Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's the only thing he ever wrote!

As far as anyone knows for sure, the short story "Waiting for Rusty" is the only thing William Cole every wrote. The story--accurately referred to by one critic as "a masterpiece of concision"--is only 1400 words long. But it so effectively sets up its main character that the tragic denouement has as much emotional impact as many full-length novels. It was published in the October 1939 issue of Black Mask magazine, which was the birthplace of hard-boiled detective fiction. And it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best that magazine had to offer. (Which including Hammett, Chandler, Cornell Woolrich and the other greats of the genre.)

Of course, it's possible William Cole was a pen name. The introduction to this story in Hard-Boiled: An
Anthology of American Crime Stories presents the theories that it was written by an editor working at Black Mask when an upcoming issue fell a few pages short; or that Cole is a pen name for a pulp writer who usually worked under another name. We will apparently never know for sure.

The story begins when Dotty, the moll of a well-known and wanted gangster named Rusty, enters a remote roadhouse along with a couple of shotgun-toting confederates. The cops are hot on their trail, but Dotty is supposed to meet Rusty here. She's determined to stay until he arrives, regardless of how anxious her partners get and regardless of what the news reports on the radio are saying about Rusty's probable location.

And I really can't say more about it without spoiling it. "Waiting for Rusty" is simply one of the best hard-boiled stories ever written and it would do you all good to dig up a copy and read it.

Waiting for Rusty via Google Books

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