CLIFTON ADAMS – Death’s Sweet Song. Gold Medal 483; paperback original; 1st printing, March 1955. Black Curtain Press, paperback, 2013. Reprinted by Stark House Press, softcover, 2014, combined with the novel Whom Gods Destroy (Gold Medal 291, 1953).

   Adams is perhaps better known as an award-winning writer of westerns, but this is one of two or three crime/suspense novels he’s written as well. It’s solidly in the small area of the field once very popular — the story of a good man gone bad, tempted too far by a weakness of the flesh and the overpowering proximity of the sensuous evil of an all-too-willing woman.

   If this a tale no longer seen very often, Gold Medal is probably at fault, for they surely wore out their presses on this particular sub-genre of eroticism during their first ten years in business (pointing out as I say this that practitioners of the form include such noted authors as Charles Williams and John D. MacDonald).

   This one takes place in and around a shabby motel on Route 66, at a time before the interstate system of highways made us a nation of Holiday Inners. Creston, Oklahoma — a town a smart guy simply aches to get out of, and Joe Hooper is pining away for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come knocking. Beth is the local girl everyone assumes he will marry some day. It is taken for granted, a pinpoint of accuracy showing how life goes on in a small town.

   The wife of the safe-cracker staying overnight in Joe’s motel, in the room next door, is named Paula. Naturally he cuts himself in on their plans. Murder is not, however, originally on the agenda. It’s hard to to say how stupid men can be over women, yet granting a bit of leeway, I suppose they can make messes of their lives as easily as this.

Rating:  B minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 2, March 1978 (slightly revised).

Note:   One of Clifton Adams’ pen names was Jonathan Gant, and one of the books he wrote under that name was Never Say No to a Killer (Ace Double D-157). You can read my review of that book here.