A Bullet for My Lady
Bernard Mara [pseud. Brian Moore]
New York: Gold Medal, 1955
As titles go, A Bullet for My Lady ain't so bad. The problem is that that narrator Josh Camp has no lady, and the only person who takes a slug is a small time crook named Domingo Jiménez.
Barcelona sets the stage. Camp, a trader in airplanes, arrives in "the biggest, roughest city in Spain" to search for AWOL business partner Harry Spoke. He's barely set foot on Spanish soil when met by a beautiful woman who reports that the missing man got drunk and fell from the balcony of a fourth class hotel. Camp doesn't believe a word. Harry, always one for routine and discipline, never strayed from a two drink maximum.
Camp takes a room in the selfsame flophouse, where he's visited by the beautiful bearer of bad news, a moustachioed marquesa, a lovely lush named Lucille and, of course, Domingo Jiménez. As it turns out, all are searching for the coffin of a cardinal who, centuries earlier, was buried wearing vestments inlaid with pearls, rubies and diamonds. What we have is a dark, violent, not so funny It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.
A Bullet for My Lady ain't so bad. While the plot isn't much and the characters cardboard, Moore's sketches of Spain are at times quite striking. (He banged out the early chapters in Barcelona and Majorca.)
The fourth of his disowned novels, it appeared two months before Judith Hearne. Back in 1955, the Gold Medal thriller was Moore's moneymaker, bringing an advance that was well over ten times that proffered by André Deutsch for the more literary undertaking.
Three more Moore pulps followed.
Can you blame him?
Object: A cheap mass market paperback with spicy cover illustration by James Meese. The back cover features a curious black and white photograph that looks for all the world like a still from a movie that was never made.