Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book cover and other goodies:
"Too Busy to Die"

  • Title: Too Busy to Die
  • Author: H.W. Roden (1895-1963)
  • Cover illustrator: It's signed "Hoffman," but I couldn't find anything further
  • Publisher: William Morrow and Company (Morrow Mystery)
  • Original price: $2
  • Publication date: 1944
  • Pages: 216
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: Eva and Bub [Bob?] Sheppard of Hanover, Pennsylvania (per bookplate below). Later shelved at The York Emporium.
  • Dust jacket blurb: "The little man who called himself Harold Rodkins was so inconspicuous against the splendor of the new office that Johnny Knight's first impulse was to tell him to get out. Two thousand smackers appeared in the nick of time, effectively killing the impulse."
  • First sentence: The man put the final flourishes to the sign on the glass door of my new office and we both stepped back to admire his handiwork.
  • Last sentence: Whereupon we both collapsed quietly on the floor alongside of Pat and Homer, and the four of us slept peacefully awaiting the arrival of the police.
  • Random sentence from middle: For a guy who was still in his pajamas and bathrobe, I'd had quite a morning.
  • Original Kirkus review: "Slicked down toughie involving Johnny Knight, Public Relations Counsel, and Sid Ames, private eye, on a case of murder in triplicate, blackmail, and thieves falling out over a packet of diamonds. Top tempo and some pretty fine lowdown lingo in the genre."
  • Commentary from elsewhere #1: On The Thrilling Detective Web Site, Kevin Burton Smith writes: "SID AMES is a rye-swilling New York City gumshoe with a distaste for the cops and a rather unusual occasional sidekick, public relations consultant JOHNNY KNIGHT, who 'knows all the angles and rarely misses a trick,' and might have served as the brains of the bunch — if only he had been any smarter than Sid. He wasn't. ... Sid (and Johnny) appeared in four novels in the 40's, all of which were eventually published by Dell — including a couple of Mapbacks with spectacular covers."
  • Commentary from elsewhere #2: On Mystery*File, Steve discusses the plot and writing in this excerpt from an extended review: "Knight feels obligated to find the man’s killer. This is one of those typically 1940s wacky type of screwloose capers, complete with a beautiful blonde, a pint-sized bombshell named Patricia Rodkins who is not only deeply involved in the case but who also goes completely gaga over Knight at first glance, reason unknown but Johnny does not mind. ... With the body found on page 189, however, there are no more jokes. Things get serious and quite a bit darker in tone, and in spite of the relative loony atmosphere at the beginning, you begin to wonder if the mystery could possibly have a well-explained, coherent ending. It doesn't."

But wait, there's more!

Here's the back cover of the dust jacket, which is filled with tiny illustrations and describes author Roden as follows: "President, American Home Foods, Inc., and Clapp's Baby Foods; Chairman of the Board of G. Washington Coffee Refining Company; and member of the Board of Directors of the Association of National Advertisers, the War Advertising Council, and the Grocery Manufacturers of America."

And here's the aforementioned bookplate, featuring mouse, book and candle.

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