Friday, July 24, 2020
Pick Up A Pulp : DEAD IN BED by Day Keene
First published in 1959 and reprinted in 2017 by Armchair Fiction as a double feature reminiscent of those highly collectable Ace Book Doubles from yesteryear, Dead In Bed is a formulaic pulp private eye novel, complete with wanton dames, murder, deceit, sex, and a whole lot of easy violence.
Johnny Aloha is a Hawaiian private eye who makes his living in LA. Set in the post World War II era, Aloha, a former marine himself, has all the tools to recuse any dame in distress (or state of undress as it were) and has the uncanny ability to dodge bullets and escape out of the most dire of predicaments (i.e he can untie knots while both hands are restricted and can swim for miles in ice cold water whilst feeling the effects of a concussion after escaping from a sinking ship which he was able to do after he took down two armed bad guys). Far fetched as this is, Johnny is a largely enjoyable character in similar mould to the protagonists featured in Carter Brown's pulp novels.
"Aloha means hello, goodbye, and “much love” in island parlance, but Aloha’s presence usually meant murder…anytime, anywhere!"
In Dead in Bed, Aloha is hired by a soon-to-be-wealthy beautiful blonde 20yr woman to find her missing promiscuous mother. What looks to be a pretty straight forward missing persons case soon turns deadly when Chinese gangsters show up looking to beat Aloha to a bloody pulp. Whilst this angle is ambiguous in the beginning, it makes sense in the end.
Add some more beatings, blunt forced trauma, eager dames looking for the kind of love only Aloha can provide, and a cool 40 million dollars worth of inheritance and you've got a bag full of buttery popcorn pulp.
My only major gripe with the book is that it reads as a second instalment in a private eye series. Throughout the book I couldn't help but think I was dropped into a story which started from a preceding volume, especially given the considerable references made to a previous case which didn't seem to have anything to do with the main plot in this book. After looking into it further, this is the first book to feature Aloha with Day Keene penning a second, Payloa, one year later in 1960.
Overall Dead in Bed is a solid enough pulp which achieves what it sets out to do; entertain.