A Touch of Squalor producer Johnny Lane stumbles upon the murder of young and promising starlet Elaine, found dead, in the nude with her throat slit. Despite the horrendous nature of this unfortunate event, this being showbiz, the show must go on.
STRANGE EMBRACE is pure pulp, rather than the sleaze pulp/soft-core erotica I had anticipated (by virtue of the cover painting) and is more derived from the classic yet contained whodunit formulaic laden fiction of the genre.
Written in 1961 (this edition first publicised by Hardcase Crime under the authors actual name) STRANGE EMBRACE ages well. The characters are typecast, the mystery omnipresent, and a touch of humour (notably between the producer and investigating officer) compliments proceedings as the nature of the murder and whispering threat of violence unravels.
Producer Johnny Lane plays detective as he deduces and evaluates potential suspects from within the troupe of Broadway’s A Touch of Squalor. Whilst it’s easy enough to see where the conclusion is heading, I did enjoy reading Johnny’s mishap and defamation of character time and time again.
Johnny’s natural attraction and relationship with one of his other stars was also enjoyable and added depth to the lead character as more than an investigating producer trying to muscle his way into the world of crime and debauchery. Written more as a means to throw the reader’s perception of Johnny, it didn’t quite work but did enough to cloud my perception of his judgement.
STRANGE EMRACE is a one sitting read that achieves what it sets out to do – provide a bite size portion of popcorn pulp that’s entertaining and easily consumable.