Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, September 22, 2017

FORGOTTEN BOOK: KEEP THE BABY, FAITH

Keep the Baby, Faith by "Philip DeGrave"  (William DeAndrea) (1986)


There are times when you instinctively know that an author just came up with a cute title and them wrote the book around it.

Yes, there is a woman named Faith and, yes, she is pregnant.  When the book opens, four attempts have been made on Faith's life in a deliberate attempt to kill her unborn child.  Faith is alone and friendless in New York City.  The only person she knows in the Big Apple is her best friend's older brother -- Harry Ross, a newspaper man (as opposed to a journalist) who is responsible for the television listings in a great metropolitan paper referred to as 'The Grayness.'

Harry has known Faith since she was in diapers back in Scarsdale but had not seen her for three years, since he moved to New York city after college graduation.  That was also when Faith graduated from high school and decided not to go to college.  Instead she took her inheritance and her parents' life insurance payment -- about $30,000 -- and moved to Paris to experience that city.  An accidental meeting with the handsome but pale Paul Letron, a man about fifteen years older than the teenager.  Within a week, Letron had proposed to her, within two weeks she accepted.  Letron had a couple of secrets.  First, he was incredibly rich, the very savvy business owner of a large cosmetics company.  And, second, his paleness, which he attributed to anemia, was indicative of something far worse -- a viralant form of cancer.  For the past year, he has been in an irretrievable coma and is now at death's door.

Paul's family had consisted of his step-mother, three step-brothers, and a step-sister-in-law.  Paul himself had inherited control of a small company from his father, which he then grew into a multinational business.  His father's will had specified that, in case of Paul's death, a comfortable living would be given to his wife if he should marry, with the remainder to be split among his second wife and her three children.  But...if Paul fathered a child, the vast amount of the estate would go to the child.  Paul knew how sick he was but did not want to father a child while he was so ill.  He arranged to have his sperm frozen and had Faith agree to artificial insemination when and if he fell hopelessly ill.  So now Faith is pregnant and close to term.  She is convinced that Paul's family is behind the attempts on her life; if she dies before the baby is born (and if the baby is born before Paul dies), her in-laws stand to reap a much larger inheritance.  Now she needs a place to hide until the child is born...And Harry is the only friend she has in New York.

Faith's story is, on the surface, fairly ridiculous and Harry is a trust-but-verify guy.  Faith's story appears to check out.  It seemed much more plausible when Harry and Faith were nearly killed by a homemade bomb, which killed another person.  Then another person dies of poisoning in from of Harry and Faith.  There is a murderer out there, but who is it?  Which family member is out to get Faith and her baby?  Or was it all of them?

Keep the Baby, Faith is a fast first-person read.  Harry is kind of a nebbish with a strong Jewish sense of guilt, and although his Jewishness is somewhat underplayed.  He has a nagging Jewish mother, for example, but she's not that nagging.  Harry is also a bit slow on coming up with ideas and on solving the murders; homicide Lieutenant Craig Rogers is always at least one step ahead of Harry but Harry's help is needed in getting the final proof.

There are references to Doctor Who (this was during the Tom Baker era)and there's even a l;awyer named Hi Marks (which I assume he got).  All-in-all, a solid but not great read.  I'll probably forget all about the book in a week or two, but it was a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Keep the Baby, Faith was the second of two books William DeAndrea published under the tongue in cheek pseudonym Philip DeGrave.  Under his own name he published eighteen mystery novels (winning an Edgar award twice), one collection of short stories, and the well regarded (and Edgar winning) reference book Encyclopedia Mysteriosa.  I believe he also wrote at least one historical novel under a house name for the Lyle Kenyon Engel fiction factory.  DeAndrea was also a well regarded mystery columnist.  DeAndrea died much too young at 44 from cancer, leaving his wife, mystery writer Oriana Papazoglou/"Jane Haddam" and two young children.

DeAndrea created four popular series:  Matt Cobb (network television investigator), Niccollo Benedetti (professor of criminology), Clifford Driscoll (American spy), and Lobo Blacke and Quinn Booker (DeAndrea's homage to Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, set in the Old West).  He also wrote two interesting historical detective novels.  It's fair to say that his early death robbed the mystery field of interesting and unwritten books.

6 comments:

  1. I always enjoyed DeAndrea's work. As you point out, his early death prevented us from enjoying more of his entertaining books.

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  2. As a former fellow, if actual, television reporter for another NYC/Radnor, PA institution, that small detail caught my eye. I've read more of DeAndrea's nonfiction (including grumpy Republican observation) than his fiction, which I might enjoy more.

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  3. Wonder if DeAndrea was watching this particular SCTV sketch, and heard its last line and went from there...
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8JlQNIvIfI

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