Mysterious Book Report False NegativeFalse Negative by Joseph Koenig

Hard Case Crime, 256 pages, $9.95, ISBN 978-0-85768-580-3

To keep myself occupied, when I didn’t have my nose pressed to the TV screen watching the minute-by-minute news of the Waldo Canyon fire and waited for the evacuation notification that never came, I got busy reading some pulp fiction on my Kindle.  Pulp fiction, for those of you who’re unacquainted with it, is by definition, “fiction dealing with the lurid or the sensational, often printed on cheap, pulpwood paper,” according to my Random House unabridged.  I might add, and they’re a helluva lot of fun to read once in a while . . .

Especially when written by the hand and mind of a master, and False Negative, by Joseph Koenig fits the bill in every way.  It’s 1953, and a smart-alec crime reporter named Adam Jordan has a brand-new Hudson Hornet and a wiseass attitude.  Working for an Atlantic City New Jersey newspaper, Adam has a cushy life focused on Jazz music, finding a woman to climb into bed with and, oh yeah, reporting the local crime blotter.

Life changes abruptly when he decides to fake an assignment, copying some text from the papers “morgue” of old stories, and misses one of the most sensational stories of the year, when the windbag politician whose speech was the assignment, drops dead in the midst of it.  Not only did he miss the story, but Adam filed a false one that was published.  The newspaper editors and publisher are livid; Jordan has committed the unpardonable sin.  He’s fired on the spot and becomes a pariah, unable to land a job with any reputable paper.  In desperation, he turns to writing for True Crimes Magazine, a pulp, for a nickel per word.  When a number of women begin turning up dead under similar circumstances, Jordan turns sleuth to try and solve a series of murders with racial, political, and social issues . . . thereby putting his own life in jeopardy.  This one has more twists and turns in it than a whole boxful of antique corkscrews.


John Dwaine McKenna