A Devil For O’Shaugnessy/ The Three-Way Split

A Devil For O’Shaugnessy is Brewer’s lost unpublished novel unearthed for the first time. It has a feel and pace unlike anything else Brewer published. Although like other Brewer novels, it is set on the edge of Florida’s steamy swamps, it is an odd story set in a crumbling mansion by the Gulf where an old grandmother kept on living in spite of all who sought to be bequeathed an inheritance. Of course, a crazy monkey who apparently is the reincarnated spirit of grandma’s ex-husband is the most exciting presence in the house. But there’s also the homicidal granddaughter and the hot-to-trot personal secretary. Into this maelstrom, Brewer threw a hapless conman who had no iron in his veins. That’s O’Shaugnessy, you know. When he’s not dancing with mad femme fatale granddaughter Miriam, he’s impersonating the long lost grandson, Joseph, who grandma dotes over, so he can get close to grandma. In some ways, a comedic set-up with Miriam impatiently crowing at her soft conman to finish the job and he hesitating and uncomfortable with the arrangements. While this story lacks the unending passion Brewer usually filled his tales with, you can still feel O’Shaugnessy sinking into the trap and realizing he’s now locked into the plot with no escape.

Three-Way Split is the other full-length novel in this volume, separated from conman and monkey thriller by a couple of shorts. Three-Way Split, originally published in 1960, is a more traditional nautical noir thriller of the type Charles Williams was known for. It features a down on his luck guy with a small boat who can’t meet the rent for his boat slip and a spotting of a buried Spanish galleon out there. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a conflict if our hero didn’t have a bad news guy for a father, mean, ornery, and selfish, and on the run from a pack of mobsters for something he didn’t quite do a few states over. The interplay between Jack Holland and his old man is terrific. Sparks fly whenever they’re in the same room and Jack will never trust that old guy who won’t just take off and leave Jack alone.

Stark House Press

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