In 1959, Harry Whittington submitted for publication a crime noir novel titled “Never Find Sanctuary” that Fawcett Gold Medal published as “Backwoods Tramp” with a salacious cover indicative of the soft-core sleaze of the era. When Black Lizard republished the paperback in 1988, it was given the title “A Moment to Prey” with an insightful introduction from Whittington detailing his highs and lows of his writing career.
Due to an unusual series of events I won’t spoil here, former Major League Baseball pitcher Jake Richards is hot on the trail of an armed payroll robber named Marv Pooser who just scored $100,000 in a daring heist. A promising clue brings Jake to Pooser’s hometown in rural Florida - nearby the author’s own hometown of Ocala. The locals in the mosquito-infested town are suspicious of strangers and don’t take kindly to an outsider asking questions about Pooser, so Jake is greeted with a backwoods-style ass whooping.
Meanwhile, Lilly is a hot little swamp chick selling fried fish at her family’s restaurant in the same part of rural Florida. She’s got issues of her own and has always wanted more than the constant sexual harassment she must endure from the restaurant’s clientele. Referring to Lilly as a “Backwoods Tramp” is wholly inaccurate after the reader bears witness to what happens to a local man who tries to manhandle the girl. Circumstances thrust Jake and Lilly together - figuratively at first - but you can see where that’s headed. After all, she’s the kind of girl men get obsessed over.
Jake enlists Lilly’s help in finding Pooser, and that’s when things go bonkers. Pooser is one of the most vile, devious and reprehensible villains in crime fiction. In fact, this whole paperback is pretty crazy. Crazy sexual. Crazy tense. Crazy violent. Because it’s Florida, deadly snakes and man-eating gators play a key supporting role in the mayhem leading up to the beat-the-clock climax.
Fawcett Gold Medal was selling consumers a bit of swampland of their own by packaging “Backwoods Tramp” as a sexy seduce-the-swamp-girl paperback. What readers inevitably found was a menacing rural noir filled with violence, darkness and double-crosses. Or, in other words, top-notch Harry Whittington at his most twisted. Highly recommended.
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I think this book will end up being one of my top five favorite Whittington's, but I've got another hundred left to read before I commit.ReplyDelete
Terrific novel, with some depth waiting behind the tense plot.ReplyDelete