Thursday, 11 November 2010
The Sweetheart of the Razors
by Peter Cheyney
(Ace Books, 1958)
Do I need to tell you how much I love this cover/title combo? Wow, in short. It’s even got a bit of a Japanese exploitation movie feel to it, don’tcha think?
The artwork is signed in the bottom left, but I can’t read the signature. Any ideas?
It’s not much of a surprise to discover this novel is actually a slightly old-fashioned London-set mystery, seemingly devoid of razor-wielding sweethearts and originally published in 1947 as “The Curiosity of Etienne Macgregor”. (Ace Books editor: “the curiosity of WHO? Screw that!”)
The catchier new title wasn’t plucked entirely from thin air though, as a random visit to page 87 reveals that the stereotypical Chinese villain of the piece, one Suan Chi Leaf, gained notoriety for his performance as a knife-thrower in a play entitled “The Sweetheart of the Razors”. Mystifyingly, it seems this play was staged near my own childhood home in Tenby, South-West Wales.
Peter Cheyney will be best known to fans of European popular cinema as the creator of the wonderfully named Lemmy Caution, the embittered private eye who took on an open-source life of his own in the ‘60s via the auspices of iconic actor Eddie Constantine, who made a career out of playing the character, eventually turning up in everything from Godard’s “Alphaville” to Jess Franco’s “Attack of the Robots”.
When I first opened this book, I was all like, “signed first edition - sweet!” It was only later than my razor-sharp detective instincts recalled the bit on the back cover copy about Peter Cheyney being dead, and I became confused. Any ideas?