New Yorker Jay Bennett (1912-2009) primarily made a living writing scripts for radio serial adventures starring Bulldog Drummond and early television programs such as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents. As an author, many of his mystery books were geared toward a juvenile audience - a niche that won him back-to-back Edgar awards in 1974 and 1975. He only wrote three books geared toward adults, including the 1963 Fawcett Crest paperback, “Murder Money.” The short novel has been reprinted by Wildside Press as an ebook and paperback.
Eddie Doran is a washed-up boxer, over-the-hill at age 35. After fighting for 20 years, Eddie’s career is over with nothing to show for it. He wanders the streets of the city depressed in a manner reminiscent of the losers populating the fictional world of author Davis Goodis from the same era. A confrontation and mix-up between Eddie and a stranger attempting to enter a taxicab at the same time finds Eddie in possession of the stranger’s briefcase. Inside the case? $100,000 cash.
The problem with finding $100,000 cash is that the owners often want the money back, and sometimes those owners aren’t honorable fellows. Eddie knows this and enlists his boxing manager Al to help him get away with the dough in exchange for half the loot. Nervous about staying in New York, the pair hop on a plane to Miami accompanied by Al’s alluring girlfriend, Laura.
Eddie is scared to death, and Laura ads some spice to the plot by repeatedly trying to seduce Eddie behind Al’s back. That’s not a good recipe for a larcenous partnership. Meanwhile, another woman from Eddie’s past resurfaces into his life while he’s laying low in Miami. Coincidence? The action and twists progress at a nice pace until the bloody climax in the Florida Keys where the truth is laid bare and the cash finds a home.
“Murder Money” is a simple novel drawing on a plot template that’s been done dozens of times. Despite the tired set-up, the book really works because Bennett was a solid author who understood pacing, raw emotions and narrative tension. “Murder Money” (awful title, by the way) is a sexy, violent and twisty ride. Recommended.
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