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The Snarl of the Beast (Gregg Press Mystery Fiction Series) Hardcover – February, 1981
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About the Author
Carroll John Daly (September 14, 1889-January 16, 1958) was an American author of crime fiction. Born in Yonkers, New York, he was one of the early writers for the magazine Black Mask, he is credited with writing the first true hard-boiled detective story, “The Knights of the Open Palm” which was published in the magazine in June, 1923, several months before the first of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op stories. During his career which spanned four decades he wrote well over a hundred stories and fifteen novels. Many of these featured the character Race Williams, the prototypical hard-boiled private detective from New York. He died in Los Angeles, California. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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SNARL is closer, probably, to what Daly was all about. It's very striking in a number of respects. While the general frame story is "Race Williams Investigates a Case", the actual narrative is organized around a series of incidents where Williams is hunting people trying to kill him. The book was serialized and it helps to keep that in mind, some of the episodic structure makes more sense once you understand that. There is very little reflection -- or even detection -- here, although there is a mystery and it does get solved at the end. The book is instead very tightly focused on action, and that's effectively portrayed (although I think Daly does overdo it a bit with Williams' lengthy commentary on his own actions). It seems to be trying to blend the hardboiled tale with the horror story -- the main villain here is a legendary Underworld figure known only as "the Beast" who seemingly can't be killed --and in some ways it manages it. It's a very interesting attempt at creating a horrific atmosphere in a non-typical horrific setting.
Unfortunately the structure of the book, taken as a whole, is less than solid. Typically Williams wants to do X (which seems sensible) -- plans to do X -- is getting ready to do X -- but then is frustrated by some outside situation. Once or twice this kind of thing is fine, but repeatedly it becomes ridiculous, and makes Williams look ridiculous -- which could hardly be the intent. I've read an interesting analysis of this book online arguing that this is a dream-logic at work: I think that's true, I think Daly in part was trying to up horror by giving everything a gothy/dreamy kind of atmosphere. But my point remains, structurally it's pretty awkward at best, silly at worst.
There's enough interesting things in here to recommend this, but as with a lot of republished pulp it never really surmounts it's roots.