cover image The Gutter and the Grave

The Gutter and the Grave

Ed McBain, . . Hard Case Crime, $6.99 (217pp) ISBN 978-0-8439-5587-3

First published as by "Curt Cannon" under the title I'm Cannon—For Hire (1958), this revised reissue reminds readers that the late McBain had some serious noir chops. Betrayed by a dame, former PI Matt Cordell has fallen hard and become a bum in New York City's Bowery district. Cordell's decision to help old friend Johnny Bridges, a tailor, investigate petty larceny at his store soon leads to a series of murders and some steamy encounters with the "fair sex," including a femme fatale. A strong cast of characters—from rival private eye Dennis Knowles to tailor's assistant Dave Ryan—creates a tangled web of deceit, with lies piling up faster than tokens in a subway station. But the best thing about the novel is the hard-boiled Cordell as the archetypal noir antihero, fated to failure even in success. Of necessity, the story is dated, but the pleasure of following the exploits of a forefather of such later icons as Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder more than compensates. Fittingly, McBain has come full circle with the re-release of this revamped early novel at the end of his long and distinguished career. Agent, Gelfman-Schneider. (Nov.)