Move over, Marlowe

10 Mar

Here’s your introduction to the protagonist, Dick Henry as he describes his occupation

Tisdale was a professional nonpayer of rent and I’d been sent to see about him. He lived in a court up off Hollywood Boulevard on Hobart.

A professional nonpayer paid his deposit, his first and last, a few more months to establish his bona fides, then settled in for a spell of hard luck.

It had come down to this, he would declare, choking a sob, his mother’s medicine or the rent.

Just this once slid into twice and after a while his mother died again. By then the landlord knew he was in for a porking but too late. The nonpayer would claim hardship and file for bankruptcy. In like a tick, it could take two years and lots of money to get him out. Sometimes ten grand in legal fees alone. That’s when a heads-up landlord would call me.

I’m Dick Henry. The Shortcut Man.

And here’s the Short cut man at work

You Mr. Pissdale?”

“It’s Tis-dale. With a T. And if you’re here about my guitar, you can split right now. ‘Cause I don’t turn it down for nobody. I know my rights.”

These guys always knew their rights. I felt a tingle in my fist.

“Actually, I don’t give a shit about your guitar.” I was still trying to be pleasant. “I’m here about the rent.”

The concept of rent took an appreciable amount of time to make its way through the circuits. Finally it arrived.

“The rent? The rent? You should know better than to harass me here, fuckhead. I know my rights, Landers knows my rights, and you know my rights.”

Tisdale ran his fingers back through his hair. “You don’t come to Landers’s freezy drafty leaky piece-of-shit house when I’ve declared bankruptcy.” His teeth were a yellowish green. “Now should I call my lawyer?”

It was an option.

But by this time the tingle in my fist had turned into a buzz and suddenly it was drawn, as if by a celestial karma vacuum, right through the fly-specked screen and directly into Tisdale’s nose. There was a satisfying crunch and down went Tisdale.

The dance continues:

I pulled the door open and went in. The sight of his own blood had weakened his resolve and reorganized his priorities. I grabbed him by the collar, helped him to his feet.

“Your rights have come to an end, friend, and your obligations have begun.” I checked my watch. “You got twenty-five minutes to get everything you own out of this house.”

Tisdale held up a cautionary hand, eyes watering. “My nose, man. You broke my fucking nose.”

I checked my watch again. “Now you’ve got twenty-four minutes to get out.”

Tisdale attended his nose with a grayish T-shirt that had been lying around. Now it was red. Soon it would be brown. “Hey,” he resumed, “you just can’t throw someone out on their ass. There’re laws.”

In principle I agreed. In principle. “Yeah, there are laws, but they don’t apply to you anymore.” According to my preliminary investigation, his mother had died five times. Three times of cancer, twice of tuberculosis, once of intestinal blockage. Wait a second. That made six. And his father. A cerebral hemorrhage. And kidney failure.

So, you get the idea how Dick Henry,Shortcut Man saves the landlord $7500, earns $2500 and lights up PG Sturges’s riotous and sure footed debut novel, Short Cut Man (Scribner)

Dennis Drabelle who knows his noir opines

But overall, this is an assured and diverting performance, with an ending that should impress even the most seasoned fan of hardboiled detective stories. You thought every twist ending in the noir bag had been taken out and used up, P.G. Sturges seems to be saying as the book rushes toward its final page. Well, get a load of this.

By the way, I agree with crime story master Micheal Connelly, “P.G. Sturges has proved himself a worthy successor to Chandler.”

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