Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Big Shots Die Young (Manville Moon #5) - Richard Deming

“Big Shots Die Young” is the fifth novella featuring Richard Deming’s one-legged private eye Manville Moon. It was published originally in the July 1949 issue of BLACK MASK and featured on the cover by Norman Saunders, although that cover has nothing to do with Deming’s story.

This novella is a direct sequel to the previous entry in the series, “No Pockets in a Shroud” (BLACK MASK, January 1949). And fair warning, it spoils the mystery of that earlier story, too. But since I’d read that one, I had no problem going right along with this yarn, which finds Moon the target of an old enemy who comes back into the unidentified city where these stories take place intending to take over the local gambling setup. Before you know it, Moon has been framed for murder, arrested by the cops, and has to escape and uncover the real killer to clear his name. All while romancing a beautiful woman at the same time, of course.

Manville Moon is a flat-out great protagonist. He’s tough, funny, just vulnerable enough not to be superhuman, and has become one of my favorite first-person narrators over the course of the five stories about him I’ve read so far. Deming’s prose, as always, is so smooth and polished that it glitters.

Where “Big Shots Die Young” doesn’t quite reach the level of the earlier stories is in the plot, which is rather thin and predictable. Anybody who’s read many private eye yarns will know what’s going on right away. The other stories so far in the series had pretty complex plots, but that’s not the case here.

Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. I had a really good time reading “Big Shots Die Young”, and I think anybody who has enjoyed the previous stories will like this one, too. Like the others, it’s available as an inexpensive e-book if you don’t happen to own that particular issue of BLACK MASK. And if you haven’t made the acquaintance of Manville Moon yet, I highly recommend that you do.


Richard Moore said...

I enjoyed the Manville Moon stories such as the novels “The Gallows in My Garden” (Rinehart 1952) and “Tweak the Devil’s Nose” (1953). He has did the best two novels based on Jack Webb’s Dragnet series and several of the better paperbacks published under The Ellery Queen byline. He was a real pro.

James Reasoner said...

I have the Manville Moon novels, too, and look forward to reading them. I remember my old friend Tom Johnson was a fan of them. I believe the first time I encountered Deming was in the Mod Squad tie-in novels he did in the Sixties. I thoroughly enjoyed those.