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MURDER WAS IN THE AIR. A COP HAD KILLED HIMSELF, AND EVERY CROOK IN TOWN KNEW THAT WOULD BE SURE TO BRING ON THE BIG HEAT. Why did they fear a dead man? Dave Bannion, homicide sergeant, fought for the answer to that question. The dead man was a police clerk who shot himself for no obvious reason. That was Bannion's first judgment, until a girl named Lucy presented a quite MURDER WAS IN THE AIR. A COP HAD KILLED HIMSELF, AND EVERY CROOK IN TOWN KNEW THAT WOULD BE SURE TO BRING ON THE BIG HEAT. Why did they fear a dead man? Dave Bannion, homicide sergeant, fought for the answer to that question. The dead man was a police clerk who shot himself for no obvious reason. That was Bannion's first judgment, until a girl named Lucy presented a quite different picture of the dead man from the one he had shown to the world and to his fastidious, glacial wife. Bannion's chief, Lieutenant Wilks, wanted the case closed and speculation ended quickly and tightly. So did Max Stone and Lagana, who held the city in a sinister, underworld grip. But why? Why did they all fear a dead man . . . ?


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MURDER WAS IN THE AIR. A COP HAD KILLED HIMSELF, AND EVERY CROOK IN TOWN KNEW THAT WOULD BE SURE TO BRING ON THE BIG HEAT. Why did they fear a dead man? Dave Bannion, homicide sergeant, fought for the answer to that question. The dead man was a police clerk who shot himself for no obvious reason. That was Bannion's first judgment, until a girl named Lucy presented a quite MURDER WAS IN THE AIR. A COP HAD KILLED HIMSELF, AND EVERY CROOK IN TOWN KNEW THAT WOULD BE SURE TO BRING ON THE BIG HEAT. Why did they fear a dead man? Dave Bannion, homicide sergeant, fought for the answer to that question. The dead man was a police clerk who shot himself for no obvious reason. That was Bannion's first judgment, until a girl named Lucy presented a quite different picture of the dead man from the one he had shown to the world and to his fastidious, glacial wife. Bannion's chief, Lieutenant Wilks, wanted the case closed and speculation ended quickly and tightly. So did Max Stone and Lagana, who held the city in a sinister, underworld grip. But why? Why did they all fear a dead man . . . ?

30 review for The Big Heat

  1. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    The excellent source material for a fine example of the classic film noir period. Read whilst waiting to leave Copenhagen. A classic piece of noir writing, Banion is an honest cop in a crooked town, forced off of the force in horrifying circumstances whilst investigating the suicide of a cop and the murder of a B-girl he relentlessly pursues the case as a private citizen. McGivern was clearly a talented writer, bringing this dark and potentially schlocky material to a higher literary level than mos The excellent source material for a fine example of the classic film noir period. Read whilst waiting to leave Copenhagen. A classic piece of noir writing, Banion is an honest cop in a crooked town, forced off of the force in horrifying circumstances whilst investigating the suicide of a cop and the murder of a B-girl he relentlessly pursues the case as a private citizen. McGivern was clearly a talented writer, bringing this dark and potentially schlocky material to a higher literary level than most others writing in the early 1950s, even his character names are great and memorable without resorting to silliness. Having seen the 1953 Fritz Lang movie several times and always being shocked by some of the key scenes I expected this to be either darker in tone or dramatically different in terms of story, happily neither expectation was proven accurate. McGivern provided the brilliant film with a very strong and stable basis that Lang simply hung a nice decoration over. This book deserves much higher praise than it seems to have garnered, considering just how highly thought of the movie was. Unlike with other movie adaptations, the darkness and violence was found in the source material in this case. As a simple police procedural it was interesting reading, I'd say much more enjoyable than the Ed McBain 87th Precinct series infact, as a social commentary it was explicit in its condemnation of weak men (including most of society) and its accusations towards corrupt politicians, as a novel of one man facing up to the darkness within themselves and those around him it was top class. The only aspect of the novel that realy let it down for me was the occasional change of perspective away from Banion which drag you out of the mood created by riding alongside the hero. A highly recommended selection for anyone interested in the genre, especially as it has seemingly been forgotten by the reading public.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    A solid noir story, bolstered by the author's description of mid-century Philadelphia. A solid noir story, bolstered by the author's description of mid-century Philadelphia.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    The sign on the door said - CFNA under that was "Crime Film Noir Anonymous", I opened it and walked in. Behind the desk sat a peroxide blonde (I swear) 'bout mid 30's. Name tag on the desk said, Vicky. She looked up, and she had the most beautiful green eyes, with a cig between those red lips and said, "you need help"? I replied, "yeah, in a big way". "Tell me how it started" , Vicky asked in that husky, smoky sounding voice of hers. I sat in the lone visitors chair, elbows on my knees, hands ove The sign on the door said - CFNA under that was "Crime Film Noir Anonymous", I opened it and walked in. Behind the desk sat a peroxide blonde (I swear) 'bout mid 30's. Name tag on the desk said, Vicky. She looked up, and she had the most beautiful green eyes, with a cig between those red lips and said, "you need help"? I replied, "yeah, in a big way". "Tell me how it started" , Vicky asked in that husky, smoky sounding voice of hers. I sat in the lone visitors chair, elbows on my knees, hands over my face. ..."Well it started about a month ago. No where to go, places were shutting down, reruns on TV." There was nowhere to go on the weekends, business's were having to close their doors." Then I raised my head, looked into those emerald colored eyes, and said " Vicky, there was NO March Madness...NO Opening Day Baseball! So, one Saturday morning I did a search online for the top 100 noir movies....that's when it started. This book "The Big Heat" is my SECOND read in row, where I watched the movie after I finished the book." "My new best friend is IMDB", I whispered. Vicky smiled and said, "yeah, you do have it bad".

