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Fast One

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  205 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews

First published by Doubleday in 1932 in the depth of the Great Depression, an era whose seamy side it depicts, and only recently rediscovered, Fast One by Paul Cain (one of the mystery men of American literature) explodes into real life with the story of one of the toughest characters ever to emerge in American fiction.

Paul Cain is the pseudonym of Peter Ruric, a man who e

Paperback, 171 pages
Published September 1st 1987 by Creative Arts Book Company (first published 1933)
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Sep 28, 2013 Ed rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: classic hardboiled fans
Recommended to Ed by: rara-avis yahoo group
Wikipedia says Paul Cain is the pseudonym George Caryl Sims used. He wrote the one novel Fast One, 17 Black Mask short stories, and the movie script for the Boris Karloff/Bela Lugosi horror film The Black Cat. I've seen The Black Cat, and liked it. The Fast One, published in 1932 during the Depression and heyday of the celebrated armed bank robbers like Dillinger, is regarded as a hardboiled/noir classic. I can see why. Gerry Kells, the protagonist, arrives in L.A. and decides he wants to be the ...more
Oct 10, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it
Paul Cain is a bit of an enigma, a terrific writer who published only one novel and some short stories before pretty much disappearing from print and from history. (At least, easily uncovered history.) His one novel, FAST ONE, is as hardboiled as anything I've ever read. It reminds me a good deal of Dashiell Hammett's classic RED HARVEST, inasmuch as it has a central figure pitting various groups of nasty folk against each other. The one drawback I have with the book is that the plethora of ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Gerry rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Originally a collection of short stories in the 'Black Mask' magazine, 'Fast Fury' reads as such. It is sometimes difficult to link the chapters up and the story, described on the back cover blurb as 'complex with its twists and turns defies summary'. Quite, no surprise there!

Gerry Kells comes to town with the intention of being the top man; there are quite a number of floozies, plenty of money floating about, much of it seemingly for no apparent reason, and there are numerous bumpings off, many
Brian Longtin
Mar 06, 2014 Brian Longtin rated it really liked it
Clipped sentences that hit like bullets. Hard and fast. There's no grand story here. Just tough men doing dirty business over stiff drinks in the smoky rooms of old Hollywood. Most of them die quick, a few die slow. There are no happy endings.
Elijah Kinch Spector
The fat man sad: "Put your hands up, Skinny." Kells shook his head slightly.

The young man in the raincoat leaned forward and slapped Kells across the mouth. Kells looked up at him and his face was very sad, his eyes were sleepy. He said: "That's too bad."
- p. 70

Fast One is a book I feel like I've been meaning to read forever. Hardboiled crime stories from the 20s, 30s, and 40s were pretty much the first books that I started really reading for fun -- I still remember buying Hammett's The Continen
Jan 31, 2014 Andy rated it liked it
This is a great example of (very) hard-boiled pulp fiction. The story travels at a blistering pace, the main character is tough as nails and the story has more twists and turns than a bag of pretzels.

This is indeed the type of story Chandler spoke about where a man with a gun is constantly entering the room to keep the story going. It happens a lot at the end of cliff-hanger chapters. Furthermore I've never read a story where the protagonist was knocked unconscious so often. It’s got a good paci
Jun 18, 2013 John rated it really liked it
Wow! I've read quite a bit about this book over the past few years, and it's pretty much all true - it's an insanely paced, amoral, booze-fueled epic (albeit one told in just over 200 pages). But unlike a few other stories I've read in a similar vein, this one is strangely believable, most of it makes sense the whole way through (although sometimes the pace is so fast you just have to go with it), and although the characters aren't exactly fleshed out, they strike a chord. It also has one of the ...more
Lil' Grogan
Aug 30, 2011 Lil' Grogan rated it liked it
Shelves: humour, crime, 3, pit-spiral
Story was pretty standard (looking back) - lots going on, questionable females, shady world of politics/crime, "hero" with his own brand of standards, big cast. The narrative style was the most interesting thing. I thought I had read sparse writing before, but this threw me. Read almost like a beginning readers' book with dialogue. Odd obsession with details like the exact time and naming every damn street he's on. Dialogue read well to me - laden with slang and also humour (a nice surprise). ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the purest example of its genre, Paul Cain's FAST ONE (the only novel he ever wrote) is so hard-boiled it almost crunches. Fast-moving, brutal, and possessing an unforgettable ending. The Black Lizard edition has a nice little introduction about the author (a.k.a. Paul Ruric, a.k.a. George Carrol Sims) whose life was so strange and shadowy he'd be a great subject for another novel.
Dec 04, 2014 wally rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cain-paul
first from paul cain for me...saw it listed off to the top right there, 'readers also enjoyed' or whatever it is titled...clicked on it. or maybe it was at amazon when i was ordering something else. i think that was how it went...did some investigating, glanced at a few reviews...there are more than a couple that take issue with the disjointed sense of story. will see if that is true. i guess...or read...that these were stand-alone stories? brought together? i dunno.

