The Devil’s Wind

Written by Richard Rayner
Review by Steve Lewis

The author who wrote The Devil’s Wind was born in England, but he now lives in Los Angeles, and as in the case of a certain other author (named Chandler), it may take someone from the other side of the Atlantic to tell us in this country what we’re really like.

Or what we were in the past. Back in 1956, the time of HUAC; the Nevada bomb tests and the concomitant growth of Las Vegas; Jimmy Hoffa; racism; and jazz. All essential ingredients of this top-notch noir-ish thriller based on identities: hidden identities, newly created identities; and revenge: subtle and not-so-subtle, and bullets to match.

And the woman. Mallory Walker is a rich man’s daughter and a would-be architect, a field which in the 1950s had no easy openings for women. Her target: Maurice Valentine, well-known architect and would-be Senator for Nevada. Valentine is married, but he is eminently capable of being seduced, and he finds himself captivated.

There is also the hot wind that blows across the Nevada desert. The natural wind. There is also the unnatural wind that arises after the flash and colossal boom of the mushroom clouds viewable from the top floor of Las Vegas hotels, the wind that causes disasters in more ways than one.

About halfway through, one of the notes I wrote myself reads, “I have absolutely no idea where this book is going.” Is that adequate as a one-line review? I’d like to think so. I do think so. It’s quite a ride.