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dfordoom

    William P. McGivern’s novel The Big Heat was the source for Fritz Lang’s classic 1953 film noir of the same title. McGivern enjoyed considerable success as a novelist and screenwriter in various genres. The movie followed the plot of the novel fairly closely, even including the famous coffee pot scene (if you’ve see the movie you know which scene I’m talking about and if you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the shock effect). The most significant change was to the character of Max Stone who becomes William P. McGivern’s novel The Big Heat was the source for Fritz Lang’s classic 1953 film noir of the same title. McGivern enjoyed considerable success as a novelist and screenwriter in various genres. The movie followed the plot of the novel fairly closely, even including the famous coffee pot scene (if you’ve see the movie you know which scene I’m talking about and if you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the shock effect). The most significant change was to the character of Max Stone who becomes Vince Stone in the movie. The Max Stone of the book is equally vicious but he’s a man driven to viciousness by fear, while the Vince Stone of the movie is a more confident, and more overtly sadistic, character. Dave Bannion is an honest cop in a city in which honesty is a rare commodity. Corrupt city officials and politicians are in the pockets of gangsters like Mike Lagana. Lagana lives a life of genteel elegance in a luxurious mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens, but he started life as a brutal gangster and a gangster he remains. Bannion has always been aware of the underlying corruption of the city but up until now it hasn’t had any direct effect on his life or on his work as a Homicide cop. All that will change. At first it seems like a routine case. A police clerk has committed suicide. There are no suspicious circumstances. The dead cop, Tom Deery, was the sort of guy who goes through life without attracting much attention. He had always been assumed to be honest, he had no obvious vices. His wife claims he was very concerned about health problems and that seems like a satisfactory explanation for his suicide. Then Bannion gets a telephone call from a woman. She tells him that she’s sure the dead man had no health problems and she doesn’t believe he would have taken his own life. A bit of digging around reveals that this woman. Lucy Carroway, had been Deery’s mistress some years earlier. Deery’s widow assures Bannion that Lucy was still bitter that the affair with her husband ended and Bannion is satisfied that that explains her story. Even the fact that Tom Deery used to own a holiday house is not especially suspicious. A police clerk might have been able to afford a little luxury like that if he was very careful with his money, and besides maybe his wife or his family had some money. Bannion is happy enough to close the case. Until Lucy Carroway is murdered. This seems like a boy of a coincidence, and Dave Bannion doesn’t like coincidences. And the murder was particularly brutal but it wasn’t a sex crime. Bannion is now convinced the Deery case is worth looking into more deeply. He still doesn’t think he’s run into a major criminal conspiracy but when he’s ordered peremptorily to drop the case the pieces start to fall into place. If the big boys who run the city want him to stop investigating then there must be something to investigate. Something big. Bannion is not just honest, he’s also stubborn. His refusal to drop the case will have catastrophic personal consequences for him, consequences that will see him handing in his badge and conducting his own private war against organised crime, a war of revenge. He will find himself up against Mike Lagana, and against hoodlums like Max Stone. It’s a pretty good story. The main weakness is the ending which is much too pat and too neat and doesn’t quite ring true. The story shows us a world of moral squalor but also a world of moral ambiguity. People aren’t always crooked because they’re bad. Some are just weak. Or frightened. Even the tough guys are sometimes prone to fear. And even gangster’s molls like Debby (Max Stone’s girlfriend) can turn out to be capable of extraordinary courage and decency. The ending undercuts this a little as the author tries to tie things up too comprehensively. There’s plenty of hardboiled dialogue and plenty of atmosphere. This is pulp fiction but it’s not too pulpy (not that I have a problem with pulp fiction that’s very pulpy indeed). McGivern’s style is straightforward but effective. Bannion is a hero but he’s a hero with some flaws and he’s generally believable. McGivern gives us some memorable villains and, in the person of Debby, a complex female character whose motivations are entirely believable. A fine crime thriller. Not quite as good as the movie, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of since the movie is very very good indeed. Definitely worth a read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    When the film version is better known than the source novel, there is a tendency for some to think they know the story. This is always a mistake. The Kim Darby film prevented me from reading TRUE GRIT for years; it is now one of my favorite novels. William McGivern's THE BIG HEAT is so much richer and complex than Fritz Lang's classic film version. McGivern is a hell of a writer, precise, taut, and with few words wasted. THE BIG HEAT was the first of his books to draw attention to the former Phi When the film version is better known than the source novel, there is a tendency for some to think they know the story. This is always a mistake. The Kim Darby film prevented me from reading TRUE GRIT for years; it is now one of my favorite novels. William McGivern's THE BIG HEAT is so much richer and complex than Fritz Lang's classic film version. McGivern is a hell of a writer, precise, taut, and with few words wasted. THE BIG HEAT was the first of his books to draw attention to the former Philadelphia crime journalist. This is a tale of corruption, corruption so deep seated that it has become habit. Dave Bannion goes from cop to avenging angel, and his story influenced crime writing and movies for years. Highly recommended.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Realini

