27 March 2008

Kill Now, Pay Later

This fellow Robert Terrall is a tough guy to pin down. The book (HCC-035) says it was copyright in 1960 by Robert Kyle. This turns out to be one of Mr. Terrall's pseudonyms. One of the other pen names was Brett Halliday, he of Mike Shayne fame. A number of authors "ghosted" that series, and there's a place called Thrilling Detective where you can learn all about it. A search of the archives at RARA-AVIS turns up a few threads about Robert Kyle, one in particular describing him as a "forgotten" PI writer, and a few about Robert Terrall, mentioning another nom de plume, "John Gonzalez." Heaping on the mystery as it were, the gorgeous cover art by Robert McGinnis features another impossibly long-legged barely-clad babe, who I gather is supposed to be the "Hilda" character in the story. Mr. McGinnis is a Hard Case regular, and one of the longest-lasting and most widely seen and admired of all the artists in the field. He's also renowned for his movie posters: numerous Bonds, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Barbarella. Unfortunately, his official site is not up-to-date, and it is tough to find out much about him. The news on this site is not encouraging, and because of it I don't want to support any unauthorized use of his material. Regardless, Kill Now, Pay Later is a great read, breezy and fast-paced, our hero (PI Ben Gates) getting drugged, slugged, chased and shot at while fighting off the advances of several hot femmes. Gates is a bit of a bigshot, with a staff of operatives, but always seems on the edge of bankruptcy. In the late fifties and all through the sixties, the hard-boiled style, perfected by Chandler, got re-worked by writers with a sense of fun, and they used the clipped prose to humorous effect:

Soon after this we entered one of those sad developments that were thrown up in the hell-for-leather days after World War II. Hurricanes are infrequent in this part of the country, so the houses were still standing, but it worried me to see a boy bouncing a rubber ball against a wall. (Kill Now, Pay Later, Roberrt Terrall, p. 46)

Is it noir? People die, there's greed, corruption, and violence, but the ending is tidy and even "happy." Villians get killed or get their comeuppance, but wounds are healed and order restored. Too comic for noir, perhaps, but great inspiration for fellows like Matt Cadd!

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