Sunday, 25 January 2015

Dress Down Sunday: A Running Duck by Paula Gosling

published 1978 in the UK



LOOKING AT WHAT GOES ON UNDER THE CLOTHES







[Clare and Malchek are on the run, pretending to be a couple and hiding out along the way]

The double-bed in the first motel was a problem. To toss a coin and stick one of them with a chair or the floor seemed juvenile. In the end they both got ready for bed, went to bed, and lay on the bed, wrapped in more than blankets.

He was very aware of her nakedness under the white pyjamas she had chosen in an effort to appear sexless. In fact, all they did was outline her body even more emphatically than a nightgown would have done.

Normally he simply slept in his skin, but had borrowed some pyjamas for the trip. They constricted him and he felt strange, finally tossing the top back into the suitcase.



observations: Rich Westwood at Past Offences rediscovered this book a while back, and so I picked up a cheap copy in the hope of some splendid 1970s fashions for a blog entry. I had read a couple of later Paula Gosling books, but this one was very different: a tough, hard-boiled kind of book – as proved by the astonishing fact that it was turned into a Sylvester Stallone film, Cobra. The heroine is an executive at an ad agency in San Francisco: I’d envisaged nice scenes among the account managers, as in books by Dorothy L Sayers (Murder Must Advertize) and CS Forester (Plain Murder) featured in a short Ad Agency meme on the blog in 2013. (I was prepared to include this new one in my ranking of the best agencies to work at.)

But no: Clare is the only witness to the aftermath of a murder, and could identify the hitman, so she is in danger. A rough tough cop, Malchek, is desperate to catch the hitman – in fact he is more interested in that than in protecting the witness. Well, at first anyway. They end up racing around northern California, visiting small towns, almost catching the enemy, almost being caught. (I really enjoyed their travels through the redwood forests – having visited them myself under less fraught circumstances I know how beautiful and restful they are.)

It’s all very much of its time, and very typical of a certain kind of crime book by a woman which seems to be setting out to show the author can be as tough as any man, including a particularly weird moment early on concerning semen - which nowadays would be a source of DNA and a means of id-ing the shooter. There’s this wince-making sentence: ‘The receptionist was an ardent feminist, in between boyfriends’ – which I would have objected to just as much in 1978 as I do now. At the same time, when Clare tells the cops she works at an ad agency, they say ‘What do you do there? Secretary?’ It all reminded me rather of the Mary Tyler Moore Show of blessed memory, and I would have enjoyed more of the single-girl-setting – but she must away to the woods with the strong silent Malchek…

Mostly historical interest then. A Running Duck presumably means ‘as opposed to sitting duck’ and seems a particularly stupid title – worse even than Cobra. The book was called Fair Game in the USA.

Click on the labels for more pyjamas of various kinds. 


21 comments:

  1. Moira, I'd no idea "Cobra" was based on a novel let alone this oddly titled book. Who'd have thought? I have seen the film more than once though I remember very little except for the poster where Stallone is dressed in black and carrying a machine gun and is standing against a red backdrop. One poster I have never forgotten.

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    1. Ha! Interesting, Prashant, I was wondering about the film, it just seemed so incongruous. A pity it wasn't more memorable.

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    2. 'Crime is a disease. Meet the cure.' :-)

      https://pastoffences.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/cobra.jpg

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    3. Yes that really is some poster....

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  2. Moira - Really? An ardent feminist in between boyfriends? Yes, that puts the book into a certain time/era category! The setting sounds terrific though, and hey, books of historic interest have their place...

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    1. I know! It's such an absurd phrase, but very much of its time. I must remember it for future use.... (ironically, obv)

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  3. I can't recall the film though I have probably seen it. I doubt I will pick up the book even though I reckon I would probably enjoy it.
    As an aside, I suppose being a secretary at an ad agency does have it's advantages.....it gets you out of the kitchen for a while!

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    1. I need to find someone who actually remembers something about the film, for comparison purposes.
      And, being a secretary also means you might meet a husband, if you're lucky....

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    2. Of course they'd have to be pretty to get a husband....

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  4. That's right - somebody else's husband!

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    1. In the blessed Agatha's day they were all lipstick curls and stockings. I think in the 70s it was all miniskirts, boots and page boy bobs.

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    2. ...but they were all not to be trusted with married men, as you say.

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  5. Re: the film...

    "Ingrid Knudsen is a harmless Los Angeles model who makes the mistake of witnessing a murder committed by a neo-Fascist leader called the Night Slasher. She becomes his next target, and is put under the protection of the icy Marion Cobretti (‘Cobra’)."

    I *think* they might have thrown a lot of the original story away...

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    1. I LOVE the idea of replacing the ad agency executive with a model!

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  6. I've spent the weekend catching up on months of unread fashion magazines and I can say, definitively, that pyjamas are very 'in' for night and day wear and consistently so. As someone incapable of wearing a light colour without getting filthy in seconds (think the Peanuts' 'Pigpen') I suspect that white ones would not be a success however. Or sexless. Such an odd reason to choose white?

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    1. That's a good point Vicki - I have a feeling that (particularly in the US) in that era white was always seen as 'good girl' and modest. Coloured underwear was just coming in and seen as rather wild, so maybe it's a hangover from that.

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  7. You really did not like this book. I have Zero Trap by the same author, published in 1981.

    You also have a new look. Lighter and brighter.

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    1. I was a bit harsh, because you know it was entertaining, and I've read a lot worse. I'll be interested to know what your one is like.
      I decided it was time for a change, and it turned out to be simpler than I thought it would be.

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    2. The "ardent feminist between boyfriends" crack is amusing, but annoying. It would annoy me, but I love the pajamas photo.

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    3. I know, Kathy, we all need pyjamas like that. And I guess the feminist remark was normal at the time.

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