High Sierra

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The tormented and exhausted man at the center of W.R. Burnett's High Sierra is a notorious criminal whom the newspapers call "Mad Dog" Roy Earle. Earle is every bit the criminal the newspapers depict, but he is a complicated soul who is the tragic hero of the novel -- a horribly flawed man, a violent criminal who still retains a bit of a conscience but never gets a decent break. As in most of Burnett's novels, High Sierra ostensibly describes a carefully plotted crime that is undermined by human nature. More ...
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New York Nov-1987 Softcover Not Issued jacket Nov 1987 Zebra Books paperback in VERY GOOD condition; no dust jacket as issued. Tight binding; square; spine and hinge creases; ... light edge wear; clean, bright pages; small black stamp on copyright pages; no other marks. 302 p. (2836) (scanned image is of actual book) Read more Show Less

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High Sierra

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Overview

The tormented and exhausted man at the center of W.R. Burnett's High Sierra is a notorious criminal whom the newspapers call "Mad Dog" Roy Earle. Earle is every bit the criminal the newspapers depict, but he is a complicated soul who is the tragic hero of the novel -- a horribly flawed man, a violent criminal who still retains a bit of a conscience but never gets a decent break. As in most of Burnett's novels, High Sierra ostensibly describes a carefully plotted crime that is undermined by human nature. More interesting and important, perhaps, is its study of Roy Earle, who hardly seems the "Mad Dog" he is made out to be in the press. Pardoned from prison, he idealizes his childhood as he wearily makes his way across the California desert to meet up with two hoods named Red and Babe. Earle is dismayed to find they have with them a tough and brazen woman named Marie, though he begins to warm to her crude charm. He has been moved by the plight of a physically impaired woman he meets, Velma Goodhue, and he resolves to help her -- imagining, somehow, that she will be his. After a holdup he plans with Red, Babe and Marie (who has now fallen in love with him), Earle takes money to Velma for an operation to repair her clubfoot. But the holdup has disastrous results. Red and Babe are killed, and Roy goes on the lam with Marie. They have nowhere to turn and even Velma deserts him. Earle sends Marie away, to meet him eventually in a mountain pass in the High Sierras -- a rendezvous high in the sky that will not take place as planned. Much happens plotwise in High Sierra but it is Roy Earle who holds our interest. As remorseless as the book is -- the concluding chapter consists a few lacerating paragraphs of post-mortem chitchat from the police -- it makes Earle a rich and deeply compelling man, without sentimentalizing him at all. Reading High Sierra is close to the experience of reading James M.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821720592
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 11/1/1987
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback

Meet the Author

William Riley Burnett (1899-1981) was a master of fiction, a skillful writer, contemporary to James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett. Burnett authored some 36 novels and either wrote alone or in collaboration 60 screenplays. His novels Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle represent a rich vein of thought in contemporary American literature and culture.

After he began his career as a writer, Burnett moved to Chicago in the late 1920s at the height of Al Capone's power and sway over the city. It was this atmosphere, Chicago in the '20s and notably the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Burnett was one of the first people on the scene) that inspired Burnett’s first great success Little Caesar, which was made into a film by the same name starring Edward G. Robinson.

After this initial success, Burnett had a strong, close working relationship with Hollywood as both a novelist and screenwriter, and eventually found a champion in writer/director John Huston. Burnett collaborated with Huston on the adaptation of High Sierra in 1941 in which Humphrey Bogart redefined himself in the role of Roy Earle. The two men's paths crossed again when Huston filmed The Asphalt Jungle in 1950. The Mystery Writers of America awarded Burnett their highest honor--the prestigious title of Grand Master--at the 1980 Edgar Awards.
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