THE BRAT by Gil Brewer
Review by Mike Dennis
“She was a human magnet to me and she knew it, understood it, from the instant we crossed gazes.”
That sentence could be inserted into just about any Gil Brewer novel you care to name. It just happened to be in The Brat, but a variation on that sentence appears in nearly all of them.
Brewer’s books revolve around everyday guys who become ensnared by the deadly wiles of smokin’ hot babes. When all the dust settles, the typical Brewer protagonist usually regrets the day he laid eyes on the girl, but hey, she was hot, right? What choice did he have?
Of course, the guys always had a choice, and they usually chose wrong. That’s the human condition, and that’s really what noir fiction is all about, a genre at which Brewer excelled.
You never feel like you’re reading a write-by-the-numbers book when you read one of Brewer’s novels. Even though the story lines are startlingly similar, they’re all executed with a fresh approach. The plots all seem original and Brewer’s writing forces you to turn the page.
The Brat, which is from 1957, deals with Lee Sullivan, ordinary Joe, who walks straight into a frameup job for robbery and murder. It’s a tight frame and it’s been cleverly set up by Evis, the girl referenced in the above quote, who sets his heart pounding every time he thinks about her. He eludes capture and pursues the girl, who has fled to her family’s shack deep in the Everglades, where she was raised. But does he want revenge or does he want her?
Reading this novel, you can feel the steam rising from the marshes and you’re glad you’re not there. You can feel the sweat dripping off the characters as they chase each other through the great, lonely swamp. You can feel the overheated passion that consumes Sullivan every step of the way, and you’re not even sure if he knows why he’s doing all this. This is noir, baby!
A vintage Gil Brewer effort, The Brat is highly recommended, and it reminds us of just how masterfully he told a story.