Thursday, August 20, 2009

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: KILL ME IN YOSHIWARA BY EARL NORMAN!

FORGOTTEN BOOKS: KILL ME IN YOSHIWARA BY EARL NORMAN!

In his blog last week, James Reasoner made mention of PI Burns Bannion, which got me scurrying for my collection of this esoteric series.

Kill Me In Yoshiwara was the fourth of author Earl Norman's (pseudonym of Norman Thompson) fourth of ten novels in his Kill Me series, all featuring American GI turned Tokyo private eye Burns Bannion. Set in the aftermath or WWII, the series is considered to be the first to use karate as a major plot device.

This outing takes Bannion to Yoshiwara, the prostitution district of Tokyo, to find the slayer of a young woman killed by karate. Bannion started out in Tokyo as a karate student, becoming a private eye by accident after being mistaken for a real private investigator from California.

Bannion did his private eye bit through the whole series of novels written in the late fifties and early sixties. The books are filled with the racial stereotypes (such as slant-eyed babes), which today (and perhaps even then) would be considered offensive.

In reality, the books are worth more for their cool covers than the words between those covers, unless you are into cheesy writing for the sake of cheesy writing -- or as the Thrilling Detective website describes it, “the so-bad-it's-good school of detective writing.”

Cover blubs include these gems calling Bannion a "blood brother to Shell Scott and Mike Hammer (who) keeps running into his two favorite pastimes -- gorgeous girls and deadly killers."

The Thrilling Detective website further fills us in that author Earl Norman/Norman Thomson was a radio, stage and film actor who worked as an entertainment supervisor for U.S. military bases in the Far East after the second World War, spending 30 years in Tokyo.

BOOKS IN THE SERIES

Kill Me in Tokyo (1958)
Kill Me in Shimbashi (1959)
Kill Me in Yokohama (1960)
Kill Me in Yoshiwara (1961)
Kill Me in Shinjunku (1961)
Kill Me in Atami (1962)
Kill Me on the Ginza (1962)
Kill Me In Yokosuka (1966)
Kill Me in Roppongi (1967)
Kill Me in Hong Kong (1976)

3 comments:

Jake Murdock said...

I always felt that it was a tough sell to have a successful American P.I., who's turf is the streets of Tokyo. But Norman did published 10 novels. You're right about the covers, they are A-one.

Jason Whiton said...

I'd be curious to see how well he describes Tokyo of that period. Does it remain exotic or does he go into greater details of setting? Cool covers :)

George said...

I'm amazed this series lasted for almost 20 years. The covers are terrific!