Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tropical Noir

Signet Books - September 1962
A Very Private Island by Z.Z. Smith contains one of those preposterous scenarios that can only seem to happen in noir fiction. Rogue drifter Walter Brent has a habit of getting into trouble with women. He's on the run to Mexico and is passing through Houston when he witnesses a murder in a darkened alley. The killer turns out to be millionaire David Warren. Warren isn't too eager to have a witness running around loose, but doesn't have the stomach for another killing on his conscience. Instead, he forces Walter, at gunpoint, to drive with him to Corpus Christi where they board Warren's private boat and take it to Warren's private island he calls Mi Tierra.

Warren has decked out Mi Tierra with the latest in modern conveniences, the finest liquors, cigars, books, music, you name it. It also comes with a personal servant, Isaac on hand to keep things running while Warren is away. Warren tells Walter that he will remain on Mi Tierra as a permanent guest until one of them dies first. Walter makes a couple fruitless attempts to escape the island but quickly discovers that his chances of getting back to the mainland without a boat are impossible. And so things go for awhile. It's not a bad life; prisoner on a lush island surrounded by luxury, but Walter is used to having a babe around to keep his bed warm at night. He's soon so torqued up that he's nearly out of his mind. Enter...David Warren's niece, Sally Parmer. Sally has decided to show up on Mi Tierra to get over the grief of recently losing her husband to murder.

Sally is one of those frigid flame type of dames who ignite their men slowly. It doesn't take long for the lust to boil over on Walter's part. Only Sally seems oblivious to his intentions, at first. Then, things get twisted.

This was the sort of novel I grew up on after graduating from The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators books. Tawdry paperbacks with creased covers, that smell like cigarettes. I loved them then, and I love them now. And this one by Z.Z. Smith is a fine example of that kind of book.

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