A companion book, so to speak, of Markson’s Epitaph for a Tramp, which I talked about here.   This was before he was writing his experimental fiction, which I did try to read, but have no patience for literary works which have no discernible story line.  I’m old school.  OK, OK, I’m old.

In this one, Harry Fannin, tough guy private eye, keeps stumbling upon dead bodies, and gets beaten up pretty regularly for it. The setting is Greenwich Village in the 1960s and Markson has fun showing off his familiarity with the authors and celebrities in vogue with the beat generation; he mocks them mercilessly through Harry’s acerbic wit. There is a lot more wordplay in this one than in Tramp. Even the space between Dead and Beat in the title is intentional, since most of the victims were beatniks, not deadbeats.  Want a taste of some of the writing?  Of course you do.

Most of the furnishings have been out of style since Lucky Strikes were green.

Lolita, a sad story about a twelve-year-old girl who couldn’t find anyone her own age to play with.

The building wasn’t quite yet a tenement, although they were already getting interesting effects from the lobby.  It was part tile, part chewing gum.

He had a face which had already seen everything twice, and had been bored the first time.

See what I mean?  A really fun read, despite the dead bodies.   Actually, I felt the plot only existed as a vehicle for Markson’s word play.

3 comments on “EPITAPH FOR A DEAD BEAT by David Markson

  1. Phoghat says:

    Before achieving critical acclaim as a novelist, David Markson paid the rent, like many famous writers, by writing several crime novels, featuring the private detective Harry Fannin.
    I like these “rent payers” , because I don’t have the patience for something deep and meaningful most times I’m not alone because even Stephen King occasionally turns his hand to crime.writing hardboiled works like this, his first in a series, ” Joylandn”


  2. slowtiger says:

    Hi there, could you help me out?
    A friend purchased this book and was surprised to see it end mid-sentence (“And in his”) in chapter 33, so he ordered a replacement which looked the same. Is this meant to be, or is your edition different? Thx in advance.


    • Marti says:

      I had no problems with my edition. I don’t remember where I got it. But it certainly doesn’t end in mid sentence. sorry to be so late in answering you.


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