Tuesday, May 4, 2010
GIDEON'S DAY by J.J. Marric
I was in the eighth grade when Gideon's Day was published. I probably read it when I was in high school. It changed my reading habits forever.
Gideon led me to police procedural novels, still among my favorites, and, in the course of my reading, to my favorite author, Ed McBain.
When I picked up Gideon's Day again, I became aware that my history with the book was somewhat different. I didn't come to the book through the John Ford movie or the later TV shows. Many people probably did. I just found the book somewhere, maybe in the library or on some store's paperback rack, and when I read it, I was floored.
The story of a murdered crooked cop and of George Gideon, Commander of Scotland Yard, the book led me to multi-threaded police stories, stories where, in a single day, Gideon and his force had to deal with mail van robberies, an attempt to break into and rob a vault full of valuables, and a host of other crimes.
There were all kinds of crimes. Not all the crimes were solved or ever would be.
I read about snitches and prostitutes and gang leaders and organized crime, all in one fast-paced and well-written book.
Gideon and his assistant Lemaitre also faced the kinds of family breakdown that plagues some cops.
Gideon's Day still holds up today. Only small parts of it are dated. These people are way more exorcised about marijuana than we would be today, and there is, in one part, a passage which could only be called racist. But on the whole, though things have changed, people haven't. The book still tells a powerful story.
We all know, of course, that J.J. Marric was one of the many pseudonyms of John Creasey.
Before his death in 1973, Creasey wrote over 600 books using pen names such as J.J. Marric, Gordon Ashe and Patrick Dawlish.
I tried to read some of his other books, but none of them ever meant as much to me as the books about Gideon. And, in so far as I know, I read all the Gideons along the way.
So, this was a great reunion for me. It took me back to my high school years. It reminded me of a powerful writer whose books remain powerful, even as the years pass.