Former Private Eye, Red Bailey, is enjoying retirement in Nevada, splitting his time between running a gas station, going fishing, and his young girlfriend Anne. His contentment is shattered, however, when his past returns to haunt him and he is is blackmailed into a final assignment. Red has to confront history he'd rather forget, in particular a seductive temptress named Mumsie McConigle. He soon realises that he's being set up to take the wrap for murder, and there's little way out.
Build My Gallows High is a classic romantic noir, full of the usual trademarks of the genre; a doomed hero, obsessive love, and betrayal. The dialogue is sharp, and the plot is full of intricate twists. Too many twists are not always a good thing, and the story could almost be too cumbersome if it were not so well written.
In 1946 the novel was filmed from the author's own adaptation by Jacques Tourneur. It features Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer, and is regarded as one of the masterpieces of film noir. (N.B. the film's alternative title is Out of the Past).
Geoffery Homes was the pseudonym of Daniel Mainwaring. Born in 1902 in California, he worked through a series of low grade jobs before moving to Hollywood. He found work as a sound engineer and then as a studio PR. His first book, One Against The Earth, was published in 1933 using his own name, with his nom-de-plume first being used in 1936. Following the successful adaptation of Build My Gallows High in 1946, Homes became a screenwriter, and worked with directors such as Don Siegel and Anthony Mann. He died in 1978.