In April, 2018, Stark House Press released a reprinting of Gil Brewer's 1952 novel “Flight to Darkness” and his 1954 book “77 Rue Paradis”. The two works are packaged together with a forward from Dr. Rachels, an English Professor at Newberry College that edited Brewer's short story collection, “Redheads Die Quickly and Other Stores” (2012 University Press of Florida).
After Gil Brewer's wildly successful 1952 paperback, “13 French Street”, the author could have reserved time and effort for a monumental follow-up novel. Unfortunately, he didn't. Despite cautionary warnings from his literary agent, Brewer wrote “Night Follows Night”, later re-titled to “Flight to Darkness”, in a mere three days. I think the fact that he wrote this novel in such a short amount of time speaks volumes – it's an absolute stinker.
My only prior experience with Gil Brewer was the ordinary crime novel “The Red Scarf”. Enjoyable enough, “Flight to Darkness” was not. It's a cumbersome narrative revolving around Korean War veteran Eric Garth. The book's opening pages explains that Eric has been hospitalized in a sanitarium due to frequent dreams and visions of killing his brother Frank with a wooden mallet. Bizarre, yes. The source of the dreams and visions is a battlefield incident where Eric thinks he murdered another soldier despite all evidence pointing to the contrary, that the man was killed by enemy gunfire.
During his hospital stay, Eric falls for the cunning and beautiful Leda Thayer, his nurse. Her attraction to Eric stems from his family's wealth. Eric and his brother Frank, whom Eric hates, are the sole inheritors of the family's thriving loan business. Leda practically tells Eric she's only in it for the money, but often love is just headed for tragedy and this story is no different.
Upon his release, Eric and Leda head to Alabama to vacation in a lakeside cabin. There, Eric is drug out of bed and arrested for a hit and run. The blood and hair matches Eric's fender. But Eric doesn't remember any of this and proclaims his innocence. He's taken to the local sanitarium where he lives for a number of weeks before escaping. His destination is the family's home in western Florida. There he learns that Leda has married Frank!
Soon, Frank is found murdered with...a wooden mallet. All signs point to Eric as the killer and he soon goes on the run to prove his innocence...again. Hit and runs, wooden mallets, scrupulous lovers, lots of money – these should be the ingredients for a wild crime fiction novel. Unfortunately, the story is just tossed together and none of it really makes much sense. Granted, I'm not a huge fan of riding with a lunatic. It's why I don't read novels by the likes of Jim Thompson or Richard Laymon. The idea that Eric is probably insane really ruins it for me. I like my novels to involve normal, everyday characters that are thrust into insane situations. Because of that, “Flight to Darkness” was a real chore to read. I'm not terribly excited to open the next Brewer novel.
Buy a copy of this book HERE