Satan is a Woman (1951)
So Rich, So Dead (1951)
13 French Street (1951)
LOVE ME AND DIE!
strangely enough, this is apparently Gil Brewer making a novel out of a day keene short story and using the pen name Day Keene.
Flight to Darkness (1952)
Hell’s our destination
A Killer is Loose (1954)
A killer is Loose features an ordinary guy down on his luck, out of work, a baby on the way. But, here, he’s not some greedy guy. Instead, he somehow ends up palsy-Walsh with Ralph, a famed eye surgeon who lost his mind in the Korean War and is determined to build a hospital, blueprints and all. But, Steve is caught up in this madness just as much as can be and can’t get free. This novel is all about the ever growing horror of being in the grip of a psychopath who plays by his own rules and barely has a grip on reality.
SOME MUST DIE
77 Rue Paradis (1954)
77 Rue Paradis is a bit of a departure from Brewer’s norms. It is not a hardboiled crime novel. Rather, it is a bit of European espionage fiction, but told in Brewer’s own way as it also involves a man faced with betrayals and at the end of his rope. The address in the title refers to an apartment in Marseille, France, where Frank Baron has sunk to. Baron is on his last dime, without the wherewithal to pay the rent or even pay his bar tab. His only companion is streetwalking girl, Elene. He is reduced to this: “this cheap room with this cheap cocotte who somehow still possessed her soul. And to what was left of himself.” “Ruined, destroyed, shattered by a lie.” It is a compelling story and races on to a conclusion, but it is strikingly different than what most readers of Brewer’s works have come to expect.
The story though has little to do with the cover picture or the publisher’s blurb about an angel from the streets.
The Squeeze (1955)
Red scarf (1955)
n the Red Scarf, we get the classic motifs of the sexy tartlet with the beguiling eyes and a briefcase full of money and, of course, its mob money and she’s on the run. An Everyman down on his luck struggling to keep his motel afloat gets involved and much of the drama is the back and forth he goes through between being bewitched by the woman and the money and doing the right thing. He fest know how to come clean, not to his wife and not to the law either. He just keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into the quagmire of greed, guilt, and bad decisions.
And The Girl Screamed (1956)
And The Girl Screamed is a 1956 pulp classic by Gil Brewer, who wrote like crazy for many years, churning out top-notch pulp novel after top- notch pulp novel. This one centers around a familiar theme of a man on the run from the law because of a murder he did not commit and his single-minded pursuit of solving the crime before he is put behind bars for good. It also features other pulp motifs such as an obsession with a illicit affair and juvenile delinquency. Like all of Brewer’s novels, this one is fast-moving and the action does not let up from page one to the end.
He’s on the run and the law is on his heels as he tries to solve the crime himself, first going to the murder victim’s parents and posing as the investigator and then visiting the girl’s best friend, who lives without parents and thinks Cliff is just another man sent over for her to entertain for a few kicks and a few bucks. There is a theme running throughout the book about the teen delinquents who are running over town and acting immorally, without regard for the law. The narrator explains that the town had been getting hot on a delinquent kick. High schools had been torn up and painted up with gang names. “Kids would be kids, but the past few years it sometimes got so it would scare you.” There are some vivid scenes of a teen party out of control and the drunken parent partying with the kids and teens assaulting adults who are out to stop them.
Overall, it is another excellent piece by Brewer that moves quickly and vividly through the man-on-the-run plot.
The Angry Dream (1957)
Brewer would write feverishly for days in heated passion and then fall into
exhaustion. He tried to kill his pain with alcohol and eventually drank
himself into oblivion. His characters were all tormented by demons
from the past, trapped by situations, tricked by temptresses that they
could not resist.
The Angry Dream is a bit of a break from Brewer’s general work which
had at its focus St. Petersburg or other Eastern cities and involved
characters framed by young women who had the main characters in a
hypnotic trance until they finally realized who they had been with and
what their “angel” had done to them. The Angry Dream takes place in
a small farming town in the country. Brewer is never explicit as to
where the town is. Pine Springs is somewhere where the first snows
come at the end of October. It could be Wyoming or Montana,
somewhere out west.
