Hugely popular and prolific during the 1950s, selling millions of copies of paperback originals, the late Gil Brewer is considered one of the best American crime writers of his era. Between 1950 and the late 1970s, he authored hundreds of short stories and dozens of novels, including The Red Scarf and A Killer is Loose, two early career novels commonly cited as among the author’s finest.
As veteran LAPD detective-writer Paul Bishop says of these novels in his introduction to this combined edition, Brewer’s ‘specialty of trapping his protagonist in a web of terror, paranoia, and dread and empathetically transmitting those feelings to his readers had been honed to the sharpness of a killer’s stiletto.’
Originally published in the Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine in 1955, and later in book form as a Crest reprint by Fawcett, The Red Scarf sold more than a million copies and received numerous favourable reviews in leading periodicals.
Arguably more blood-tingling, the second novel, A Killer Is Loose, is an unbearably tense, breathtakingly good thriller first published in 1954 as a Fawcett Gold Medal original. Penned in less than two weeks, this was Brewer’s sixth novel and, as with The Red Scarf, it is a fast-paced, first-person narrative featuring another luckless everyman who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and caught up in a nightmare situation.
It is hardly surprising that Brewer sold the film rights to the book as A Killer is Loose is a uniquely brilliant, unforgettable crime tale with an unpredictable plot, a sympathetic narrator, a frightening killer, and one heart-pounding, hair-raising moment after another. Full of frantic characters, anguished prose, and impending terror, it is perfectly paired with The Red Scarf.
My review of The Red Scarf and A Killer is Loose is featured today in the Lancashire Post and syndicated to 20 newspapers in the UK. The full review can be found at the web link below and elsewhere: