BRUNO FISCHER – Knee-Deep in Death. Gold Medal #591; paperback original; 1st printing, July 1956. Cover art by Lu Kimmel.

   One of the techniques used by the pulp writers of the 30s and 40s — and earlier and later, for that matter — is to start the story moving by tossing in as many strange and unexplained events as you could and let the main protagonist(s) muddle their way through the rest of the book trying to piece together what happened and put the finger on the guilty party.

   It is a technique that works only when the explanation fits exactly what happened, and if the author can lead the way into that explanation without cramming it all in in one great infodump in the last three or four pages.

   This is what Bruno Fischer, a long-time and very prolific pulp writer himself, does in Knee-Deep in Death, and by golly, he succeeds on both counts. Where he falls down and leaves the reader (me) not completely satisfied is by using a hero-protagonist who’s not very interesting (boring) and while certainly wronged by his wife (rich) who has left him (he insisted that they live on his money, not hers), he comes off as needing to explain things too much (not exactly whiney, but close).

   Coming back to the small town where Manhattan-based TV producer Gabe Bishop’s wife Lucy has returned to live with her mother, he finds her chatting up a fellow in a bar and obviously not very happy to see him (Gabe, that is). Gabe socks him, and it turns out that the guy has a gun. Next thing Gabe knows is that he’s on the scene of a killing, that of an old man in field fleeing an unknown assailant with a (another?) gun, Lucy is nearby — could she be involved? — and so is a good-looking redhead whom Gabe knows is female by grasping into her in the dark.

   Then Lucy’s car in trapped in the mud, and Gabe has to rescue her — see the cover — and do you know what? I don’t think I’m making this very interesting at all. But it is. Something is going on, and besides trying to make up with his wife. Gabe is determined to find out what.

   You will not be surprised to know that he manages to do both. The result is solidly written, not in any sort of prizewinning fashion, and while as often happens the ending is a bit of a letdown, I think (hope) I’ve told you enough to tell you whether you’d enjoy it, too.