Green Mountin’

Whirlpool of Thunder

By Warren Caryl

190 pp.

© 1961

Publisher: Newsstand Library

Series: Magenta Books U174

I used to think of Vermont as a quaint little state, a land of sap tapping, Patrick Leahy, and Phish fans. Other than the cold winters, there just didn’t seem to be anything menacing about the place.

Whirlpool of Thunder disabused me of this notion. Vermont is chock full of wickedness.

Gerry has arrived here by way of New York and Florida, one step ahead of the law. He is a small-time grifter, whose specialty is pimping non-existent women to the horny and gullible, then buggering off with the cash deposit. He also dabbles in blackmail, but turns tail and runs whenever his intended victim threatens bodily harm in lieu of payment.

So it is odd that he targets a local farmer named Calvin Garfield. He is told that the man is penniless, psychotic, and prone to violent outbursts. You may ask yourself why Gerry would bother with such a loose cannon where there is no profit incentive.

Evidently, the author started asking himself the same questions after he had already written the first four fifths of the novel. Plot contrivances started popping up toward the end of the book. We learn that Calvin just happens to have 100 acres of prime real estate and ten grand from an insurance settlement just sitting in the bank. I guess plausibility as an afterthought is better than no plausibility at all.

We do however learn early on that Calvin something to hide. Years ago, he killed a young woman and buried her in a swamp. Don’t be too hard on Calvin though. Things just got out of hand and he felt real bad about it afterward. Our heart goes out to him as muttering about God’s wrath and beating his wife senseless becomes part of his healing process.

So Gerry, that despicable non-murderer, wants to get the goods on Calvin. He really has no idea how to go about this but figures that having sex with the man’s wife and daughter might work.

Lilac, the wife, is a sultry sexpot who seduces any man who comes near since Calvin only beds her on those rare occasions when he gets drunk enough to forget that women are evil. Daughter Jennifer, not yet 16 and not to be outdone, throws herself at Gerry when her advances on her own father are rebuffed.

OK, we’ve got murder, spousal abuse, adultery, statutory rape, but no incest. Nor a cohesive plot, for that matter. The novel muddles along until the suicide-by-cop finale where both Calvin and the story are put out of their misery.

That said, the book was a fun read. There is nothing quite so entertaining as unintentional farce.

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