Friday, February 20, 2015

FFB: Take Me As I Am -- William H. Fielding (Darwin L. Teilhet)

When Steve Lewis reviewed this book on Mystery*File, he guaranteed that the ending would please any fan or noirish fiction.  Having had the book on my shelves for 40 years or so yet never having read it, I figured I'd give it a try.  After all, it was guaranteed, and Steve and I often agree about books.

We agree about this one, too.  It's a coming-of-age novel and a crime novel all in one.  Young Bill Owens, just out of high school and hitching his way to California for a job, gets a ride with a lovely young blonde named Alma, who's about four years older than he is and who is not what she seems to be, at least not what she seems to Bill.  We readers are in on the plot, and we know that Alma's got a trunk full of cash from an armored car robbery that didn't go off as planned (depending on whose plan you mean; do fictional armored car robberies ever go off as planned?).

Alma sees Bill as an opportunity.  The cops are looking for her, but with him along, she's part of a couple.  They're not looking for a couple.  She offers to give him a ride all the way to California.  She also tells him numerous lies.  

The plot twists and turns along because the cops aren't the only ones after Alma, as you may have guessed.  Some very bad guys want that money.  There's a fairly incredible part in the middle of the book that had me shaking my head a bit, but it's forgivable to me because it involves a hand-painted tie.  Ah, hand-painted ties.  How long has it been since you've seen or read about one of those?  Well, that's too long.  But I digress.  Along the way, Bill falls for Alma, and she appears to be falling for him, as well.  But is she?

After a number of double- and triple-crosses we get the answer to that question, and Bill's done a good bit of growing up. I'm not going to spoil the ending for you, but [SPOILER ALERT] then again maybe I am.  In a norish novel, as you know, things don't usually end well [END OF SPOILER ALERT].

Take Me As I Am might not be among the best of the Gold Medals, but it's right up there.  Check it out.



August West said...

I remember reading this one. Great story. Going in I was expecting an average GM yarn which this one is not. Besides the ending, two things that I distinctly remember:
1. The novel gets off to a great start with the violent armored car heist.
2. Whenever Alma sees farm animals going the "dirty" she gets sexually aroused.
(Gotta love that!)

mybillcrider said...

Right on both counts, August.

Jeff Meyerson said...

I'm wearing a hand-painted tie right now. Nothing else, just the tie.

Just thought I'd mention that.


mybillcrider said...

No photos, please.

Rick Robinson said...

There were so many books with plots like this. My problem with these noir tales is I keep wishing something good would come of things, maybe a good chunk of that money winds up in the kid's pocket with no one the wiser, for instance. Never happens...

also, Jeff, what's ON that tie? Must be pretty spectacular if it doesn't need any accompaniment.

Steve Lewis said...

My guarantees are ironclad. This is a good one.

Mel Odom said...

they had an ebook edition on Amazon. I picked it up. If it's not good, Bill, you're getting a picture of me in a hand-painted tie. That's all.

mybillcrider said...

I'm going to forward it to Steve.