THE SQUEEZE by Gil Brewer (1955)

Review by Mike Dennis

A fortune in illicit cash, a sinister gambling joint operator, a gorgeous redhead, and enough double-crossing to last a lifetime…those are the building blocks of The Squeeze, a fast-moving novel by Gil Brewer.

Written in 1955, The Squeeze is centered around Joe Maule, a Chicago transplant to the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida, the site of many Brewer tales. Joe is in debt to the tune of $12,000, a fortune at the time.  He owes it to Victor Jarnigan, owner of a nearby illegal casino.  Jarnigan, who has cheated Joe out of the money, has concocted a plan to allow him to clear his debt.  All Joe has to do is get cozy with Caroline Shreves, local femme fatale.

Caroline lives with her sister and her husband, who has apparently squirreled away $300,000 in cash.  She’s eye-popping, and likes to hang around local cocktail lounges on weeknights. Joe’s instructions are to develop a relationship with her, then get into the house and try to grab the money.

Well, Joe gets tight with Caroline, all right, according to the plan, but he falls in too deep.  As with most Brewer protagonists, he’s blinded by his lust for this alluring woman who knows all the moves.  She appears to fall for him, too, and before you can say “Judas kiss”, the two of them are plotting to grab the money for themselves and split town.

This is the kind of well-written book that made pulp work back in the day.  It immediately draws you in, continuing its hold over you with a steadily building story line and no-frills plotting.  It’s pure noir:  Joe is screwed from the first page, but he’s the only one who doesn’t know it.

Brewer’s formula of lonely-guy-meets-beautiful-dish works again, thanks to clever variations in his theme.  He pushes all the right buttons in this little gem, which unfortunately has been left in the dust of the last half-century.

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