The Tramplers by Oakley Hall [as Jason Manor]. Viking Press (1956), 181 pp.
This is one of those crime stories in which an ordinary guy gets into trouble. Sometimes, as in Double Indemnity, the fellow’s natural instincts (usually lustful) lead him astray. Here he just stumbles into danger. Fledgling architect Alan Blake is so averse to risk that his wife Charlotte has left him. No sooner does she go than her uncle, Arnold Garroway, a slightly crooked businessman, calls. They have a drink and are joined by Waxey Parker, who offers to let them in on a horseracing scam. Alan is doubtful but goes along to meet a trainer at the race track. There they discover that the man has been murdered. Alan thinks he sees the killers, who then kidnap him and take him to their boss, Georgie Herford. Refusing to pledge silence, Alan is slugged by the Moke, Herford’s bodyguard, and patched up by Lyn Raleigh, his pretty blonde girlfriend. Then Alan’s real troubles begin.
This is a fairly successful novel of its type. Alan, through whose eyes the story is told, seems a bit dim-witted at first. But when he finally understands he’s in serious trouble, he moves forcefully to extricate himself. This leads to some snappy action scenes and tense pursuit sequences. Most of the violence -- the tramplers doing their trampling -- takes place off-stage, however. Readers expecting some sexy interludes will be disappointed. The sexual tension between the honorable Alan and the amoral Lyn is never quite believable. The book isn’t as clogged with conversation as The Red Jaguar, but it still uses too much dialog, especially of the sort that recapitulates plot twists. While The Tramplers has its shortcomings, many fans of noir fiction may find it a fun read.