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