just gotten out of jail. He is approached by the husband of a very rich woman who is known as a collector of art; the wife wants some pieces of art painted by her cousin, who refuses to sell them to her. Even though this is an unusual assignment, Latin sees this as an easy route to some cash, so he takes it on. When he goes to visit the cousin, the cousin is lying on the floor, dead, in his studio. Much mayhem ensues and Latin investigates.

The Complete Cases of Max Latin consists of five stories originally published in Dime Detective magazine between July 1941 and October 1943. The book is 225 pages long and each story is 40-50 pages long, and divided into chapters. "Watch Me Kill You!" is 50 pages long (in trade paper format) and has six chapters. The book has a introduction by John D. MacDonald, written in 1988 for The Adventures of Max Latin published by Mysterious Press. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.

Norbert Davis is known for the humor in his writing. Since humor in mysteries is not my favorite thing, I wasn't sure about his writing, but I have purchased all of the books in the Doan and Carstairs series, and I have been planning to read those for a while. This story gave me a taste, and I will be continuing with more of his works.

My list of short stories for the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge is here. Jay at Bibliophilopolis hosts the challenge.


If you want to know more about Norbert Davis or his Max Latin stories, you could start here:

  • Norbert Davis at The Thrilling Detective Web Site, a piece which has links to other sources.
  • Max Latin at The Thrilling Detective Web Site



8 comments:

  1. I read one of his Doan and Carstairs mysteries last year, but I haven't been tempted by anything else by the author. I hope you enjoy more of his work in the future.

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    1. I am enjoying his Max Latin stories, Col, and I am going to investigate finding some of his other stories.

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  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this well enough to try more of Davis' writing, Tracy. I do like a story with some wit in it, so this story sounds like something I might enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I was glad I liked it too, Margot, because the book was fairly expensive. I was happy that one of my impulse buys paid off, sometimes they don't.

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  3. I love the idea of your being thrown by too much choice Tracy! I don't think I've read this author at all - it sounded a bit familiar, but maybe because Col featured him a while back? Anyway, sounds interesting. Love the cover.

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    1. I know, you would think I would love a chance to pick a story. My mind is perverse sometimes. The cover was probably the deciding factor in buying the book, and it was a good choice. Rue Morgue Press, who did reprints of the three Doan and Carstairs novels, is out of business now, so I will be searching the online market for copies of the first and the third novels, because they do such good introductions with lots of research. (Which is also true of the copy of Murder Begins at Home by Delano Ames which you sent me; great intro info on Ames. I have to start that series soon.)

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  4. Tracy, heard of the author but never read. A 50-page story would be a novella, or almost there. I like the cover of your book. And I can see why the JDM introduction might even overshadow the stories inside.

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    1. You are right, Prashant, I also thought that these could be called novellas or novelettes. I like longer short shories, whatever they are called. The JDM intro is great; it isn't only about Davis's writing and life (which was brief and sad) but also about writing for the pulps.

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