Friday, July 03, 2009
Forgotten Books: PAGODA -- James Atlee Phillips
If you think The Green Wound, a Gold Medal book also issued as The Green Wound Contract, was the first of Philip Atlee's books about Joe Gall, you're wrong by 12 or 13 years. The first one was Pagoda, published in hardback by Macmillan in 1951 and in paperback by Bantam in 1952. Obviously this one was intended as a standalone book, and technically it's not part of the series. It's not even told in first person like the rest of the Gall books. But Gall's the same hardboiled guy, and Atlee writes about him very well, no matter how he's handling the narration. There's the same terse style, the same swift flow of the story.
As you can see from the back cover, this is Joe Gall's backstory. It's set in Burma, and Gall's a flyer. If you've read the series books, you no doubt recall Gall's many references to flying over "the hump" in Burma. Here's the story of some of those experiences. Atlee does the setting very well indeed, as he did in all the Gall books. If you liked the series, you'll like Pagoda. If you like good hardboiled writing, you'll probably like Pagoda. Dated? Sure, in the same way that Hammett and Chandler are dated, which is to say only in the details. Check it out.