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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Vengeful Virgin

Gil Brewer

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To purchase The Vengeful Virgin

Title: The Vengeful Virgin
Author: Gil Brewer
Genre: Novel
Written: 1958
Length: 220 pages
Availability: The Vengeful Virgin - US
The Vengeful Virgin - UK
The Vengeful Virgin - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : too rushed and a bit too simplistic, but offers the complete noir experience

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Washington Post . 7/5/2007 Patrick Anderson

  From the Reviews:
  • "The Vengeful Virgin -- which features a delightful, '50s-style cover painting of scantily clad Shirley kneeling, gun in hand -- is an artifact from a distant era. It's mainly of interest to hard-core students of noir, and perhaps to those of us who lived through the '50s and are amused to remember ourselves as pimply teenagers seeking thrills from all those milk-white breasts and quivering thighs in paperback novels. In time we grew up and learned that sex is easy; it's all that other stuff that makes you crazy." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Vengeful Virgin is an almost exemplary 1950s pulp-noir -- an example of all the best and worst elements of the genre. With its tortured souls, oversexed and insanely jealous women, a perfectly planned murder-plot that crumbles once it is put into action, and events that spiral completely out of control around the hapless protagonist who thought he could handle all this it certainly offers gripping action. Jack Ruxton tells the story of what he gets himself caught up in, and Brewer has him recount it in that quick, clipped, hard-boiled style, keeping things moving as well as offering some clever turns of phrase.
       Jack runs Ruxton's TV, but the operation is still small enough that he goes on repair-runs by himself. He's ambitious -- offering 24-hour service, to get all the business he can -- but still strictly small-time. The book begins when he shows up at Shirley Angela's, the eighteen-year-old vengeful (if not all that virginal) virgin of the title:

     She wasn't what you would call beautiful. She was just a red-haired girl with a lot of sock.
       Shirley is stuck in this home taking care of her demanding invalid step-father, Victor. He's in bad shape, but that doesn't mean he's likely to croak any time soon, and Shirley is getting impatient. She wants more out of life -- and as Victor's sole heir that fortune of his sure is tempting too.
       Ostensibly Shirley has called the TV repairman over to install some TVs, so Victor can watch while he's in bed. In fact, she's hoping to get a bit more done. It's no surprise that she tries to seduce Jack, or that she tries to get him to help her deal with her problem -- and though he has some concerns, Jack lets himself get sucked in.
       They hit on a plan to do away with the sick old man but, needless to say, things do not go smoothly. There's that nosy neighbour whose husband is out of town and who also wants (and gets) a piece of Jack, the clever and suspicious doctor, another woman who isn't over Jack, and a few unfortunate coincidences. Shirley's demand for constant reassurance that Jack loves her -- and Jack's guilty conscience and big eyes at the thought and sight of the cash -- throw some more wrenches in the works.
       Once they start down the road to murder, their plan collapses like a house of cards -- but not completely. Not immediately, anyway. They manage to stay half a step ahead of everything snowballing behind them, and there seems to be some hope for them -- except, of course, that in this sort of noir fates are sealed early on, and the conclusion is inevitable.
       Brewer lays it on mighty thick here, but he offers good suspense and enough action to easily entertain. The plot isn't too bad, and if the women are far to simplistically drawn -- they're all lusting, hysterical sex-objects -- Jack is a pretty solid protagonist. Fleshed out a bit, with a bit more attention to making the characters seem more realistic, The Vengeful Virgin actually could have been a pretty fine thriller; even as is, it's good, quick (if somewhat silly) fun.
       Jack is tortured and tempted by women and money, and what Brewer offers is a morality play. Jack's a bit too weak -- and the women a bit too easy (they all throw themselves at him) -- to make it entirely convincing, but for the most part it's not badly done, clearly showing the destructive capacity of these significant parts of the American dream. The money blinds Jack, and Brewer is especially good when things get really desperate and Jack tries to convince himself it's still worthwhile. As for the women, despite portraying them as such silly things Brewer also makes clear that if you treat them wrong, boy, will you pay. Jack certainly does.
       A quick, fun read, not to be taken too seriously.

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The Vengeful Virgin: Reviews: Gil Brewer: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Gil Brewer lived 1922 to 1983.

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© 2007-2008 the complete review

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