Written in the Thirties, Paul Cain’s Fast One (now published by Gutter Books) is a litmus test for hard boiled fans to see how hard boiled they are. It was the only novel by its author to use the pseudonym Paul Cain, one of several aliases he went by in life. He took the sub-genre and stripped it down to its essence.
Our protagonist, who goes only by Kells, is a retired East Coast enforcer, taking it easy in LA. With several mobs moving out west, he’s given an offer to go back to his bad ways. When he refuses, Kells is framed for murder. With only the help of his questionable girlfriend and his reporter buddy, Kells is on the run from every cop and hood, all of them gunning for him as he plans to get square.
Fast One is a blueprint for a tough guy crime novel. Under two hundred pages, its tight and fast story is mainly told through action and the tersest of dialogue. It is even stripped of many ideals of heroism. Kells didn’t quit the mob out of any discovered morality, he simply found it a hassle. If Fast One values anything, it is self reliance.
Fast One is essential for the hard boiled reader, if just to test how hard boiled you are. It is a two-fisted book that moves like a roadster with the pedal to the metal, and there is no catching up. It definitely deserves its reputation as a crime fiction classic.
You can find copies of Fast One on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.