Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Never Say No To A Killer by Jonathan Gant

Never Say No To A Killer by Jonathan Gant
ACE D-157, Copyright 1956

Here I go again, singing the praises of Clifton Adams crime stories. In this gem published under the pseudo. Jonathan Gant, Adams gives us a story of a psychotic killer who sees opportunities and uses violence to reap the gains.

“ That was when I brought the rock up with all the strength I had in my two arms. It cracked the point of Gorgan’s chin and I heard his jawbone snap under the impact.”

The novel starts fast and violent, with con Roy Surratt escaping from a prison work detail. Dorris Venci, the widow of his ex-cell mate, aids in his escape and takes him to her hometown, Lake City. To pay her back, she wants Surratt to kill an ex-governor. Surratt knows what makes women tick and quickly discovers Dorris is a sexual masochist. He uses this for his gain. He agrees to kill the corrupt ex-governor and in return he wants the blackmail information her late husband collected on other influential people. After the killing, he falls for the ex-governors mistress Patricia Kelso. Money quickly starts to come in because of his blackmail schemes and Dorris starts to be in his way for future plans with Patricia Kelso. Surratt ends his relationship with Dorris. Dorris tragically devises a way to get even with Surratt. Her plan starts him on a rapid decline from his dreams and his freedom.

“Why, you simian sonofabitch, I thought, you make one move in my direction, just one single move, and you’ll be till sundown gathering your teeth off the sidewalk.”

Again, Clifton Adams excels in creating an excellent hardboiled noir novel. This is a story of a dangerous criminal who is both smart and evil, with a studied knowledge of philosophy. Surratt leaves a trail of corpses throughout the story, as he calculates his moves to achieve financial wealth. A triangle of deception is created between the three characters, Surratt and the two dames. Surratt uses his egotistical knowledge of philosophy to manipulate one and in the attempted manipulation of the other. Later at the end, he realizes that he outsmart himself. All this turns out tragic for everyone involved, as we realize there are no respectable people in this story. They are all dark and narcissistic, caring only about money and revenge. Excellent last paragraph as Surratt talks to the reader giving his personal thoughts on his empty feelings.

In the 50s ACE had many hit-and-miss paperbacks, some were downright poor, this is not one of them. You'll fly through the 148 pages. And a big bonus with this flip double novel edition- it's a secret agent Paul Knox novel call "Stab in the Dark" by Louis Trimble.


Frank Loose said...

I read this book a week ago, and while i enjoyed it i feel that the author's Death's Sweet Song is a much better book and a winner from page one. It is a first person account of a guy doomed by the wrong (right?) gal. To me it rivals the best of Brewer and Williams. High praise, in my book. If I had to compare it to one story though, I would pick Black
Wings Has My Angel. It is every bit as strong. From the beginning you know it has to end badly, but you don't know exactly what kind of bad it will be,
and that is what drives the story along. It has a tenseness that not too many books achieve.
--- Frank

August West said...

Frank: Can't argue with those comments. In my option,"Death's Sweet Song" is the best book Gold Medal ever publish. You can feel yourself get dragged down with Joe Hooper, as he gets pulled through the novel. I had a post a while back on the book...