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Thursday, August 10, 2006 2:14 pm
Unbound Galleys Revisited
Posted by: Keir Graff

I’ve written before about how I don’t really like reviewing from photocopied galleys. Even when they’re bound, the 8½ x 11″ pages are unwieldy. When they’re unbound, I’m always afraid that a sudden gust of wind is going to make me reenact the last scene in The Wonder Boys.

(Is that scene in both the book and the movie? I’ve read the book and seen the movie, but for the life of me, I only have an image of Michael Douglas frantically chasing the wind-blown pages of his massive manuscript.)

But the book I’m reviewing right now is on single-sided, unbound 8½ x 11″ sheets of paper, and I don’t mind a bit. Why? I’ve discovered that I can read it while I’m feeding my son. (I may have mentioned once or twice that I’m home on family leave.) Other books won’t lie open without an elaborate system of weights and counterweights (coffee mug, stapler, whatever is at hand), and, with my son in one hand and a bottle in the other (that’s a bottle of milk, wiseacres), turning pages is impossible.

With an unbound galley, however, I can just nudge the top sheet off onto the floor with my elbow and keep reading. (I reorder the pages later.) Sounds pretty ridiculous, I know, but I’m pressed for time. My latest crop of reviews isn’t due until next week, but tomorrow I’m leaving for a week’s vacation, and I really, really don’t want to text-message my reviews from scenic Flathead Lake in Montana. I’d rather be in the lake, and lake-water and electronics are a volatile mix.

The book I’m reading so precariously, by the way, is The Last Match by David Dodge. It’s published by Hard Case Crime, and unbound galleys or no, I always look forward to what they send. Aside from one title that I had mixed feelings about, I’ve liked-often loved-all the Hard Case Crime books I’ve reviewed. I’ve even read some that weren’t assigned, just for fun. Publisher Charles Ardai has shown a remarkable eye for both great reprints and great new books that read like the old ones.

David Dodge is the guy who wrote To Catch a Thief, and this one is in a sort of similar mode. It’s about the international misadventures of a small-time crook and con artist who starts out as a rich lady’s companion and graduates to cigarette smuggling and other scams. It’s set on the French Riviera and in Tangier, and I have a feeling I’ll see other locales as well.

The plot is a little wacky, but it keeps moving, and the language is full of zingy patter. The narrator says things like:

I’m strictly a club-fighter on the dance floor. With another stumblebum, I stumble too. With a good dancer, I’m a lot better. 

I started reading it before I read the publisher’s info sheet, and at first I thought it was like Seymour Shubin’s Witness to Myself, a new novel by an older writer, writing in his good, old style.

Good thing I’m not a pulp historian. Dodge has been dead since 1974. But this is a real find. Written shortly before his death, it lurked among his papers until now. The pulp heyday was over when this was written-and it would be years before the revival started-but you’d never know it from the gusto of Dodge’s prose.

Well, I’d better stop writing before my son wakes up hungry. But while he’s getting his milk fix, I’ll be getting my pulp fix.

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