    The Big Heat, screenplay by Sydney Boehm, based on the serial by William McGivern, directed by Fritz Lang 10 out of 10 This is evidently one of the best options for the Armageddon that we may contemplate, seeing as it is one of the best motion pictures of all time, selected on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list - http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/04/n... - and an inspirational film that could make us face the adversity of the pandemic with more courage, resilience, self-sacrifice, The Big Heat, screenplay by Sydney Boehm, based on the serial by William McGivern, directed by Fritz Lang 10 out of 10 This is evidently one of the best options for the Armageddon that we may contemplate, seeing as it is one of the best motion pictures of all time, selected on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list - http://realini.blogspot.com/2020/04/n... - and an inspirational film that could make us face the adversity of the pandemic with more courage, resilience, self-sacrifice, kindness, vitality, integrity, grit, hope, just like the hero of this impressive story, Sergeant Dave Bannion aka fantastic Glenn Ford, who takes on an all-powerful Evil, that we may see as the Virus or perhaps Trump in this age, the gangster- politician Mike Lagana. We can easily assimilate, see the resemblance, if not the perfect replica with the Crook in charge of the free world represents for the Quintessential Vileness presented in this formidable movie, the corrupt individual that has climbed at the top – in the film it is just a town, but the real estate owner that has been through a series of bankruptcies and yet his idiotic fans see him as a ‘successful businessman has risen on top of the world, ‘stable genius’ as he is, pathological liar, spectacularly stupid and representative though for the depth and magnitude of the bright thinking of tens of millions of Americans and citizens of other nations, for there is no border for cave men and women and the likes of BolsoNero, Duterte, Putin and Xi are almost copies of the Orangutan… The Big Heat starts with the suicide of a policemen and the call his widow, Bertha Duncan, makes to the…underworld, controlled by Mike Lagana and his cronies and hatchet men, the most prominent being, Vince Stone aka young and remarkable Lee Marvin, people that have the city under their control, because they have corrupt politicians, police commissioners on their payroll…which also strikes one as so similar with the present, in our land we have had until just a while ago such vicious and disgusting leaders, that their ‘party’ – in fact a Mafia organization meant to assure power and money – was known as the Red Plague – fortunately, Alhamdulillah, the disgusting thief that made laws for his own good is now in jail, though this is no reason for exaggerated exuberance, given that the other comrades share the same avarice, selfishness, stupidity and desire to steal and get rich at all costs. Then we have the Lagana and Trump, representing the flaws of America, past and present respectively – a model to which I keep coming back, because it affects almost all of us and it is overwhelming and it seems to show the Decline, the Decadence, the Failure for us all, since that democracy used to be hailed – as the system in general – as the epitome of the successful running and development of a country as in The American Dream, all of which appears to have collapsed, in spite of the impeachment – voted down in terms of punishment in the Senate controlled by sycophants and smaller replicas of the Big Scoundrel - - and it pains so many, given that this used to be The Model to follow, the Shining City on the Hill, the Goal that we must look towards and hope that we will arrive there in the future…and now we look and see a post-apocalyptic society, where the Ultimate Pithecanthropus is in charge and not only that, but as he makes thousands of mistakes and tells tens of thousands of proven lies, 30 or 40% still love him and they are ready to use their guns – and they have a huge arsenal, bigger than most armies in the world – to keep him there… To lighten the tone a little, we used to have jokes here and in the rest of Eastern Europe about America, such as ‘we offer 4 bedrooms penthouse, center of this or that capital, with all the amenities and exclusive facilities for a tent in Central Park…or another has the End of the World – just like now, with the Apocalyptic Virus – arrive and the American president says ‘do not worry, we have the space ships, we can leave the doomed planet’, while ours says ‘do not panic, we are anyway 50 years behind’ – that last figure varied, it was 100 at one time and now, in political terms we are ahead some decades, in the sense that our illuminated president is one million times better – with his inevitable flaws – than the monkey that they have placed in the White House…this trend could be reversed, but we surely hope not…Insha’Allah! Dave Bannion is investigating the suicide, when he has a talk with Lucy Chapman, a woman that had had an affair with the late Duncan and who knows that there is something seriously wrong with the lies told by the widow, who has tried to justify a desperate act, claiming her late spouse had been very sick, when he was not and this makes the honest sergeant suspect there is more to find, especially when he would find that the poor ‘barfly’ – the demeaning term used then for those who had no possessions, flirted and had intimate affairs with various men, around bars – would be killed and worse, tortured, displaying cigarette burns on the dead body… The hero knows, just like everybody else, that the gangster Mike Lagana is in charge and anything that happens in the streets has to have his marks, the approval and therefore he tries to push the bar tender, after he stays close to hear him connect the ‘higher echelons’, to tell him about the killer that ended the life of the poor woman who has tried to be a whistleblower – another connection with the present, when some patriot has tried to sound the alarm over the treasonous behavior of the president, Trump has pushed his monstrous behavior as far as to put the life of that noble man or woman in danger and in the days of the crisis, he has just sacked the Inspector General that had warned congress over the now infamous Ukraine scandal… Dave Bannion walks up to the resident of the Godfather and confronts him, but the initial result is to have him scolded and warned by the lieutenant, who had had Big Heat coming from upstairs, where Commissioner Higgins and others are on the payroll of the gangster – indeed, in one scene of despicable violence, Vince Stone attacks his mistress, Debby Marsh aka Gloria Grahame, and pours hot coffee over her face, torturing and mutilating her for life and it is the commissioner who has to take her to the hospital, servant of the killers as he is, to prevent the otherwise inevitable report that would be made in such a case… Tragedy strikes at the home of the Untouchable Sargent, when a bomb destined to silence him forever, blows someone else instead, but this will only serve to strengthen his anyway marvelous resolve to stand alone in front of the Evil Empire and fight to find the truth, revenge and make the loathsome creatures pay for their rottenness and abjection…

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim Davis

    I enjoyed this book and intend to read more McGivern. The book moved fast and had interesting and well written supporting characters, especially Debbie. Debbie was a party girl and the main gangster's girlfriend. Bad things happen to Debbie and after being treated in a more human way by Bannion, the protagonist, she begins to grow into a better person. An excellent movie was made from the book. I don't quite agree with this being called noir fiction unless you are using a very broad definition o I enjoyed this book and intend to read more McGivern. The book moved fast and had interesting and well written supporting characters, especially Debbie. Debbie was a party girl and the main gangster's girlfriend. Bad things happen to Debbie and after being treated in a more human way by Bannion, the protagonist, she begins to grow into a better person. An excellent movie was made from the book. I don't quite agree with this being called noir fiction unless you are using a very broad definition of the term. It's a case of a good guy going on a vengeance kick after his wife was killed by gangsters (it was suppose to be him that was killed). But he is a moral guy at heart and although he has a very bad temper he can't quite get completely down in the mud with the men he is after. I felt it was more of an action thriller than being the dark and moody style I associate with noir although there was a still an appropriate, and interesting, amount of introspection by the characters about what was happening to them and how it was affecting their actions. McGiverns style is straight forward but there was a good balance between the action and learning how the characters were affected by events and were even changed by the events. Bannion was continually walking a fine line between his strong moral upbringing and his lust for revenge on those wwho killed his wife. We can read his thoughts when he is torn between what he thinks is right and what he anger and rage is pushing him to do.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jack Heath

    Synopsis: a cop had killed himself and every crook in town expected heat. Why did they fear a dead man? Dave Bannion of homicide asks that question.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    well written crime story that keeps you interested throughout.good noir from one of the best.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Panu Mäkinen

    Poliisiromaanien parhaimmistoa. Miksi näitä on suomennettu vain yksi?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Antoni

    Negra i social

  12. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Easy, fun read. Would definitely recommend it as a book to take with you on a vacation.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    "Reformers come and go and are seldom noticed or missed." McGivern was not on my radar and I was unprepared for how much I enjoyed this, maybe because he puts together a police procedural in a way that makes it seem like the first cousin to a good western. Or maybe because the evening news makes its subtext (about the importance of personal integrity in a corrupt world) seem especially poignant. "Reformers come and go and are seldom noticed or missed." McGivern was not on my radar and I was unprepared for how much I enjoyed this, maybe because he puts together a police procedural in a way that makes it seem like the first cousin to a good western. Or maybe because the evening news makes its subtext (about the importance of personal integrity in a corrupt world) seem especially poignant.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Duncan

    "The dead man lay on his side, curled up in front of a desk that was placed under a curtained window. Bannion knelt and inspected the wound in his right temple, and the gun in his right hand. The wound was ugly, and the gun was a nickel-plated thirty-two with black hand-grips." ** "While her voice, low and pleasing, fell into the silent, softly lighted room, Bannion tried to sort out his impressions of her, and of this clean, orderly little world in which (....) had lived and died." "It had been a "The dead man lay on his side, curled up in front of a desk that was placed under a curtained window. Bannion knelt and inspected the wound in his right temple, and the gun in his right hand. The wound was ugly, and the gun was a nickel-plated thirty-two with black hand-grips." ** "While her voice, low and pleasing, fell into the silent, softly lighted room, Bannion tried to sort out his impressions of her, and of this clean, orderly little world in which (....) had lived and died." "It had been a run-of-the-mill night, like a thousand he had known in the past. He felt comfortably tired as he followed the curving, shining Schuylkill out to Germantown, listening with only mild interest to a news program on the radio. It was good to be on his way home, he thought. Home to dinner, to Katie." I'm probably the only person who has read this book in this century without first being aware of the classic film it spawned. Rather, I just picked up a random book (actually rescued from a dumpster) and read it for a change of pace. So unencumbered by any preconceived notions of its significance, my feeling was -- it ain't a classic, but it is a lot of fun! **No spoilers, all quotes from the first 10 pages.

  15. 4 out of 5

    John

    A weak ending keeps this from classic status, but it's still an enjoyable genre read for noir fans. The book's strength lie in McGivern's good ear for dialogue and talent for characterization. His writing style is just about what you'd expect from a former newspaperman-- clean and direct-- and it works well for this type of story. A weak ending keeps this from classic status, but it's still an enjoyable genre read for noir fans. The book's strength lie in McGivern's good ear for dialogue and talent for characterization. His writing style is just about what you'd expect from a former newspaperman-- clean and direct-- and it works well for this type of story.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ernie

    Fritz Lang did a great edit in his 1953 film noir. see the movie, then read the book. the book is slower paced but lays out the nuts and bolts of bad actors destroying life in the city, which is WPMcG's beat. cops in collusion with big bosses. whores with hearts of gold. Like Chandler, WPMcG is a cynical idealist, but unlike Chandler, he knows city government from having worked on a paper. Fritz Lang did a great edit in his 1953 film noir. see the movie, then read the book. the book is slower paced but lays out the nuts and bolts of bad actors destroying life in the city, which is WPMcG's beat. cops in collusion with big bosses. whores with hearts of gold. Like Chandler, WPMcG is a cynical idealist, but unlike Chandler, he knows city government from having worked on a paper.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heep

    It is obviously a bit dated now, and the gender roles really remind you that it is set in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the book is entertaining, well-written and suspenseful. I really enjoyed it - not as dime store as Spillane or as well-crafted as Marlowe.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a quick read, and mildly entertaining. Anyone looking for some good ol' fashioned sexism will find it in ample doses here. To really help you get into the book, turn it into a drinking game -- take a shot every time a sexist comment is made. By the end you'll be just as drunk as Bannion! This was a quick read, and mildly entertaining. Anyone looking for some good ol' fashioned sexism will find it in ample doses here. To really help you get into the book, turn it into a drinking game -- take a shot every time a sexist comment is made. By the end you'll be just as drunk as Bannion!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Creolecat

  20. 5 out of 5

    Van Roberts

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Kemp

  22. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

  23. 4 out of 5

    Scott Skocy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gary Lewis

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Blanton

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gregg

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ian Jones

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim Ackerly

  29. 5 out of 5

    M.R. Dowsing

  30. 4 out of 5

    Foul97

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