20 DECEMBER 1963, Page 21

None But the. Brave

NEW crime fiction is sparse in December, Only Boardman continues to publish uninterrupted a

consistent flow of good action-stories. They generally feature a tough amateur in frequent and unexpected encounters with a ruthless gang of hoods. A really sizzling dame is the enticing prize for bravery. She is guaranteed to wipe away the blood and soften the memory of bruises with her lovely cushiony curves. I like this racy, hard-hitting stuff. A good one in this genre is Winner Take All, by James McKinney (Board- man, 12s. 6d.). Penniless Mark Steele does a deal with his long-lost twin brother Byrd. Im- personating his twin, he undertakes to pay off a large gambling debt. Byrd promises a big pay- ment and a life of luxury in palatial hotels while he is on the job. He does not mention that Steele will be lucky to finish this assignment alive. While staying at one of these flashy joints with cocktail bars in the bedrooms, Steele meets a lovely dame called Linda. He longs to shack up with her, but the crooks interfere and keep Linda hostage for Steele's good behaviour. Chief crook Nicole really has some skilful gunmen at his disposal. His crack performer dresses like a dapper commuter and, keeps a gun in his briefcase. Humour and speedy narration combine to make this a swift, meaty adventure.

Quite by accident, I overlooked Hillary Waugh's Death and Circumstance (G ollancz, 15s.), published a couple of months ago. Two boys without family join forces in prison and live on their wits after an exciting escape. Allie adores TOny, his leader and the first friend he has ever had. Tony's good opinion is the thing he lives for. Tony comes first, before women, before his human scruples. Allie comes from the kind of .drab neighbourhood where the police are all in the protection racket. They are smelly and inefficient, filching fruit and buns from helpless shopkeepers and smoking in pub lavatories be- tween free drinks. Theft would seem natural in such a poverty-stricken area, 'a harmless game in which the burglar matched his wits with the owner.' Stringing along with Tony, and a woman who fancies his looks, poor scared Allie per- forms ever more daring robberies until he is wanted for the murder of two cops. Then a cold- blooded kidnapping scheme is proposed and the brutal details planned with chilling relish. I was shivering beside a warm fire as I read the last chapters of Death and Circumstance. The grim scheme seems more horrifying as we watch its effect on Allie, who is driven by a single emotion —loyalty to his worthless friend.

Stewart Farrer's point of view, or at least that of his Detective-Inspector Morgan who investi- gates Death in the Wrong Bed (Crime Club, 12s. 6d.), is that all murderers are mentally ill and therefore deserving of pity. Certainly he seems to prove so with his story of a talented artist whose second marriage to a 'flint-hearted pin-up' (to quote his ex-wife) is going on to the rocks. He takes refuge from her scornful nagging in the arms of his compassionate secretary and almost immediately gets killed. Jealousy seems the obvious motive and there are plenty of young women involved. The most attractive character is shock-headed, rumpled Molly, whose noisy un- tidiness has developed into quite an eccentricity. She answers police questions while racing from room to room like a billiard ball. The love scenes are decidedly creaky. Some quiet comments on character are the best• thing here and clueing is good when you look back to see where you went