Thu 28 Apr 2011
BRUNO FISCHER – House of Flesh. Gold Medal #123, paperback original, 1950. Reprinted several times.
Here’s a book whose main thesis is that the female of the species is a preying mantis, capable of devouring the male in the very act of sex; a she-dog in heat, contemptuously amused at the howls of the horde of disappointed hounds pawing furiously the door. (I grant you, some of you are not going to need to know anything more.)
Harry is a professional basketball player from New York, seeking a summer of recuperation in the outlying countryside. Lela is the wife of the local veterinarian. Rumor has it that he fed his first wife to the dogs, and thereby hangs the tale: a detective story — truly it is! — a rich, sultry one with the sort of down-to-earth appeal that made the early Gold Medal paperbacks so immediately and immensely profitable.
Images of a certain kind or a rustic America in a certain indefinite time in its past should spring to mind. These pictures of an age largely past may be entirely a matter of fiction, nothing more than a state of the imagination, and may have always been so, but their lush moodiness can be sharply cutting as well, with the moment of incision preserved in an instant forever.
The dogs provide an essential clue to the murder that Harry is eventually accused of, but you know as well I do what comes before then: “Undress me … but slowly … very slowly …”
House of Flesh was Fischer’s first for Gold Medal in their series of paperback originals that took the country by storm, and it was reprinted several times during the decade that followed.
Rating: B plus.
[UPDATE] 04-18-11. The closet in my upstairs study has a shelf where I keep my Gold Medal paperbacks from this era, about a thousand of them. It’s time I started to read them again. I don’t remember any of the specifics of this one, but what I had to say back then about House of Flesh certainly triggers off a huge carload of memories.