Monday, August 11, 2014

Underdog by WR Burnett - Pulp Fiction Review

        WR Burnett, probably best know for hit books like Little Caesar and High Sierra, also wrote Underdog, another crime drama about a man named Jerry Clinch, an ex-con trying to go straight. Unfortunately, he isn’t able to break free of his past because of a powerful city boss named Big Dan, Rhea, Dan’s beautiful wife, and Lola, who according to the book is a jail bait pro. This was the hype on the back cover of this book. 

        The book opens with Jerry in prison where he meet Dan. Jerry doesn’t seem to like Dan but he makes a good enough impression on Dan that he will offer Jerry a job as his chauffeur when both of them are out of jail. 

         From there, the book doesn’t have any kind of a plot. I didn’t see a reason why Clinch felt he had to go work for Dan. It just seemed like something he felt he had to do, as well as be with Lola, who comes off in the story as someone who is immature, and extremely childish in the story, so childish that it’s hard to believe that she could be written into this story. 

          In fact, Dan’s wife, Rhea, isn’t very happy that Clinch is working with Dan and there was at least two occasions where she recommended that Clinch be fired from his job but Dan wouldn’t do that. 

          Even though Dan is supposed to be a powerful mob boss, I didn’t see any indication of that until 3/4 into the story, and even then, the only think you knew was that Dan was in some sort of card game where he was winning. The only thing that may have moved the story for me was when Jerry was attracted to Rhea and he thought that she felt the same way about him but again, that wasn’t until 3/4 of the story and not much was made of that afterward. 

            You would think that since this was supposed to be a book about a mobster, you could at least have scenes where Jerry was collecting money for Dan in some way that was illegal or have one of his other men do it or have Dan involved in something that was illegal but other than the card game, which was much later in the story, much of the plot was based on how Dan was chauffeuring Dan and Rhea around the city. 

            As far as what happened with Dan towards the end and the fate of Jerry Clinch, much of it was predictable and while there was some action with another mob boss, the tension didn’t develop until the last 3/4 of the story, making the ending predictable and anti-climatic. 

            I’m not a big fan of mobster books and this wasn’t a good work of one. WR Burnett has done better stories in Little Caesar and High Sierra. As far as this book is concerned, I can’t give it more than two stars. 

Ron Hummer

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