Book Report: The Brass Cupcake by John D. MacDonald (1950)

I bought this book for $2.00 from Hooked on Books in Springfield last weekend, and believe you me, they have the best selection of JDMcD’s paperback originals than any other store I’ve visited in the Midwest. They might have the best selection in the veritable United States (excluding Florida), but I would get ahead of myself with that pronouncement.

The Brass Cupcake represents the missing link between the Travis McGee novels and the pulps, although I’m not sure that such a link was ever missing. The writing style is grittier and punchier (not always a good thing) than I’m used to. Let’s face it, the Travis McGee books wax downright elegaic for Florida, but this book could have been set in Jersey for all the true local flavor it has.

The book details the story of an insurance company investigator named Cliff Bartells, a former police lieutenant who left the force because he wasn’t crooked enough to fit in and who now recovers stolen gems for a cut of their value (that sounds vaguely familiar…). When an old dowager with gems is bashed to death during a robbery, the dirty cops want to hang it on someone. Bartells, or someone to whom Bartells leads them, or some kid off the street. It won’t matter. Bartells finds himself between the syndicate and the corrupt cops and between the heiress and the possible accomplice. He’s got to set up a buy to get the gems back, without any additional lead accent pieces for himself.

Ultimately, the book disappointed me a little; as I mentioned, I found the two-fisted stylings a little choppy to read, and some characters blurred together when give only names and brief strokes. Also, the end didn’t hang right, like an ill-cut suitcoat draped over shoulders too thin to fill it. But it’s good to see the earliest works of MacDonald to watch him evolve.

Hey, since I’ve joined the Amazon Associates program, every time you order one of these books through my Web site, I get like a penny (for $3 shipping and handling). So if you’re intrigued, why not click through and get your own copy, since my copy is locked up until my estate sale:

Books mentioned in this review: