Friday, December 18, 2009

Forgotten Books: FLIGHT TO DARKNESS -- Gil Brewer

Gil Brewer's not really forgotten.  In fact, he's having something of a revival now, what with the recent reprints by Stark House Press and the proposed four-volume collection of his stories to be published by Dancing Tuatara Press in cooperation with Ramble House.  And now New Pulp Press is re-issuing Flight to Darkness, originally published by Gold Medal in 1952.

This is one of those stories that Brewer and Gold Medal did so well, with the first-person narrator pushed from one seemingly impossible situation to the next.  Eric Garth is hospitalized after the Korean War for "battle fatigue."  He keeps having a dream that he's beaten his brother to death, and he's afraid that if he's released from the hospital, he'll make the dream come true.

Then he meets a nurse named Leda.  Wow.  Leda is one of those Gold Medal women who exudes sex appeal.  She is sex appeal.  Eric has to have her.  He knows she's trouble, but she's impossible to resist.  Eric wins his release, and the next thing he knows, he's framed for a hit-and-run accident.  Then he's locked away in another hospital.  Leda and his brother show up to visit him, and now they're man and wife.

Eric escapes and returns to his hometown.  His brother's a wealthy man, and he has no intention of giving Eric his half of the family business.  Leda gets Eric in bed again.  Then Frank is brutally murdered in just the manner of the dream.

Leda is as bad as they come, and Eric is just as driven as she is.  When it comes to depicting people like this, all rough edges and raw emotion, Brewer comes close to his friend Harry Whittington.  Both can grab a reader on the first page and wring him out for a couple of hundred more.  If you like the old paperbacks with their fast action and blue-collar desperation, grab this new edition and give Brewer a try. 


Todd Mason said...

But does Leda ever do anything but exude/personify Dangerous Sexiness?

Some days that's enough, certainly. As with Bruno Fischer, Brewer is a guy I've been reading, off and on, all my literate life. Seems odd, somehow, that he might be obscure.

Richard Robinson said...

It's the inevitable doom of stories like these, the certainty that no matter what, things can't come to a good ending for the protagonist, that made me like reading them when I was younger and makes me cautious of them today. I don't seem to care for books that leave me, or the characters, up in the air nor leaves everyone wallowing in misery. Maybe there's just enough misery in the world these days that I don't need a lot more of it in my reading. Not that I only read happy-happy, but I do like to think there some chance the protagonist can win.

Richard Robinson said...

I like the older cover much better.

Unknown said...

Some of the GM books avoided the absolute downer ending, Rick, but not all of them. I've gone through the same transition you have, and I know seem to gravitate toward lighter fare.

Evan Lewis said...

Thanks, Bill. I believe I'll grab my copy that old edition out of a box.