Friday, January 31, 2014

MacKinlay Kantor's It's about Crime (1960).

After reading MacKinlay Kantor's "The Grave Grass Quivers" (1931; see my post here), I wanted to read some of his other mystery work. In December 1960, he published It's about Crime, which includes "The Grave Grass Quivers" and 10 other short stories. The January 28, 1961, issue of the Saturday Review called the collection a "[f]ine pro job, as expected."

The collection provides much fascinating material and is a quick read. It is best suited to those who like hard-hitting mystery prose (for example, Kantor refers to a bullet as a "lead messenger"), and younger readers might need a tutorial from their elders as to past conventions such as a night letter.

In "Sparrow Cop," Nick, a rookie assigned to the zoo, receives a lot of ribbing about his job from his brother the seasoned cop ("you can never tell about bears," the latter says), yet Nick's encounter with an unaccompanied child leads to something far more sinister and gives his smart-aleck brother his comeuppance. "Rogues' Gallery" offers an unusual method for fingering criminals. The detective in "Something Like Salmon" must connect a bunch of fragmented clues provided by a lunch counter proprietor to find a gang of bank robbers. In "Nobody Saw Him Fall," an observant janitor who moonlights as Santa Claus figures out who framed him for murder (with Kantor commenting on class). An interesting twist occurs in "The Shadow Points," as a man thinks he has devised the perfect way to recover the valuable items from a long-ago robbery. The humorous "The Strange Case of Steinkelwintz" features an amateur sleuth on the trail of a missing baby-grand piano.

Kantor, Pulitzer Prize winner for Andersonville (1955) and writer of the story that became the film Gun Crazy (1950), died in 1977. His son, Tim, offers reflections in My Father's Voice: MacKinlay Kantor Long Remembered (1988).

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

Kantor is one of those writers I keep meaning to look into, and have for decades, since finding the fat volume of ANDERSONVILLE on my high-school library's shelves. This might be my entry point.