BRUNO FISCHER – So Wicked My Love. Gold Medal #437, paperback original; 1st printing, October 1954. Gold Medal #753; 2nd printing, March 1958. A shorter version appeared in Manhunt, November 1953, under the title “Coney Island Incident.”


   Sometimes it’s interesting (and often even fun) to put yourself in the shoes of one of the hapless protagonists in one of these early Gold Medal noir dramas of the early 50s. Take Ray Whitehead, for instance.

   He’s a blue collar sort of guy, working as a truck driver for his father in a small Brooklyn-based business. His fiancée has just broken up with him, one of those “my mother always wanted me to marry a doctor” sort of deals, and he has her $1200 engagement ring in his pocket. He’s moping around on Coney Island when spots a redhead he knew in high school, Cherry Drew, a girl with not much of reputation then, but in a bathing suit, she certainly looks fine enough now.

   One thing leads to another, and instead of throwing the ring down a convenient sewer, he’s given her the ring and he’s heading for her apartment with her. There waiting for her, though, is a guy named Shorty. It turns out that Cherry was part of gang of bank robbers, but she’s hijacked the loot with another guy who the rest of gang caught up with and who is now dead, and now they’ve caught up with her.


   Several minutes later, Shorty is dead – Cherry’s doing – knifed twice in the back. Cherry has $80,000 in stolen cash. Question: what do you do? What can you do that doesn’t keep coming back to haunt you?

   It’s a good beginning, but the book’s far too long for what was first a short story but which is stretched as far as it can go. There are a few twists of the plot that follow, but not even a good pulp writer like Bruno Fischer can keep coming up with as many as he needs. One good one, though, involves Ray’s former fiancée, who changes her mind about him, but who wonders why this other woman has the ring – or what looks exactly like the ring – she realizes she returned to him much too hastily .

   But as sappy as Ray is for Cherry, he’s too honest a guy to be caught up in the latter’s charms all of the way the book, although she tries, believe me she does, and Ray really is as dopey as I said, and then some. In fits and stops. the book wanders around to a sort of happy ending, but only if you don’t stop and wonder about what comes next; how Ray manages to explain his way out of his last final encounter with Cherry.