GUY ENDORE Methinks the Lady

  GUY ENDORE – Nightmare. Dell D183. 1956. Originally published as Methinks the Lady, Duell Sloan & Pearce, hardcover, 1945. Also reprinted as The Furies in Her Body, Avon #323, pb, 1951.

Film: 20th Century-Fox, 1949, as Whirlpool, with Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, José Ferrer, Charles Bickford; director: Otto Preminger.

   I bought Nightmare (Dell, 1956) at a used book store back when I was Fifteen or so, thinking I was buying a Sex Book — well, look at the cover, can you blame me? — and I read it, thinking I was reading a sex book.

   So you can imagine my surprise when I got to the end and discovered it was actually a Mystery and perhaps a pretty clever one.

   The Narrator tells the story talking to herself (literally, as she narrates first-person, she keeps interrupting to ask questions and argue with herself) starting with the day she became a compulsive thief, flashing back to relate how she married a prominent psychologist who believes her to be the one woman completely free of neuroses, then moving on to tell how she beat a shoplifting rap by seducing a cop, was troubled by recurring dreams of prostitution — described with some relish by the author, so you can’t blame a kid for thinking this is a Sex Book — and finally how she killed a woman (in a cat-fight of pornographic proportions) was tried for murder, found guilty, and then … and then …

GUY ENDORE Methinks the Lady

   And then Endore suddenly reveals that there was a Murder Mystery going on here all along, in a surprise wrap-up that really dazzled the adolescent I was back in those days. When I re-read it last month, the ending seemed a bit strained, but nicely handled, and still enjoyable.

   Endore’s prose could be charitably described as Soupy, his frequent ramblings pointless, and his concentration on Sex Sex Sex as … well, as lurid and sexy. There’s also a 1940s pop-psychology infusing the book that gets pretty trite sometimes, but I have to admire a talent that could conceal a killer so neatly. Nothing like it since Lolita … which was also a Sex Book.

Previously reviewed on this blog:

      Detour at Night (by Bill Deeck)