Drumbeat - Dominique
When Chester Drum knew him, Jack Morley was a Washington player, just a few promotions away from becoming Secretary of State. A bad divorce and a nervous breakdown later, Morley has hit rock bottom, and works in Paris for the Army ghoul squad, confirming the deaths of World War II soldiers long ago reported missing in action. Morley is content to spend the rest of his life wallowing in the bottom of a Pernod bottle, until word gets out that he is blackmailing a US senator - an accusation that could cost him his life.
Though disgusted by his old friend's drunkenness, Drum agrees to make Morley's case to the senator. Blackmailer or no, Morley has stumbled onto a conspiracy that dates back to the end of the war. If Drum can't get to the bottom of it, Morley won't be the only one to die.
'[Marlowe] tells a complex story vividly and vigorously.' - The New York Times Book Review.
'Often brash and violent ... with an impish sense of humor.' - The Independent.
'Drum sleuths to his own beat; he is a strong private investigator, who hooks the audience in each tale, short or long.' - Harriet Klausner Book Reviews.
'Langton's sparkling prose and inimitable wit offer a delectable feast for the discriminating reader.' - Publishers Weekly.
'Like Jane Austen and Barbara Pym, Langton is blessed with the comic spirit-a rare gift of genius to be cherished.' - St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Stephen Marlowe (1928-2008) was the author of more than fifty novels, including nearly two dozen featuring globe-trotting private eye Chester Drum. Born Milton Lesser, Marlowe was raised in Brooklyn and attended the College of William and Mary. After several years writing science fiction under his given name, he legally adopted his pen name, and began focusing on Chester Drum, the Washington-based detective who first appeared in The Second Longest Night (1955).
Although a private detective akin to Raymond Chandler's characters, Drum was distinguished by his jet-setting lifestyle, which carried him to various exotic locales from Mecca to South America. These espionage-tinged stories won Marlowe acclaim, and he produced more than one a year before ending the series in 1968. After spending the 1970s writing suspense novels like The Summit (1970) and The Cawthorn Journals (1975), Marlowe turned to serious-minded historical fiction. He lived much of his life abroad, in Switzerland, Spain, and France, and died in Virginia in 2008.
Drumbeat - Dominique
F OR A GUY who once held down the number two spot in the protocol section of the State Department, Jack Morley had come a long way-all of it in the wrong direction.
I walked right past his table on the terrace of the Café Rotonde a couple of times without recognizing him. What I saw was a shabby drunk who needed a shave, a haircut and, chances were, a bath. He was wearing what looked like somebody's cast-off safari jacket. It was a couple of sizes too big for Jack and made his neck look like a rooster's. You couldn't blame me for not recognizing him. The last time I'd laid eyes on Jack Morley had been a couple of years ago in Washington. Handshaking a pair of Middle Eastern diplomats into Blair House, he'd been turned out in his usual go-to-meeting outfit-camel's hair topcoat, white silk scarf, dark worsted suit and Homburg. He resembled then everybody's idea of what the boy voted most-likely-to-succeed at Harvard turned into ten years later.
Any resemblance between that Jack Morley and the drunk trying his best not to knock over the table while he got a glass of pernod to his mouth outside the Café Rotonde on Boulevard Montpamasse in Paris was purely coincidental.
I got a table near the lottery booth, ordered a drink and looked across Boulevard Raspail to the traffic island, where Rodin's statue of Balzac, considered obscene even by the French until they gave the bronze old man a bronze cloak, was now half-hidden by the branches of a chestnut tree. I looked at my watch. It was a quarter to eight of a warm evening, and Jack Morley already was fifteen minutes late. I decided to give him until I finished my whiskey-and-water, and then go up to the Raspail Vert for some bouillabaisse.
If it had worked out that way, none of this would have happened the way it did. But as I asked the waiter for my check a big and not quite frowzy-looking blonde drifted over to my table, jerked a thumb in the direction of the shabby drunk and asked in an accent that was British but not BBC: "He wants to know are you Mr. Drum."
I looked where she was pointing and still failed to recognize Jack. I glanced back at the blonde. She was big without being fat, with a Devon milkmaid's overabundant figure, rosy cheeks and china-blue eyes. Her streaky blonde hair was long and combed in no particular fashion or maybe not combed at all. Her mouth was a sullen red pout.
"I'm Drum," I admitted. "Who's your friend?" She had been sitting with the shabby drunk.
"He's your old friend Jack Morley," she said, somewhat indignantly. "Who else might he be?"
I went over to Jack's table. The waiter brought a third chair.
"Chet, you old son of a gun," Jack Morley said. His eyes were bloodshot and seemed oddly vulnerable without the dark, shell-rimmed glasses. But his grin, finally, was the same. He stuck out a moist hand. I could feel a tremor in the fingers when I shook it and his head was shaking too, slightly, on the scrawny neck.
Only a banality could have covered my shock over how much Jack Morley had changed. "Long time no see," I said.
"God, it's good to see you. Have a drink?" The waiter took our orders. "I wrote you as soon as I read in the Paris Trib you were opening an office in Geneva. Going international, huh?" he said, a shade enviously. "Trying to put the Pinkertons out of business?"
"More and more of my cases take me to Europe. I decided I might as well have a place to hang my hat."
"One man office?"
"I got a guy who holds the fort for me in Washington while I'm here, and vice versa." I said that uneasily. I had the notion that Jack was going to ask me for a job, and while I would have snapped up the old Jack Morley as a partner, the Jack Morley sitting on the café terrace with me was another matter.
He must have sensed my uneasiness, because he, said: "I'm still with the government, you know."