Friday 14 August 2009

Friday's Forgotten Books - WALK THE DARK STREETS - William Krasner

Here's my second offering for the Friday's Forgotten Books series masterminded by Patti Abbott and The Rap Sheet.

I have a little pile of ancient Gold Medal and Bantam books with titles like SWAMP BRAT, THE CORPSE THAT REFUSED TO STAY DEAD, and SWING THE BIG EYED RABBIT. They have great back cover copy, such as "...Then one fine morning someone smothered the soprano, and a red-headed old lady who was as batty as a bird sang some fantastic lyrics for the cops...She called the tune on another killing - which happened to be her own." Irresistible. And they all have that wonderful fusty, musty, dusty old book smell when you crack them open. And some of them even have squashed spiders between pages 94 and 95. That's one's strangely resistible.

So here's one of them - a great little book which feels as though you're reading the script of a noir film.

WALK THE DARK STREETS - William Krasner - first published in 1949

Captain Sam Birge is a dedicated and overworked homicide detective. His latest case is the brutal murder of night club hostess Janice Morel - or, as the front of the book describes her "blackmailer, hostess-entertainer, a lady of no virtue. Somebody wanted her dead." Janice lived in a sleazy residential hotel and when Birge and his partner, Lieutenant Charley Hagen, start their investigations, they interview a number of colourful characters, including Janice's co-workers and friends, an embittered blind musician, the frosty and dried-up manageress of the hotel, an elderly housemaid who seems to care about the guests, Janice's corrupt 'agent', and the dodgy owner of the club where Janice worked. Most of the characters have mysterious pasts, or tortured presents, and Krasner brings them all to life with a few deft touches. I really loved the character of one of the suspects and his story touched me. We get to know Janice herself through fragments of diaries she has left which chart her downward spiral from hopeful, naive small town girl with ambitions of fame and fortune, to used-up, old before her time good time girl.

This is an excellent, noir-feeling book. I could really picture Birge walking the dark streets in his fedora and raincoat, going above and beyond the call of duty to solve the crime. The book has a wonderfully seedy atmosphere. Highly recommended for lovers of noir or hard-boiled or TV series like Dragnet.

Here's an excellent article on Krasner from Ed Gorman's blog.


  1. I have Swing the Big-Eyed Rabbit, but so far I've resisted reading it.

  2. Isn't it great Patti? I love those old pulp covers.

    And, talking of covers, Bill, how CAN you resist it? I'm not at home but doesn't the cover feature a buxom dame WITHOUT covers? :o)

    The title is also the title of a Cramps song, as is the name of this blog so I have a soft spot for it :o)

  3. Hi Donna.

    I have an award for you.