Laurance Janifer is most renowned for his sci-fi and surreal stories, of which he was proficient in all forms of fiction during the 1960's and 70's. However, during my research, what most impressed me about Janifer was discovering that he'd once collaborated with Donald Westlake - one of the great writers in noir of all time. That interesting footnote aside, Janifer published two pulps, both in 1967, THE FINAL FEAR and YOU CANT ESCAPE. I stumbled upon THE FINAL FEAR by pure chance a couple of weeks ago (see Pick Up A Pulp ) in a discount bin, purchasing purely for the pulp art cover alone.
While the synopsis didn't sound all that intriguing (and poorly written on the back of book), I thought it was worth a read, especially given the relative speed by which I could finish the book as it clocks in at 140pgs, generously formatted to pad the count a little.
From the back of the book:
It had started in the arms of the woman I loved - or thought I did. But it wasn't going to end there. Her husband wanted to put me on a slab in the morgue... and it's hard to remember that the old rules don't apply any more.
I could be shot dead in broad daylight in the middle of a crowd of witnesses. I can't forget - I can't never forget - that a man with a gun is stalking me, a who whose single-minded idea of vengeance feeds his passion for murder.
I've got to admit, I was very underwhelmed by THE FINAL FEAR. What attracted me to the book, the cover, was the only real highlight - and that doesn't even have a direct correlation to the plot or characters (the main female character is a redhead, the cover lead has dark hair). Whilst this trait isn't all that uncommon in pulp art, it did irk me in this case, mainly as I was wanting some redeemable quality to the book - at least a cover that depicted the characters would've made a better impression than random art.
As far as the plot goes, it's one made of cat and mouse with a hint of madness thrown in and no character development whatsoever. Basically a man has an affair with a married women whose husband has a terminal illness and only six months to live. The husband is also impotent. Seeking some form of intimacy she lures James Roe into her bed and into the firing line. Naturally the husband catches wind of the affair and seeks to kill Roe before his own illness takes him.
This could have been a half decent read; there are a few solid ideas here that aren't fully executed or abandoned altogether; the hint of a romance between the inspecting detective and cheating wife for instance.
My lasting impression of THE FINAL FEAR isn't a good one. The story was bland, the characters paper-lite, the overarching narrative unbelievable (a detective, on a mere suggestion of impending violence happily outfits Roe in a cop uniform and transports him to a mental hospital to evade the cheated husband).
The good thing is it won't take long to read and does have a nice pulp cover.
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The original 1967 cover to the other Janifer pulp YOU CAN'T ESCAPE