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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

The Love-Death Thing

cover image By: Dewey, Thomas B. (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (75655)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 230: PS3507 .E883 L68 1971
Contributor: P. Ryan

General

Era: 1960s Author as on Cover: Thomas B. Dewey Geographic Locale: Chicago, Illinois and "Hippieland" in Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1971  |  Original Date: 1969 Setting: urban; coffeehouses, bars, warehouses and upscale hotels. The social strata that Mac moves through are made up of bikers, cops, low-level mobsters and hippies. Motives: conflict for drug turf; murder is committed for a portion of the narcotics trade

Plot Summary

Importer-exporter Bernard Reinhart engages private eye Mac to find his missing daughter, Dawn, who has run away to "Hippieland" in Los Angeles with a young man named Bill Jackson. Mac tricks Dawn into meeting him and he learns that her boyfriend Bill has been on a bad drug trip for two days. Returning to Bill's apartment, they discover the decapitated corpse of a Hell's Angel known as Robbie. Mac gets Bill to a safe place and then returns to the coffeehouse to watch the interaction between the caf owner, "Prophet" Daniel, a hood named Sammy Mitropoulis and three Hells' Angels. Dan tells the Angels that someone across the street wants to tell them something about Robbie. Mac surmises that the person who wants to speak to the Angels is Sammy, whom he shadows. Later, Mac returns to the crime scene and deduces that the murderer was in a hurry, that the killer probably arrived with Robbie on his bike, and that Robbie was killed with a hatchet. Minutes later, three Hell's Angels roar by the crime scene and throw a valise containing a bloody hatchet on the lawn. When the police search the house more thoroughly, they discover a quantity of narcotics and $48,000 in cash -- this was a drug "safe house." Continuing to track Sammy's movements, Mac discovers that his client is in league with Sammy, who helps Reinhart smuggle goods from Mexico for the import-export business. When Reinhart tries to back out of the deal, Sammy beats him up. In a chaotic denouement, Mac tells police that the murderer is "Prophet" Daniel who killed Robbie because Dan wanted the drug action. Leaving the caf, Mac runs into Sammy and some Hells' Angels. Mac knocks Sammy down and tells the Angels to "cool it" -- Sammy has been using them. Mac manages to narrowly avoid being beaten by riot police and he gets Dawn away from the riot scene safely; it is left open as to whether she will have a rapprochement with her father.


Major Characters

Mac adult male, middle-aged, big, strong, durable, handles himself professionally in physical altercations; former Chicago police officer, now a private investigator

Samuel Mitropoulis "Sammy," adult male, Greek-American, 31 years old, big, stays in shape, fast hands, green eyes, drug dealer and enforcer

"Prophet" Daniel adult male, late 30s, big, lanky, long beard, wears shades, caf owner and operator

Robbie adult male, mid-20s/early 30s, drug dealer and Hell's Angel

Dawn Reinhart adolescent female, 17 years old, long golden hair, slim, pretty, long face, "luminous" blue eyes that "gave an impression of total openness, a condition of vulnerability that few people can sustain," runaway

Bernard Reinhart adult male, bulky, shell-rimmed glasses, smokes cigars, successful importer-exporter, silent partner of gangster Sammy Mitropoulis

"Zane Gray" adult male, James Dean lookalike, methedrine dealer, works for Sammy Mitropoulis

Lou Shapiro adult male, 50 years old, "tall and rangy, with large, mournful Jewish eyes under close-cropped hair that was still solid black...he was a cop, a career cop, with the firm movements and wary watchfulness of a cop," police lieutenant in the Los Angeles Police Department


Weapons

a hatchet, riot batons, fists (Mac surrenders his .38 caliber revolver before leaving Chicago)


Level of Violence

violence is realistic and rendered with a dispassionate and naturalistic quality. Mac is experienced in the arena of physical violence and knows the consequences. Mac never uses more force than is required in any situation, and he is sickened by the level of violence employed in Robbie's murder.


