Friday, February 19, 2016

FFB: Fortune is a Woman -- Hermes Nye

Hermes Nye was a Dallas lawyer who was talented in several fields.  Besides being a lawyer, he was a writer and a folksinger who recorded a number of albums on the Folkways label.  You can listen to one dandy number about Texas right here.

Fortune is a Woman is a literary coming-of-age novel that wound up being published as a paperback original.  As the cover says, it's "The explosive story of a struggling young lawyer and the girl who got in his way."  Sure it is.  Sort of.

The time is the late 1930s, and Paul Cotton is a young lawyer who has ambition but not much get-up-and-go.  He's living in the Y and working for an established attorney.  He gets an allowance from his father that keeps him solvent.  He's attracted to a waitress at a diner, and she likes him a lot.  It's easy for the reader to see that she's the Right One, so of course Cotton falls for another woman named Gail, who's obviously the Wrong One.  Complications ensue, and eventually Gail winds up shooting another man with whom she's involved.  It's up to Cotton to help her out, after which she heads for California, leaving him in Dallas.  

And what does Cotton learn from all this?  Not much.  Since there's zero chance that any of you will ever read the book, I'll tell you that the owner of the firm dies and leaves the firm to Cotton.  He's about to make the big time, though no effort of his own.  And what's he thinking at the end of the book?  "A man with guts and a one-way ticket on Greyhound could get there [California] in no time at all."

The best thing about the book isn't the messy plot.  It's the author's voice, which is comic and engaging all the way.  The writing is excellent.  I won't give you an example, but I'll quote one of my favorite bits:

"You sound like Erle Stanley Gardner."

"I wish I could write like him."

"Yeah, he's a lawyer, too, isn't he?  I was reading one of his things the other night.  About this old bird who had a big estate out in California --"

"Ever hear about a poor man getting knocked off in one of those stories?"

This isn't a great Texas novel, but it's a very good one.  If you ever stumble across a copy, grab it.


Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I never heard of the guy, though Hermes Nye WBAGNFARB. I don't think I'll be putting it on my "must read" list, though if I saw a copy I might pick it up.

Bill Crider said...

I'd never heard of him, either, until a few months ago when I ran across his name in a book about Texas writers.

Todd Mason said...

What drives such certainty? Who knows when Stark House or someone noting copyright expiration jumps on it...are they pricy, the online copies?

Would it make nice Double with FaRina's BEEN DOWN SO LONG...?

Bill Crider said...

The copy I got was pricey. There might be a cheaper one out there.