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“Living alone is easier for me than living with a woman. It’s easier for the woman, too. Sometimes I shoot at things when I wake up—the telephone, or the alarm clock, or the sun—and women tend to be frightened by the practice, although some are merely bored, while others think it’s extravagant. So most of my life I’ve lived alone.

“That morning, the alarm clock woke me. It was a new five-dollar alarm clock, made out of copper and brass, and it gonged like a fire bell. I could see it squatting on the bureau blaring away, like a fat toad setting all the frogs in the marsh straight, and I hated it so bad that I shot it. I got up right away. There is a certain satisfaction in getting out of bed in the morning after having shot the alarm clock. It makes shaving and dressing and eating off of plates a little easier. A while later, I went outside.”

THE PLAYER was first published in 1974 and was written for the reader of that day. As Dashiel Hammett did with Sam Spade, Downing combined the myth of the private “eye” with another mythical persona. In Hammett’s case, Sam Spade combined the private “eye” with a Jack London timber wolf. Downing’s Joe Redmann combined the private “eye” with the myth of the noble Indian.

Available in hardcover and Kindle editions.

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