Pulp poems, book reviews, and other tidbits from the noirboiled world
Monday, June 9, 2008
Book Review: Gil Brewer, Some Must Die (1954)
Some Must Die is a quasi-western, a mishmash of 13 French Street, Hell's Our Destination, and Bret Harte. It's also the first Gil Brewer novel where his prose style fails him. Paragraphs are short and disjointed; sentences are overwritten and sometimes nearly incomprehensible. Consider this sentence/paragraph from page 133:
In the fogged-up, thudding silence of the bedroom, he sensed Horn falling back and saw him trying to ward off a series of steady blows to the body and head, aimed and quietly careful in the blind cold mist of the moment.
Oh, my. This book took me longer to read than any of Brewer's previous novels simply because I found myself reading sentences like this one over and over again. In the end, I came up with two possible explanations for what went wrong with this book: (1) Brewer is drinking too much and writing too fast. Some Must Die was the seventh Brewer novel published in a three-year span, appearing only three months after his masterpiece A Killer Is Loose. Brewer simply can't keep up the pace and the quality, too. (2) Brewer is working hard to vary his formula. Thus, rather than his usual settings in contemporary Florida, his gives us nineteenth-century Wyoming. And rather than his usual straight-forward prose style, he pushes himself stylistically. Unfortunately, he pushes too hard. Grade: D
A: Excellent. I intend to read it again. B: Good. I might read it again. C: So-so. I didn't mind reading it. D: Bad. I resented reading it. F: Atrocious. I finished it only because I'm compulsive that way.