A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider

WILLIAM R. COX – Hell To Pay. Tom Kincaid #1. Signet #1555, paperback original, 1958.

   William R. Cox started in the pulp field and turned to writing paperback originals in the 1950s. He is probably better known for his westerns and juveniles than for his mysteries, but his contributions to the mystery field should not go unremarked.  In fact, Cox is a very good writer, utilizing sharp characterization and a well-paced narrative, and often providing insightful comments on various topics.

   Hell to Pay is the first in a series of books about Tom Kincaid, a professional gambler. Kincaid functions much like a private eye as he is unwillingly pulled into a gang war between the old members of the Syndicate and a new gang composed of Fifties-style juvenile delinquents. Even Kincaid does not understand his role in this war, but the girlfriend of a man Kincaid has hired is raped and killed, and several attempts are made on Kincaid’s life.

   Along with his other problems, Kincaid has a longtime girl who wants him to leave New York and go west, to Vegas, so that she can work in Hollywood and still be close to him. Before the end of the book, she is involved in the war, too.

   In some ways, reading this book is like reading the old pulps; Cox makes fine use of Fifties slang, and the gambler’s world is depicted with a good sense of realism. All the virtues of pulp fiction are present, with few exceptions. Books like this one make this reviewer wish Cox had done more mysteries.

   Tom Kincaid also appears in two other very good books by Cox: Murder in Vegas (1960) and Death on Location (1962).

   Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

Editorial Comment: I reviewed Death on Location much earlier on this blog. Here’s the link. Be sure to read the comments, where Bill Kelly has recently added a list of all the Tom Kincaid pulp stories.