So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain

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So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain

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Buy So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: When drug addict ray Stone wakes up next to the body of a dead women he is in more than one fix; firstly he needs to clear his name and secondly he needs his next hit. Join Stone in this vintage 1950s book that tackles drug addiction in a powerful manner even 60 years later.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Titan Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781781166062

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What's in a name? A lot if you decide to call your book So Nude, So Dead. This is a title to conjure with, what on earth is it about? As this is a Hard Case title it is likely to be hardboiled and not adverse to a little violence and titillation. However, consider that the book was once call The Evil Sleep! and has since been renamed; is this more a case of the title selling the book rather than accurately portraying its content?

When Ray Stone wakes up he has two major problems; where is he going to get his next hit of heroin and who is to blame for the women's dead body next to him? Stone may be a junkie, but he is no killer, but that does not stop the cops from chasing the once talented Jazz singer around the city. Can he find out who really killed the nightclub singer and get himself a fix as well? It's a hard life …

Crime as a genre often has an addict at its centre, usually this is for alcohol and is more of a character trait that main plot element. Kudos must go then to one of the masters of the genre, Ed McBain, because he puts Stone's addiction front and centre in this book and uses it as a driving force for the story. You would think that a title like So Nude, So Dead would have sex or violence at its core, but in fact these are peripheral elements to Stone's constant craving. Written back in 1956, this book has one of the keenest portrayals of addiction that I have read as it plagues Stone's every thought.

With addiction playing such a major role in the book the crime noir elements could have been lost, but McBain was not known as a talented writer for nothing. The lust for drugs just adds flavour to an otherwise classic feeling noir. There are plenty of twists and Femme Fatales for our 'hero' to meet along the way and the bumbling style of Stone's investigation works well as he is only trying to find the killer so that he can get off and return back to his life of debauchery. Most fans of the genre will be able to work out what is happening before the end, but you will have fun along the way.

One element that does sit a little uneasily is the 50s attitude towards drug addicts. Stone himself is treated quite sympathetically by McBain and his internal monologues hint at a man who knows that he is falling and cannot stop. What is coarse is how the other characters react to Stone – the cops are happy to shoot on sight at any hophead. This is of the era and is in keeping with the context of the day, but readers should be aware.

So Nude, So Dead is an excellent piece of exploitation fiction of the 50s, let down slightly by the crass title. This is not a book about nudity or death, but about one man's addiction and the attempt to clear his name. The portrayal of Stone and his drug abuse is one of the best that I have read and the story was originally penned 60 years ago. This an impressive feat and makes for an impressive book.

There are more great crime noir books out there including Quarry's Choice by Max Allan Collins, or you could try reading up about some real life crimes of the era in The Mad Sculptor by Harold Schechter

Buy So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain at Amazon.co.uk


Buy So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy So Nude, So Dead by Ed McBain at Amazon.com.

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