Wild by Gil Brewer (Gold Medal, 1958)
Private eye Lee Baron has come from California to take over his dead father’s P.I. biz in Florida. His first client is an old high school flame, Ivor Hendrix (Ivy?), who has had a spat with her trailer park husband and is afraid he’ll beat or kill her; she wants Lee to go talk to him and make sure all is okay.
It’s difficult for Lee, to see his old flame again, to remember all that youthful lust and fumblings…she’s older, but sexier, a woman he still has some feeings for.
He goes to the trailer out there in the Florida backwoods, and finds the husband: dead, and not a pretty decaying body.
He muses: “A corpse looks strange with no arms.” (p. 14).
Brewer jumps right into the action, wasting little time with character set-up. Dead bodies, big fat philosophizing thugs, wayward young women, love sick salesmen, a hound dog, cliched cops, backwoods hicks, shady guys in backroom bars, another dead body, $400K from a bank heist, this book has all the hackneyed elements from any PI novel. But in 1958, they were not so hackneyed — other writers have since borrowed, pilfered, and appropriated so that the elements are now cliche.
It’s a bit predictable. Brewer was not cut out for the gumshoe genre — with The Venegul Virgin and The Three-Way Spilt, he was best suited to crime, caper, and double-cross. There’s a double-cross here, of course, but you see it coming.
A fun read, though; but on the 1-10 scale, I’d give it a 7.