Friday, March 31, 2023

The Gilded Hideaway

Peter Twist was a pseudonym employed by a U.S. Air Force veteran and Civil Engineer named Charles Peter Hewett (1922-1980) for a single novel called The Gilded Hideaway released as an Ace paperback in 1955. The book has found new life as part of a triple-shot of Ace paperbacks released by Stark House under the title Three Aces due in May 2023.

The novel’s opening paragraph sucks you right in:

“You may remember reading a few years back about a guy who stole a hundred thousand dollars and skipped. The newspapers played him up big for a while and then said he had been caught and the money recovered. That was a lie. He was never caught. I was the guy.”

Our narrator is Robert West, a Long Island office manager for his uncle’s general contracting business - building garages and whatnot for suburban families. He’s clearly growing restless of his conventional life with his shrew of a wife and his dead-end job. He’s a man with a lust for adventure and larceny in his heart.

Robert embarks on a pretty elaborate bank fraud scheme, and if you have an appetite for white collar crime, you’ll likely enjoy this aspect quite a bit. However, the majority of the novel is the getaway when Robert makes his way to Mexico with the dough in search of a new life.

The novel becomes a bit of a relationship drama with romance evolving in Mexico, where Robert is laying low. Stick with it, though, as the crime story finds its way back to the paperback’s central dilemma as Robert learns that he’s not as hard to find as he hoped. And, yes, there’s some brain-splattering violence for the action fans.

The biographical information I have on the author indicates that he lived and worked in Mexico for much of his adult life. In many ways, the novel is his way of explaining the culture, regions and people of Mexico in or around 1955. The author’s choice of the pen name “Twist” was deliciously on-the-nose as the twists and double-crosses come fast and furious as the simple plot ripens.

And what an ending! If you can handle some dark and sick scenes of violence, you’ll love this book as much as I did. My only regret is that the author never wrote another novel. If you have this one yellowing on your shelf, drop everything and read it. If you don’t, pick up the Stark House reprint. You won’t regret it. Buy it HERE.

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