Friday, February 05, 2010

Forgotten Books: NEVER SAY NO TO A KILLER --Jonathan Gant (Clifton Adams)

Clifton Adams wrote some of my favorite Gold Medal books: The Desperado, Whom Gods Destroy, Death's Sweet Song. This one isn't in that league, but it's worth a quick read. (By the way, all of these titles are available for free at this site if you have a Kindle. Other formats are available, too.)

In the opening chapter, Roy Surratt escapes from a prison chain gang. It's part of a plan he set up with his former cellmate, Joe Venci. They're to meet later, but when Roy arrives at the appointed place, Joe's wife is there. Joe is dead, and his wife wants Roy to kill someone for her. Roy figures out that Joe was blackmailing the town's prominent citizens, so he decides to take over.

Roy regards himself as a philosopher and prides himself on his IQ (149) and his superiority to everyone around him. You know where this is going, already, don't you? One of the blackmail schemes go awry. Roy meets another woman, Pat Kelso, and falls for her, but Joe's wife is still after him because he understands her needs. They're different needs, for sure, and the kinkiness of their encounters is pretty startling. Think The Killer Inside Me, and you won't be far wrong.

Things fall apart, and Roy goes on the run. He also makes a number of blunders, and he finds out that maybe his supposedly superior brain hasn't allowed him to fool as many people as he thought. It doesn't end well for him, but that's not a spoiler. You knew it wouldn't.

This is noir in the vein of Thompson and Horace McCoy (Kiss Tomorrow Good-Bye, in particular). I've written about it before, for the "Gold Medal Corner" on Steve Lewis' Mystery*File. I was going to link to that column, but I couldn't locate it. I'm pretty sure I said essentially the same thing, though.

8 comments:

  1. I can't believe you can get it free on a kindle. Might have to invest in one soon.

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  2. This is one of the better ACE novels that came out in the 1950s. And Bill, I'm with you on your first sentence. Clifton Adams wrote some of my favorite novels also. Back a couple of years ago when I finished "Never Say No to a Killer," I immediately had do a posting on it. It's a good noir novel.

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  3. I'll have to root around in the basement and find NEVER SAY NO TO A KILLER. Sounds good!

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  4. George has a root cellar? Wow.

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  5. I'm finding as I grow older (or something) the spiral into doom of noir books becomes less and less appealing. Not that I need cute hopping bunnies and a heavenly choir at the end of everything I read, but sometimes the fateful - often fatal - decisions these doomed characters make have me wanting to shake them by the lapels and shout "Wake up! Don't go there!". But they go anyway.

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  6. Somehow Clifton Adams got lost. When he was at his best as a western writer he was extraordinary. He had a strong sense of ironical humor and from it came his style and his take on this vale of tears. I'm speaking here mainly of his Amos Flagg series for Gold Medal. He also threw sidearm, against the melodrama even in his darkest books, making his people believable and recognizable. Glad to see him remembered in your most excellent review..

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  7. The cover says "complete and unabridged". Was this previously published elsewhere, or did Ace just want folks to think so?

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  8. A lot of '50s pb originals had that on the cover. Probably for the reason you suggest.

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