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The vengeful virgin by Gil Brewer
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The vengeful virgin (1958)

by Gil Brewer

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Vengeful Virgin might at first glance appear to be just another Postman Rings Twice triangle of lust, passion, greed, and self- destruction. It's got the mean old man who won't die, the young sexy nympho who can't leave the old man, the money she stands to get when he goes six feet under, and the character who is seduced by the young woman and loses his mind over her. But: this is Gil Brewer's take on this seductive tale and it is red hot noir like you've never read before.

How good is Brewer's writing. Well, he grabs with the first paragraph and never lets go of his death-grip on your throat. "She wasn't what you would call beautiful. She was just a red-haired girl with a lot of sock," is what he opens with. Shirley Angela is her name and she is the eighteen-year-old stepdaughter of a rich, old man confined ninety percent of the time to a hospital bed in his home. She has spent three years tending to his every need and can't walk away because he has $400,000 socked away in the bank and she stands to inherit it if she survives.

Jack Ruxton is the tv repairman. She, it seems, hires him to install televisions and remote controls and intercoms in every room. "She was a puzzler. I knew she was in her teens, yet she had the poise and direct and deadly poise of a woman beyond her years." He couldn't keep his eyes off legs and she knew it. As she helped the old man, Jack watched her across the bed and knew she knew what he had been thinking- what if the bed were empty and he wasn't there. As he leaves there, he thinks about the feeling you get, just a little tight in the chest, not quite enough air.

The next day, Jack realizes that she isn't even looking at the brochures he brings. She came up against him, "watching [him] with big round eyes." And, he went "nuts for her." "She began to groan and moan, writhing wildly. She was a tiger." He explains: "I knew I'd never get enough of her. She was straight out of hell." Wow. Doesn't Brewer just say it all there. This femme fatale is no innocent babe in the woods. Nope, she is "straight out of hell." And, she is going to drag him with her back into hell, isn't she?

The third day, Jack comes over and she tells him, "I wish he was dead." When he tells her that she doesn't want the old man in the hospital because the doctors might just keep him alive forever, she wrenches her hands loose and rakes her nails down the side of Jack's neck. "She squirmed and writhed and kicked." There is nothing but raw red hot emotion in Brewer's stories and the people are filled with passion so scorching that their guts are just ripped apart inside and they never can find peace.

Brewer does an amazing job of letting the reader see the world through Jack's eyes, feeling his pain and his desperation. But, maybe that was the point. This is his story -- his confession. He is a womanizer. He beats his girlfriend Grace like she's a punching bag. He seduces a barely legal teen and convinces her to kill her stepfather so he can get his hands on the money. And, throughout the story, it's not his fault. This temptress from the gateway of hell made him crazy, made him sick in the head. Grace wouldn't leave him alone do he had to teach her a lesson. The old man was taking advantage of his stepdaughter rather than spending money on a nurse. The nosy neighbor can't stay out of it, won't leave him alone, Is he the devil or just another hard luck case?

This is one terrific noir story on do many levels. It's worth reading more than once. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
This is a twisted piece of crime fiction about greed and lust. Beautiful 18 year old Shirley Angela is the adopted daughter and carer of the elderly invalid Victor, but she feels angry trapped and miserable looking after the old man. When TV repairman Jack arrives to install a new intercom system the pair immediately fall for each other. They’re soon lovers and before long are hatching a plot to get rid of Victor and make off with his money. It’s never that easy however, as there’s nothing like money to come between lovers. Originally published in the 1950s, the novel is a marvellously written book full of a dark noir momentum and a sense of doomed inevitability. Brewster’ story and writing overflows with murderous intent and a relentlessly growing paranoia. Shirley and Jack are marvellously drawn flawed (possibly psychopathic) characters whose actions spiral out of their control before ending in one of the most horrifically retributive climaxes in all of noir fiction. Gripping and entertaining throughout “The Vengeful Virgin” is a deadly morality play about lust for money and the sordid downside of the “American Dream”. ( )
  calum-iain | Mar 14, 2015 |
The Vengeful Virgin is a Hard Case Crime Novel. Originally published in 1958, it has VengefulVirginvestiges of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. The beautiful eighteen year old Shirley Angela has to take care of her aged, bed-ridden step father, Victor Spondell, primarily because she’s heir to his fortune and he has no one else. However, she’s lonely for a man and has devised a plan to meet one. On the pretext of putting an intercom throughout the house and purchase new TVs she decides TV repairman Jake Ruxton is the man (patsy) for her.

She tells Ruxton of the horrors of being at Victor’s beck and call. All her sexual frustrations come out after their first meeting and after having sex with her, he’s got it bad. Upon hearing how much money Shirley will inherit, he tells her that what she really wants, subconsciously, is to murder Victor and have the money to herself. He convinces her that that’s what they should do and she ultimately agrees. Ruxton, having no lack of ego, devises a plan, but, as with The Postman Always Rings Twice, things don’t necessarily go according to plan.

The Vengeful Virgin is caught between the old pulp mystery and the noir genres. Brewer’s career started with stories for the pulps in 1929 and continued through the early 1950s when he began writing crime novels. However, his stories never made it to Black Mask, the pinnacle of pulp mystery magazines and you can tell why. Although hard hitting and tough, the writing lacks something…finesse, location, I’m not sure what. According to Twentieth Century Mystery and Crime Writers, most of his books reflect an average guy getting caught up with a beautiful, but evil and manipulative woman. So it is with The Vengeful Virgin, although, one can make a strong case that Ruxton was the evil and manipulative one. This was an OK read, but not one to make its way to my home library. (I do like the cover, though.) ( )
  EdGoldberg | Sep 29, 2014 |
Republished pulp fiction from Hard Case Crime! A morally flawed guy meets a young, hot girl with a lot of money to inherit. They make a deal! A quite entertaining story with a »The Postman Always Rings Twice«-kinda vibe to it! This is not my last Hard Case Crime novel for sure! ( )
  Locke | May 11, 2010 |
Very gritty & well written for this type of novel, but the main characters were a bit too unreal for me, especially the girl. It was a good believable plot & everything got logically & wonderfully out of hand. Kind of depressing & I don't understand why it is titled the way it is. There wasn't a virgin to be found. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Sep 25, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gil Brewerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Manchess, GregoryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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