Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Friday, August 17, 2007

CROOK BOOKS: The Action Man

Jay Flynn was a writer of paperback originals in the Sixties and Seventies. He was, basically, what people think of as a "hack," usually managing to string together a reasonably coherent narrative that met a predetermined word count for undemanding editors at second-string houses.

But that's not to say that he didn't have some talent, or that his books weren't entertaining. Some of them are delightfully unpolished examples of low-rent pulp, and a lot of fun to read, like his "McHugh" spy series. He was also a man struggling with a lot of inner demons, and an eccentric of the first order. His friend, mystery writer Bill Pronzini, has written quite eloquently of Flynn's colorful life and the trials and tribulations that filled it.

His 1961 novel, The Action Man, is a great little heist thriller, which Pronzini calls Flynn's magnum opus, and based on the few Flynn books I've managed to track down and read, I tend to agree. It is the story of Denton Farr, a fairly unlikable bastard and bar owner who cheats on his wife, treats his girlfriend like dirt, and one morning decides to lift an Army payroll from the local bank.

The pacing is brisk and suspenseful, as Farr methodically plans and executes the caper. As a protagonist, Farr is well-developed and psychologically complex, his actions logical and believable. Like most good crook books, the ending is violent, unpredictable and ironic. It's fun stuff.

Flynn's books aren't easy to track down, and most of them literally aren't worth the effort, unless you're a freak like me who can get an occasional charge out of really bad writing. But The Action Man, while by no means a classic in the genre, is certainly worth a little web surfing and maybe spending a buck or two on.


Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out. This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting blogs. I find all kinds of potential reads that I never would have known about on my own.

Glen Davis said...

Isn't McHugh a PI? At least he is in the books I have.

Christopher Mills said...

Well, yeah, I guess he's sort of a P.I., but the books I have have him working for the Feds on spy-type cases...