Friday, November 06, 2015

Forgotten Books: Marilyn K. - Lionel White

As far as I recall, I've read only two books by Lionel White before now. Liked one quite a bit, didn't care for the other one. But MARILYN K., originally published by Monarch Books in 1960, is a good yarn, no doubt about that.

The set-up is pure noir. Narrator/protagonist Sam Russell, ex-Marine, ex-casino croupier who lost his job in Havana when Castro took over, is driving from Florida to New York when he comes across a beautiful girl stranded on an isolated stretch of road in Maryland. She needs help, and she's attractive enough that Sam wants to help her.

The fact that she has a suitcase full of money with her is an added inducement. But the situation is complicated by a wrecked car nearby with a dead mobster in it, and once Sam finds out what's going on, he's is smart enough to know that what he ought to do is just keep driving.

But of course, he doesn't. He tries to help the girl and finds himself up to his neck in a mess involving mob money, murder, brutal cops, ambitious politicians, and more than one beautiful young woman who may or may not be trustworthy.

White handles all this in highly entertaining fashion, juggling the elements of his plot so that the reader really doesn't know what to expect next. It helps that much of the action takes place around a couple of motels (that staple of noir fiction), one a ritzy motor lodge, the other a set of rundown tourist cabins. It all leads to a satisfying, if somewhat predictable, climax.

MARILYN K. generates a considerable amount of suspense and hardboiled thrills, and it's good enough to make me want to read more by Lionel White. Luckily, it's being reprinted this month by Stark House in a double volume with THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR, and it's available for pre-order. Well worth reading is my verdict.


Bill Crider said...

I just started this one last night. So far, so good.

George said...

I'm a huge fan of Lionel White's caper novels. I'm glad STARK HOUSE is bringing White's books back to a new audience.

Richard R. said...

When you say this has a satisfying ending, do you mean that in a spiral of doom way, or in a the good guy comes out ok way?

James Reasoner said...

That would be telling.