Friday, March 05, 2010

Forgotten Books: THE SPLINTERED MAN -- M. E. Chaber

After last week's needle cover, I couldn't stop thinking about this one, so I thought I'd give it a go.

M. E. Chaber is in reality Kendall Foster Crossen, who wrote SF and crime novels under several names, not to mention hundreds of TV scripts. As Chaber, he wrote about Milo March, and insurance investigator who sometimes got called back to active duty by the army, as is the case in The Splintered Man. The year is 1955, and March's assignment is to go into East Berlin to search for Hermann Gruss. Gruss is the head of the counterespionage police in West Germany, and he's supposedly defected to the Reds.

There was no wall in those days, and March doesn't have much of a problem getting into East Berlin. The trick is to get back out alive. It's not easy, and it's complicated by the fact that he's caught and given LSD. I don't know this for sure, but I'd be willing to bet that Chaber was one of the first writers to use that drug as a plot device. The cover's a bit misleading, however, as the dose is administered in a glass of water, not with a needle.

The plot is okay, and in fact it sounds a lot like this one, but with a different location. Chaber has a smooth style, and his Milo March novels are what I'd call medium-boiled. They had a revival in the '70s when Popular Library reprinted them with McGinnis covers that had March looking very much like James Coburn.

7 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Any cover with a needle on it scares me to death. Sure, a gun or a knife, but no needles please.

Deb said...

One of P.D. James's early books (1964, maybe) is set in a psychiatric hospital where some of the patients are given LSD. This was back when there were those in the medical community who thought LSD was a breakthrough for treating psychiatric disorders.

As for "hypo covers," I'm with Patti--the flesh crawls.

bish8 said...

Snap! As you mentioned in your comment to me, we are on the same wavelength this week with both of us writing about Milo March books.

This cover is very cool, but there was such a taste of the swinging '70s about the later McGinnis covers that I give them a small edge.

While McGinnis' Milo March covers favored James Coburn look-alike male model, I seem to remember anothe series of McGinnis covers that used Steve McQueen's likeness for the male model. Any ideas what the series was?

Bill Crider said...

Paul, your comment reminds me that I meant to link to your post, which I've now done. I'm sure Art Scott knows the covers you're talking about.

Soames said...

You and Bish did the same author? What are the chances?

Bill Crider said...

When you have two guys with similar (good)tastes, not as big as you'd think.

RJR said...

The 70's was when I bought and read all the Milo March books with the McGinnis covers. I enjoyed them very much. Glad you and Bish mentioned him.

RJR