Monday, April 01, 2024

The Steel Noose - Arnold Drake

I’ve been aware of Arnold Drake’s work as a comic book writer for a long, long time, having been a fan of one of his best-known creations, the Doom Patrol, ever since those stories began appearing in DC’s MY GREATEST ADVENTURE comic more than half a century ago. In the Seventies, I was also a regular reader of his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY series for Marvel. But I had no idea he was also a novelist until Black Gat Books reprinted THE STEEL NOOSE, originally published by Ace Books in 1954. It’s an Ace that I just never came across over the years.

THE STEEL NOOSE is narrated by fast-talking, wise-cracking New York gossip columnist Boyd McGee, who moves in a world of cabbies, tycoons, gamblers, chorus girls, gangsters, and cops. An item he includes in his column inadvertently gets him mixed up in multiple murders and the hunt for half a million dollars in blackmail loot. Boyd gets beaten up more than once but dishes out some punishment, too. And of course, there are also several beautiful women involved in the convoluted plot.

Drake could have played this pretty straight, and in some stretches he does, but for a lot of the novel, the genuinely funny banter dished out by Boyd as he navigates this labyrinth of crime puts me in mind of something else. It’s like reading the novelization of a Bob Hope movie that was never made. Boyd McGree isn’t exactly cowardly like the characters Hope usually played, but every quip he made, I heard it in Hope’s voice. To a Bob Hope fan like me, reading THE STEEL NOOSE was a hugely entertaining experience. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Drake had Hope in mind while he was writing this. And it’s fitting, at least to me, that a decade later, Drake was writing DC’s THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE comic book, which I read occasionally in those days, although not as much as I should have because I tended not to pick up anything except superhero, Western, and war comics. I’m sure I missed some good stuff.

As far as I know, THE STEEL NOOSE is Arnold Drake’s only novel. That’s kind of a shame because it’s really good and he might have given us more like it. On the other hand, if he’d been a successful novelist, we might never have had the Doom Patrol and the Guardians of the Galaxy. I’m not sure I’d make that trade, but I’m very glad Black Gat Books decided to reprint this one. You can pre-order it on Amazon, and I give it a high recommendation.


Dick McGee said...

Interesting, I'd never seen Drake credited with an actual novel before this. He was one of the writers of It Rhymes With Lust, a very early proto-graphic novel from 1950 - not quite as racy as the title suggests but definitely for adults - and did a couple of screenplays (one of which he also produced) but this a new one on me.

His Guardians of the Galaxy will always be what I think of when I hear the name, which makes the films more than a little off-putting. Mostly read Deadman in his early days, Doom Patrol was absurdly hard to find when I was young and wound up being read in reprints years later. Great stuff, though.

Eddie said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I almost always follow your picks. $1.00 on kindle can't go wrong.