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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gil Brewer

I mentioned recently that Brewer deserved a little investigation over his year of birth. The results are in and I'm in favour of 1922... in fact I can reveal that his full name was Gilbert John Brewer and he was born on 20 November 1922 in Canandaigua, New York. He was the son of Gilbert T. Brewer, a New Jersey-born pulp writer, and his wife, Ruth, and his year of birth can be firmly established thanks to the 1930 census which lists his age quite precisely as 7 years 4 months. (If anyone wants to check this, Brewer is erroneously listed as Brener at Ancestry.com.) The census was taken on 15 April 1930, which means he was born between 16 November and 15 December 1922. (And, I should add, that 1922 is the year of birth his widow gives in an essay on her husband's life.)

His name is given in Florida death records as Gilbert J. Brewer—which also correctly identify both his date of birth and date of death (9 January 1983). His middle name, John, is revealed by US enlistment records: he enlisted in the army on 8 March 1943 in Rochester, New York. At that time he was living in Ontario, New York.

His father, Gilbert T. Brewer, I believe was born 12 May 1898 and died 19 July 1967, at Saint Petersburg, Pinellas Co., Florida, as did his son some 15 years later. Again, the Social Security Death Index seems to be in error—it lists his birth as 1897 and his death as occurring on 14 July. However, according to the U.S. Veterans Gravesites register, the former dates apply and he was buried at Stones River National Battlefield, in Tennessee. 1898 for his year of birth ties in with his age (31) on the 1930 census.

Gilbert T. wrote primarily for air war pulps War Stories, Sky Riders, Airplane Stories, Zeppelin Stories, Frontier Stories, Thrilling Stories, Air stories, Battle Stories and Dare-Devil Aces in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The birth of a younger sister to Gilbert in 1927 was, perhaps, the inspiration, and two more siblings followed (another sister and a brother). They had a fairly impoverished upbringing, their father addicted to drink and was later committed to a VA hospital after a mental breakdown.

Brewer spent three years at high school before dropping out to work. He was wounded in action whilst serving with the army in Belgium and France, which meant he received a VA disability pension. His family had moved to Florida and Brewer went through the usual variety of jobs—warehouseman, cannery worker, bookseller, gas-station attendant—associated with those learning their trade as a writer. With money an issue, Brewer's mother insisted he get a proper job. When he refused she ordered him to leave.

Brewer found a boarding house where the other residents would help feed him; he was already a heavy drinker but was also young, handsome and dynamic. He was involved in an affair with a married woman, Verlaine Morris Lee, who subsequently divorced her husband. The two married in South Carolina, telling no-one.

Back in St. Petersburg, Florida, he sold tales to Detective Tales and Detective Fiction before trying his hand with a novel, written in a white heat and completed in five days. He wrote a second almost as quickly and this was placed with Gold Medal (Fawcett Publications) who had then recently launched a line of original paperbacks and were seeking the best writers from the pulps, both established writers and new. Satan Is A Woman was published in 1951, followed quickly by So Rich, So Dead—Brewer's five-day novel—and 13 French Street, which was his first million seller.

Brewer's career was off to a good start. He was represented by Capt. Joe Shaw, the one-time editor of Black Mask, and had a publisher eager for his work. When Shaw died suddenly in 1952, Brewer was represented by Scott Meredith Agency. None of his early novels took longer than two weeks to write and film rights were sold to four of them. In between, Brewer wrote for crime pulps Manhunt, Accused, Trapped, Murder, Pursued, Guilty and Mystery Tales, amongst others. In the mid-1950s he also adopted the pen-names Bailey Morgan and Eric Fitzgerald to keep up with his output. Unfortunately, it was not to last.

As the 1950s progressed, Brewer's career began to unravel. His friends were fellow writers—Day Keene, Harry Whittington, Talmage Powell, Jonathan Craig, Robert Turner and others—who would drink and play cards. Brewer coasted between books, spending money recklessly. He wrote only when the money had almost run out, driving himself mercilessly, drinking black coffee and smoking heavily to keep himself alert. One novel took only three days to write, another five days. When finished he would collapse from nervous exhaustion, using pills and drink to help him sleep.

