Friday, May 20, 2011

Forgotten Books: There Was a Crooked Man -- Day Keene

The other day I found a Gold Medal book in a Half-Price store. That hasn't happened in years. The last time might have been the now-legendary experience when I managed to slip eight or ten of them away from Joe Lansdale when we were at the World Fantasy con in Corpus Christi back in the year 2000. The book last Saturday is the one pictured on the left. My own copy was about to fall apart, so I was glad for the upgrade.

The "crooked man" of the title is Clay Burgess, a good cop in a corrupt town, who goes along to get along and soon finds himself liking the money that comes with being bent. Eventually he's as bad as anybody, but then his daughter gets polio. He steals a bundle and disappears, but it's too late for his daughter. I'm not spoiling anything here, by the way. We learn all this in the first chapter, which sets up a flashback in which we find out all about the decline and fall of Clay Burgess. Okay, maybe not all about him, but nobody who reads this blog is going to be surprised by the big reveal at the end. I doubt that Keene expected anyone to be. He does throw a nice curve in the ending, though. A little sentimental? Sure. But I don't mind.

Even if you know where things are going, Keene's propulsive writing carries the day. You keep right on reading to find out about Burgess and what drives him and how low he's going to go. At 144 pages, the perfect Gold Medal length, the story covers a heck of a lot of ground, and it's just right for a few hours of good reading.


  1. Clearly, another Day Keene masterpiece!

  2. Anonymous7:13 AM

    Those short Gold Medal books usually packed more entertainment into them than any of the bloated 400 pagers of today.


  3. Gerard8:32 AM

    I saw a couple Gold Medal books at a garage sale a few weeks ago. I thought about buying them but those yellowed paperbacks are gross.

  4. I remember all those library sales I went to in the mid 70s as a kid. They were unloading Gold Medals and Mike Shayne paperbacks by the carton. I guess they were making room for extra copies of Jaws and books about the Bermuda Triangle.

  5. I never find books like these anywhere. I live in the wrong place.

  6. Gerard is such a card. (I just wrote my first poem in over 20 years.)

    Was that a Half Price Books store, Bill? You live in Texas where there must be one on every corner. I always have luck findig great stuff in those stores. But the vintage paperback selection in the Illinois stores is nothing compared to those in Minnesota or Ohio. I found my copy of that Shell Scott book I reviewed a few weeks ago in a Half Price Books store.

  7. Yes, it was Half-Price. The vintage sections pretty much suck. Really suck. This is the only thing I've found there in literally years.

  8. Anonymous2:57 PM

    Found some Gold Medal paperbacks in Flint,MI @ Jellybeans - their Dort Highway Collectible location.

    They carry Ace, Dell, Bantam etc.
    Prices are reasonable too.

    Website here:

    Also Kaleidoscope Books in Ann Arbor carry a selection of Gold Medal Books but are expensive


  9. No, I'm serious. I smell those dusty yellowed things and think I'm about to contract emphysema.

    But, just to be fair, I picked up a Fawcett Gold Medal of a John D McDobald at a thrift store earlier today. I passed on the older Matt Helm novels but bought an Ed Gorman western.

  10. For those who don't know, the 2000 Corpus Half-Price Bookstore run during the WFC is still legendary in Texas fandom.