Monday, May 27, 2013

Some Good-Old Noir - Web of Murder

"You'll never be so lonely as on a highway driving with a corpse in the back seat." - Harry Whittington in Web of Murder

Black Lizard Books, 1987

Harry Whittington, along with Gil Brewer, is one of my top favorite original paperback writers from fifties and sixties, and Web of Murder is a good example why. Out of the dozen-plus novels I've read by Whittington it's one of the best. It's a simple story of lust and murder, told hundreds of times over the centuries that, from Whittington's typewriter is a tight, taut little masterpiece of noir.

Charley is a lawyer with a semi-successful practice and big plans for himself, beginning with a seat on the bench. He's married to Cora, a stay-at-home wife who has just inherited $500,000 from her father's estate. Unfortunately, Charley is no longer interested in marriage with Cora. He's got his mind on his smoldering secretary, Laura. Laura has lit a torch in Charley that he'd almost forgotten he had after years married to Cora. Only trouble is, Cora refuses to give Charley a divorce. She's made up her mind that she's keeping him. Charley wants Laura and that $500,000 under Cora's throne. How to get rid of Cora and keep the money without the police and the insurance companies sniffing after him and Laura is going to be a problem. But Charley's a smart guy. He's no chump. He's seen plenty of fools try to get away with murder only to get snarled up in their own carelessness. No, Charley's got to be smart, Charley's got to be careful. If he's going to get away with it, he's got to plan everything out, just right, and then he'll have the money, the girl, and everything else with it.

Of course we all know in stories like this, that things aren't going to play out for Charley like he'd hoped. For one thing, there's Victoria, a wealthy socialite who, through Charley's help, shucked her ex-husband while earning herself a nice payoff in the process. Now Victoria would like to have Charley warming her bed for longer than just a weekend. There's also Frank Vanness, a dogged cop who insists that no one gets away with murder as long as he's on the case. And Laura, who says she loves Charley, but is beginning to have second thoughts on this whole murder thing, unless Charley hurries up with it. And finally there is Lou Recsetti, a slimy character who keeps popping up where ever Laura goes, like a bad thought.

The plot spins and the web tightens, things fall apart and violence erupts. You know, just another week in suburbia.

This novel was originally published in 1958 by Gold Medal, but it's been reprinted several times since. If you like this kind of thing, then I would make it a point to find a copy. Unlike Charley, you won't regret it.

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