FORGOTTEN BOOKS: THE JADE FIGURINE!
JACK FOXX (BILL PRONZINI)
Bill Pronzini is a writer I really admire. Not only has his output been prodigious, but his stories have always been reliably high quality and not high concept. Pronzini has consistently shown his love and appreciation of the hardboiled/noir/mystery genres – and in some ways has steered those genres through the last several decades.
While his iconic Nameless detective series has provided most of Pronzini’s acclaim, it is another of his early non-Nameless novels, The Jade Figurine, and its hero, Dan Connell, which rate as my favorite.
The first Nameless novel, The Snatch, was published in 1971 under Pronzini’s own name, followed by The Jade Figurine in 1972 under his Jack Foxx pseudonym.
THE JADE FIGURINE
A freelance charter pilot on uneasy terms with the police but greatly respected by the underworld, Dan Connell turns down a bundle of cash to smuggle a jade carving of a bird out of Singapore – which doesn't make the thieves or the authorities happy. When an old cohort is killed, Connell discovers that only by finding the bird can he avoid his own murder.
An obvious homage to The Maltese Falcon, The Jade Figurine, is a real kick. Connell’s adventures as a South Seas pilot-for-hire, predate the television series Tales of the Gold Monkey, but can be favorably compared. There is a real old fashioned movie serial and pulp feel to The Jade Figurine. While Connell is an adventurer, he operates on the same wavelength as the best of the two-fisted private eyes, fighting to extradite himself from one mess after another.
Dan Connell made another appearance in 1975 in Dead Run, another solid Pronzini tale.
While not Pronzini’s most accomplished work – he’s evolved into a writer of superior power – The Jade Figurine, in my estimation, is his most fun.