Friday, January 30, 2015

Cloak & Dagger RC #2

Kill Now, Pay Later – Robert Terrall

Written in 1960, this is very much a guy’s PI mystery, given the drinking, hard-boiled dialogue and young women throwing themselves at the series hero Ben Gates. He is sent by an insurance company to guard the wedding presents at the swanky nuptials hosted by the president of a big pharma firm. Problem is, somebody drugs Ben’s coffee. He wakes up to find that his fellow PI has killed a robber who scared the matron of the house so badly that she dropped dead of a heart attack. Although nothing has gone missing, Gates’ professional reputation and livelihood are on the line.

The cops mock Gates’ claim about the drugged coffee. So he gets the rich papa as a client and starts an investigation into who was the insider that aided the robber. The story moves along at a brisk pace, with sometimes little breathers to give seductresses and hussies a try at handsome Gates. Buttons pop. Arms are extended. Duds are doffed. Also featured is standard material on the greed and amorality of the rich. One can tell hard-boiled pulpy stories originated in the anti-rich days of the Great Depression – and so did authors born in the Twenties whose families were adversely affected by the economic slump.

This private eye tale was reissued in 2007 by the publisher Hard Case Crime. Their mode of operation seems to be to choose the better or best of Fifties and Sixties writers such as Day Keene and Charles Williams. These books have first-person narration, hard-boiled dialogue, surprising twists, fast pacing, a minimum of violence, scantily-clad women, and rocking finales. Not great, not especially memorable, but enjoyable.

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