Neil Brand

Created by Ray Dyson

Many a writer has fallen under the spell of the crime and detective fiction found in the pulps of the twenties and thirties, and the names of Chandler and Hammett are dropped almost ad nauseum, which makes Dyson's deliberately pulpy stories about Hollywood studio fixer NEIL BRAND at least partially refreshing.

Because while Dyson is about as quick to namedrop the masters of the past as the next jasper (his first book in the series, The Ice Cream Blonde, pointedly acknowledges "Dash and Ray"), his writing itself seems to more obviously echo (whether deliberately or not) the work of the almost forgotten Robert Leslie Bellem and his slang-spouting Hollywood dick Dan Turner, who also worked the Tinsel Town dream factories.

All it takes is a quick peek to realize both Bellem and Dyson share a fondness for snappy patter, whether real or imagined, liberally applied. Within just a few pages of The Naked Nymph in the Dark Flickers (the title itself a brief burst of semantic loony-toonery), we're treated to such bon mots as "earwiggers," "bimbo," "gink" and "poltroon." And while Dyson doesn't surrender to the comic lunacy of Turner's use of slang completely, that and the same sort of cut-and-paste plots that Bellem endlessly trucked in (Starlets! White slavery! Bad Actors! Sex! Drugs! Murder!) suggest Dyson's true inspiration may be a fewer steps lower down the pantheon than "Dash and Ray."

Or not. I have no idea what the author has read. Certainly, there's more modern-day substance to Brand than Bellem ever gave to Turner -- Brand is portrayed as a former soldier, and a disgraced ex-cop, now working for York Studios in Hollywood, where his official position is head of security, but what he really does is work as a trouble shooter, fixing problems and saving the studio from any embarrassing press.

But was that a wise decision? In trying to to add some non-pulp depth to the series, the author may be in danger of lessening its appeal to folks just looking for some fast-paced pulp action and not seeking a higher priced spread. Because there's nothing wrong with a good pulp tale, well-told. And let's face it -- the real reason we care about Chandler's and Hammett's pulp work is that they left the pulps far behind, leaving a rash of imitators in their wake, and gave us some truly excellent novels.

The author, born in Evansville, Indiana, had a short career as a baseball player, but a long career as a newspaperman whose beats included crime reporter and sports. He's the author of the baseball book, Smokey Joe: A Baseball Fable. Now retired from journalism, the author lives in Mansfield, Ohio, where he's working on the next Neil Brand novel, and even harder on his golf game, but with less success.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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