One for Hell by Jada M. Davis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This 1952 Fawcett Gold Medal noir novel has been lauded by readers as a lost masterpiece and it was deservedly brought back into print by Stark House Press in 2012. Jada Davis was a talented writer who decided that life as a fiction writer was more work and less profitable than other careers and he only published one more novel in his lifetime. ONE FOR HELL tells the story of a corrupt oil boom town that employs a charismatic drifter as a strongarm only to lose control of him as his sociopathic tendencies are revealed. The strength of the novel is in the characterization of the drifter - detailing his lies, deceit, and manipulations that keep piling up into a fragile house of cards that force him to escalate the violence to keep it from falling down - and taking his corrupt town partners with it. The subplots detailing the personal affairs of the townsfolk seems superfluous and I was glad when the narrative returned back to the drifter. Plenty of terrific dialog and several interesting characters although the drifter really shines as one of the most fascinating noir characters that I’ve ever read. Lost masterpiece? Sure, I’m on board and give it a solid five stars.
Available in paperback or ebook from Stark House Press.