An interview with Ted Lee, stepson of Gil Brewer

How old were you when your mother Verlaine married Gil, and what was it like growing up with him?

I was 15, and was not very happy that my mother and father divorced. I lived with my father, so I only saw Gil when I went over to their house about 2 or 3 times a month.   When I got out of the Navy and started college, Gil gave me a portable typewriter and once, encouraged me to write a humorous reply to a letter in the college newspaper.

Did Gil talk about his writing much to his family?

As I recall, he discussed his writing and what he was thinking with my mother and she always filled me in on what he was doing.  He may have discussed his writing with his younger sister, Nancy, since she was often visiting with them at that time.

Who were his biggest influences as a writer?

His father, Jack Kerouac, Day Keene, Harry Whittington and others.  He read constantly, (books, newspapers, etc ) and usually had about 50 library books in the house at all times.  He was continually purchasing books for his own collection also.

What are your memories of other writers like Harry Whittington, Talmage Powell and Day Keene, who were good friends of Gil’s?

I knew Harry Whittington personally and thought he was a great guy.  I didn’t know Powell or Keene.  Powell’s son, Dion, attended college at the same time I did.  I also knew Day Keene’s son, Al James and his wife, very well.  Gil was the best man at their wedding.  Howard Whittington, Harry’s son, and I are still friends.

Have you read all or most of Gil’s books, and if so, what are your favorites and why?

Yes, I have read just about everything Gil wrote.  Each time a new book or short story came out, I was given a copy.  While I was in the Navy, (54-56), my mother would send me a copy of the books and short stories and after I  read them I would then pass everything around to all the guys on the ship.

Actually, I enjoyed all of his writings and especially “The Red Scarf”, “So Rich so Dead”, and “13 French Street”.

How did Florida as an area influence Gil’s writing?

He used  St Petersburg, its beaches, the Tampa Bay area and all of Florida as locations in his writing.  As I read  the books or stories, I could picture in my mind where we were and what was happening.  He researched all of the locations to be sure he described them correctly.

What was your favorite memory of Gil?

He was sitting in a cold,(he had the air conditioning turned down in the 60’s) dark house, playing his trumpet while listening to records.  He was self taught and quite good.

Once, he and mother were babysitting our two young children and were accidentally locked out of the house.  They were trying to convince the kids to open the door for them when we arrived home.  To say the least, Gil was not happy.  He was always very generous, but his drinking was a problem.  We had them over for dinner quite a lot and Gil was always very charming with us and also with my wife’s relatives.  He had a great sense of humor and could converse on any subject being discussed.

Besides the movie Three-Way, based on Wild to Possess, have you gotten any film offers on any of Gil’s books?

Yes, “13 French Street” which was made in France, “The Red Scarf” an offer from Australia and the “Vengeful Virgin”  just recently an offer from England.

Where do you think Gil Brewer’s writing fits in with big names in the mystery noir field like Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, James Cain and Dashiell Hammett?

Pretty close to the same level.  If he had been able to write seriously, and not just for the money, he would have been on the same level as they are.

How did Gil happen to ghostwrite the Harry Arvay men’s adventure series?

Scott Meredith, his agent, suggested it.  Gil took the outline of the stories from Arvay and wrote terrific books.  Arvay’s daughter just recently contacted us and threatened to sue us for saying Gil had ghost written the stories.  We forwarded copies of the contracts to her to prove Gil had written them.

Are there any other major Gil Brewer novels, like A Devil For O’Shaugnessy, that have never been published and should?

There are quite a few manuscripts in the Heritage Section at the University of Wyoming that have not been published yet. “Angry Arnold” is one of them. I haven’t had a chance to read them myself, since my mother donated all of Gil’s works to them after he died.

How would you sum up Gil Brewer’s books for someone who has never read them?

It is interesting that other writers recommend him, writers like Bill Pronzini, who wrote “Brewer’s prose is distinguished by raw emotion genuinely portrayed and felt.”  Ed Gorman said, “At his best, he hooked you in the first paragraph and never let you go.”

Lynn Munroe said, “Gil’s style pulses through his best books, that backwoods amalgam of Caldwell, Hemingway and Cain with shades of Whittington and Keene.”

Comments are closed.