Monday, 28 September 2020

A Killer is Loose - Gil Brewer


A Killer is Loose (1954) is the second half of this two-for-one ebook from the golden age of pulp.  Steve Logan is down to rock bottom.  His wife Ruby is about to give birth any minute.  He is out of work and out of luck.  He is thinking of selling his treasured luger but first he wants to collect a couple of hundred bucks he's owed by a local bigshot for work did on his yacht.  Purely by chance he comes across Ralph Angers, who literally tries to walk in front of a bus.  Steve saves him, Ralph naturally feels obliged.  He insists of buying Steve a drink in the very bar where Steve planned on selling his luger.  Before Steve knows it, Ralph has the gun and the bar owner is dead.

Steve is dragged along as Ralph runs amok.  Ralph's girlfriend Lillian is another reluctant accomplice. Ralph is an eye surgeon gone mad.  He is carrying the blueprints for a state of the art eye hospital he plans to build - which is bad news indeed for the realtor he consults.  And while all this is going on, Steve knows his wife is in hospital, undergoing an especially difficult labour.

By compressing the timescale into a single day, Brewer cranks up the tension.  By limiting his characters to three principals he can offer us plenty of psychological insight.  I lapped it up.  A minor classic of its genre.

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