Horace McCoy is one of my favourite American authors. I don't read that many American writers these days as I seem to be going through a phase of reading/re-reading British thriller and spy writers (Henry Porter, Desmond Bagley, John Le Carre), although I did re-read a Clifford Simak novel prior to the Le Carre I've just finished and about four books ago I re-read Joe Poyer's North Cape, which is a superb thriller - and maybe the blueprint for the techno-thriller.
Anyway, I'm straying from the point. They Shoot Horses was probably the last book I read in a single sitting. It's not long and despite what sounds like an unpromising subject matter (a marathon dance) it's a real page turner. McCoy was snapped up by Hollywood to write film scripts and didn't write many novels. Over the years I've read five of the six he wrote and there's not a dud amongst them. His hard-boiled novels - Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye being the both the best and best known - are pitched somewhere between Dashiell Hammett and W. R. Burnett, which is a good position to be in. I Should Have Stayed Home is a look at the seamier side of Hollywood.
Sadly, McCoy was already dead by the time his last novel appeared, having suffered a third, fatal heart attack in 1955, aged 58. They Shoot Horses was filmed in 1969 with Jane Fonda, too late to benefit McCoy's literary standing in the US, although he has always been lauded in France. Even here in the UK, his novels have been briefly revived in the 1980s and 1990s. With only one of his title's still in print, it's about time Horace McCoy was reassessed... and some publisher really should take a look at putting some of his short stories between covers; there's a whole run of Black Mask yarns that I, for one, would be happy to have a chance to read.
Wells Gardner, Darton, 1940, 187pp.
Penguin C2306, 1965, 123pp, 2/6. Cover by Massimo Vignelli
Serpent's Tail 1852-42401-X, 1995, 121pp, £6.99.
Serpent's Tail 1846-68739-X, 2010.
Penguin 1759, 1962, 171pp, 2/6. Cover by John Sewell
Serpent's Tail 1852-42434-6, 1998, 183pp. Cover by Rex Ray
Penguin C2412, 1966, 141pp, 3/6. Cover by Harri Peccinotti
Serpent's Tail 1852-42402-8, 1996, 184pp. Cover by Rex Ray
Corgi GC769, 1960
Consul 1306, (Jun) 1964, 277pp, 5/-. Cover by John Rose/design by Sam Suliman
Serpent's Tail 1852-42433-8, 1996, 346pp. Cover by Rex Ray
Scalpel (New York, Appleton Century Crofts, 1952; London, Arthur Barker, 1953)
(no UK paperback edition)
Consul N1063, 1961, 2/6. Cover by unknown
Zomba 0946-39113-0, 1983, 574pp, £5.95. Cover by Robin Hass?