Hardboiled crime novels don’t get any better than those penned by Dan J. Marlowe. By the late 1960’s, Marlowe was a master of his craft, spinning tightly-plotted paperback novels of criminals trying to get their piece of the American pie. His heroes were hardly considered heroic. They were down and dirty, twisted and violent, morally ambiguous, and not afraid to pistol-whip or plug a woman with a .38, especially when they were deserving of it.
One Endless Hour is the follow up novel to Marlowe’s The Name of the Game is Death (1962). It continues the criminal activities of Earl Drake, a mastermind criminal and all around strongman, as he organizes a team of shady individuals to pull off a bank heist in a sleepy, little town outside of Philadelphia. Prior to the heist, Drake escapes from the prison wing of a Florida state hospital with a new face. A new face means that Drake has now got a new identity, which means that he’s got a clean slate, which means that he can start fresh at knocking over banks. So he calls up The Schemer and asks for a job. The Schemer has got a nice, little operation set up at a bank in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It’s the perfect number for a man like Earl Drake, the only catch is that he’s got to do the job with two other guys that he’s never worked with before.
Preacher Harris lives and breaths in and around the black jack tables of lower class casinos. Dick Dahl deals in pornography. He goes everywhere and anywhere with an 8mm film camera around his neck. Anytime Dahl sees an attractive, or remotely attractive woman that jives with his swinger taste, he gets them to take off their clothes and films them in the raw. Together, the three deviants make for an interesting gang of bank robbers. Drake’s the only professional and the one with any common sense, but not enough sense to let this one go and wait for the next bank heist organized by The Schemer to come around.
One Endless Hour is the paperback novel that launched the Operation paperbacks by Dan J. Marlowe starring Earl Drake and published by Fawcett Gold Medal. There were a total of 10 Operation books that Marlowe penned between the years 1969 and 1976 while boozing and womanizing in Mexico. The story could very well be the inspiration for a number of crime films. As I read this 159 page paperback, my mind drifted towards Reservoir Dogs and Heat, two heist films starring a band of outsiders that knock over banks (or jewelry stores) for a living. Reservoir Dogs showcases a group of unknown misfits working together to rob a jewelry store, while Heat showcases the operations and daily lives of the more professional bank robber. Both Quentin Tarantino and Michael Mann probably drew their inspiration from a number of different sources, but there’s a strong resemblance to this paperback novel by Dan J. Marlowe from 1969.