JOHN TOMERLIN – Return to Vikki. Gold Medal #900, paperback original; 1st printing, 1959.

   â€œAny time you see a Gold Medal for sale cheap, grab it and give it a try.”               — Socrates

   I’d better review this one quick before I forget it. It’s not bad, but somehow it’s not terribly memorable either.

   The plot lifts just a bit from Out of the Past (RKO, 1947) as Frank Selby, suburban husband, finds his 9-to-5 routine disrupted by a visit from an old “friend” who summons him back to his previous life as a meticulous planner of successful heists. And the borrowing continues as Frank finds he’s wanted by his previous employer, a sadistic and wealthy mega-crook with a legitimate “front” — for that iconic plot device: One Last Job.

   Out of the Past echoes keep resounding as we learn Frank’s old love Vikki is still hooked up with the bad guys, and before long Frank finds himself framed for murder and scrambling for the pieces of his old life, in between passionate clichés with Vikki and brutal run-ins with her new and very deadly beau.

   All of which makes Return to Vikki sound much worse than it is. In point of fact, it’s a tightly-written, fast-moving piece, with well-developed minor characters and a tense, timed-to-the-second caper told in gritty, real-sounding prose — the sort of thing you’d expect from Gold Medal, and a fun way to pass an hour or two.

   Don’t expect anything spectacular, but it’s pleasant to be reminded just how taut and enjoyable these two-bit paperbacks could be.