Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
There's a pleasantly old-fashioned B-movie feeling to Skinner's first novel, set in a 1936 New Orleans so obviously well-researched that when a character drives down Magazine Street and turns on to Pleasant, "a working-class neighborhood composed of shotgun singles and doubles," you believe it totally. Into this realistic setting, Skinner places a series of characters who cry out for dead actors to inflate their skins. Zachary Scott would have been perfect for Wesley Farrell, the nightclub and brothel owner who carries a knife and a razor, and who, we quickly learn, has Creole blood but has been passing for white for business reasons. Sam Jaffe was born to play the part of Emile Ganns, the dapper Jewish gangster who uses Farrell's secret to force him to help find out who knocked off a crooked cop called Chance Tartaglia. As Inspector Casey, apparently the only honest cop in town, Pat O'Brien would have been any director's first choice. There's even a fine role for Mary Astor in her Maltese Falcon mode as a devious daughter of the dead cop. Readers will enjoy joining Skinner in this homage to the genre's history, in print and on film. (Jan.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Set in a New Orleans of 1936 Packards, nickel phone calls, and segregation, this mystery begins when someone rubs out a dirty cop. The big-time gangster who ran the cop blackmails a smaller-time hood, the handsome but lethal Wesley Farrell (a Creole passing for white) into finding the murderer. Farrell soon falls into an uneasy alliance with detective Francis Casey as they trade information, hide a fortune in diamonds, and sidestep Casey's crooked boss. A pretty slick presentation that, while not too deep, pushes all the right buttons. [Skinner wrote Two Guns from Harlem, Popular Pr: Bowling Green, 1989, a study of Chester Himes's detective novels.-Ed.]
Shady New Orleans nightclub owner Wesley Farrell is an ex- janitor, ex-handyman, ex-boxer, and ex-Negro. At least that's how he thinks of himself, since he's been passing for white ever since he broke with his hated great-aunt, changed his name, and struck out on his own. But now Farrell's past is catching up with him. Willie Mae Gautier, that dragonish great-aunt, has turned up after ten years of silence demanding that he find out what kind of trouble her quadroon grandson, Marcel Aristide, has landed himself in. And suave, menacing gangster Emile Ganns offers Farrell a choice between earning $10,000 to solve the murder of Ganns's bagman, Det. Sgt. Chance Tartaglia, or hearing Ganns expose Farrell's carefully kept secret to the worldnot a good career move in 1936. The two cases take forever to grow together, with nothing to watch but a packet of hot diamonds and some bang- bang-see-you-in-hell scenes while you wait. But once first- novelist Skinner starts to braid Tartaglia's family history (the unexpected return of his long-estranged wife and daughter) together with Farrell's own (he'll come face to face not only with Marcel, a no-account thief who doesn't know they're related, but with the father he never knew), the joint really does start to jump.
It's Farrell's own explosive situation, in fact, that rescues this procession of insubstantial tough guys and tougher janes who'd otherwise flicker into momentary life and be gone in a puff of smoke.