Monday, November 13, 2017

Maniac Rendezvous: Spoiler-Ridden Review

He had an uneasy feeling that it was going to be a messy evening for someone.
[that's a bit of an understatement....]

Actually, Maniac Rendezvous (1945) by Marc Brandel is kind of a messy book. And I won't be able to review it without spoiling it all over the place--but, honestly, I think you'll thank me for having taken one for the team on this one. Yes--I'm warning you off.

Given the blurb on the back of the book, I was all set to settle down for one of those books where several people meet their doom and there's a final twist at the end that really throws readers for a loop (think Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None or others in the same vein). See what I mean...

Cassius saw destruction ahead--He tried to warn them; he tried to hide from them--to save their lives. But, all the time, he knew they were fated! Even Cassius didn't know--How many victims there would be; who they were; what was to be their end; or when and where they were to meet their destiny! But You'll Know!

Except, no. No, you won't. 

So, the whole plot revolves around that fact that Cassius (no first name given), this dark-haired, dark-eyed fellow with a constant deathly pallor to his skin, has these excruciating headaches every time he's going to be connected with people dying. There was that time in Chicago when he'd arranged to meet friends at a club and there was a big fire. He was late to the party--but all his friends weren't and they died. And the time he caused a train to start late (long story, I won't bore you with it) and it wound up sideswiping an express--and people died. There are other times that he doesn't explain, but trust him, lots of people have died because he has headaches and then gets near them or something.

Well...he's having headaches again. And he goes 'round warning all of his acquaintances that they better stay away from him. Some he tells why and others he doesn't. Most of them don't believe him or just have their curiosity aroused about why Cassius is acting so weird. And they go about their business. Except for Mr. Charles Thring. Who absolutely believes Cassius and does his darnedest to get out of town and as far away from the man as he can. But fate seems to work against him and all of Cassius's other friends find reasons to pop in and out of Thring's apartment and drag him around places and prevent him from catching his train to New Jersey. And they're all drawn inexplicably to Cassius's apartment. Every single one of them from Myrtle Lubbock, a voluptuous sixteen year-old whose main goal in life is have silk underwear (don't ask) to Eloise Paisley who hates to be touched and, like Garbo, wants to be alone to John Trail, English ex-patriot, who loathes himself for abandoning Britain in her time of need to Gorse O'Connor, a charming Irish-American, who is unaccountably interested in Cassius to Cynthia Foote, Cassius's fiancee, who can't understand what's wrong with him.

The entire book is spent following these people around through incredibly pointless encounters with one another doing absolutely inexplicable things. Exhibit A. Cynthia Foote and Gorse O'Connor spending most of their time sitting in bars hoping the other one will show up in the one (out of who knows how many in New York City) bar they happen to be sitting in and then--when the other person doesn't show up after a certain amount of time--switching bars...and so on. Pick your character and they probably did something that made just about as much sense. This goes on for about 150 pages  and the last we see of each of these characters is where they're making their way into Cassius's building or on the stairs in his building or just about to knock on his door...and there sits Cassius in a chair facing the door with a Lueger in his hand. Curtain drops. The end.

Does anybody die? We don't know. If they do, does Cassius do it with the gun? We don't know. Despite being told on the back of the book that we would know. We don't know. Why did I finish the book? I don't know. Well, that's not true. I finished it because I kept reading hoping that there'd eventually be some semblance of a plot and that there'd be some excitement at the end when disaster struck and maybe there'd be a twist and Cassius would be the one to die or something. And then all of a sudden I was at the end and nothing happened and nothing was explained.

This is a case where my love for the little pocket-size, pulp-era books and the fantastic B-movie style cover made me pick up something that I can't imagine anyone wanting to read. Now, I think that the author's point in all this rigmarole was to talk about destiny--that no matter how much Cassius's friends said they didn't believe him OR for those who did and tried to stay away, they couldn't fight destiny. They all wound up going to the apartment. Of course, it would have been more effective (in my opinion) if we'd been shown just how that destiny worked out. Did they all die? Did Cassius die? But, quite honestly, any real message about destiny is buried in all the meaningless nonsense that goes on before. --All for the cover.

Fulfills the "Door" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

1 comment:

J F Norris said...

I bought a copy of Brandel's psycho killer book THE TIME OF THE FIRE (1954) back in the summer and had planned to read it this year, but kept getting sidetracked by new books. I've seen the book you review here offered on eBay several times and it intrigued me. I'll probably skip it now, but I must get to ...FIRE soon.

The only reason Brandel really interests me is because he was Patricia Highsmith's only male lover in her life. They had a tumultuous affair and she was actually engaged to marry him for a while. I'm wondering how much his strange books influenced her...or vice versa.