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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Epitaph for a Dead Beat

David Markson

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To purchase Epitaph for a Dead Beat

Title: Epitaph for a Dead Beat
Author: David Markson
Genre: Novel
Written: 1961
Length: 199 pages
Availability: in: Epitaph for a Tramp/Epitaph for a Dead Beat - US
in: Epitaph for a Tramp/Epitaph for a Dead Beat - UK
in: Epitaph for a Tramp/Epitaph for a Dead Beat - Canada
Nachruf auf einen toten Beatnik - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyable beat-pulp

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Fall/2007 David Cozy
TLS . 25/5/2007 Stephen Burn

  From the Reviews:
  • "They have some deft dialogue but their clusters of literary allusions strain the boundaries of the crime genre." - Stephen Burn, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Epitaph for a Dead Beat brings back 'private cop' Harry Fannin, and this time he gets himself fully immersed in the New York beatnik scene of the day, allowing author Markson to indulge in spreading on the colour real thick -- and giving him plenty of room (well, that's how he sees it, anyway) for the literary asides and commentary.
       The novel gets off to a fast start, as one thing leads to another and Fannin finds himself defending a girl's honour in a downtown bar (since her wussy male companions -- "I got the impression that neither of them would have been chagrined if I got the impression they were writers" -- don't want to have anything to do with it). He walks her home, but with his typical luck (and the requirements of the genre) makes the mistake of peeking into her roommate's room -- and finding the girl is home after all. Home, and dead.
       It's not the only body Fannin is the first to stumble upon (though by the third one he knows at least what to expect) -- which makes the police kind of suspicious.
       After discovering that first body he gets a case -- a very unlikely millionaire looking for his daughter -- which sends him back to the Village-scene, and into more trouble, and, soon enough, gets him another body at his feet. The murders (and the next one) are related, and it seems straightforward enough: motive, opportunity, it's all there. But it turns out to be a bit more complicated -- and a literary caper, after all. Markson nicely doesn't make the twist of who dunnit the final one, but rather adds the frustrating complication of how hard it is to pin the murder on the right person even when he knows who is responsible (and even gets the whole story from the murderer's own mouth)
       Markson goes a bit overboard with the quirks, from the giant millionaire ("Tallest man since Wilt the Stilt" is how someone describes him) -- and his name -- to the bohemian jive-talk and the whole beat scene. Still it's fast and often fun. Fannin gets bashed around some along the way, a weapon pointed at him nearly every times he opens a door, it sometimes seems, and there are perhaps one or two too many turns (or layers) to the plot (including a teammate from his University of Michigan football-playing days), but Markson offers enough else along the way to make up for most of the exaggerated parts. And he does have some good literary fun along the way -- from what Fannin is reading when the story starts ("Lolita, a sad story about a twelve-year-old girl who couldn't find anyone her age to play with" -- a line good enough that Markson may well have written the whole book just so he could throw that in there) -- to the beat-scene (including an amusing background refrain at a party, despairing about any number of authors -- e.g. ""-- Somerset Maugham ?" a voice wailed. "Somerset Maugham !" ").
       Looser and more playful than Epitaph for a Tramp, it doesn't have quite the same power as that first Fannin novel, but it's still a very enjoyable and highly readable pulp thriller, with some good twists and some clever dialogue and descriptions.

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Epitaph for a Dead Beat: Reviews: David Markson: Other books by David Markson under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author David Markson was born in 1927 and died in 2010.

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