James McKimmey was another of those prolific writers who was around during the golden age of crime fiction. He surfaced in the late 1940s, finding some success with short stories, and then embarked on a career as a novelist. He stuck around for decades, enjoying fine reviews in the premier periodicals and managing to draw the interest of Hollywood studios. Admired for his expressive prose and proficiency in presenting characters with complexity, he made a good living out of storytelling. However, he never quite achieved the heights of some of his predecessors. Some of his stories were optioned for movies, but none were filmed.
He authored seventeen novels and hundreds of short stories. As with many crime fiction writers who established themselves in the 1950s, reprints of his work were few and far between.
In recent years, Stark House Press has begun reissuing his work in a series of twofers. The excellent Bill Crider contributed an introduction to the 2016 collection Cornered / The Long Ride. The 2017 and 2021 compendiums, The Perfect Victim / Winner Take All and Run If You’re Guilty / Never Be Caught, include author interviews by Allan Guthrie.
The newest compilation released this month, 24 Hours to Kill / Blue Mascara Tears, includes a couple of varied, well-written novels from the 1960s. My essay, “Idolatry and Playing God to Cure “The Fix,” which introduces the volume, explores McKimmey’s writing career and these two works in particular. Those who enjoy hardboiled fiction from the golden era will not be disappointed.
The opener is a suspenseful thriller involving the disastrous transportation of a high-profile prisoner. Bad weather and bad decisions cause complications, but essentially, it is irresponsible media reporting that brings about disaster. The second is an underworld tale with an old-school detective trying to bring a powerful gangster to justice. It’s a familiar story, told with a brooding, articulate voice.
Bestselling author James Reasoner recently said of Blue Mascara Tears: “I give it a high recommendation, especially since you can get it in that double volume with an equally compelling yarn, 24 HOURS TO KILL.” You can read his full review of the collection here.