Tuesday, 11 August 2020

The Red Scarf - Gil Brewer


Classic noir from a classic noir author - that is to say, alcoholic and frustrated by his lack of success.  Gil Brewer drank himself to death in 1983, barely sixty years old.  Still, he had managed to more or less support himself and his family with his writing, entirely for the pulp paperbacks. The Red Scarf was published by Mystery House in 1958 and falls round about the middle of his oeuvre.  Roy Nichols and his wife Bess have gone about things the right way, the American way, starting out with nothing and working hard, damned hard, to build their little nest-egg and get into business.  They have bought a nice little motel right where a brand new highway is planned.  But then the highway is put on hold and they are living hand to mouth.  In desperation, Roy has headed up to Chicago to try and tap his brother Albert for a loan.  Albert, of course, will do no such thing.  Roy is down to his last few dollars - can't even afford the bus home.  So he cops a ride with a couple of grifters, Teece and Vivian.  They have a car, they have drink, Vivian has curves in all the preferred places and there is a briefcase of stolen money, held together with the red scarf of the title, Vivian's good luck talisman, which turns out to be not so lucky after all.

Plot is clearly paramount with Brewer and he does it really well, the fugitives holed up in Nichols' motel with Nichol's suspicious wife, the cops and the mob both hot on their trail.  The prose is proficient and the end perfectly satisfactory.  A paradigm of the genre - and only half the fun to be had from this Stark House Classic Noir ebook.

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