Sexuality

sexuality is downplayed. Nudity is so prevalent that the condition is de-eroticized; this is why the "hippie chicks" can pose nude for "square" voyeurs with no sense of shame.


Gender Roles

Mac is the tough but chivalrous white knight. He never regards people in need of protection as contemptible. He will help a fellow human, whether he is paid or not, even if he has cause to dislike that person. Sexist attitudes are not really in evidence since Mac is not sexist. Mac admires strong women of courage, conviction and character like Dawn Reinhart. He regards Dawn as a stronger person than her hypocritical father. One incident in the novel portrays sexism and physical abuse, when Sammy beats his "chick." Mac regards the hippies as a subgroup of humanity so naive and unworldly that they cannot last. He believes that they will be shorn like sheep by human wolves like Sammy and "Prophet" Dan.


Ethnicity

the hippies were a phenomenon primarily relevant to middle-class white youth, so race is not an issue that is explored here. Mac's use of ethnic stereotypes is done in a positive context; e.g. "Lieutenant Shapiro listened austere and impassive as a Torah tablet," or "Vishinsky was twiddling his thumbs behind the wheel. He had missed the excitement and I knew his Polish blood was surging."


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

drugs are a big factor as the one murder is related to control of a large mid-level narcotics operation. The LAPD recover $48,000 as well as a quantity of heroin, cocaine, marijuana (used by Angels and hippies alike), LSD and hashish. Possession of a controlled substance is definitely viewed as a crime by all the police officers, but Mac is more ambiguous in his view of drug legalities -- he makes a methedrine buy to prove that he is not a policeman and in order to gain information. Cannabis usage is portrayed as a relatively innocuous or accepted activity in Hippieland, but LSD usage is shown to have more dangerous consequences. When Mac first encounters Bill Jackson at the tail end of his bad trip, the drug has caused a psychotomimetic effect closely resembling hebephrenic catatonia. Mac drinks alcohol, but in a controlled way, not to alleviate stress. He and Lieutenant Shapiro drink "Catalina Zaps" together to celebrate the end of the case.


Law Enforcement

Mac is a former Chicago police officer who quit the force because of departmental corruption. The police have a somewhat adversarial relationship with private detectives, but Mac is an odd case since he was once one of them. He has a good relationship with Chicago Police Lt. Donovan who recommends that Mac contact Lt. Shapiro of the LAPD when Mac reaches California. Like Donovan, Shapiro is a sharp and conscientious detective. Police corruption is less of an issue than police competence. Mac makes it clear that merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time will assure an individual of a beating (or worse) from the LAPD.


Added Features

humor is expressed in Mac's usual understated fashion; much of the humor is situational and involves the "square" Mac's interactions with the hippies. Mac speculates that the hippies are too idealistic and nave to survive and that they will fall victim to lawman and outlaw alike, protected by neither side because of their outsider status. The hippie culture seems pre-technical and almost pre-historic.


Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Illinois - Chicago/ Detectives, Private/ Drugs/ Police/ Hippies/ Murder


Psychological Elements

paranoia, guilt, insanity, depression, substance abuse and neurological disorders are all on display during Bill Jackson's "bad trip" on LSD, as well as additional symptoms of hebephrenic catatonia. When Mac first encounters Bill he is utterly helpless, but shortly afterward Bill displays normal coordination. Criminals are portrayed not as psychotic or pathological but as conscienceless businessmen. They are engaged in an illegal trade because they don't mind hurting people as long as a high profit is guaranteed. Mac is psychologically well-grounded. Although he is self-deprecating he is also self-assured. He is secure enough that the differences between human beings intrigue rather than threaten him. The paradigm here is primarily sociopolitical -- Mac views the runaways and hippies as another tribe, a "Hippie kingdom" with its own origins and folkways. The runaways are viewed as a social problem.