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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jonathan Latimer

Jonathan Latimer was the master of the screwball hardboiled novel, his Bill Crane series a classic of booze, babes and bullets, although Latimer would eventually tire of the hard-drinking PI. He's one of the forgotten masters: Hammett, Chandler and Cain have found their place with the literati, but a few others have escaped attention, Latimer being one (and Howard Browne being another).

Latimer, born in Chicago on 23 October 1906, produced only a few novels as he was in the main employed first as a journalist in the 1920s, then as a film and TV screenwriter, yet in his small canon of books there lies at least one classic: Solomon's Vineyard. It was originally considered too hot for publication in the USA It appeared in the UK uncut but had to wait 15 years before it appeared in the States in a bowdlerised version.

Latimer's movie credits began with adaptations of his own novels The Westland Case (1937; from Headed for a Hearse) and The Last Warning (1938; from The Dead Don't Care), but moved into original territory with The Long Wolf's Spy Hunt (1939). Other movies include Topper Returns (1941), The Glass Key (1942), They Won't Believe Me (1947), The Big Clock (1948), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), and numerous others.

In the  late 1950s he switched to writing for TV, including 26 episodes of Perry Mason (1958-65), 6 episodes of Markham (1959-60) and an episode of Columbo (1972).

Latimer died of lung cancer on 23 June 1983 in La Jolla, California.

Murder in the Madhouse (Crane; New York, Doubleday, and London, Hurst & Blackett, 1935)
No Exit Press 0948-35329-5, 1988.

Headed for a Hearse (Crane; New York, Doubleday, 1935; London, Methuen, 1936; as The Westland Case, New York, Sun Dial Press, 1938)
Pan Books G373, (Jul) 1960, 190pp. Cover by Henry Fox
No Exit Press 0948-35331-7, 1988, 190pp.

The Lady in the Morgue (Crane; New York, Doubleday, 1936; London, Methuen, 1937)
Pan Books G204, 1959, 219pp. Cover by Sam Peffer
No Exit Press 0948-35322-8, 1988, 219pp.

The Search for My Great Uncle’s Head (as Peter Coffin; New York, Doubleday, 1937)
Note: No UK editions.

The Dead Don’t Care (Crane; New York, Doubleday, and London, Methuen, 1938)
No Exit Press 0948-35308-2, 272pp.

Red Gardenias (Crane; New York, Doubleday, and London, Methuen, 1939; as Some Dames Are Deadly, New York, Spivak, 1955)
No Exit Press 0948-35340-6, 1989, 288pp.

Dark Memory (New York, Doubleday, and London, Methuen, 1940)
Note: No UK paperback editions.

Solomon's Vineyard (London, Methuen, 1941; bowdlerised, as The Fifth Grave, New York, Popular Library, 1956; later published complete)
Pan G456, (May) 1961, 159pp, 2/6. Cover by Sam Peffer
----, 1961, 2/6. *alternate cover.
Xanadu 1854-80076-0, 1990, 160pp.

Sinners and Shrouds (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1955; London, Methuen, 1956)
Pan 436, (Nov) 1957, 188pp. Cover by Sam Peffer

Black Is the Fashion for Dying (New York, Random House, 1959; as The Mink-Lined Coffin, London, Methuen, 1969)
as The Mink-Lined Coffin, Four Square Books 776, 1963, viii+195pp. Cover: photo

1 comment:

Tom Mason said...

Great post. I read Solomon's Vineyard a few years ago and have Search For My Great Uncle's Head in my TBR pile. I think Vineyard is a real classic; I may have to re-read it.