Monday, February 13, 2023

Come Night, Come Evil

Jonathan Craig (Real Name: Frank E. Smith, 1919-1984) was a Florida resident who socialized with Harry Whittington and Gil Brewer as he was writing over 100 novels and 300 short stories during the paperback era. Come Night, Come Evil was a stand-alone crime noir novel from 1957 published by Fawcett Gold Medal.

The novel opens with Jeff Colby being released from prison into the hands of his loyal wife, Laurie. They have every intention of building a life together and putting Jeff’s legal problems behind them. Unfortunately, Jeff has been assigned a fat, slimy parole officer named Carl Munger, who corners the couple in the prison parking lot during the discharge and immediately begins making Jeff’s life miserable.

Munger is a loathsome bully who extorts a kickback from Jeff’s parolee job wages. Jeff is forced to comply with no backtalk because of Munger’s unilateral authority to revoke Jeff’s parole and send him back to prison to finish his sentence.

Why was Jeff in prison at all? Best to let the novel tell that story as it’s a pretty compelling flashback. Suffice to say, it was a bum rap, and Jeff would like to exonerate himself now that he’s out on the streets. And the only way he can stay out is to appease Munger and his inappropriate demands. Finding the people who set Jeff up and understanding their motivation is the central mystery of the paperback.

The problem is that there are a few other mysteries muddying up the plot in this 128-page paperback. The writing is solid, and some of the characters are written extremely well. Despite that, Come Night, Come Evil is a pretty mediocre affair. If you’re looking for top-shelf Jonathan Craig, proceed directly to So Young, So Wicked. Unless you’re trying to read them all, this one can be easily bypassed. 

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