The back cover blurb of the old paperback suggests that it is a story
about three women trapped in a town with only one way out – to kill
the narrator. This publisher’s blurb, however, simply does not give a
hint as to what the story is about and, truth be told, is simply not
accurate. And, the first of the women listed in the blurb- Jeannie – is
but a bit character.
Al Harper has been away from Pine Springs for eight long years. He
left because he couldn’t stand his father anymore. His father was a
miser who held the mortgages on half the town’s properties and never
gave anyone any slack. Harper left and never came back, not even
when he heard that his father had hung himself in the bank where he
had worked, found by his employees hanging from the antlers mounted on the wall.
Harper had, instead, moved from town to town,
never sticking anywhere. In New York City, he had gotten a job as a
driver for a man, never realizing that he was the getaway driver for a
jewel thief. During the time he had been driving the man, Harper had
a relationship with the man’s daughter, Noraine, but after he was left
to take the rap, he no longer trusted her and felt betrayed. Nevertheless, Noraine followed him from town to town, proclaiming
her undying love for him.
But, a man can only run from his demons for so long and it is now
time for Harper to return to the town where he grew up and face
whatever is left there. Throughout the story, the reader feels that the
sun never shines, that a cold wind is always blowing, and the trees are
all bare, the earth desolate. Harper returns to a town where he is a
stranger in a strange land and every man is turned against him. The
story is that his father did not just kill himself. When his father was
found hanging in the bank, the vaults were all empty and every bit of
savings in the town had vanished. Practically every family in the town
was bankrupted. The town had rioted and torn the doors and windows
off the bank. Years later, Harper returned, but the stain of what his
father was blamed for is on him now. He is warned by everyone he
meets to turn around and leave town. No one will talk to him or do
business with him. His house is vandalized and the sheriff suggests
that the best solution is for Harper to leave and take his troubles with
him. There are suspicions that Harper might have got the stolen
money and broken the town. There is no one on his side and no one
with even a kind word for him or a smile.
Not even Lois, the girl he had promised to marry before he left and
never came back. He never even wrote. Lois still lives in her father’s
house, up on the hill. She races around town in an alcoholic daze in
her white jaguar and has not forgiven Harper for leaving her.
Harper is determined not to be pushed out of town no matter how
many threats and how many beatings he has to take. And, when the
bodies start piling up and he is set up to take the fall, the walls really
start closing in on him.
Brewer takes this outline and makes a terrific story out of it. It is a
book that is hard to put down until you get to the end. As the reader, you feel the emptiness out there in Pine Springs and you feel how
every hand is raised against Harper.
Little Tramp (1957)
Little Tramp is a terrific noir-era pulp story, although it is not one of Brewer’s best known works. The story involves, Gary Dunn, a man who runs into trouble wherever he goes and there’s generally, as in many of Brewer’s books, a woman behind the trouble.
Dunn is on the right track now. He has a job at a lumber yard. He is engaged to Doll (short for Dolores), who works at a strip club at the edge of town, and they are making plans to do everything right. Gary wants it now “after all the hell-for-leather-bottle-and-a-babe years, an after what Jane Matthias had done to him up in Alexandria.” Only there wouldn’t be a story if there wasn’t a monkey wrench in his plans and here the monkey wrench is in the form of the Boss’s daughter, who asks for him by name to come out to the house and build some shelves. Only he had met this one before: “He had seen her twice and she’d come damn close to being a problem.” She flagged him down when she had a flat tire. “Anybody would have stopped for a looker like that one, though she was damned young.” While he changed the tire, “she leaned against the side of the car, watching, the long tanned legs disturbingly near his arms.” This one was trouble with a capital T. When he gets to the mansion where the boss lived, he saw her bare feet with neat crimson toenails, “silver shorts, high and snug around warm brown thighs.” He wanted out. He didn’t know what was going on, but “she was scheming and he couldn’t take being played like a fish.” “He knew the way he felt, he had to get away from her. From the moment he’d seen this girl standing at that intersection, calling to him about a flat tire, he’d been suspicious. Now he had every reason to hate her, and just looking at her told him there was nothing he’d be able to do about it.” But this one is hell on wheels, and when he doesn’t go for her proposition and her father is pulling up in the driveway, she tore her jersey, exposing herself, scratching at him with her nails. “She mussed her hair, and he heard the zing of the zipper on her shorts.” Franklin Harper walks in, his face beet-red, and Gary is now out of a job and his life is falling apart. All because of Arlene Harper, the manipulative little —. Brewer paint a guy into a corner and a no-win situation.
