It seems like yesterday that Mike Shayne, a private investigator in the Mike Hammer mold, was all over the place. Created by Brett Halliday, he was in a series of paperbacks, appeared on a television show and even had a mystery magazine. Halliday, however, was a pseudonym for Robert Terrall, who wrote under a number of different names. One of his better-known series, written as "Robert Kyle," featured a PI named Ben Gates, a softer-boiled version of Shayne. Gates did insurance and guard work, occasionally got in trouble and always wound up with a lady or two. And the stories? Well, they were excellent.
Now, Hard Case Crime blesses readers with KILL NOW, PAY LATER, a Ben Gates mystery that has been out of print for well over 40 years but stands up amazingly well in spite of --- or maybe because of --- the passage of time. The novel begins with Gates on an insurance company job with what is supposed to be a very easy assignment: guarding the presents at a very high-class wedding. It's one of those tasks where no one really expects any trouble, and all Gates has to do is maintain a presence, if you will, to discourage anyone whose thoughts stray toward walking off with something.
Problems begin, however, when someone slips sleeping pills into Gates's coffee. When he comes to the office the next morning, Gates is in huge trouble. Money is missing, two people are dead and Gates is being solemnly assured that he will never get insurance company work again. Suspects abound --- all are female, beautiful and uncontrollably attracted to him. Before he is through, Gates is involved in a caper involving pornography, blackmail and murder. While all the trademarks of the genre are here --- fisticuffs, double-crosses and a good deal of tawdry temptation --- there is also a first-rate, tantalizing mystery in KILL NOW, PAY LATER that clamors for the reader's attention from first page to last.
Terrall is still with us, a solid 93 and counting. It is fitting that in his salad years a new generation of readers should become acquainted with him, while several older generations should re-familiarize themselves with him.
--- Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub