Friday, March 25, 2011

Forgotten Books: Girl Possessed - Dean Owen (Dudley Dean McGaughey)

(I'm kind of swamped these days, so from time to time I'm going to be re-running some posts from the early days of this blog, before there was a Forgotten Books series.  I hope they'll be new to many of you, and to those who have seen them before, my apologies.)

For an author who is remembered today (if at all) as a Western writer, based on the evidence of this book Dean Owen could also write a pretty good crime novel. The plot of this book is very much in the Gold Medal style: an earnest but not too bright lunk of a hero runs into a beautiful dame who's maybe no better than she has to be; hero makes one wrong decision that sets in motion a chain of steadily worsening events including murder; and then things get even worse. If there's a drawback to this book, it may be that it hews too closely to this well-established plotline and doesn't provide any real surprises along the way. But Owen tells his story in a terse, fast-moving style that's very appealing to me and gives the reader a good picture of a man who's gone past the end of his rope.

And how about that cover, hey? Pretty spicy stuff.

This novel was published by Gold Star Books, a short-lived company headquartered in Derby, Connecticut. In its three years or so of existence, Gold Star published quite a few crime novels, including American editions of some of the Hank Janson novels, which were hugely successful in England. Gold Star is best known, though, as the publisher of several Tarzan pastiche novels which appeared under the pseudonymous byline "Barton Werper" (actually the name of a character in one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan novels). If I'm remembering the story correctly, these Tarzan novels were lightly rewritten plagiarisms of some of Burroughs' novels. I recall seeing the Barton Werper books on the paperback rack at Tompkins' Drug Store, where I bought a lot of books and comics and digest magazines in the mid-Sixties, but for some reason I never bought any of them. That sort of surprises me because I was a big Burroughs fan by then. I sort of wish I had picked them up, because they're semi-collectible now, but I don't want them badly enough to go looking for copies.

I've wandered off the subject. GIRL POSSESSED is good enough that I'll definitely read more of Dean Owen's mystery novels under his various pseudonyms (most notably Dudley Dean and Owen Dudley). Luckily I already own most of them.

(Update:  Since this post, like the others I'll be re-running, is from before the fire, I don't have all those Dudley Dean and Owen Dudley mysteries anymore.  But I do have some I've picked up since then, and I still plan to get around to reading them.  One of these days.)


George said...

I'm hoping your being "swamped" is a good economic sign. Love the cover on GIRL POSSESSED!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I can always count on the men to find books with covers like this. Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Cullen Gallagher said...

I really liked the Western of his I read, The Man from Riondo. I'm keeping my eyes peeled for any of his other books (under his many pennames).

Cap'n Bob said...

Don't worry about the digressions. I love to read them.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Great book. Thanks, James.

Ed Lynskey