Gil Brewer’s “Nude on thin Ice” was published in 1960 and is narrated by Ken McCall, who isn’t the kind of guy you’d want dating your sister. He’s a player who enjoys no-strings attached female companionship before he inevitably casts the woman aside for a better offer. The novel has been reprinted by Stark House along with Brewer’s “Memory of Passion” and an informative introduction by academic David Rachels.
We meet Ken on a Key West vacation, where he’s ready to dump his recent sex-partner after she’s served her purpose of providing him with wild coupling and plenty of bikini time. Ken receives a letter notifying him that his close friend from New Mexico is dead, and his friend’s wife is now sitting on a fortune. The letter asks Ken to look after the grieving Nanette in her time of need. The Florida chick is quickly cast aside, and Ken is on the road headed for New Mexico, a place of new possibilities with a recent widow and her millions.
Ken is an anti-hero who isn’t bogged down in rationalizations for his behavior. He’s a heel who loves babes and money and will do anything to get them. Growing up dirt poor, he’s certain that cash is the elixir for all of life’s suffering. Ken doesn’t ever want to feel that cold, empty-stomach longing again and knows that his dead friend’s wife might be his golden ticket away from a life of sticking up filling stations for dough.
Upon arrival at Nanette’s house, it becomes apparent that Ken isn’t the only one with his eye on her fortune. It seems a cast of characters has gathered around Nanette in her time of grief. Each of the visiting eccentrics seems to have their own agenda, and not all of them pure of heart - most notably a horny, female relative with her eye on Ken. The scenes between Ken and this young nymph are sexy as hell until they take a dark and perverse turn - be warned.
If “The Vengeful Virgin” was the high-mark of Brewer’s writing career, “Nude on thin Ice” might be a close second. The scenes of sex and violence are a notch more intense than most 1960 paperbacks, and the story didn’t meander much at all. It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of greed and lust, and it’s a damn fine noir paperback. Recommended.
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