May 1, 2014

Paging INSPECTOR ALLHOFF

When I volunteered as proofreader for Radio Archives, I was introduced to one of the more obscure - but lively - pulp characters: the inimitable Inspector Allhoff, as written by D.L. Champion. (I also read a lot of weird menace tales, but that's a post for another day). Allhoff was embittered, cynical, and nasty - his legs amputated due to gangrene (contracted after a gangland shootout), he was taken on as an unofficial "consultant" to the police. Assisted by Battersley (who was responsible for Allhoff's situation - and who was reminded of that on a daily basis) and Simmons (who served as a futile voice of reason), Allhoff solved a variety of pulp-flavored locked room cases. These stories were so good I wished that I could find a copy of Footprints on A Brain - the only anthology of stories.

Thanks to Altus Press, we now have The Complete Cases of Inspector Allhoff, Volume 1 , a really good, cracking read....and a great collection for those interested in mysteries of a different flavor.
Yes, you might expect that this might have been the source material for my beloved Ironside (and sadly, never caught the reboot), but there's a nice, nasty streak throughout Allhoff that belies their 1930s pulp origins. If you're looking for intricately plotted tales....you may not get them in this volume. What you will get is a great combination of straight-ahead prose, a slightly bleak view of human existence, and some fascinating character dynamics. Allhoff, Battersley, and Simmons may not be a ramshackle crew (I'll leave that to the pulp Suicide Squad, whose works I would also recommend), but there's a nice, brisk tone to the stories, focusing as much on the dynamics of the "mystery" as it does on establishing that neo-noir atmosphere.

Plus, the man loves his coffee. Something tells me that Champion consumed it by the pot while writing these tales....and there's a great, cynical interplay between the characters as well. These are the kind of stories best enjoyed one at a time, and feels almost near-contemporary. Altus Press does a really good job in packaging these stories, and based on this....well, I'm definitely purchasing the inevitable Volume Two, as well as checking out their other collections.

The Complete Cases of Inspector Allhoff, Volume One could be easily miscategorized as "the intersection of Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler"....but that would be a misstatement. As an interesting counterpoint to some of the other mystery writers of the time (notably Ellery Queen and Christie herself), Allhoff makes a pretty good historical document of an early form of mashup. For most others, they're simply some darn good reads, and are highly recommended. Allhoff is available in softcoverKindle , and Nook formats. No matter which one you purchase, you'll get a good selection of stories, and a great read as well.

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