Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"The Killer" by Wade Miller

Gold Medal Books 1951

Jake Farrow is a hunting guide in Africa that recently had his ticket jerked for helping a client shoot a lion on the Masai preserve. We find him wallowing in boredom when a mysterious man shows up and offers him an exorbitant sum to guide a hunt - location, prey and client undisclosed. Farrow reluctantly takes the job and ends up in New York.

Turns out Farrow's client wants him to track and kill a bank robber, Clel Bocock, who shot his son during a robbery. Farrow’s reservations to that kind of work are overcome by the apparent brutality of Bocock and, of course, the dollars offered by his client.
The chase takes Farrow from the swamps of the deep South, to Chicago, Yellowstone, Barstow and points between. Along the way he meets Marget, Bocock’s sweet little swamp babe. Marget catches Farrow’s eye but he thinks he leaves her behind when he leaves swamp country. From there the hunt doesn’t quite play out as Farrow expected.

There is nothing fancy about Wade Miller’s writing. Nothing exceptional in the plo
t either, but The Killer is a good straightforward story that keeps moving. It’s almost more of an adventure tale than a hardboiled mystery. Miller’s brilliance shines with a couple of particularly memorable scenes and characters. In Chicago, Farrow runs into Bocock’s other dame, Terese Tyler. They have a couple interesting little scenes together. In one she takes a break from attempting to seduce Farrow so that she can sing for him and tell him how she wants to be a star:

She was silent, sipping her champagne sternly. She grumbled, “I need a break, just one break. I need the reputation, that’s what counts.” She sulkily lit a cigaret, and said between puffs of smoke, “I want to be up there. Be somebody. Get my chance at all the money . . . .”

Later, Farrow runs into a small town Sheriff by the name of Loob that mistakes him for one of Bocock’s gang. Sheriff Loob is a dope with real big plans:

"You’ve already asked for trouble” said Loob in his sweet voice, "Just by meeting up with me. Maybe you don’t understand how much Bocock means to me. I’m a fellow with plans, Farrow, big ones. If I can be the one to put the finger on Bocock - no matter where he’s holed up - there’ll be no stopping me. I’m the county official who built the biggest city hall in Iowa, but that’s just the first step for me. When I
catch Bocock the whole state and country will know about me. In the political game you got to make a splash. You got to get your name in front of people, no matter how."

For a moment you think the novel is going to take a very
strange and very interesting turn. Farrow spends some unpleasant time with Loob, but the story resumes its course. The novel ends with a couple of showdowns, nothing too surprising or fantastic but with credible action and good gunplay.

Wade Miller was a pseudonym for the writing team of Bob Wade and Bill Miller. Together they wrote a pile of pulp novels. Here is a good site summarizing their work. I’ve read some interesting things about their Max Thursday P.I. series. I’ll be reading one of Mr. Thursday’s adventures very soon.


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