Thursday, November 22, 2012

Redheads Die Quckly by Gil Brewer



For my money, Gil Brewer was one of the best pulpsters around.  Like his novels  13 French Street and The Red Scarf, Brewer's short stories, published from the early 1950s through the 1970s, still have the power to shock. And they might even be better than his novels. They are certainly wilder and more intense. Though some might complain about their occasional similarity,  Brewer could always find a new way to twist in the knife. Some of his stories, like Moonshine, even come close to a kind of pulp prose-poetry. Brutal, concise, and often misogynistic, everything in the collection seems to have been published during the 1950s, and usually  set in Florida, where Brewer moved once he'd been discharged from  the army. It should be pointed that Brewer's career continued right through the 1970s. Nevertheless, what's collected in Redheads Die Quickly is  Brewer at the top of his game. Moreover, they provide an  insight into the type of fiction published at the time in magazines like Manhunt, Detective Tales, Detective Fiction, Hunted Detective Story, Justice, etc.. The days of those magazines and stories are over, as is the role of jobbing writer. Gilbert John Brewer was born on 20 November 1922 in Canandaigua, New York, and died  9 January 1983, yet another writer paid by the word, and whose word-count never exceeded the parameters of his narrative. This collection, which comes with an excellent introduction and a thorough bibliography of Brewer's short fiction, both by editor David Rachels, should be read by anyone interested in the last days of the pulp era, as well as by those seeking to go beyond the usual suspects like Hammett and Chandler, to the real workers of the genre, who, struggling to make ends meet,  produced some of the best writing of its kind. While I can't agree with Rachels' assessment of Brewer as a descendant of literary naturalist Frank Norris, particularly the latter's McTeague,  I do agree with his assessment that Brewer's protagonists are ordinary people "whose circumstances cause them to break the law." Which, along with a straight-forward prose , is what makes his writing so powerful.

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6 comments :

dagoe commie said...

over the weekend i saw von stroheim's "greed" - a film based on McTeague - tour de force may be a hackneyed phrase, but appropriate for this cinema masterpiece

Woody Haut said...

Yes, Greed is one of my favorite films. And McTeague one of my favorite novels. Though I can see a glimmer of influence, I don't think it's as clear-cut as Rachels does.

Paul D Brazill said...

David Rachels did a guest blog about Brewer over at my place recently, if you fancy a gander:

http://pauldbrazill.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/guest-blog-gil-brewers-sexual-obsession-or-why-you-should-read-noir-short-stories-by-david-rachels/

Woody Haut said...

Just had a look at it. An excellent entry. Must check out Rachels' Noirboiled Notes as well.

Paul D Brazill said...

Woody, there's a Facebook group too:
Gil Brewer Appreciation Society

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/groups/420833311298321/

Woody Haut said...

That's for me. I'll sign up immediately.