YOU’LL DIE NEXT by Harry Whittington
Review by Mike Dennis
Henry Wilson’s got it made. He’s sitting in his little kitchen eating popovers, carbing out on the sugar juices stirring in his mouth. Meanwhile, his wife Lila is whipping up his bacon and eggs. She’s absolutely gorgeous and she fawns over him nonstop. He knows he’s homely, and he can’t believe how lucky he is that a guy like him could land a girl like her.
Yes, everything is perfect in Henry Wilson’s world. But then the doorbell rings right while he’s chomping on a popover and he gets up to answer it, immediately plunging him into a hell from which he may never emerge.
Harry Whittington churned out nearly 200 novels during an incredible career that spanned the 1950s and 60s. He was one of the first exclusively-paperback novelists, appearing on the scene almost as soon as the medium was created. His strength was plotting. “I could plot, baby. I could plot,” he used to say, and could he ever!
That talent was never so forcefully confirmed as it was in 1954’s You’ll Die Next!. In this noir tale, which comes in this 1992 edition with a splendid introduction by Bill Crider, Henry Wilson’s life becomes a nightmare, shot through with terror, and with treachery awaiting him at every turn. The reader will feel like taking a long shower after trailing Wilson through the ash heaps and filthy alleys of Whittington’s dark, animated imagination.
Like most of Whittington’s novels, it’s short. The paperback publishers of the day apparently didn’t want to waste a lot of money on ink, paper, and shipping, so they accepted a lot of work that would today be considered “too short”. None other than Anthony Boucher, however, reviewed it for The New York Times Book Review, stating he was glad it was so short because “I couldn’t have held my breath any longer in this vigorous tale whose plot is too dexterously twisted even to mention in a review.”
And twisted it is. All I’ll say is, just be careful the next time you answer the door.