In the late 1950s, he and Verlaine moved to Colorado and then New Mexico, but alcohol was taking its toll. Around 1962 he had a mental breakdown, which resulted in hospitalisation in Arcadia, Florida. Brewer recovered slowly and began to pick up the reins of writing again, a handful of crime thrillers and three novelisations based on the TV series It Takes A Thief under his own name, a novel ghosted under the name Ellery Queen and another published under the name of Hal Ellson, who was more saleable at that time.

These were not easy years. The market had changed considerably and Brewer was not in touch with it. He slid back into alcoholism. In 1970 he totalled his Porsche, breaking eight ribs, fracturing 28 other bones and tearing in lung. Faced with another long climb back to full recovery, Brewer used alcohol and pills to kill the pain so that he could keep writing. He wrote pornography and stories for adult magazines; he wrote Gothic romances as Elaine Evans, ghosted two novels as Al Conroy for Marvin Albert's Soldato series and five novels for a former Israeli soldier, Harry Arvay.

Sales began to become fewer. Alcohol dominated his life and he split from his wife, although she continued to live in the same apartment and she continued to support him. He voluntarily attended AA meetings but always slid back to the bottle. He sold to Hustler and other men's magazines, but none of the book projects he worked on came to anything. He was hospitalised again on a number of occasions, his recovery always complicated by drink. In 1982, he was dropped by the Scott Meredith Agency. He died on Sunday, 9 January 1983, at his apartment at 3301 58th Avenue South.

PUBLICATIONS

Novels (series: Al Mundy)
Satan Is a Woman. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 169, 1951; London, New Fiction Press, Oct 1952.
So Rich, So Dead. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 196, 1951; London, New Fiction Press, Sep 1952.
13 French Street. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 211, 1951; London, New Fiction Press, Aug 1952.
Flight to Darkness. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 277, 1952; London, Alexander Moring, Oct 1956.
Hell’s Our Destination. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 345, 1953; London, Fawcett Gold Medal 94, Jun 1955.
A Killer is Loose. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 380, 1954; London, Alexander Moring, 1956.
Some Must Die. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 409, 1954; London, Alexander Moring, Mar 1956.
77 Rue Paradis. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 448, 1955; London, Red Seal 126, Jun 1959.
The Squeeze (and Love Me To Death by Frank Diamond). New York, Ace Double D-123, 1955; Bridlington, Priory Books, 1973?.
—And the Girl Screamed. New York, Fawcett Crest 147, 1956; London, Fawcett Gold Medal 366, Nov 1959.
The Angry Dream. New York, Bouregy, 1957; as The Girl from Hateville, Rockville Centre, New York, Zenith ZB-7, 1958.
The Brat. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 708, 1957; London, Fawcett Gold Medal 292, Jan 1959.
Little Tramp. New York, Fawcett Crest 173, 1957; London, Red Seal 141, 1959.
The Bitch. New York, Avon 830, 1958.
The Red Scarf. New York, Bouregy, 1958; London, Digit D277, Jul 1959.
Wild. New York, Fawcett Crest 229, 1958; London, Fawcett Gold Medal 348, Sep 1959.
The Vengeful Virgin. New York, Fawcett Crest 238, 1958; London, Muller Gold Medal 411, May 1960.
Angel. New York, Avon 866, 1959.
Sugar. New York, Avon T335, 1959.
Wild to Possess. Derby, Connecticut, Monarch 107, 1959.
Nude on Thin Ice. New York, Avon T470, 1960.
Backwoods Teaser. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 950, 1960.
The Three-Way Split. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal 987, 1960; London, Muller Gold Medal 520, 1961.
Play it Hard. Derby, Connecticut, Monarch 168, 1960; Bridlington, Priory, 1973?.
Appointment in Hell. Derby, Connecticut, Monarch 187, 1961; Bridlington, Priory, 1973?.
A Taste of Sin. New York, Berkley G509, 1961.
Memory of Passion. New York, Lancer 70-008, 1962.
The Hungry One. New York, Fawcett Gold Medal D1647, 1966.
The Tease. New York, Banner B50-102, 1967.
Sin for Me. New York, Banner B50-108, 1967.
It Takes a Thief #1: The Devil in Davos (Mundy, novelisation of television play). New York, Ace, 1969.
It Takes a Thief #2: Mediterranean Caper (Mundy, novelisation of television play). New York, Ace, 1969.
It Takes a Thief #3: Appointment in Cairo (Mundy, novelisation of television play). New York, Ace, 1970.
13 French Street and The Red Scarf (omnibus). London, Blue Murder, 1988.
Wild to Possess / A Taste of Sin (omnibus). Eureka, CA, Stark House, 2006.
A Devil for O'Shaugnessy / The Three-Way Split (omnibus). Eureka, CA, Stark House, 2008.

