Friday, December 31, 2010

Forgotten Books: EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP -- David Markson

I first read this book a few decades ago, and I have copies of both the Dell and Berkley editions. But for some reason I picked up another copy the other day. I guess I couldn't resist. Markson wrote a sequel, Epitaph for a Dead Beat, that I also read, but he didn't write crime novels much longer. He moved on to become the highly regarded author of such postmodern novels as Wittengenstein's Mistress, a book much praised by the likes of David Foster Wallace.

For all that, the two books about Harry Fannin are more or less conventional private-eye novels, with maybe a few more literary allusions than most. In this one, Fannin finds himself in a classic situation. His ex-wife dies at his doorstep, and there's a lot of missing money that other people are looking for. Fannin and his cop buddy investigate, and the first solution isn't the right one. I remembered the second solution from my first reading, but it was probably obvious even then.

I liked the voice of the book quite a bit, and I liked the writing. I was bothered a little by the gay-bashing, which I probably didn't even notice forty years ago. I remember thinking that Markson must have read Ross Macdonald, though that didn't seem so obvious this time. Macdonald handles some gay issues in The Drowning Pool, and he does so more circumspectly than Markson. But Markson's book was published in 1959, some years after Macdonald's. Some of the dialogue might seem dated to modern ears, but to mine it was still amusing. I'd certainly recommend this novel, and if you run across a copy, give it a try.


  1. Both titles would have been right at home as episode titles in some Quinn Martin production.....

  2. Steve Oerkfitz9:26 AM

    Epitath for a Tramp and Epitath for a Deadbeat for currently available in one volume. I've browsed thru it at my local Borders. May have to pick it up now.

  3. Looks interesting, and with Steve's comment, I'll be on my way to Borders with that gift card I got in the stocking. Cool.

  4. I love the cover on EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP!

  5. Would it be possible for you to post a larger scan of Epitaph for a Tramp? I would love to see it in high-res.


  6. Check the blog tomorrow. I'll put it up.