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THE HOT BEAT by Robert Silverberg


by Robert Silverberg

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-78909-992-8
Publisher: Hard Case Crime

In a sinful city, an aspiring actress teams up with a crime columnist to clear her boyfriend of a murder charge.

At sleazy Carrol’s Bar & Grill on South Main Street, world-weary police detective Brady commiserates with Gazette columnist Ned Lowry—who writes a column called “The Seamy Side”—about the unsolved murder of Doris Blair, as they watch barfly bandleader Bob McKay, who’s recently fallen on hard times, get in a fight while bemoaning Doris' fate. Silverberg’s storyline veers in surprising directions, recalling the classic noir of Hammett and especially Chandler, with colorful, hard-bitten characters lurking in every dark cranny and plot detour. At the Dumas, a marginally classier nightspot, rugged, charming Jack Colin flirts with lovely B-girl Terry Stafford, who’s dancing with male customers while hoping for an acting career. Terry’s fallen hard for the wounded McKay, and a romance is blossoming. After McKay is arrested and aggressively questioned for the murder of Doris, who worked alongside Terry at the Dumas but kept to herself, Lowry returns, following the story to assess McKay’s guilt, and Brady returns as one of the cops on the case. When Terry reads Lowry’s column about the case, she senses a sympathetic ear and tells him about her subtle plan to investigate, and they decide to work together. Gathering pieces of the puzzle will require interviews and wrangles with a colorful collection of tenderloin lowlifes. Previously published in 1960 under a pseudonym, Silverberg’s novel isn’t a modern homage but the real thing; he brings the same vigor and imagination to noir that characterizes his award-winning science fiction. Bonus: three additional Silverberg detective stories from the same era.

Genuinely juicy pulp noir from 60 years ago.