Saturday, November 26, 2016

Border Town Girl - John D. MacDonald

"As she sucked smoke into her lungs she looked around the room. Brown and green grass rug. Wicker furniture. Metal bed painted a liverish green. The mattress sagged toward the middle from all directions. Her two suitcases were on stands by the far wall, the lids open. A stocking dangled out of one, almost to the floor. 

Fawcett Gold Medal 

I've had this JDM paperback on my shelf for many years. Most certainly I got it from one of the handful of used bookstores in Phoenix that have now closed. Thinking about the bookstores that have closed is always a bit depressing, so pulling an old paperback off the shelf at home and escaping into a bygone time is comfort for the soul. 

Anyway, as you might notice from other reviews, or not, Border Town Girl is actually two novellas by JDM. The first one, "Border Town Girl" was originally published in DIME DETECTIVE MAGAZINE as "Five Star Fugitive" back in 1950. JDM was a master at laying down a fast-paced pulp story, and this one has all the classic elements of pulp action. The beginning is a corker. A hard-nosed moll named Diana Saybree is laying low in a motel on the border of Texas and Mexico waiting for a drug deal to go down. Diana is pure pulp slattern with her cigarettes and sexy underwear, stockings hanging from suitcase, rye on the dresser and sweaty flesh on the bedsheets. Unfortunately, before her contact from Mexico arrives she's knocked over by a hood, leaving her without the payoff dough she's been trusted with. Just south of the border is Lane Sanson, a regular Joe who had notoriety several years before for penning a bestseller about the war. Now he's on the bum, spending the last of his money on tequila and hookers. One hooker sets him up for a roll which ends up with him getting confused for the smuggler that Diana Saybree is waiting for. Enter the scene, Christy, one psycho killer ex-circus strong man who gets kinky thrills torturing his victims before snuffing them out. And Christy can't wait to get his mitts on Diana's hot little bod!

The 2nd story in the novel is simply titled "Linda" and I believe it was original to this two-fer published in 1956. Linda is described as a babe born with a "morality gene missing" who is married to all-round good guy (and hapless dupe) Paul Cowley. Paul is a plant engineer who married Linda after she returns from a wild life and shady past in California. Paul works with a hotshot sales guy named Brandon Jeffries, known to all as Jeff. Jeff and his wife Stella become social friends with Paul and Linda. Before long, Linda and Jeff start to work a plan for both couples to embark on a shared vacation to a remote beach in Florida. It'll be a kick, they promise, both couples taking in the sun, the beach, the fishing, and...well you can probably see it coming right? Betrayal and murder. This is another terrific yarn that'll have you hooked within the first few paragraphs.