Monday, December 11, 2006

Have a Very Noir Xmas

Greg Shepard of Stark House, along with a small and equally daring group of other paperback houses (Hard Case Crime, Felony & Mayhem, Crippen & Landru, Millipede, to name a few) are dedicated to restoring to print the best mysteries and thrillers of the past.

Shepard’s latest effort, as fascinating and exciting as it is laudable, is a double dose of Gil Brewer – a tremendously gifted, deeply troubled man who was one of the stars of the Gold Medal stable of paperbacks which so many of us used to spend our quarters on in the 50s and 60s.

Anthony Boucher, the man who invented serious mystery reviewing, applauded A Taste of Sin in the New York Times for its “vigorous pace… and its wild, incredible, yet somehow compelling hyperbole in both crime and sex.” Like a James M. Cain on booze and speed, it tells the story of a woman who wants her lover to murder her bank manager husband and steal the bank’s money.

Wild to Possess is a more complicated story, but equally gripping – about a man who first discovers his wife and her lover murdered and then stumbles on the actual killers and decides to cut himself in on their bloody business.

“They were selling pulp fiction, yes, but it was a different, upscale kind of pulp,” says the wonderfully dedicated and resourceful Bill Pronzini of Gold Medal and its cohorts in his afterward – which, together with a 1990 memoir by Brewer’s wife provides details of the writer’s life which would make a stone weep. And if the cover has a familiar look, especially to Hard Case addicts, it’s a photo from the collection of ace paperback illustrator Robert Maguire, who did the original Wild to Possess cover.