Helen Eustis wrote a stunning debut crime novel, The Horizontal Man, a fine work of psychological suspense, but she did not attempt to build on that success by carving out a career as a novelist. She did, however, in due course write a second novel, The Fool Killer, which was turned into a film in 1965 starring Anthony Perkins.
In the 60s it was common for movie-makers to commission songwriters to produce a song to promote a forthcoming film. Often, the song did not appear in the film. A famous example is Gene Pitney’s 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', another is Jack Jones’ 'Wives and Lovers', and yet another (though Cher’s version did appear in the US version of the movie) was Cilla Black’s 'Alfie'. Those three songs were enormously successful, and each of them was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
The duo were, it seems, hired to write a promotional song for The Fool Killer, and Gene Pitney (who recorded many of their songs, and was actually the intended performer of ‘What The World Needs Now is Love’, ultimately recorded by Jackie De Shannon) was asked to sing the song. But it was not a hit – it’s too unusual to have been a hit - and very few people are aware of it.
Yet it is an extraordinary piece of work. 'The Fool Killer' is to be found on Youtube and the observation is made in the comments that it’s a unique song. I agree – it’s a haunting melody, yet quite unlike any of Bacharach’s other tunes, just as the enigmatic lyric is far from typical of Hal David’s work. This is a song that should not be forgotten.