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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 10:04 am
"I shot him someplace high."
Posted by: Keir Graff

Rather than offer anything original today, I will copy down the words of another writer. Peter Rabe is one of my favorite pulp fiction writers, someone who deserves to be better known today than he is. I recently finished reading a two-for-one reissue, My Lovely Executioner/Agreement to Kill (Stark House), and I did a lot of underlining. Rabe had the hard-boiled gift–the ability to boil a sentence down to its essentials while still rendering it more evocative than a paragraph’s worth of glorious adjectives.

From My Lovely Executioner:

Jessie sat next to me, but it was just clothes.

You wake up innocent as the morning sometimes, and that feeling may last for as long as a minute.

The men were short, tall, with jackets, without jackets, ties on and off, but all of them noisy.

She was wearing an evening gown which didn’t seem to start until you looked down to the waist.

“You’re not a drunk, Jimmy.”
“I may not look like one, Jessie, but the spirit’s there.”

I put the glass down, turned her the right way, and we had a fearful kiss. It was so technical I could hear gears clanking and rattling.

Tooley’s ears were getting pointed, he was listening so hard.

I shot him someplace high. I wasn’t going to have him following me around any more.

From Agreement to Kill:

His eyes were open the way a box is open.

This was something to learn, Spinner thought. Keel seemed to have no troubles to speak of, but drove a big car, liked all the chores he was doing, or, at any rate, didn’t have any feeling about them, like an ape. This was something to learn.

Executioner is a better book, but I doubt anyone who starts reading will be able to stop until they’ve finished both of them.


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