I recently read THE BRAT by pulp master Gil Brewer, originally published in 1957 by Gold Medal during the golden age of the dime store paperback pulp. It holds true to the successful formula of pulps in this era; a linear plot focused around a particular event (in this case a robbery and murder), the classic attractive female lead, a desperate male lead, and a chase for the truth laden with cheesy dialogue and great ensemble cast of characters (in this one it's Rona, Sheriff Degreef, and Kaylor).
An attractive dame (Evis Helling) with a lot of sass and a little bit of mystery behind her wanton ways lands her man hook line and sinker after easily seducing him in a swapland hear her home. Lee Sulliven is a sucker for curves, and a falls too quickly for Evis. They return to Lee's hometown where Lee panders to Evis' every demand. Eventually the financial and relationship stability make way for greed as Evis' real intentions come to light.
What attracted me to THE BRAT (aside from Gil Brewer as the author) was the enticing blurb:
"She looked at the rotting, sun-blasted shack, the one room where they all lived, slept, made love, died. Looked at the dusty lawn where no grass grew. At the steaming swamp, at her tobacco-spitting mother. Saw the sly, lustful eyes of her father's friends. The she looked at her own lush beauty.
Get me out of here she prayed. Oh, please get me out of here! I'll pay any price."
Unfortunately for Lee, he's the one who paid the price for Evis' freedom. Framed for murder and robbery at Evis' place of employment, betrayed by his close friend (who seems to be having an affair with Evis), and forced to run from the law while trying to prove his innocence.
THE BRAT is a game of cat and mouse with so many variables impacting upon Lee's success in clearing his name. Evis' cousin Kaylor is an interesting character who shows up in the early stages of the novel and plays a big role in the later stages, Rona (Evis' sister) has motive and determination to land Lee for herself, while Sheriff Degreef is at once lawful and shady - I never did work out which one overshadows the other.
I've read a couple of other books by Gil Brewer but this one is a real gem. Apart from a lull when Brewer goes into the backstory earlier in the piece, THE BRAT held my attention. The chase through the swampland and ensuing confrontation is top notch, the characters surprisingly well rounded with their own unique voice, and the plot entertaining and believable. It's the sort of story that would stand firm amongst today's modern crime fiction.