“The Vengeful Virgin” – the review

Her wealthy stepfather was dying - but not quickly enough
Her wealthy stepfather was dying - but not quickly enough

They burned bright – till the flames consumed them!

Back in March, I wrote about my appreciation of Hard Case Crime and my find of five of their books at a deep discount at a local Big Lots.

I’d only made it through 1 of the 5 books in that buy until today.  Before the wife and I headed to Vegas for some much needed R&R, I grabbed this beauty off my reading stack.  I figured it was appropriate reading for a trip to Sin City.

Turns out I was right.

Written by Gil Brewer in 1958 and rereleased by Hard Case in 2006, “The Vengeful Virgin” is a top notch pulp noir read from the opening paragraph.

She wasn’t what you’d call beautiful.  She was just a red-haired girl with a lot of sock.  She stood behind the screen door on the front porch, frowning at me.

The she in question is Shirley Angela the comely step-daughter of terminally ill Victor Spondell.  She also happens to be the heir to his fortune.

Enter our narrator, Jack Ruxton, a small-timer with big dreams.

The lethal combination of the hot young thing, the Florida heat and a huge score  are all that it takes to set things into lethal motion.

This is the kind of book that made pulp fiction famous folks.  Several times I found myself thinking of “Body Heat.”  The protagonist is amoral.  His dame is all sex and bad ideas.  The decisions are made for the wrong reasons and the outcome, well, you can pretty much guess.

While pretty tame in 2008, I’m pretty sure some of Brewer’s descriptions, especially of female anatomy, sent folks into hysterics in the late 50s.  And Jack seems to have his hands full of said anatomy for most of the book.

This book reminded me of those dusty old paperbacks I used to find in my uncle’s storage closet when I was still young and impressionable.  It looks and reads like something your mother warned you about.  That’s half the fun.

At 220 pages, its an easy read, and certainly a fun one.

The cover art by Gregory Manchess is worth the price of admission alone.

If you enjoy this kind of fiction, read this book.  Even if you don’t, give it a try.  You might find you like it.

Just be careful where you read it.  I got some really funny looks on the airplane yesterday.

Like I cared.

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