This one is a terrific fast-reading pulp piece. Best thing about it is as a reader you can feel Gary’s anger and frustration as he backed into one corner after another with no way out by Arlene, this crazy girl. “That wild, crazy, scheming little bitch.” “She was either crazy as hell, or the deadliest schemer he’d ever met up with.” Nobody would ever believe this was my plan, she tells Gary. “He’d been too close to hell too many times not to recognize the furnace when he was inside walking on the burning grate.” “He did not move. He was sick, and it was like a dream.” “Her body moved close and he heard her tight breathing. She slid onto his lap, holding the drink in one hand, circling his neck with the other arm.”
Brewer takes the reader into a journey that is the hell Gary’s world has become with this she-devil, one second manipulating him and one second seducing him and all the world thinks he kidnapped her. One terrific pulp story.
The Brat (1957)
Gil Brewer is one of my favorite pulp writers. His stories are easy to read and highly emotional. He is such a good writer that, as a reader, you are drawn into the story before you ever know it. Many of his stories have familiar pulp motifs such as the evil seductress, the man being framed for a murder he did not commit, a man on the run from the law. The Brat is no exception to this rule and has at its source a femme fatale from the Florida swamps, a creature from the swamp. The narrator explains that the first time he saw her “she was sitting on the edge of a deserted wharf. The warm swamp air was tugging at her thin cotton dress. She was a fused explosion, a direct hit. Everything about her was boldly evident. It was like being struck – hot and hard.” This is Evis. It is a story of greed and a story of obsession. It is, most of all, a damn good story.
Lee Sullivan’s wife was killed in a car crash and he wandered around morose and dying inside and living off his savings until he met Evie in the Florida swamps. “A thick mop of ash-blonde hair. Long, tight roundings of thigh beneath scant, clinging white cotton.” “it was like diving at her through the air. Nobody else around. No sound, save for the steadied and myriad swamp confusion. Like a dream, with the yes, yes, yes of her eyes and mouth and body under the too thin, too tight cotton – bare and ripe under the cotton.” “Stranger, swamp-whore — no matter what she was, I no longer cared. I had found her – and that did matter.”
Evie was a backwoods girl and she was determined to get out. Sullivan wondered if she had fallen for him or if she would have fallen for anyone who had come along and been willing to take her out of there. They married and made a life in Tampa with Evie constantly wanting more, a bigger house, a nicer dress. He gets a job as a printer and she works for a savings and loan. Eventually, all they have isn’t enough and Evie wants him to help her steal from the savings association. Sullivan wants to back out, but when he gets up from his drunk, she’s gone. He explains that she was willful, overwrought, and he now knew crazy in a lot of ways. He had to reach her before she did this thing. “The little trigger in her brain that should scare her about the Law was missing. I loved her for that, too. I loved her, even knowing what she was.”
And, at the savings association, he finds the president of the company shot, a note from Evie indicating he might stop by, and the gun wrapped up in Sullivan’s jacket. “There was a round, blood-clotted hole in the side of his neck and he was dead.”
Evie had set him up to take the fall and skeedaddled with $100,000 to the swamps and what’s more she seems to have left with Sullivan’s best friend in tow. “Right then,” Sullivan explains, “maybe I died too. The whole thing was one great big thunderclap over my head.”
At some point, Sullivan realizes what Evie is: “She was an animal. She’d done this to me. She’d ripped me apart ever since I’d known her.” But his only chance to stay out of jail was to “find that crazy bitch and get the money back.”
Sullivan tracks her to the swampland and, staying one step ahead of the sheriff, tries to catch her and the money before he takes the rap.
But, what’s so terrific about the story is not necessarily the plot, but the incredible writing. Brewer takes you into Sullivan’s world as he tracks Evie through the swamp and the backwoods world where she lived. He makes you feel the distrust and the betrayal as Sullivan catches up with her and realizes what she really was and that no man alive could ever trust her.
Brewer is at his best describing the hypnotic spell that Evie has Sullivan under. “She knew all I had to do was look at her, and if I touched her I’d go blind. It was like that. The juice was turned on. I didn’t want to turn it off. I couldn’t turn it off.”
He also nails it with his description of Evie’s family, spitting tobacco juice, discussing fish and Fords And Cadillacs and how her mother had gleaming black hair and uncurious eyes. Of course, then there’s the cousin, a black-haired, rawboned man in a flannel shirt and dungarees, who had her bent back over a bracing two-by-four, sucking mouths, moaning like animals.
Gil Brewer’s Florida is hot and steamy and maddening. His books almost always have a man on the run, missing loot, and a scorching lustful heat that fills the air. Lee has come back to Florida to carry on dad’s PI business though he couldn’t stand the man and to relive old memories and perhaps rekindle old flames.
And, the Florida he returns to is intoxicating when Ivor calls him up and asks a favor. She still mesmerizes him with her curves and her eyes and her scent to the point where he can barely breathe, but she’s living in the trashiest trailer park imaginable with a vicious louse for a husband. She’s a tarnished dream that Lee can’t get out if his head, not even when her sister Asa, a drunk, lustful Helen of Troy who always has a drink in her hand and a skimpy negligee on, gets involved.
The two sisters and their hypnotic hips and twisted marriages might fill the book if it weren’t for some corpses and a whole lot of loot from a bank robbery.
The plot doesn’t always hang together, but Brewer fills it with enough excitement and action that it reels you in.
THE VENGEFUL VIRGIN (1958)
Vengeful Virgin might at first glance appear to be just another Postman Rings Twice triangle of lust, passion, greed, and self- destruction. It’s got the mean old man who won’t die, the young sexy nympho who can’t leave the old man, the money she stands to get when he goes six feet under, and the character who is seduced by the young woman and loses his mind over her. But: this is Gil Brewer’s take on this seductive tale and it is red hot noir like you’ve never read before.
How good is Brewer’s writing. Well, he grabs with the first paragraph and never lets go of his death-grip on your throat. “She wasn’t what you would call beautiful. She was just a red-haired girl with a lot of sock,” is what he opens with. Shirley Angela is her name and she is the eighteen-year-old stepdaughter of a rich, old man confined ninety percent of the time to a hospital bed in his home. She has spent three years tending to his every need and can’t walk away because he has $400,000 socked away in the bank and she stands to inherit it if she survives.
Jack Ruxton is the tv repairman. She, it seems, hires him to install televisions and remote controls and intercoms in every room. “She was a puzzler. I knew she was in her teens, yet she had the poise and direct and deadly poise of a woman beyond her years.” He couldn’t keep his eyes off legs and she knew it. As she helped the old man, Jack watched her across the bed and knew she knew what he had been thinking- what if the bed were empty and he wasn’t there. As he leaves there, he thinks about the feeling you get, just a little tight in the chest, not quite enough air.
The next day, Jack realizes that she isn’t even looking at the brochures he brings. She came up against him, “watching [him] with big round eyes.” And, he went “nuts for her.” “She began to groan and moan, writhing wildly. She was a tiger.” He explains: “I knew I’d never get enough of her. She was straight out of hell.” Wow. Doesn’t Brewer just say it all there. This femme fatale is no innocent babe in the woods. Nope, she is “straight out of hell.” And, she is going to drag him with her back into hell, isn’t she?
The third day, Jack comes over and she tells him, “I wish he was dead.” When he tells her that she doesn’t want the old man in the hospital because the doctors might just keep him alive forever, she wrenches her hands loose and rakes her nails down the side of Jack’s neck. “She squirmed and writhed and kicked.” There is nothing but raw red hot emotion in Brewer’s stories and the people are filled with passion so scorching that their guts are just ripped apart inside and they never can find peace.
Brewer does an amazing job of letting the reader see the world through Jack’s eyes, feeling his pain and his desperation. But, maybe that was the point. This is his story — his confession. He is a womanizer. He beats his girlfriend Grace like she’s a punching bag. He seduces a barely legal teen and convinces her to kill her stepfather so he can get his hands on the money. And, throughout the story, it’s not his fault. This temptress from the gateway of hell made him crazy, made him sick in the head. Grace wouldn’t leave him alone do he had to teach her a lesson. The old man was taking advantage of his stepdaughter rather than spending money on a nurse. The nosy neighbor can’t stay out of it, won’t leave him alone, Is he the devil or just another hard luck case?
This is one terrific noir story on do many levels. It’s worth reading more than once.
the BITCH (1958)
Gil Brewer is far and away one of the top noir-era writers, but sadly he is not as well-known or as well-read today as some of his contemporaries. At first glance, many of his books might seem to be dime-store garbage quickly scrawled and sent off to the publisher. However, despite the lurid titles and the tittilating covers, Brewer was a first-class writer and his writing was so skilled that he draws the reader into his ordinary joe on the run novels, often set in the swamps and small towns of Gulf Coast Florida.
“The Bitch” is a terrific example of fifties-era noir. It has everything in it: femme fatales, armed robbery, murder, gangsters, frame jobs, desperation, and madness. The story is about two brothers, both in love with the same woman. The brothers (Sam and Tate Morgan) run a security agency and, among other things, they are charged with protecting the payroll of a bottling company on payday. It is really Sam’s agency. Sam is the hardworking guy who always tries to do the right thing. Tate is the screw-up who is always getting in a jam. All Tate’s life, Sam has played the big brother and bailed him out and Tate sure resents it and resents Sam’s superior attitude towards him. Although both brothers have it in for Janet, somehow the screw-up Tate marries her and Sam resents that just as you’d think he would.
Meanwhile, Tate has met up with the bottling company boss’s wife (Thelma) and she is many years the boss’s junior and as cheap and bought as anyone could be. Thelma convinces Tate to join up in a scheme with some hoodlum friends of hers, a scheme to rob the payroll. With a quarter of a million dollars in cash, Thelma can walk away from her old sugar-daddy (Halquist) and Tate can go and make something of himself. See, Thelma isn’t planning on sticking around with Halquist and the way Tate met her is that Halquist hired him to follow her around and find out the dirt on her.
Of course, it all goes to hell in a handbasket and, when the robbery goes down, shots are fired, people are killed, and Tate grabs the money and he is off running. Luck being short for him, no one believes Tate when he says he didn’t kill anyone and somehow lost the money. His brother doesn’t believe him. The police don’t believe him. The hoodlums don’t believe him.
What makes this book an essential piece of noir-era reading is not so much the plot, but Brewer’s fantastic writing.
He sets the dark, somber mood from the beginning: “you might have called it a morning like all mornings. If you had, you would have been dead wrong – dead wrong, for me. There was no sunshine in my morning.” Ouch! Tate knows the robbery is supposed to go down that night and that he “was the guy who was wrong,” who would step on the other side of the Law, into a deal that would wreck his brother’s career. “Yet it was something I had to do,” he explains. “It was a lousy thing to live with, and when tomorrow morning rolled around it would be that much worse.” Why does he need this money? He explains: “Maybe it would help remedy all the sour and hellish dreams gone dead. Right or wrong, it no longer mattered.” Wow! Brewer has Tate swimming around in a deep, dark place, doesn’t he?
Tate complains that he never succeeded at anything and never “made it any damned way.” He was a failure in Janet’s eyes and couldn’t stand it. “My life,” he says, “was a thick volume of glorious errors, of hurt to other people, of angry mistakes.”
You also get the feeling that Tate isn’t such a bad guy. He wants to do good. He wants to succeed, but it all gets mucked up. Once the robbery starts going down, for Tate, “It was a little like being socked in the chest with a board.” “It was like a movie nightmare scene.”
And, this book is noir all the damn way down the hell hole. Thelma lies among the pillows “in a tired, wanton knot, half on her side, one knee in the air. “She wore some kind of a pink, smoky-looking getup with little white and red bows along the edges.” But, she is dangerous: “A small, distant look of brooding animalism came into her eyes and twisted at the corners of her mouth. He neat, tiny white chips of teeth showed between her lips, and there was something trance-like about her.” Tate knows “she was a beautiful woman. Only you knew it would be good for a time, and then she would be beautiful to someone else, too.” Right there, Brewer, in just a few words, tells the tale of Thelma.
Brewer’s characters are not happy-go-lucky types. These are tormented souls that are compelled to try this and that to make their lives right, but nothing is ever right or pure or safe. These characters are always on the run. But, no matter how fast they run, they can’t escape themselves or what they’ve left behind.
WILD TO POSSESS (1959)
It begins with Lew Brookbank drunkenly driving up the Florida highways in the middle of the night with a bottle of gin and a bunch of signs. The mood of this piece starts right at the beginning. “The bottle is on the floor of the car. He reached in, brought it out, uncapped it, and read the label.” He hated Florida and wished he could get away from it -from “every last flat wet stinking acre.” “He drove sullenly now, feeling the rotten core of what was always with him, down inside his vitals, squeezing and tugging at his heart.” He has plenty to drink about. It had been four months earlier “when he had swum out to Clarkson’s yacht, the Bayou Belle, and found his wife, Janice, and that pop-eyed Lousiana on one of the bunks in the deck cabin. Thinking of it again, remembering the everlasting pain, his heart seemed to squeeze dry like a sponge. Like a scream.” And with that, the reader is lost inside Lew’s world – Lew’s painful, alcoholic, depressed world. Of course, he didn’t just catch Janice in the act, but remembered: “Janice’s face was frozen in the throes of her lust. Whether or not death changed things, her eyes were glazed with that wild, wanton, uncaring passion.”
He left that city and found another town, another name, another life. Made a sort of living painting signs and drinking. Until one night, he overhears a couple plotting what might be a kidnapping and murder of a man’s wife and thinks he can figure out a way to cut himself into the boodle that is going to paid in ransom. “Somehow she didn’t’ appear to be the type of dame who would plot murder. Her face was faintly heart-shaped under a dark blonde mass of rich ringlets, swept up around her head.” “She walked a shade on the balls of her feet, her behind bouncing, her skirt clinging tightly to her hips and thighs. It wasn’t overdone, but it had tremendous sock and she knew it.”
It is a terrific story. It is solidly noir. It is dark, foreboding, depressing, miserable. Boy, can Brewer write. This story just sails along and it is filled with intense emotion and solid description.
bACKWOODS TEASER (1960)
THREE-WAY SPLIT (1960)
pLAY IT HARD (1960)
NUDE ON THIN ICE (1960)
If you enjoy classic pulp fiction from the fifties and early sixties, then at some point you will become acquainted with the work of Gil Brewer, one of the true masters of the craft. Brewer’s novels are portraits of lust-filled characters who are compelled by money and passion to do things those with sane minds wouldn’t do. His characters are stuck on a path to destruction and can’t stop even when they can see quite clearly where they are going.
