Book - Cut Me In

Cut me in

Susan Omand delves into the murky, murderous world of literary agencies and reads Cut Me In by Ed McBain...

It was still early in the day and yet, for literary agent Josh Blake, things were not going his way. He’d woken up in a too hot apartment with an unknown girl in her underwear drinking coffee in his kitchen. He’d had to argue with and throw out of the office a much too pushy author, over insistent that Josh’s firm would rep his first book. He’d been worrying about a make or break deal on a film rights offer for the famous Westerns author, Cam Stewart. And he’d discovered his partner Del Gilbert lay dead on the office floor, shot three times, in front of the open safe. Missing from the safe were the agreement papers, signed by Cam Stewart, that Josh needed in order to guarantee a profitable cut in the film rights deal. Cue a visit from the police and the wary DS Di Luca, a visit to Del’s wife Gail, then to Del’s girlfriend Lydia and finally to the author Stewart, whom Del had just returned from visiting when he had been killed. Can Josh Blake piece the story together and retrieve the missing contract before it, or he, is stopped dead?

Thus the scene is set for Cut Me In, republished for the first time in sixty years by Hard Case Crime in collaboration with Titan Books. However, the name on the front cover has been changed this time around as the original author, Hunt Collins, is of course much better known as Evan Hunter. Still not heard of him? How about Ed McBain? Yes the Grand Master of crime fiction is now back in the limelight and deservedly so. I had feared before I started that, since this story had been out of print for so long, that it may not be a great one. I sat down with a coffee to read the first few pages and see if it would hook me in, like all the other Ed McBain’s I have ever read (and that is a LOT). Four hours later, freezing cold in the fading light and with a mug of cold coffee still on the side table, I put the book down having finished it. Yes it is that good.

Not being one of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novel series is actually to its benefit as we see the crimes from a different angle to the usual police procedural or private detective noir that you might expect. The police angle is still there, with Di Luca, but not following the plot through his investigative process made it all the more interesting. Add in the 1950’s New York setting and the cut-throat business of Hollywood agency deals and you have the makings of a very interesting story and a plot which, without giving much away, is action packed, with a major lightbulb moment as everything suddenly falls into place. If you have read any Evan Hunter or Ed McBain before you’ll know his descriptions and characterisation build the scenes in your head, to the point you can smell the coffee and feel the heat, and the dialogue, both internal, as the story is told by Josh, and external, is full of a dry, dark humour.

If you’re an Ed McBain fan, you will not be disappointed as this is a gem of a find and that’s before you even discover the rare novella, Now Die In It, hidden at the back of the book. If you’re not an Ed McBain fan yet, you will be after reading Cut Me In. Just remember to drink your coffee before it goes cold.

Image - Titan Books