Do you remember Mack Baker?
Largely forgotten today, Mack Baker was the author of Dead Dames Don't Dance and Bad Broads Don't Make Bail. These were his only books published, but in his diary he describes completing two others: Kittens Don't Kill Twice and Diamond Dolls Don't Die Easy. The manuscripts of these have not yet been found. There may have been more. In a 1963 letter to Agatha Christie he wrote that he was working on a series of crime novels to be called "Don't." Mrs. Christie is not believed to have replied, as she had never heard of him.
Dead Dames and Bad Broads were first serialized in Crimewave Magazine. Encouraged by their reception and knowing nothing of the publishing business, he sent the manuscripts to Oxford University Press. Disheartened by their rejection, he went rapidly downhill and was last heard of slinging hash in Hoboken, New Jersey. Dark Deeds Press, a small publishing house that specializes in rediscovering forgotten classics of crime fiction, will publish both titles in February 2012.
Here is an extract from Bad Broads Don't Make Bail:
She'd started getting edgy about my fee. I picked up my bill, wrote two words on it and pushed it across her desk. "Pool . . . Guy." She paid.
I pushed open the door. A lot of people. Groups from the offices downtown, laughing too loud at the boss's jokes. Lovers gulping their drinks, eager to get back to their apartment. A girl was sitting alone at a table opposite the door. Slim, pretty, serious. She glanced up. I caught her eye and smiled. She started to smile, then stopped and looked away. She always did. I turned towards the bar. He saw me. He remembered me.
"Yeah. A tall extra foamy latte." I paused. "Soy milk."
* * * * *
Baker revisits this dark urban scenario in Dead Dames Don't Dance. Here is an extract:
I remembered Lola. I would never forget Lola.
As she turned her head, I saw a dark bruise high on her cheek. Her mouth was soft and kissable, but her eyes were like ice.
Jeffrey Morgan III. A husband? A lover?
"I'm going to Paris next week. It has to be done when I'm not here."
She knew. She reached into her purse and took out a photograph.
"This is Jeffrey."
His expression was sullen and suspicious. And he was ugly. As ugly as sin. His nose flat against his face, below dark, bulging eyes.
"One more thing. I'm a responsible dog owner. You will pick up everything he leaves."
A dirty job. But somebody has to do it.
She turned and left. I could still smell the jasmine, but now the Jack Daniels was stronger.
I opened the drawer of my desk and took out a paper. I knew the answers now. Taking my pen, I wrote the right words in the right place at last:
10 Down: WOMAN
6 Across: TROUBLE
* * * * *
Thanks to Dark Deeds Press, crime aficionados have an opportunity to read the two surviving works of an undeservedly neglected master of the hard-boiled genre, Mack Baker.
If Dark Deeds succeeds in finding any more Mack Baker novels, readers of Read Me Deadly will receive an exclusive preview.
|An Exclusive Mack Baker Preview|