Nude on Thin Ice is a particular type of pulp novel where almost every character in it is twisted in some way. Few of the characters offer any redeeming qualities, including the protagonist Ken McCall, who is about as swarmy and slimy as they come, out to use anyone he can get his hands on, motivated by greed and lust and panic, woman-dumper, woman-beater, playboy, degenerate, etc. What makes the book great is how Brewer makes the reader care about what happens to this miserable creature.
Others in the book are greedy, vain, manipulative, conniving, incestuous, violent, sneaky, lying, and hateful. What do you expect from a story about a jerk who dumps his girlfriend and hightails it across the country merely to attempt to seduce his best friend’s widow and get his hands on her fortune? And,
Slimy Ken may just be the most sane and levelheaded one in the veritable madhouse that buddy Carl Schroeder left behind.
The story is well-plotted and compelling but it’s Brewer’s writing filled as it is with pulpy goodness that blasts this novel into the hall of pulp fame.
APPOINTMENT IN HELL (1961)
A TASTE FOR SIN (1961)
It involves another drifter, another loser, who finds himself involved somehow in a huge bank robbery, in murder and kidnapping. He also has a past: Jinny, the old nightmare he couldn’t rid himself of. Jinny was another faithless woman. He found her one afternoon in the backroom of his shop, making it with his friend. Theirs had been an innocent pure romance, walking through the square in Santa Fe right after it rained, cutting across the park. Jim had come into the shop and saw Les “had her up on the work bench between the vise and the table saw. She wore a white fluffy dress. She squealed with delight.” The blood was then all over everything amid the screaming. He explained: “Blood shot all over the workshop behind the Navajo blanket curtains of the front part of the store, as I carefully fashioned Les Pine into something that would look like a man when he wore clothes. If he lived.” After several months in the asylum, Jim came home and “found Jinny in the same fluffy white dress, hanging with her arms in the bathtub, her head hanging, kneeling on the floor.” “She had cut her wrists with a leather-working gouge. They hung in tepid water which faintly resembled tomato soup.” Wow and that’s just the background to explain Jim’s state of mind. No one writes like Gil Brewer. These characters are just filled with too much emotion and pain for any human to bear.
He works as a clerk in a liquor store and is months behind in all his bills. But, this one involves a more classic femme fatale: Felice Anderson. She had a husband, but “So far that hadn’t mattered, the way we’d looked at each other when she came to the store to order booze.” “She could balance your libido with her eyes.” “She reached and held her thick black hair up away from her head, those dark lips spread and the white teeth gleaming with an expression that was pure animal.” Felice entices Jim with her rape fantasies and then pushes him to rob the bank and murder her husband, the bank manager. Meanwhile, Jim robbed the liquor store where he worked and beat a cop in the process and there’s a detective using his vacation time to chase down who did it. The detective has his eye on Jim as Jim and Felice are trying to pull off the million-dollar caper.
MEMORY OF PASSION (1962)
Coming at things from an
entirely different angle, Memory starts out in a square, middle-class
world. But, that Ozzie and Harriet fantasy doesn’t last long as
underneath the covers, there’s a world of immorality, infidelity, skinny
dipping parties, secret rendevouses, stalkers, serial killers, and utter
madness. The main characters here, just as in Nude, are not wonderful
portraits of moral virtue. They are all deeply flawed and impelled by
compulsive passions. Adultery just starts the alphabet here. Above all,
it is a story of madness, of descents into madness and passions where
the main character just can’t help himself even though he knows he is
digging a hole deeper and deeper.
THE HUNGRY ONE (1966)
“The Hungry One” is a fairly short – 128-page pulp novel — by Gil Brewer. This isn’t one of his better known pulp novels, but it is an enjoyable, quick read.