one thing done is there's a l
Jack Tripper
This was pretty much a slog for me. Yes, it moves at a blistering pace, but the author makes no attempt to connect the reader to the main character, or any of the other cardboard characters. In fact, it was nearly impossible for me to differentiate between the myriad players here, as they all talk in the same way, with little or no physical description, and when some minor character pops up 100 pages later, I had no idea who he or she was. You never really get into any of their heads, so I cared ...more
Chris Young
Jun 16, 2015 Chris Young rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a unique beast.
Paul Cain’s only novel (described in Max Decharne’s intro as the hardest of the hard-boiled), it reads with urgency and violence, like it was thrown out of the typewriter and printed without revision. And it works because of it. To revise or edit would probably take away its distinctiveness.
Lead character Kells’ dialogue reads as if it was tailor-made for Bogart (some years before Bogart became Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe) and it’s as unpredictable as hell. Kells, tough as
Oct 03, 2014 Kenneth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I ended up pitching this a third of the way through. I'm rating it 2 stars, however, because there were things I liked about it. The sparse writing style, in particular. But the story just didn't grab me. It's very sketchy. Things kept happening without any set-up or motivation. And, since most of the characters were nothing more than names with descriptions attached, I just didn't care about most of the things that kept happening. These faults are no doubt due to the book's pulp magazine ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Frank rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel was first published in 1933. (my copy was published in 2004 by No Exit Press). It's an old "gangster" story set in Los Angeles. The prose leaves a lot to desired but, may have been appropriate for the mobsters of the era. Some of the terms used will leave you scratching your head for an understanding, You can tell the story is dated as coffee is a dime and a rental car is $2.25 per day!

As an aside, "an advance copy of the US First Edition of "FAST ONE" sold at Christies auction in New
Dec 30, 2015 Tina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Raymond Chandler liked it (and he did), i will read it. I'll probably like it, too.

Some things may not have aged well (spicks, chinks) but that aside...

An utterly unpredictable plot inhabited by stereotypes - but written before they'd become stereotypes - where the pace starts out fast and keep getting faster. This book is what the formula was built from, but the story itself is not formulaic in any which way.

The damsels are drunk as skunks, the men are mean and sometimes you lose.

If you like
Ronald Koltnow
Nov 26, 2014 Ronald Koltnow rated it really liked it
Fans of the morally suspect world of Scott Phillips should dig up this 30's noir set in a corrupt Hollywood. I suspect it inspired Phillips as well as countless other writers. Kells is a fixer of sorts, playing both sides of a political battle, and getting framed for any number of things. He gets beaten, stabbed, drugged, and shot but keeps on moving to bring about what he considers Justice. One of the great Ur-Noir texts, and indispensable reading.
Feb 23, 2013 Bert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so hardboiled it almost felt avant-garde. I think because these were originally short stories (written for Black Mask) not a moment is wasted, every scene is climactic, and you don't get to catch your breath. So as a novel it is flippin' relentless, the plot is crazy full of double-crosses, a little too action-packed for me, and the characters aren't always fleshed out, but it has style, the lines are clipped, tough and economical to the max.
Timothy Lantz

This edition must have been OCRed from the original magazines or some other source. It's full of typos, which any editing should have easily spotted. The story lacks the finesse of Chandler and Cain, and reminds me a bit more of Hammett. I don't think the characters ever become more than the stereotype though, so the casual noir fan may have trouble getting into this one.
May 01, 2016 ColinJ rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the most appropriately titled book ever. This thing moves at a pace that is truly dizzying with plot twists often coming every few paragraphs.

If you drop your attention from Cain's freight-train narrative and you'll find yourself lost pretty quickly. If you can keep up you'll end up enjoying a very unique experience indeed.
Michael Donnelly
Mar 24, 2014 Michael Donnelly rated it did not like it
I applaud the digitizing of old works as out of print works are now accessible.

In this case, however, the work should have remained unexcavated. Characterization is minimal, and the work is forgettable.
Apr 13, 2011 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recentlyread
The first generation hard-boiled writer who comes closest to the density and grit of James Ellroy. This tale of cutthroat gangsters and shifting alliances is something like Hammett's Red Harvest and better than James M. Cain's Love's Lovely Counterfeit.
Mar 08, 2015 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not so much a novel as a gruesome car wreck. You tell yourself that you aren't going to look, but you just have to sneak a peek. I guess I prefer a little more style and humor, even in a hard-boiled novel. Paul Cain won't replace Chandler or Hammett on my bookshelf any time soon.
Alfred Bates
Oct 03, 2010 Alfred Bates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good in a brutal sort of way. Don't buy this edition, though, it's full of typos which annoyed the hell out of me.
Ed [Redacted]
Oct 14, 2013 Ed [Redacted] rated it really liked it
Very good book that was just a little too disjointed to be great. I think this was put together from short stories and the seams show a bit. Still a fast paced, relentlessly hard boiled read.
Thomas Tyrer
Jun 10, 2012 Thomas Tyrer rated it it was ok
One of the original LA noir crime novels, well worth the indulgence. I live in Manhattan Beach and "Beach City" for the novel is too cool.
Tom Breen
Tom Breen rated it liked it
Nov 21, 2014
Steve Mbonu
Steve Mbonu rated it it was amazing
Jul 03, 2014
Peter Gutierrez
Peter Gutierrez rated it it was amazing
Nov 14, 2008
Gemma rated it liked it
Apr 18, 2016
Chad rated it it was amazing
Sep 21, 2014
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Paul Cain was the pen name of George Caryl Sims (1902–1966), a pulp fiction author and screenwriter. His sole novel, Fast One (1932), is considered a landmark of the hardboiled style.
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