You play the black and the red comes up (Gregg Press mystery fiction series)

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9780839826538: You play the black and the red comes up (Gregg Press mystery fiction series)
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A Depression drifter, Dick bums his way from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in search of his son and runaway wife. There he commits one crime, plans another, and gets arrested for something he didn't do. He is befriended by characters as lush and crazy as L.A. Deco: Quentin Genter, film director, decadent, collector of beauty and poison. Mamie, an indestructibly loving divorcee. Patsy, who gilds her sandals with radiator paint and becomes an adored evangelist. And a procession of crooks, shysters, rueful temptors and loopy saints. You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up was a bestseller when originally published in 1938 and is a lost noir classic.

Selected and Introduced by famed creator Matt Groening.

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About the Author:

Richard Hallas is the pseudonym for Eric Knight.  Knight was born April 10, 1897 in Yorkshire, England. As the creator of Lassie Come Home, he uses these lush countryside was the setting he chose for Lassie's adventures. Knight grew up in the mill towns where stories of ""come-home"" dogs were common. He was raised by an aunt and uncle and worked and went to school as a youngster part time. Immigrating to the US in 1912, he settled in Philadelphia. He studied music and art and attended the Cambridge Latin School in Massachusettes. In 1943, while serving as a major in the film unit of the U.S. Army Special Services section, he was killed in the crash of a military transport plane in the jungle of Surinam. You Play the Black and Red Comes Up (1938) was his only crime novel. He is also the author of Lassie Come Home, The Flying Yorkshireman, and the bestselling novel about the London blitz, This Above All (1941).

Matt Groening was born on February 15, 1954 in Portland, Oregon. He attended Evergreen State College and was the editor of the campus newspaper. He moved to LA in 1973 and sold his comic strip Life in Hell to the LA Weekly. Producer James L. Brooks asked Groening to create animated shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show and the legendary cartoon The Simpsons was born. Groening went on to also create the hit television cartoon Futurama. He has won at total of 12 Emmy Awards, 10 for The Simpsons and 2 for Futurama. Groening receieved the 2002 National Cartoonist Society Reuben Award. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction by Matt Groening

What is it about the lurid covers, overheated prose, and musty smells of old, dog-eared paperbacks? For me, it’s the lure of the forbidden, the sensation of secrets being muttered, the sheer exuberance of imagining a chain-smoking, booze-weary writer banging away on a manual typewriter in the middle of the night, one step ahead of the landlord and two steps ahead of an angry ex-wife.
These books, even if solemn, radiate a deadpan sarcasm that makes me think, they gotta be kidding! Are they parodies, satires, pastiches? Probably not all of them, but whatever they are, they make me laugh.
I include in this shelf of sweat and screwiness both the critically acclaimed and the dismissed trash: Paul Cain’s Fast One (1933); the works of James M. Cain, particularly The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934); Horace McCoy’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1935) and I Should Have Stayed Home (1938); Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust (1939, with Homer Simpson); Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan (1939); Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? (1941); Henry Kane’s A Halo for Nobody (1947) and Armchair in Hell (1948); and Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One (1948).
Then there is You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, the delirious 1938 crime novel published under the name Richard Hallas, pseudonym of English writer Eric Knight. This was Knight’s only pulp novel, perhaps because critics assumed he was slumming an Englishman mimicking the slangy American style and plotting of James M. Cain. Knight hit it big with the 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home, expanded from a 1938 Saturday Evening Post short story. He also wrote several other mainstream novels, but none with the lingering cult appeal of You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up. In 1943, Knight was killed in a military transport plane crash in the jungles of Suriname.
In fifty short and speedy chapters, You Play the Black takes us on a whiplash ride from Oklahoma to California, with major plot reversals on almost every page. Along the way we get drunken brawls, bleached-blonde floozies, cruel hobos, corrupt cops, a fake holdup gone bad, double-crosses, bigamy, an array of poisons, false accusations, suicide, and getting away with murder. The story is told by Dick, a beefy chump who’s searching for his runaway wife Lois and beloved son Dickie, at least until Dick takes up with bitter Mamie and gets further distracted by naked Sheila. Also figuring into this mess of crime and debauchery is the sleazy movie director Quentin Genter, beautiful movie star Jira Mayfair, and political Ponzi-scheme prophet Patsy Perisho. Satirical bankshots are aimed at faith healer Sister Aimee Semple McPherson and Upton Sinclair’s E.P.IC. (End Poverty in California) campaign, with glancing references to James Joyce, Seán O'Casey, Claude Debussy, Richard Wagner, Los Angeles architect Burton Schutt, and convicted murderer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen.
You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up is probably a goof, but it works either way. The slang and colloquialisms and intentional clichés are a hoot, and the unreliability of the dimwitted narrator Dick just adds to the decadence. I must note, however, that the novel is peppered with the racial epithets of the day, and while the prejudices are mostly tossed off, they date the book badly. Get past the intermittent linguistic malignancy and you’ll finish You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up in a single sitting or two, marveling at the sheer joyful amoral absurdity of it all. It’s a doozy!

Matt Groening

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