The plot is simple and lacks some of the twists and turns of Brewer’s more complex work, but it consists of a square married couple on their way to an important business meeting running smack into a hopped- up pair of counter-culture hooligans. The counter-culture pair includes a rich girl who wants to get back at daddy and her streetwise violent boyfriend. The plan is to tell Daddy that Joy, who just happens to have the hair color and voluptuous body of Mansfield and thinks everything is just for kicks, has been kidnapped and collect the ransom. Wilma and Herb fall into their hands and they are going to use them to collect the loot.
It is a story of the shock of two diverse lifestyles banging against each other and the terror of this square couple held against their will at gunpoint. While the story may not be unique, Brewer is always a master storyteller and turns this dime store paperback into a compelling read that is really hard to put down. While it is generally not considered one of Brewer’s greatest hits, it’s a worthwhile read.
THE TEASE (1967)
“The Tease” begins with a suburban couple on Florida’s gulf coast fighting. After she leaves for her sister’s, things get interesting with a naked bombshell running off the beach and asking for help. And, boy, is she in trouble, with a killing on her hands and a crew of hoodlums on her tail. You see there’s a suitcase full of money and she’s willing to share it if they can get away with it. It’s an easy read, but our dear hero wavers between all out succumbing to the bombshell’s machinations and going back to his humdrum life and angry wife. He runs between red hot moments and lukewarm and is never fully committed one way or another.
SIN FOR ME (1967)
“Sin For Me” coincidentally features another real estate salesman, but he’s nursing a bitter divorce from a femme fatale extraordinaire. Sunderland’ ex-wife’s new husband’s ex comes to Sunderland with a scheme to get bank robbery money secreted in Sunderland’s old house where his ex wife lives with the new husband. It’s another story of an ordinary Joe with the law after him and a suitcase of money he can’t seem to reach.
IT TAKES A THIEF THE DEVIL IN DAVOS (1969)
IT TAKES THIEF #2
IT TAKES A THIEF # 3
THE EROTICS/GUN THE DAME DOWN/ANGRY ARNOLD
Betrayals, Patsies, Mr.Death, and A Serial Killer
This Stark House edition has three previously unpublished (rejected) works by Brewer from the later downside of his career in the early 1970’s. All three novels are quite different.
“The Erotics,” the first of the three novels, has a traditional pulpy Brewer plot with a love triangle, a planned murder, and a man on the run from the law for a robbery-murder he didn’t commit. In true pulp fashion, Chris has a tattered personal history beginning with, as a nine year old, watching his parents be murdered with a pitchfork, his failure as an artist, and his jealous competition with the man he is accused of killing. Sun-drenched passion, betrayals, and desperation fill out the picture. It is readable with lots of recognizable motifs, although it seems to lack the kind of vivid scorching hot prose that made Brewer’s better-known works from the fifties such a blast to read.
The second novel, “Gun The Dame Down,” is the most satisfying of the three novels. On the surface, this is Brewer’s foray into the realm of the traditional hardboiled detective. But, it’s a story with all sorts of twisted off-beat Thompson-esque characters, beginning with a detective named William Death, an odd family in a giant mansion including the current wife, the ex-wife, a mentally disabled adult son, the nymphomaniacal daughter who hitched a ride with Death to a neighbor’s house for a swim minutes after her father’s corpse is discovered, a woman named Cadillac because her parents met in a Cadillac and she was conceived in a Cadillac. The story feels off-kilter and there’s a sneaking suspicion that a lot of this is a tongue-in-cheek parody of a hardboiled detective story. Very readable. Lots of fun.
The final story is Angry Arnold. It is a journey into the mind and viewpoint of a serial killer, a jobless loner who lives with his sister and is obsessed with beautiful women. While certainly readable, it is all too predictable and, in the end, nothing special.
This volume also includes a really great introduction by Chris Rogers, tracing Brewer’s career in historical and thematic perspective.
A DEVIL FOR O’SHAUGNESSY/ THE THREE-WAY SPLIT (2008)
REDHEADS DIE QUICKLY AND OTHER STORIES
DEATH IS A PRIVATE EYE