Thursday, December 22, 2016

Kill Now, Pay Later: Robert Kyle

The book opens with this paragraph:
The bride wore a bouffant gown of off-white silk taffeta with a fitted bodice of Alençon lace. The groom wore striped pants, a carnation and a look of bitter regret. As for me, Ben Gates, I was wearing my .38 in a shoul­der rig inside my best dacron and worsted. But I wasn’t a guest. Most of the wedding receptions I go to socially take place in bar-and-grills. An insurance company had hired me to come to this one and make sure that no­body went home with any of the wedding presents.
The narrator is Ben Gates, private eye. Unfortunately, someone at the wedding drugged his coffee, and when Gates wakes up, everyone assumes he got drunk and allowed a theft and a murder to occur in the house. Thus he has to pursue the investigation to regain his reputation. And shortly after that, the bride's father gives him another job to look into also.



The storytelling is well done; I was entertained throughout. The plot is detailed and intricate, sometimes a bit hard to follow, but I just enjoyed the ride. The Ben Gates series is the type that features beautiful, well endowed women, either scantily dressed or in revealing clothes. I have no problem with that ... I don't find that the women are presented as silly or stupid. Most of them are just as amoral and conniving as the men in the story. In fact, many of  the people that Gates investigates in this story are selfish and self-involved.

A big plus for me is that this detective doesn't seem like a copy of anyone else. This book was published in 1960, and there are plenty of detective novels from that time that I haven't read. But a lot of more contemporary private eyes in fiction seem like they are copies of Chandler's Philip Marlowe, even using the same style of writing, and I grow weary of stories like that.

Ben Gates is cynical, which is fairly typical of this sub-genre. He is attractive to women but not macho. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he is serious about his job. Even though the police cannot prove negligence and take away his license, they are doing their best to ruin his reputation and that is the driving motivation behind his pursuit of this case.

I forgot to mention that this is the third book in the Ben Gates series (of five books). I have the fourth book and will certainly be looking for the others. See also reviews at Ed Gorman's Blog and at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased. There is also a fine overview of the series by J. Kingston Pierce at Kirkus.

I purchased my copy of this paperback original edition because of the cover illustration by Robert McGinnis. The illustration also graces the cover of a book titled The Art of Robert McGinnis, with text by Art Scott. Kill Now, Pay Later was published in a new paperback edition in 2007 by Hard Case Crime. The newer edition also has a cover illustration by Robert McGinnis, commissioned for that edition. The book appears to be available only in a Kindle version now.

I am glad that the Crimes of the Century meme for December, hosted at Past Offences, motivated me to read this book. This month the year chosen was 1960. 

Robert Kyle is one pseudonym adopted by Robert Terrall. Just based on reading this book, I don't know why he isn't more widely known. He wrote some books under his own name, this series and some standalone novels under Robert Kyle, and seven novels as John Gonzales. I think that they were all crime fiction. He also wrote using the pseudonym of Brett Halliday, writing a good number of the later Mike Shayne novels.

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Publisher:   Dell, 1960
Length:       191 pages
Format:      Paperback Original
Series:       Ben Gates, #3 
Setting:      New York
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased this book.

14 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you mean about 'copycat' detectives, Tracy. I think it's hard to create a unique detective when there are so many out there - and some that are really well-developed, memorable characters. I like it when a fictional sleuth is unique. And the character doesn't have to be strange, or even eccentric, to be unique.

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    1. I agree, Margot. I am eager to try more of the author's books.

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  2. I would have bought it just for the cover - so 1960s.

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    1. It is a very nice cover, Katrina. Not exactly indicative of the contents of the book, but that is typical.

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  3. A twisted title on a Carter Brown tale from 1966. Play Now...Kill Later

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    1. I like that title too. Carter Brown sure did write a lot of mysteries. And Play Now.. Kill Later has two nice covers, one by Robert McGinnis.

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  4. The more I read these types of books the more my favorite era for crime fiction is becoming 1949 - 1960. Thanks for this overview. Not read any of Kyle's books, but I like the sound of Ben Gates. I'll be looking for them in the future.

    Merry, merry and a hearty ho, ho, ho to you out there in the land of sunshine. Have a great holiday, Tracy!

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    1. Thanks, John. I enjoyed reading this 1960 book and I am looking forward to reading more written around the same time. And different series by this author.

      As far as sunny California, here today in Santa Barbara it is overcast and raining but we are enjoying it, since we are inside (and need the rain). You have a lovely holiday too.

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  5. I'm wondering if McGinnis did the Matt Helm series covers, as this one looks a lot like those. I read all of Hamilton's work back in the day, but had not heard of Kyle--although the Halliday pseudonym's very familiar. Hope you enjoyed Christmas, Tracy. Our public library was closed for the long weekend, so I had no Internet access. Came back famished this morning!

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    1. He may have, Mathew. A lot of tines the illustrator was not credited. I will have to pull out my two books of his works and see if I can find any for the Matt Helm series. I have not read any of those books, but I did pick up several at the annual book sale, and I plan to try them.

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  6. Tracy, I have a feeling McGinnis may have also illustrated covers of some of the early Perry Mason novels. These are the kind of paperbacks that I look out for at book exhibitions.

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    1. I think you are right about the Perry Mason covers, Prashant. There is at least one book under his A. A. Fair pseudonym with a McGinnis cover. Also some of the Nick Carter covers are by McGinnis. I have got to go through my two books that show some of covers again soon.

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  7. Love the cover and, of course, the clothes description. Never heard of author or tec, but it sounds appealing in its own way...

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    1. The book was full of clothing descriptions, Moira, but I did wonder how he knew it was "a fitted bodice of Alençon lace". I wouldn't know that. Not that he is supposed to be uneducated at all. Anyway, not complaining, I liked the clothing descriptions. I think your description is good: "appealing in its own way."

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