The name Robert Terrall may not mean much to you. But how about Robert Kyle (the name under which Kill Now, Pay Later was originally published)? Or Jose Gonzalez? If those names don't ring a bell, another one might. Terrall was also one of two men who wrote Mike Shayne novels under the pseudonym Brett Halliday (the other was Davis Dresser, Shayne's creator).
Shayne's name will undoubtedly be familiar to most crime fans, being a character who was not only featured in those novels and a popular radio series (later TV), but who also loaned his name to a magazine (Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine) that published stories by many of crime fiction's biggest names. "Halliday" (presumably Dresser) was also the host (after John Dickson Carr) of Murder by Experts, one of the best crime anthology radio shows of its day.
As Kyle, this prolific writer's claim to fame was a series of novels featuring P.I. Ben Gates. Kill Now, Pay Later is the third in that series of five, and Hard Case Crime has released it under Terrall's own name for the first time.
Hired by an insurance company to guard wedding presents, Gates is subsequently drugged and wakes up to a missing diamond bracelet and two dead bodies. Passing out on the job is not likely to bring new referrals, so Gates takes it upon himself to solve the mystery (against the wishes of Lieutenant Minturn of the state police, who is pretty much satisfied that Gates had something to do with the crime) before he becomes corpse number three.
Unlike most of the other books put out by Hard Case Crime, this one is a pretty straightforward private eye tale. Gates has an eye for the ladies (and, more importantly, they for him), which makes question and answer sessions interesting, but the actual solution -- thought it takes place in the midst of a conflagration -- is rather anticlimactic. And the tidy, tie-up-all-the-loose-ends conclusion, while satisfying in its own way, is certainly not what Hard Case Crime readers will be expecting.
Still, Ben Gates and his friend/colleague are charming characters I would follow to another book, and Terrall's style is smooth enough to make Kill Now, Pay Later a light, easygoing read that would probably appeal to fans of Erle Stanley Gardner's novels under the name A.A. Fair (Top of the Heap, for example).