Soft Touch



The Pequod Review:

One of John D. MacDonald’s most hard-boiled books, Soft Touch is a psychological noir about a suburban man trapped in an unhappy marriage and a dead-end job, who decides to partner with his old Army buddy on a theft that will make them rich. The story is told in the first-person, with realistic and effective details of how a rational man could bring himself to do such a thing. Here for example is where the protagonist finally decides to go through with it:

On Sunday night a pack of Lorraine's special friends trooped in to drink my liquor. I had endured them for years, even tried to like them. Brittle, nervous, flirtatious women with laughter like the breaking of glass. And their dominated husbands, brown, drunk, noisy -- masters of the crude double meaning, Don Juans of the locker room.

Now, by reason of the decision I had made, I was through with them. They were strangers.

That night before I went to bed I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. And saw another stranger with a closed and wary face, coarse ginger hair going gray. I snapped the light out. The house was still. They had taken Lorraine off with them to the club, for drinking and groping and fumbling, for funny jokes and laughing, for wide slack kisses, and a fat tab added to the monthly statement.

I woke up when she came in. She turned all the bedroom lights on. I pretended sleep. I heard her leg thud into a chair, and heard her slurred and mumbled, "Sonovabish." When she began to snore I got up and turned out the lights she had forgotten, In the darkness there was an odor of her in the room, stale perfume, smoke, liquor, and an acid trace of perspiration.

No place for Lorraine in my new world to be.

In many ways this is the most satisfying of all of MacDonald’s books, both a noir masterpiece and a genuinely suspenseful caper.