Pop Culture Gadabout
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
      ( 9/13/2011 06:26:00 PM ) Bill S.  

“WHAT CROOKED GAMBLERS SAY DOESN'T MEAN MUCH TO ME.” A prolific crafter of genre fiction and TV/movie novelizations, Richard Wormser's writing life was ironically encapsulated by the man himself in a posthumously published memoir, How to Become A Complete Nonentity. Yet Wormser (not to be confused with a younger filmmaker of the same name) had a full career writing westerns and crime fiction for the pulps and Hollywood. Horse Money (Black Dog Books), a slim 108-page collection of four novelettes from the 1930's, resurrects a too-short Blue Book detective series set in the world of horse racing. If Wormser's stories aren't exactly Dick Francis, they do provide a breezy snapshot of the pari-mutuel life circa mid-thirties.

The quartet of tales are narrated by Chief Van Eyck, a racing commission cop who hangs around the tracks, thwarting bookies and race fixers, catching the occasional killer. Described as “fat” by both Van Eyck and his seen-it-all secretary/girlfriend Elizabeth, Van Eyck is himself an inveterate gambler with a rep for honesty, though he's not above playing fast and loose with his good name if it can sucker some bad guys. In one memorable moment, he even plays at going “blood simple,” threatening to gas both a straight-laced homicide detective and a suspect to get the latter to confess to a killing. Fortunately, the homicide detective is a somewhat forgiving type.

Three of the pieces in Horse Money are set in an undisclosed, probably West Coast city; the title tale places our hero on his own in NYC. In “Right Guy,” Van Eyck's attempts at stopping a race fix are waylaid when the culprits kidnap his gal pal Elizabeth; in “Heat of the Moment,” our man gets between a machine gun toting gang of crooks and the tong, which leads to gun play and a few twists on period stereotypes. In “Horse Money,” Van Eyck has his own betting winnings stolen with the help of a shapely chorus girl. Though he has his own brief night on the Wonderful Town, we never doubt that our hero won't be riding the rails back to his girlfriend at story's end.

Wormser doesn't slather on the race track lingo as much as a Damon Runyon, though he can craft some snappy, if decidedly un-PC patter. Confronted with a knife-wielding thug named Snapper McGill, for instance, the racetrack copper tells the mug, “Guys named McGill ought to confine themselves to bricks. Racially, the knife is not your weapon.” Like all good hard-boiled dicks, Van Eycks is a hard-ass smart-ass. When one of his wounded underlings manages to crack wise, he even affectionately grouses back: “Stop trying to steal my stuff. The boss makes the jokes.” And so he does.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


# |

Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

On Sale Now!
Measure by Measure:

A Romantic Romp with the Fat and Fabulous
By Rebecca Fox & William Sherman

(Available through Amazon)

Measure by Measure Web Page

Ask for These Fine Cultural Blogs & Journals by Name!

aaronneathery.com News
Aaron Neathery

American Sideshow Blow-Off
Marc Hartzman

Arf Lovers
Craig Yoe

Sean T. Collins

Barbers Blog
Wilson Barbers

The Bastard Machine
Tim Goodman

The Beat
Heidi MacDonald

Kevin Church

Big Fat Blog
Paul McAleer

Big Mouth Types Again
Evan Dorkin

Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag

Blog This, Pal!
Gordon Dymowski

Rod Lott

Cartoon Brew
Amid Amidi & Jerry Beck

Cartoon Web Log!
Daryl Cagle

Clea's Cave
Juana Moore-Overmyer

Collected Editions

The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh Fruhlinger

The Comics Reporter
Tom Spurgeon

Christopher Butcher

Comics Waiting Room
Marc Mason

Comics Worth Reading
Johanna Draper Carlson

a dragon dancing with the Buddha
Ben Varkentine


Electromatic Radio
Matt Appleyard Aaron Neathery


Eye of the Goof
Mr. Bali Hai

Fred Sez
Fred Hembeck

Greenbriar Picture Shows
John McElwee

The Groovy Age of Horror
Curt Purcell

The Hooded Utilitarian
Noah Berlatsky

Hooray for Captain Spaulding
Daniel Frank

The Horn Section

The House Next Door
Matt Zoller Seitz

Howling Curmudgeons
Greg Morrow & Friends

The Hurting
Tim O'Neil

I Am A Child of Television
Brent McKee

I Am NOT the Beastmaster
Marc Singer

In Sequence
Teresa Ortega

Innocent Bystander
Gary Sassaman

Irresponsible Pictures

Jog - The Blog
Joe McCulloch

The Johnny Bacardi Show
David Allen Jones

Dirk Deppey

King's Chronicles
Paul Dini

Let's You And Him Fight
One of the Jones Boys

Mah Two Cents
Tony Collett


Michael's Movie Palace

Nat's TV
Nat Gertler

Ned Sonntag


News from ME
Mark Evanier

No Rock&Roll Fun
Simon B

Omega Channel
Matt Bradshaw

Pen-Elayne on the Web
Elayne Riggs

Peter David

Dorian White

Progressive Ruin
Mike Sterling

Punk Rock Graffiti
Cindy Johnson & Autumn Meredith

Revoltin' Developments
Ken Cuperus

Marc Bernardin

Matt Hinrichs

Self-Styled Siren

Spatula Forum
Nik Dirga

Tales from the Longbox
Chris Mosby


The Third Banana
Aaron Neathery & Friends

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.

Toner Mishap
B2 et al

Trusty Plinko Stick
Bill Doughty

TV Barn
Aaron Barnhart et al

Unqualified Offerings
Jim Henley

Various And Sundry
Augie De Blieck

Video WatchBlog
Tim Lucas

When Fangirls Attack
Kalinara & Ragnell

X-Ray Spex
Will Pfeifer

Yet Another Comics Blog
Dave Carter

A Brief Political Disclaimer:

If this blog does not discuss a specific political issue or event, it is not because this writer finds said event politically inconvenient to acknowledge - it's simply because he's scatterbrained and irresponsible.

My Token List of Poli-Blogs:

Roy Edroso


Jane Hamsher

James Wolcott

Lance Mannion

The Moderate Voice
Joe Gandelman


Amanda Marcotte & Friends

The Sideshow
Avedon Carol

Skippy, the Bush Kangaroo

Talking Points Memo
Joshua Micah Marshall

This Modern World
Tom Tomorrow

Welcome to Shakesville
Melissa McEwan & Friends

Blogcritics: news and reviews
Site Feed

Powered by Blogger

    follow me on Twitter