Monday, September 28, 2015

A Killer is Loose (Gil Brewer, 1954)

Surprisingly, there are no virgins or femme fatales in this Brewer's pulp. Instead we have Ralph Angers - an eye surgeon specialist who only wants to build a hospital. He even has the exact blueprints of this hospital and he carries them manically with him all the time. I say manically because he in fact is a maniac. A poor guy is a Korean war veteran who has suffered a nervous breakdown and now wonders around some Florida small town where he stumbles upon our hero Steve. To be precise, it's the other way around since it is Steve who saves doc's life and by doing this (unknowingly) forms a band between the two men. Which in practical terms means he becomes (a kind of) a hostage who must follow the crazy doc on his killing spree.

It's fast moving, told in real-time and totally unpredictable. Cool stuff but unfortunately it doesn't work all the time. Especially parts where action takes place outside are not always totally believable. I mean - surely someone would have noticed a couple of guys walking around in the evening covered in mud with one of them carrying a gun in plain sight? But parts that take place indoors are excellent! Home invasion on Mrs Graham's house is a masterclass in tension escalation (reminded me to see Desperate Hours again) and scene with that little girl alone in the big house repeatedly having to play "Dancing in the Dark" on piano is the creepiest stuff I've read in a long time.

It's not exactly an in-depth study of mental illness but it's not just another serial killer story either. I think it tries to say that we sometimes need a bit of a shock therapy in order to appreciate the things we have. Steve is an invalid, he's jobless with his house under two mortgages but once he gets on this insane journey into darkness with Angers, all he can think of is his wife delivering their baby. Nice.

4/5

Facts:

Hero
I guess technically Steve would be our hero. But he keeps whining and doesn't do much about the situation except repeating how hopeless it is. And sometimes even praying. Fucking praying! So I think I'll chose Dr. Angers as a hero in this one.

Location
Some unnamed small town in Pinellas county, Florida

Body count
5, not counting the old man who was shot (but never confirmed as dead) after the accident and also not counting a cop towards the end (who simply dropped after being shot). Btw and for the record  - didn't feel too bad about that real-estate asshole.

Object of desire: 
To build a hospital where Dr. Angers could perform eye transplantation surgeries.

Dames
Lillian, a former dancer from Seattle and now (involuntary) girlfriend of Dr. Angers. There's also  large-breasted and round-hipped Mrs. Graham.

And there's a couple of appearances of Harvey Aldercook's woman. She is totally irrelevant to the story (don't remember if we even get to know her name) so it is even more surprising how viciously she is presented:

She was an insult to the female gender, a short circuit in the voluptuous, tender woman flesh man dreams upon. She was one of these ash-blonde, bony, saucer-eyed, skull-grinning, jut-jawed, false-breasted, fake-fannied, angle-posing, empty-thighed in-betweens they stamp out like tin slats for Venetian blinds in some bloodless, airless underground factory to supply that increasingly bewildering demand for sexless models such as she for certain women’s fashion magazines, where they loll backward gaping and pinch-nostriled in tight red and silver sashes, over an old freshly varnished beer barrel, holding long skinny umbrellas, point down in a sand dune. Sometimes you see them swooning pipe-lidded, paper-pale over a swirling Martini in a triple-sized cocktail glass with their long fleshless golden-tipped claws clamped buzzard-like around the stem.

Blackouts: /

Title: 
Dr. Ralph Angers is loose and he is killing people.

Edition: 
eBook

Cover
Pretty cool but it could be better. Angers' face expression doesn't look particularly psychopathic. And he doesn't have a briefcase for his roll of blueprints.

Cool lines:  
The drunk down the bar lifted his head. "I'm alcoholic. Will somebody buy me a beer?"

The Luger was like a melting chocolate cake in my hip pocket. [The Coolest!]

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