Bruno Fischer was born in Germany in 1908 and emigrated to the U.S. at age five. He wrote for the pulps in the 1930s and 1940s, and transitioned seamlessly into the paperback original market of the 1950s with the majority of his output published by the Fawcett Gold Medal imprint. I’ve found his writing to be reliably excellent, so I was pleased to find a ratty paperback of 1960’s “Run for Your Life,” one of his many novels that has not yet been digitized and released as an ebook.
Our narrator Willie Farrington has lived a posh life. He grew up wealthy and avoided WW2 combat because of his influential family who made their fortune in the railroad industry. Willie estimates that he’s worth around $50 million, and modern readers should keep in mind that this was in 1960 when that was a lot of dough. Willie lives on a sprawling Arizona ranch with his spoiled, cheating wife, and is visiting New York City as the novel opens.
An unusual sequence of events finds Willie dresses like a bum in Central Park in the middle of the night without any money. Mistaking him for a vagrant ruffian, a young woman named Nina solicits Willie to break into an apartment and recover a manila envelope containing documents. Willie accepts the engagement to see if he actually has the capacity to be good at something other than writing big checks.
Willie enters the apartment while Nina waits outside, and if you’ve never read a Fawcett Gold Medal crime novel before, you’ll be surprised to learn that there is a murdered body inside the place. Willie also finds the envelope he was tasked to recover, and it’s filled with what appears to be sensitive national security documents. The cops arrive, and Willie finds himself running for his life along with Nina just like the paperback’s title promised.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a little contrived, you’d be right. The mid-novel revelation disclosing the reason for the murder and the significance of the envelope is pretty lame and as a straight-up mystery whodunnit, “Run for Your Life” fails. However, as a pursuit and survival adventure paperback, it’s pretty darn good.
By 1960, Fischer was a pro at pacing an exciting novel that keeps the pages turning, and who doesn’t like a well-told couple-on-the-run story? The obstacles Willie and Nina are forced to navigate on their road to freedom and redemption make for some genuinely-exciting reading, and by that measure, “Run for Your Life” is worth your time. Recommended.
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