GIL BREWER The Red Scarf

GIL BREWER – The Red Scarf. Crest 310; paperback reprint, July 1959; cover art by Robert McGinnis. Hardcover: Mystery House, 1958. First published in Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine, November 1955 (probably abridged).

   Gil Brewer was a prolific paperback writer in the 50s, 60s and 70s, as well as the author of many stories in Manhunt, Trapped, Guilty, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine and other magazines in the same time period, including some western pulps. Only two of his books ever came out in hardcover, and this is one of them. (The other was The Angry Dream, also by Mystery House in 1957; reprinted in paperback by Zenith Books in 1958 as The Girl from Hateville.)

   In its Crest edition, The Red Scarf is only 128 pages long, and even though the print is small, it can easily be read in less than a couple of hours. In fact, there are times when — I challenge you on this — your eyes will be going as fast as they can and whole paragraphs will be swallowed up in gulps — the pace is that intense.

GIL BREWER The Red Scarf

   There were many paperbacks novels in the 50s in which the male lead falls completely under the spell of a tempting woman and/or a briefcase full of money, and that’s exactly what this book is all about. Roy Nichols is the guy who needs the money for his failing Florida motel. Vivian is the girl who’s registered there with a bag full of mob money, tied up with a lucky red scarf. Bess is Roy’s wife, anxious to help, but with Roy not talking and Vivian holed up in cabin number six, she doesn’t know what to think.

   Vivian’s partner in crime, thought dead, isn’t. Nor is the mob about to chalk off the missing money as operating expenses, and Gant, the local police detective, can’t figure out why Roy seems to be making up answers as he goes along.

   Those are the ingredients. I’m sure you’re thinking you could put a pretty good story together and take over from here, and you probably could. Brewer does an ace-high job of it, though, and you can relax. You don’t have to.

GIL BREWER The Red Scarf

   I think the following excerpt, taken from pages 66-67, sums things up very nicely:

   Besides, that money. It was there, and I had to have some of it. Somehow. It was the only way I could see — even if it was the wrong way. When the taxes for this property came due, we’d really be in the soup. I didn’t want to lose the motel. I wasn’t going to lose it. I couldn’t let Bess take it on the chin any more. She’d never had any peace, never — all our married life, it had been like this. From one thing to another, never any peace, and by God, she was going to have peace and some of things she wanted.

   One way or another.

   Even if I had to get hold of the brief case myself, and run … God, I was in a sweet mess and I knew it. But something had to be done.

   You might quibble about some of the more unlikely aspects of the story afterwards, but I’m willing to wager that you’ll never think of them while you’re still turning the pages. For the price of a mere quarter (at the time, not today) you most assuredly got your money’s worth.

— October 2003