Saturday, September 4, 2010

Grave Descend

John Lange’s novel Grave Descend is a crime/adventure story of the old school. The hero, James McGregor is a Jamaica-based diver hired to investigate a rich man’s sunken yacht, and determine why it went down. He is suspicious at being overpaid for the job, and reconnoiters the dive site a day early. To his surprise, he finds the yacht moored there, not sunken…yet.

This is one of those books of which you say “they don’t write ‘em like that anymore”, and with good reason. The novel was originally published in 1970, when it was an Edgar Award finalist. It betrays its age most in its somewhat anachronistic mores, belonging to the age when men were men and women were objectified. Despite its flaws, it is an enjoyable, quick read. Although the nautical yarn isn’t deep (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk), it is entertaining. Recommended for those who like this sort of thing.

The reprint was published courtesy of “Hard Case Crime”, a Dorchester Publications imprint. Hard Case Crime publishes mostly noirish crime novels, a mixture of originals and reprints. Thus far, they have published crime novels by such notables as Stephen King, Richard Stark, Ken Bruen, and so on. The books are all paperbacks, with retro covers very similar to the old Fawcett Gold Medal line. You’re old if you remember those, as I do.

One more note: Researching the book, I found that “John Lange” was a pseudonym for Michael Crichton, who wrote several crime novels under this name while in medical school. Before his untimely death,he left all this behind him, and moved on to bestsellers based on astonishingly bad science for the most part.

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