Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2011 March 11 • Friday

Leigh Brackett worked with Howard Hawks, co-writing the screenplays for The Big Sleep and Rio Bravo. She provided Robert Altman with a screenplay for The Long Goodbye and George Lucas with one for The Empire Strikes Back. (Apparently what’s in the Lucas movie doesn’t have much to do with what Brackett wrote.)

She wrote several novels and short stories, mostly mystery or science-fiction. (She wrote the novelization of Rio Bravo as well.)

I had read The Long Tomorrow, an absorbing story of Earth in the distant future and how the humans who survived nuclear armageddon live simply and regard technological advancement as taboo.

The other novel of hers I had read was The Tiger Among Us, about sadistic teenagers who get their kicks from random violence and mayhem. It’s a great thriller that was made into a lousy movie, 13 West Street, starring Alan Ladd.

An Eye for an Eye is another thriller, and a potentially very nasty one, about a violent maniac who kidnaps a lawyer’s wife. The lawyer had rescued this psycho’s abused wife from him, arranging for a divorce and a restraining order, and now the psycho decides that he’ll take the lawyer’s wife. If the lawyer wants her back, well, just stop that divorce from coming through and persuade the terrified woman to return to her crazy, drunk, abusive husband. If the lawyer fails to do this, the madman will kill all three of them and anybody else who gets in his way.

Brackett’s economical and effective writing make for a gripping read. With just a couple of sentences she can create the sense of a real environment, complex and unpredictable, and she does the same thing for the characters.

While the book doesn’t end tragically, it doesn’t end happily, either. Some characters reveal unpleasant sides of themselves under pressure, causing the destruction of relationships they had taken for granted. Brackett is especially clever with her development of the character of the abused wife seeking a divorce.

Hitchcock might have been able to make a decent movie out of this. The lawyer is even supposed by the police to have murdered his wife at some point, which is the kind of thing that happens in Hitchcock films.

I suppose it’s an old-fashioned novel by today’s standards, but it’s a real page-turner and I enjoyed it. The first line is, "Grace Vitelli stuck her head in through the door and said, 'I'm going home now, Mr. Forbes'".