Pulp Friday: Newton Thornburg’s heist novel, Knockover


“The scheme was so perfect, the take was so big, you couldn’t ask for anything more-but one of them did.

I’ve got a little gem of a Pulp Friday today, the very rare Australian release of Newton Thornburg’s little known heist novel, Knockover.

Although he was a great success in the seventies, the peak period of his literary output, Thornburg kept a low profile in successive decades. So much so that when he died in 2011, it took a month before the first proper literary obituary appeared.

He is best known for the 1976 novel, Cutter and Bone. While I love the book and the 1981 movie version, Cutter’s Way (and which I reviewed on this site here), I have a preference for, To Die In California, a 1973 novel about a father’s investigation into the murder of his son in post-Summer of Love Los Angeles.

Knockover, Thornburg’s second book was originally published by Fawcett Gold Medal in 1968. Thornburg said he wrote Knockover explicitly with the hope of a movie sale in mind. Apparently the rights were optioned but nothing ever came of it. The story revolves around a former advertising executive, Cross, who puts together a team of criminals to pull off an armoured car robbery.

Interestingly, in terms of the heist genre, the story focuses on the events leading up to the heist, rather than the inevitable consequences when the job goes wrong (although that is dealt with, too). It’s a solid, entertaining book, rather than a brilliant one. The writing is good with definite flashes of Thornburg’s later greatness in it.

Eclipse Books was a Sydney based publisher. From what I can tell, it was only around for a short time and its catalogue consisted entirely of reprints of books by famous crime writers, which it packaged as pulp for the Australian market. Gil Brewer is another author whose work I have seen given the Eclipse treatment.

Despite obviously being a pretty cheap and dirty little operation, their covers, like this one, have a definite lurid flair. There’s no publication date on this version of Knockover (or in any of the Eclipse books I have found), but you can tell by the gratuitous inclusion of the breast and the gun in the knickers, it was obviously some time in the early seventies.


5 Responses

  1. This sounds….interesting. I am a fan of escapist old fashioned Americana, but can’t say I have ever tried Australiana (probably a word). I am English so it should provide the same dusty, vintage feel I do so like. I have only just starting blogging, is there a good starting place for ‘Australiana’ you would recommend? I am always reminded of that bat shit crazy film with the outback kangaroo killing and Terence Stamp.

  2. Thanks for this. Thornburg is one of my favorites and I found “Dreamland” also captures the LA/Hollywood tragic human comedy that we admire in “To Die…”.

    You probably have seen this, a rare and insightful interview with NT:
    Also, note the title is “Knockover” without the “The.”

    Keep up the great work,


  3. Roger,
    Of course, it’s Knockover. ‘The’ was a silly mistake on my part. I have seen that interview, yes.
    Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Pingback: Classic crime in the blogosphere – June 2014 | Past Offences Classic Crime Fiction

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