This omnibus – a secret review copy of which arrived, via three drop boxes and as many couriers in disguise – comes courtesy of those very nice people at Stark House Press. It brings together the trilogy of decidedly off-beat adventure capers by Peter Rabe featuring Manny deWitt, a lawyer by trade who also acts as a troubleshooter for his wealthy and mercurial boss, Dutch industrialist Hans Lobbe.
“The girl in the painting was a trollop”
Girl in a Big Brass Bed (1965)
“It is the first painting I have heard of,” I said, “which seems to have something of a curse on it.”
This one sees deWitt on hunt for a Vermeer painting, a Lobbe family heirloom stolen by the Nazis (Goering took a fancy to it) but which has now resurfaced in Germany. Or has it? And why do so many people seem so interested in it? And it really would help if Lobbe would actually tell Manny what is really going on sometimes …
The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall (1966)
“Essen is one of the Pttsburghs they have in the Ruhr Valley. A lot of steady money is being made there, but the city itself is insistently ugly.”
Manny is dispatched to a new (and fictitious) African country and squares off against the title character, a pigmy known as ‘Baby’ in a seemingly straightforward negotiation to see a road built across the country that of course proves to be much more tangled than that given that the Chinese also want the contract, And what of Lobbe’s niece, who has taken a shine to deWitt but who has a rather keen Italian boyfriend already?
“Five hours after my departure from Beirut two of the men I was to meet – one a minister of commerce, the other the brother of a king – were bombed to bits by an unemployed postal clerk who had been imported for the occasion from Yugoslavia”
Code Name Gadget (1967)
“Manny,” she said. “Do shut up, won’t you now?”
This time round the ‘gadget’ (which is really just a MacGuffin, by definition the thing that everyone wants, irrespective of what it might actually be) is a large device that can detect the purity and presence of chemical compounds in products. But can it destroy the world as some think? This time our protagonist heads off to England.
“Then I will shoot you, Mister deWitt.”
“Is that the official Bonn policy?””
These droll adventures, which come with a helpful and admiring intro by Rabe aficionado Rick Ollerman, are amusing and well-told, their eccentric humour really setting them apart from the scores of similar thrillers that littered paperback shelves in the 1960s. Of the three, the second – with its witty banter and tangled love affairs – just may be my favourite, but all are worthy of your time and it is great to have them back in print again.
Girl in a Big Brass Bed / The Spy Who Was 3 Feet Tall / Code Name Gadget
By Peter Rabe
ISBN: 978-1944520304 (paperback), 400 pages, $21.99
To find out more about the author and his books, you should visit: http://www.starkhousepress.com/rabe.php
I submit these three reviews for Bev’s Silver Age Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt in the ‘blonde’ (Gadget), ‘damsel in distress’ (Spy) and ‘any piece of furniture’ (Bed) categories: