Wednesday, 3 February 2010

You Play The Black And The Red Comes Up – Richard Hallas

Here’s a strange little pulp from 1938 which captures the kookiness of California. There’s a cult based on an economic theory, and a crazy film director who has the best speech in the book about the illusion of reality and the inescapable madness of the county.
   There’s something of James M. Cain’s fatalism here, but without his writing ability. In fact, Hallas isn’t a great writer by a long way, but he keeps you reading through this tale of a man seeking one thing, finding another and inadvertently destroying that which brings him true happiness.
   A small cult seems to have sprung up around this book, actually, although descriptions such as ‘hardboiled’ or ‘noir fiction’ don’t really fit the bill; Hallas' prose isn’t tough enough for that. Still, there’s enough here to elevate it above the predictable pulp fodder.

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