Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2012 January 27 • Friday

Something for the Birds (1959) by Amber Dean (Amber Dean Getzin on the copyright page) is a quite good read about a heist gone wrong. It plays as something like "Richard Stark for ladies".

The first line is "Larry Witt lay wrapped in the twisted sheets on the oversized davenport".

Larry is nervous because he's about to rob a bank in Buffalo, NY, with Frank, the leader, Gladys, Frank's girlfriend, and Roy, a very large and very stupid tough guy.

Things go wrong from the start when Roy doesn't show up. Frank and Larry handle the job themselves but Roy shows up about halfway through. They try to ditch him at the bank but he catches up to them at their rendezvous point. They try to get rid of him again and fail again.

They end up laying low in a town along the Genesee River, and this is where things really go wrong. Gladys had the idea of mailing the money to themselves there, which would have been fine if the woman who runs the local post office hadn't given the package by mistake to Peri Bryant, housewife and avid birder.

Frank goes after Peri and her friend Dotty Cobb and tries and fails to kill them. Meanwhile Larry ends up clashing with a woman who works at the inn where he's staying and Gladys begins to develop feelings for Ernie, a nice guy who owns the farm where she and Frank are staying.

It's a page-turner and the scenes of sex and violence are presented quite effectively, the former more obliquely than the latter. At times the brutality of the male gangsters approaches the nastiness of Jim Thompson.

While a crime novel, much of it plays as a domestic drama, with the main characters being the three women, Peri, Dotty and Gladys, and the plot revolving around how they cope with crises that involve the men in their lives. It's a very entertaining synthesis of crime, action and romance—and birds, who also figure prominently in the plot, thanks to Peri and Dotty's dedication to the Genesee Ornithological Society.