Friday, February 05, 2016

FFB Review: "KILLERS ARE MY MEAT" by Stephen Marlowe (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

Friday means Friday’s Forgotten Books. Barry Ergang made his debut for FFB here back in March of 2011 with his review below of Killers Are My Meat by Stephen Marlowe. In the years since Barry has reviewed Drum Beat- Dominique, Terror Is My Trade as well as Double In Trouble  by Stephen Marlowe and Richard S. Prather. Make sure to head over to Patti’s blog for the FFB suggestions today and lots of other good stuff.

KILLERS ARE MY MEAT (1957) by Stephen Marlowe

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

One of the more literate of the hardboiled writers to emerge during the Fifties, the prolific but undervalued Stephen Marlowe created Washington, D.C.-based private detective Chester Drum, most of whose cases take him out of the country. 

Killers Are My Meat starts when Drum is asked by the wife of his mentor, a P.I. named Gil Sprayregan, to find her husband. Drum soon learns Sprayregan has plans to blackmail Sumitra Mojindar, the round-heeled wife of a highly placed East Indian official, not realizing that everyone in D.C. knows of her promiscuity and that she herself doesn't care who knows it. Sprayregan is killed in a deliberate hit-and-run, and soon after his wife is shot to death by a smoothly vicious associate of Mrs. Mojindar who cannot be prosecuted because of his diplomatic immunity.

During the course of these events, Priscilla Varley tries to hire Drum to accompany her husband Stewart to Benares, India, where Varley will attend as a Western Observer an Afro-Asian Conference at which Mrs. Mojindar's husband is to be a key speaker. Varley is a man looking "to find himself" in the exotic, "mystical" East. Initially Drum declines the job, but after the Sprayregans are murdered, he agrees.

The plot develops further in Benares when Varley seeks out a sadhu, a holy man, and then goes missing; and Drum encounters an old friend and former lover, reporter Marianne Wilder, who is covering the conference. When Marianne is kidnapped by the same people who want Drum to deliver Varley to them, the action picks up and seldom flags. As things progress, Drum learns what Mrs. Mojindar and company feared Sprayregan had on them, and has to bring things to a satisfactory conclusion without causing an international incident--if he can survive the beatings he sustains along the way.

Imagine Philip Marlowe gone international and you have a sense of Chet Drum--though Drum's a lot more physical, less inclined to wisecracks, and a touch less cynical.

Born Milton Lesser (he legally changed his name), Stephen Marlowe writes in a crisp, literate style that shows definite flashes of Raymond Chandler, including the occasional Chandleresque simile. He has a good sense of character and an excellent sense of place and pace. If you enjoy quick, exciting reads, you owe it to yourself to seek out the Chester Drum novels by an author who was popular in his day but who, regrettably, is all but unknown nowadays except by collectors and nostalgia buffs.

More on the author can be found at:

Barry Ergang © 2011, 2016

Derringer Award-winner Barry Ergang’s written work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. Some of it is available at Amazon and at Smashwords. His website is


George said...

I read the Chester Drum series and loved the international perspective. And, I enjoyed Stephen Marlowe's science fiction as well!

Gerard Saylor said...

This sounds good but with that title I was hoping for cannibalism.

Mathew Paust said...

I have the same beef as Gerard. Started drooling the instant I saw the title. But then I am rather overdue at the lunch table.

Barry Ergang said...

I always thought many of the titles in the Drum series were hokey and wondered if the publisher, rather than the author, came up with them. Since the author's last name was Marlowe, and since Raymond Chandler was famous for the novelette "Trouble Is My Business," is it possible either Marlowe or someone at Fawcett decided to play off of it?

Whatever the case, you "foodies," Gerard and Mathew, will be happy to learn one of the other titles in the Chester Drum series is Murder Is My Dish. :-)

Stark House said...

I understand that Stephen Marlowe hated the titles which Gold Medal saddled him with for his Chester Drum series. And this one, more than most.

Barry Ergang said...

I don't blame him at all.