Novels as Harry Arvay (ghost-writer; series: Max Roth in all)
The Moscow Intercept. London, Corgi, 1975; New York, Bantam Q6345, 1975.
Eleven Bullets for Mohammed. London, Corgi, 1975; New York, Bantam Q7626, 1975.
Operation Kuwait. London, Corgi, 1975; New York, Bantam Q7759, 1975.
The Piraeus Plot. London, Corgi, 1975; New York, Bantam Q2048, 1975.
Togo Commando. London, Corgi, 1976.

Novels as Mark Bailey
Mouth Magic. New York, Barclay House 7230, 1972; as My Hot Lipped Lovers by Mark Bailey, Brandon House 6437, 1975; as Strange Ecstasy, 1979; as Cum One, Cum All by Nancy Mitchner, Explicit Library EXL147, 1980.

Novels as Al Conroy (series: Johnny Morini) [Note 2]
Soldato #3: Strangle Hold!. New York, Lancer 75433, 1973.
Soldato #4: Murder Mission!. New York, Lancer 75459, 1973.

Novels as Hal Ellson (ghost-writer)
Blood on the Ivy. New York, Pyramid T2257, 1970.

Novels as Elaine Evans
Shadowland. New York, Lancer 74705, 1970.
A Dark and Deadly Love. New York, Lancer 75403, 1972.
Black Autumn. New York, Lancer, 1973.
Wintershade. New York, Popular Library 00530, 1973.

Novels as Day Keene (ghost-writer)
Love Me—And Die. New York, Phantom, 1951.

Novels as Luke Morgann
More Than a Handful!. New York, Beeline 785T, 1972.
Ladies in Heat. New York, Beeline, 795T, 1972.
Gamecock. New York, Beeline 837T, 1972.
Tongue Tricks!. New York, Beeline 876T, 1972.

Novels as Ellery Queen (ghost-writer)
The Campus Murders (The Troubleshooter #1). New York, Lancer 74-527, 1969.

(* Much of the above biographical information is derived from two essays, one by Verlaine Brewer and one by Bill Pronzini; and Lynn Munroe's List 29 is the prime source for bibliographical information. The photograph is from the official Gil Brewer website.)

2 comments:

Mel Odom said...

Thanks for this. Currently reading FLIGHT TO DARKNESS and was curious about him. I love the stories about these old pulp guys.

Darren Heil said...

"Novels as by Mark Bailey" - Strange Ecstasy {listed above} was pub. as by "Billy Marks."

Also, the Beeline books as by "Luke Morgann" were reprinted several times under different tiltles & bylines as well. Here's what I found so far:

LADIES IN HEAT: Tongues of Fire, 1975 as by "Morgana Hill"; Lusty Lorna, 1978 as by "Marc Mixer"; Lorna's Lust For Men, 1981 as by "Dee Laye."

GAMECOCK: Ladies of Lust, 1978 as by Alex Sexton"; Bedroom Ecstasy, 1980 as by "Viola Vixen."

MORE THAN A HANDFUL: Jazzin' Jeannie, 1977 as by "Anita Sultry."

TONGUE TRICKS: Playmate For Pleasure, 1977 as by "Connie Everett."

- Darren Heil