RARA-AVIS: Block, O'Hara, Maugham, Gil Brewer and Flannery O'Connor

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 14 Feb 2002

Glad to be reminded of Lawrence Block's favorite writers. I have read Block's comments before of his admiration of John O'Hara. In one, Block very smartly pointed out the contrast between O'Hara's fiction where relationships were so carefully explored and understood and the author's personal life where he was always feuding over imagined slights. O'Hara is worthy of much more attention than he receives and especially for writers, there is so much to be learned by diving into his stories.

Maugham is one of the great story tellers and his THE SUMMING UP is one of the great books on writing.

So what does Gil Brewer have to do with this list of writers. Not much, I suppose, other than his own story telling ability. It so happens that I was flipping through THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR and again read Pronzini's tribute to Brewer that I first read when it appeared in Mystery Scene. I've always liked Brewer and Pronzini brings him so wonderfully, tragically to life. Flipping to another article I noticed for the first time that Ed Gorman rates Brewer's A KILLER IS LOOSE (Gold Medal 1954) as Brewer's best.

Well I have a copy of A KILLER IS LOOSE but have never read it. Why? The cover features a dickhead wearing a suit and holding a briefcase and a luger.
 If I want to read a Brewer why would I choose that novel over the Brewer paperbacks with cool babe covers like WILD or PLAY IT HARD, or THE THREE-WAY SPLIT or THE GIRL FROM HATEVILLE?

Gorman's recommendation finally got me to open the unattractive novel, and all I can say is Wow! Gil Brewer's A KILLER IS LOOSE is a classic Gold Medal novel and it features one cold-ass killer. This is the true hard stuff, my friends, with a serial killer circa 1954, decades before it became a cliche.

Oh, while I am at it, another chilling killer who has never left my memory since the first reading can be found in "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by my fellow Georgian Flannery O'Connor. She is the most merciless writer I have ever read and one of the most gifted. Before I read her I need a good day and time to gird my loins because God only knows what she is going to put me through.

Richard Moore

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