June 15, 2010

Savage Pulp Writing

I always love it when an author surprises me...when I read something that they do that's a little off their beaten path, that reminds me of their style, yet has enough of a difference that it's worth my attention.

Honey in His Mouth  is remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is that it has the byline of "Lester Dent". Better known as "Kenneth Robeson" who wrote the vast majority of Doc Savage pulps. Dent, who had his own well-known formula for creating remarkable stories (and who, in his own way, revolutionized pulp writing the way Stan Lee's "Marvel method" influenced comic writing). Published under the Hard Case Crime banner, Honey in His Mouth is not only classic Dent, but in itself is a really impressive pulp thriller.

The story seems simple - a small-time hoodlum is picked because he's a near dead-ringer for a South American dictator - but the story is not that simple. There's a real sense of place - more specifically, Missouri, where Dent grew up - that helps ground the novel and gives it a slight sense of realism. The beginning jars a bit, but for me, it was more due to my expecting a Doc Savage novel. There's enough imagination in the writing that gives it an edge over most literature of the time...but if you're expecting a Spillane or a Thompson, you won't get that.

Admittedly, there are some passages that read rather awkwardly, at least in my eyes - however, given that this was written towards the end of Dent's life, it may have been more out of a sense of obligation (wanting to "keep up with the Joneses" stylistically) than out of a sense of storytelling. However, the book is brisk and brief enough that they're easily glossed by.

Written almost 20 years after his debut with Doc Savage, Honey In His Mouth proves that Dent didn't waver in his writing skills...and that we're now lucky enough to be able to read one of his final works.

Buy this. Now.

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