When I blogged about my recent trip to New York City, I mentioned a visit to the Strand Bookstore, a cavernous place on four floors with, so they tell me (and I didn't check) eighteen miles of books. That's a lot of books. There's a rare book room on the top floor, and I looked at several very interesting titles. Among them were a couple of signed books that caught my eye. And one of these had a fascinating inscription. It's my Forgotten Book for today.
The author was Rufus King, and the title The Deadly Dove. I have to say that, when the jacket proclaimed that it offered "a sinister mixture of mirth and murder", I had plenty of qualms. Writing a truly successful comic crime novel is very, very difficult. And I didn't even realise that Rufus King did comedy. I'd always thought of him as someone who began as a disciple of S.S. Van Dine before branching out with his Valcour series, an omnibus of which has lurked on my shelves for many years. But I was loving my trip to New York, so in merry mood, I bought the book.
I read it very quickly because it's quite short. And that's a good thing, because if there's one type of book that's harder to write than a comic crime novel, it's a long comic crime novel. The Deadly Dove was published in 1944, and perhaps it afforded some relief from thoughts of warfare. As a matter of fact, it begins well.
The premise is that a grasping young chap called Alan has married an older woman, Christine, for money. Alan owes a gangster $25,000, and the pair of them come to an arrangement. The gangster will arrange for a veteran assassin called Dove to kill Christine. You can guess what's coming, can't you? Yes, that's right. Circumstances change, and Alan becomes desperate to prevent Dove from carrying out his assigned task. But where is Dove? Oh no, he can't be found! The later plot developments became, for me, progressively less gripping, and although King was quite a capable crime writer, this novel is really a minor work. But at least it didn't outstay its welcome as far as I was concerned.