I finished reading KILL NOW, PAY LATER (1960) by Robert Terrall yesterday and it's a good one. New York City private detective Ben Gates is hired to guard the expensive gifts at a wedding at a plush Long Island estate. Someone slips him a mickey (don't you just love that phrase?) in his coffee and he passes out. When he comes to, two people are dead, a jewel thief and the owner of the jewels, the wife of a wealthy pharmaceutical tycoon. Gates has no idea who drugged him but he's determined to find out who did it because the state police don't buy his story and have fingered him as a possible suspect. Gates stands to lose his license (and worse, his life), if he doesn't solve this mystery quick. The suspects include the comely young maid who served him the coffee, a free-spirited party girl who was in the gift room with Gates and the tycoon's oh-so-efficient private secretary.
Gates manages to stay one step ahead of everyone in a plot that takes several twists and turns. Dark family secrets are revealed and there's a literally fiery climax after which all of the loose ends are neatly tied up.
PAY NOW, KILL LATER is a classic example of a certain type of mid-century American detective novel. The plot moves along at a good clip, the detective throws out some good one liners, there's a surfeit of drinking and smoking, several beautiful women, a fair amount of action and danger and a legitimate mystery to be solved. It's not a masterpiece but it's a hell of a fun way to kill a couple of hours.
KILL NOW, PAY LATER was reprinted by Hard Case Crime (my favorite contemporary publisher) in September, 2007 with a terrific cover painting by the great Robert McGinnis. Terrall wrote a total of five Ben Gates mysteries including BLACKMAIL INC. (1958), MODEL FOR MURDER (1959), SOME LIKE IT COOL (1962) and BEN GATES IS HOT (1964). I'd love to read all of these and if Hard Case doesn't have plans to reprint them, I'll try and track them down on eBay. Terrall also wrote under the pen names Robert Kyle, John Gonzales and as Brett Halliday, he wrote over two dozen Mike Shayne mysteries.