Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Gil Brewer: The Red Scarf

A Crest reprint
Gil Brewer was one of the best crime and noir paperbackers of the fifties and early sixties. I've read several of his novels in Finnish translation and liked them all. They are fast and plausible, and the protagonists have to overcome some heavy obstacles in their way.

Same goes for The Red Scarf (1958). It was published in hardcover by Mystery House, a cheap lending-library publisher that paid $300 for the book, after it was rejected by Brewer's usual publisher, Fawcett Gold Medal, and other paperback publishers. Still it's an outstanding book, one of Brewer's best, which is saying a lot. This is one of those books where your typical lower middle-class working person gets into a trouble, can't find his (or her) way out of it and just digs his hole deeper and deeper. In The Red Scarf the protagonist is a nice young man who runs a motel with his wife. They have no money and it seems there won't be the new highway that was promised when they bought the motel. Then a femme fatale comes in, with loads of money. It's just that the money belongs to the mob. (You'll find a longer description of the book at Mystery*File, by Bill Pronzini and Lynn Munroe.)

The Red Scarf is very well paced and tightly written little monster of a book. Before I read it, I was struggling with another book from the same era and thinking they must be all like this, but I was delighted to find Brewer's book just blew me away. I couldn't stop reading. The most important thing about this kind of a book is that it remains believable through the end - and the ending is not the most happy one.

By the way, Gil Brewer doesn't have a Wikipedia article! Quick, someone!

6 comments:

Todd Mason said...

As you see at my post, MERCURY MYSTERY actually got first crack at it due to Fawcett's stupidity, but that also probably didn't make Brewer enough richer for the satisfaction.

So, Juri...*you* could start the Brewer article...I should check to see if a few other writers have theirs yet...

Barry Ergang said...

My own review from 2012: http://kevintipplescorner.blogspot.com/2012/08/ffb-review-red-scarf-1952-by-gil-brewer.html

Mathew Paust said...

You're right, Juri, a Wiki piece needs to be done on Brewer. Perhaps destiny calls?

Ron Clinton said...

Brewer's always been one of my favorites. A new collection of three unpublished works was just released by Stark House...one of my most anticipated reads for some time. Oh, and I just picked up ANGEL, a pbo that I thought I'd already read, but turned out was the only Brewer book I didn't have...so I have some great Brewer reading ahead of me this winter. :-)

Juri Nummelin said...

Thanks for the confidence, sirs! I'll try to squeeze it in.

Juri Nummelin said...

And I'll really have to have the Stark House book.