Sunday, July 17, 2016


SO NUDE, SO DEAD by Ed McBain has an interesting publication history. It was originally published as THE EVIL SLEEP! under McBain's real name, Evan Hunter in 1953. It was reprinted in 1956 as SO NUDE, SO DEAD under the pen name Richard Marsten. Hard Case Crime (my favorite contemporary publisher), reprinted the book in July, 2015, as SO NUDE, SO DEAD by Ed McBain. The trade paperback sports a terrific cover painting by Greg Manchess.

The story is a classic noir set-up. A piano player junkie, Ray Stone, awakens from a night of shooting heroin, to find a dead woman in bed next to him. The beautiful blond, also an addict, has two bullet holes in her stomach. Ray remembers nothing except that there was sixteen ounces of pure, uncut heroin somewhere in the dead woman's apartment. Heroin that is now missing.

Desperate both to clear his name and find the missing heroin (Ray needs a fix in a very bad way), he sets out to play detective. Another dead body turns up during his investigation, the cops are on his tail and he gets roughed up by a couple of gorillas who are also hunting the missing drugs. There's a roof-top shoot-out and escape from the cops to liven things up as Ray encounters shady jazz musicians, a luscious femme fatale and drug pushers all while battling his addiction and his burning desire for another fix. The identity of the killer isn't hard to figure out and the end has echoes of Mickey Spillane's I, THE JURY (1947) (minus the .45 slug into a woman's belly).

SO NUDE, SO DEAD is a fast paced, down and dirty little crime novel.  It's similar to another one of McBain's early novels, CUT ME IN, in that his detective hero isn't the standard private eye or cop. In CUT, the main character was a literary agent, here it's a drug addict. SO NUDE isn't the greatest crime novel I've read but it's serviceable and shows a future master at the beginning of his career, just learning the tricks of the trade. Worth reading if you're a fan of film noir and hard boiled crime novels.

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