Created by Gil Brewer
Pseudonyms include Bailey Morgan, Eric Fitzgerald, Frank Sebastian, Jack Holland, Roy Carroll, Elaine Evans and Barry Miles, as well as the house name of Ellery Queen
Pulpmeister Gil Brewer, he of the steamy, twitchy, Gold Medals full of damaged men and femme fatales back in the fifties, rarely made his heroes detectives — never mind private detectives. Usually they were just poor sap civilians of some sort who got in something over their heads. Way over their heads. But who’s to say a P.I. can’t be a poor sap?
Not me, bub.
WILLIAM “BILL” MADDERN runs a small Florida detective agency with his brother, and a secretary, Maria in the fast-paced So Rich, So Dead (1951, Gold Medal). But when Bill returns from a trip he finds his brother “murdered right in the office chair. A slug in the back” and Marie “killed and nearly cut to bits in the storeroom.”
And then, just to add to the fun, there’s a half million dollars missing that his brother had recently retireved for a client. But the real fun begins when Bill discovers that he’s been fingered as the number one suspect.
Now what can a poor P.I. do but take it on the lam, in hopes of clearing his name?
Along the way, he meets the usual unusual types. As P.I. novels of the era go, it’s okay, but a little undeveloped and on closer investigation, the plot doesn’t really make much sense. Still, the whole thing moves so damn quickly (the entire novel takes place in just a day) that it hardly matters. This was only Brewer’s second novel, after all, and he would go on to much better stuff.
Generally, Brewer didn’t do follow-ups or sequels — he preferred standalones. But he did bring Bill back five years later, in the similarly paced short story, “Home-Again Blues,” which appeared in the March 1956 issue of Pursuit Detective Story Magazine. Beth Lamphier, his brother’s old girlfriend, is still around, occasionally helping out around the office, and it’s obvious that Bill’s grown rather fond of her. But he has other things on his mind, like maybe getting an air-conditioner for office and the human tongue that somebody just mailed him. Like the novel, it’s a quick read, but more than a little loopy.
as I said, Brewer rarely used P.I.s as his main characters, particularly in the his short fiction, but he did write a few P.I. standalones, featuring such private eyes as Sam & Tate Morgan, Lee Baronand the unfortunately named Bill Death.
- So Rich, So Dead (1951) | Buy this book
- “Home-Again Blues” (March 1956, Pursuit Detective Story Magazine)
- Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stories (2019) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
Includes “Home Again Blues”
- Bibliography: Gil Brewer’s Published Short Fiction
A great checklist, from David Rachel’s always great Noirboiled Notes.
- Forgotten Writers: Gil Brewer
Bill Pronzini’s touching tribute to a writer he never quite knew. (1989, Mystery Scene)
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.