Dial “M” for Misogyny

Originally featured May 31, 2006.

Passion Madman

By Andrew Stole

192 pp.

© 1963

Publisher: Corinth Publications

Series: Leisure Book LB 603

Jack Garth is not a nice guy. He kills people for money, enjoys doing so, and performs his job with gusto. If you’re looking to have a murder done where the victim is undetectably poisoned or made to disappear a la Jimmy Hoffa, you’re probably better off hiring someone else. However, if you prefer a crime scene that spattered with blood and festooned with entrails, Garth is the man to call. Early on, author Andrew Stole treats the reader to a
vivid, if gratuitous, description of the killer’s style:

Now was Sheila Keller lying naked, her insides shot to pieces. Now was him putting the gun there where he had intended to put something else and pulling the trigger until the hammer clicked dully over an empty chamber.

Party on, Garth.

This is not to say that all he likes to do is kill, far from it. Jack Garth also enjoys rape. A lot. Fortunately for him, he lives in a world before the advent of DNA fingerprinting so he can mix business with pleasure without worrying about any crackerjack CSI teams ruining his day.

The story opens with Garth sitting in a bar after a botched hit, the first of his career. His employer has sent him to bump off an entire family because a relative in Vegas had amassed a huge gambling debt and needed some inheritance money pronto. He manages to butcher five of the six members of the Regan family, but misses daughter Linda.

The first thing we learn about this other focal character in the book is the tightness of her sweater, followed by a description of the tightness of her pants. Such dwelling on Linda’s physical attributes is arguably sexist yet preferable to attempts have the reader see inside her mind through really painful beatspeak such as this:

She began to feel groovy again, almost. The shock of her family’s death had been such a monumental bring-down it had seemed like the whole world had gone sick and nothing in it could possibly swing again. But if it was going to swing again, it would be here in Hip City, nowheres else…

After reading this passage, I found myself wanting to snap my fingers. This was less an urge to groove to the hepness of the prose than a subconscious desire to get Garth’s attention and direct him to Linda so he can kill her immediately.

Since the offending paragraph sits on page 45 and there are roughly 145 more to read, it is perhaps unrealistic to to expect Garth to wrap up the plot this far ahead of schedule and spend the rest of the book committing grisly murders for his own enjoyment and ours.

Oddly enough, this is pretty much what he does except for the killing-Linda-first part. He tells his boss that he finished the job, making a rational assumption that since she has gone into hiding, his little fib is difficult to disprove. Not so rationally, he figures she will stay hidden until he finds her so he takes on other jobs, apparently assuming
that he will eventully bump into her on the street.

Garth now finds himself in the employ of some swarthy foreigner of indeterminate national origin who is a prominent figure in New York City’s heroin trade. The swarthy heroin guy disapproves of unfair (or even fair) competition and decides that arranging a few murders will send the message that he is not a man to be trifled with. He also sends the message he possesses absolutely no business sense because the first people on his hitlist happen to be his biggest customers.

None of these concerns matter much to Jack Garth provided there are both cash and atrocities involved. Of course, there still is the Linda Regan issue to be resolved. Will he spare a moment to focus on carrying out the only killing that has anything to do with the plot of this book or will she survive the beat era to become an even more annoying hippie? In the end, the reader is treated to a prolific enough killing spree that it hardly matters either way.

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