Thursday, October 1, 2020

Finger Man by Raymond Chandler (1950)



This novella is contained in 13 Short Detective Novels, edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg.

About the author: Raymond Chandler (1888 – 1959) was an American-British novelist and screenwriterHe is a founder of the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. The protagonist of his novels, Philip Marlowe, like Hammett's Sam Spade, is considered by some to be synonymous with "private detective". Both were played in films by Humphrey Bogart, whom many consider to be the quintessential Marlowe. (wikipedia).

Major characters:
  • Philip Marlowe, private eye
  • Lou Harger, his dapper friend
  • Miss Glenn, Lou's tall, red-headed gal
  • -- Canales, manager of a casino
  • Frank Dorr, the 'big guy' casino owner
  • various thugs
Locale: Appears to be Los Angeles, from the street names

Synopsis: Lou Harger, effeminate friend of Philip Marlowe, shows up in Marlow's office. Harger had owned a crooked roulette wheel, which allowed the operator to influence the results. The sheriff had confiscated it. That was OK with him, but somehow the wheel then wound up in Canales' casino, and they had no idea it was rigged.

Lou has a bright idea. He will go gamble on the wheel and win big, since the casino is unaware of its secret. Lou is too well known, so his gal Miss Glenn will do the gambling, while Marlowe stays in the background as a bodyguard. The scheme works too well. Miss Glenn rakes in $20,000; much to the dismay of the casino. So far, so good.

Next day, Miss Glenn appears at Marlowe's office with the $20,000, and tells him Lou is dead in her apartment, killed by casino thugs looking for the money. Marlowe goes to look but ... no body. Marlowe goes looking for him, knowing the casino crowd has it in for him anyway, as he had 'fingered' one of their own: Manny Tinnen (thus the title). Marlowe is grabbed and brought to the 'big guy', Frank Dorr, the owner of the casino.

Review: This is a concise little hard-boiled story with tough guys and one glamorous girl, lots of shooting, and the requisite witty repartée between the big mob boss and the captured hero. Snappy language, such as "As a bluff, mine was thinner than the gold on a weekend wedding ring." The cover art (above) pretty much sums it up: two guys, a girl with lots of cash, and a roulette wheel.

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