Monday, September 28, 2015

A Killer is Loose (Gil Brewer, 1954)

This Brewer's pulp has no virgins or femme fatales. 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. The 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 the 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 the scene with that little girl alone in the big house repeatedly having to play "Dancing in the Dark" on the 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 sometimes we need a bit of shock therapy 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 the 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 repeat how hopeless it is. And sometimes even praying. Fucking praying! So I think I'll choose 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 not counting a cop towards the end (who simply dropped after being shot). Btw and for the record  - I 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 are a couple of appearances of Harvey Aldercook's woman. She is totally irrelevant to the story (I 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' facial 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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