Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bring Him Back Dead by Day Keene (1956)

It's no secret that I have a soft spot for pulpy novels, and even though this copy of Bring Him Back Dead by Day Keene (1956) was practically falling apart at the seams when I found it at the used bookstore, I had to bring it home and give it a read.

Andy Latour is from one of the oldest families in the Louisiana town of French Bayou, a sleepy place made frantic by a recent oil boom. Unfortunately, Latour's land is one of the only parcels with a dry well and he is left to support his beautiful new Russian wife (who he met while he was in the service) on his paltry salary as Deputy Sheriff. While other members of the force are raking in the bucks through bribes, Latour plays it clean and that makes him the least popular member of the force, both with his colleagues and with the criminally minded population of the boom town.

After a shitty day where he was shot at three times by an unseen assailant, Latour has some serious sex with his beautiful wife that, afterwards, makes him feel even shittier since he is certain that she resents his lack of oil wealth. That shitty mood is made only shittier when he runs into his wife's drunk and mooching brother in the living room on his way back out to take care of some police business. He is worried about the young and beautiful wife of an old town drunk that he drove back to their isolated trailer after the drunk husband caused a scene in the middle of town. There has been a serial rapist attacking women in the town and he feels the young woman is a target. He also feels like he needs to clear the air with her after they had a mutually desired near-assignation in her trailer with her husband passed out in the corner. He had made some vague plans to meet her later, but now regrets that planned infidelity and wants to tell her so.

When he gets to the trailer he knocks on the door and tells the young woman who he is. Then, suddenly, he is hit over the head and knocked out. When he comes to, he is in the police station, accused of murdering the old drunk and violently raping his wife. Since no one really likes him, no one believes that he didn't do it, and someone who wants him dead is going around town riling up the drunks to rush the jail and hang him as an act of mob justice. No one but Latour himself can get him out of this jam and figure out who the real violent criminal is before he strikes again.

This is a great pulpy novel with a nicely used gulf coast location. The action is convincing, the characters are complicated, and the twists are satisfying. I figured out the main mystery just a page or so before it was revealed which, for this reader, is perfect timing. The author, Day Keene, was a prolific writer of radio shows and pulp stories and novels, and I look forward to seeking him out on the paperback shelves in the future. If you like 1950s crime fiction, then this is for you.

No comments: