- File Size: 425 KB
- Print Length: 158 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: PlanetMonk Books; 1.0 edition (February 6, 2013)
- Publication Date: February 6, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00BCJTNLA
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #568,209 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
|Print List Price:||$19.99|
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Junkie! (1952) (PlanetMonk Pulps) Kindle Edition
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All that being said, I actually enjoyed Junkie! quite a bit. It is a short, fast read. It takes place in Washington in the Jazz scene of the time. When the reader meets the protagonist, Steve, he is a Jazz musician who has somehow managed to bungle his relationship with a junkie prostitute named Kathy whom he is deeply in love with but cannot remain faithful to. When Kathy is suspected of murdering a fellow Jazz musician, it is up to Steve to find her and help make things right. Along the way, Steve interacts with some colorful folk from the Jazz scene and has many opportunities to test his renewed commitment of fidelity to the missing Kathy.
Here is a snippet from the opening scene: It was bad and he knew it was going to get a lot worse before it got better. It was four a.m. on a muggy Washington morning and the liquor hadn’t helped. Neither had the jam session at Sully’s. That was the hellish thing about a torch – the longer you carried it, the hotter it burned.
I’m glad I stumbled across this one. If you like this kind of thing, you may want to give Junkie! a try.
Junkie is a misleading title for this book and more than likely one that Craig's publisher stuck on the book to garner attention at the newsstand. The title and the original cover of the book lead one to believe that the story follows the downfall of a woman wracked by drugs and falling into oblivion. Instead, Junkie follows a more basic hardboiled pulp-era plot of a man and a woman framed for a murder that they didn't commit and racing against time to figure out who really committed the murder before the police and the bad guys catch up with them. It is a plot line that has been used in countless fifties-era pulp novels, but it is a plot that stands up well to the test of time and Craig has a different take on it than most writers of the era did.
Craig's hero in this book is not a detective or insurance agent. Rather, Craig's protagonist is Steve Harper, a jazz musician who works the various jazz clubs scattered around the Washington D.C. area. Nowadays, jazz musicians don't sound very scandalous, but in the fifties before rock'n roll really took off, jazz was very scandalous. Those clubs were where the action was, where the women were, and were the dope was. Harper has women chasing him left and right and had himself fallen into the temptation of dope. The undercurrent of this novel is the world of the jazz clubs, the world of call girls in Washington, D.C., and the world of temptation that assaults Harper. There is a driving jazz beat in the background of every page. The reader knows that it is nighttime in the city and that blondes in tight dresses are dancing to the jazz beat.
But it is a pulp novel and it is about murder and about being framed. As Craig explains in the opening line to the book, "It was bad and he knew it was going to get a lot worse before it got better." If that doesn't give you the flavor of the book, then who knows what will.
The back story is that Harper had once had a relationship with Lois, but Lois moved on to her now-husband, who not being a jazz musician, had money and a future. Nevertheless, Harper was the man who Lois still had a torch for. After Lois, Harper met Kathy Mason. At the time, Kathy was a call girl and a junkie, but he had never met anyone like her. She was one in a million to him from the minute she walked into the hotel suite. He wanted to drive the highways with her with his arm around her. He got her back on her feet, away from the life, away from the dope. But, as the story opens, they had a falling out and were separated. Harper had fallen into temptation with another woman and Kathy couldn't stand it. He still carries a torch for her and it is all he can think about.
Harper comes home and hears jazz music playing in his apartment. Thinking he left the stereo on, he opens the door and sees that she was very blonde and very beautiful and that her clothes were all in a heap on the floor. But this is Lois, not Kathy, and he throws Lois out of the apartment. Shortly thereafter, Harper gets a call from his friend who is now a police officer, Mark, telling Harper to come to his friend Haynes' apartment because something has happened. Something, something like Haynes has been choked to death and the police received a telephone call from a woman who said she was Kathy Mason, that she had killed Haynes, and that she was going to kill herself. The officer asks Harper gently where Kathy is and what he knows and warns Harper that he better produce Kathy if he knows what is good for him.
Of course, any reader of pulp literature knows that Harper is not going to simply turn Kathy over to the police and let her be framed for this killing. Harper knows that Kathy, no matter what her past, is no murderer. Harper sets out to find Kathy and protect her and, on the way, stumbles into bar fights with Lois' husband who is upset about Lois being in Harper's apartment, knowing Lois really wants Harper. Harper stumbles over more bodies as a conspiracy is uncovered and he races against time to solve the mystery before the police dragnet closes in on him and Kathy.
It is an incredibly well-written book, deserving of far more attention and acclaim than it has received. The story moves at a breakneck pace as Harper races through the jazz clubs, reefer dens, garages, and apartments of the Washington, D.C. area trying to find Kathy and unearth how she is being set up and by whom.
Steve Harper is a jazz musician, a trumpet player with an on-off thing for Kathy. Currently off because he played around on her, which is something he deeply regrets. Kathy, with her chequered past is in trouble. She has been placed at the scene of a crime – the murder of musician, Wally Haynes. She has now gone missing and the cops are quizzing Steve over her whereabouts and ask for him to keep an eye out for her and help bring her in.
Steve, despite the circumstances refuses to believe she was capable of murder, starts asking around. If he can find her, he can save her and perhaps save them.
Bars, musicians, clubs, friendships, jealous husbands, previous beaus and liaisons, drugs, murder, a mysterious typing agency, another unexplained death, a trip outside the city, cops, lesbian love-action (not detailed!), obsession, insanity, resolution.
A lot to like – it was short, it was free (Munsey’s) and it had a fair few twists before we get things straightened out in the end.
Well worth an hour or two of anyone’s time.
Craig was a pseudonym of Frank E. Smith, a Californian who also wrote gothic novels and westerns. He died in 1984. I
4 from 5
A Munsey's freebie.
Read in July, 2015