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ABSOLUTELY CORRUPTS: RAFFERTY & TO FIND A KILLER


One of the more uniques noir protagonist is the corrupt authoritarian heading for a fall. There is something suspenseful of seeing someone hold onto their power as the cracks in it begin to take them down. Lionel White, a writer mainly know for heist novels, dipped into this subgenre occasionally. Stark House Press, recently put out two of them in one volume, Rafferty and To Find A Killer.



White wrote Rafferty in 1959 with apperhant ambition. The title character, Jack Rafferty finds himself at the center of a congressional hearing. White tapped into the public interest at the time of the televised Keavefaufer organized crime hearings and the controversy over Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa and applied plot two structures for his story. The story takes place in the one day Rafferty is to give his testimony as we follow his maneuverings to survive and keep his position. He also weaves in a Citizen Kane like structure in the time frame with each chapter focused on someone in Rafferty's life, including his wife and mistress as well as a politician and racketeer he deals with, each looking back at their relationship with the man. Through these recollections, we see how he came to power, who he used, and how.


One sees White carrying aspirations of a great novel about American labor, but it operates best as a potboiler. He gives us a great compromised machiavellian protagonist who becomes consumed by the power he wields. It's how he moves and operates with in the story's nonlinear frame that keeps us turning the pages. In the end, White leans into a piece of tight, lurind entertainment.


To Find A Killer carries no pretense, finding the author in more familiar territory with a cop in too deep. Discovering his wife's infidelity, Lt. Marty Ferris catches the murderer of a club singer. Wanting everyone to pay, he plots the murder of his spouse and framing one of the suspects from his case for it.


White utilizes his heist novel skills in creating Ferris' plot that we become engaged with. The plan is detailed to be credible enough and we follow its machanachions and and react to the fate that intervenes, buying in to the writer's dark ride.


In both books, Lionel White gives us two men driven to the edge. Ambition puts Rafferty there and it is extreme righteousness with Lt. Ferris. White puts them in action, dancing on this edge, recording every move. It's an exhilarating dance, even when it comes to an end.



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