Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Convertible Hearse by Bill Gault

The Convertible Hearse by Bill Gault.
Bantam 1927, copyright 1957.

To begin 2008, I thought I would start with one of my favorite authors, favorite P.I series and favorite books....

William Campbell Gault was one of the best. During the 50s, he created two popular P.I.s . -Brock Callahan and Joe Puma. Some readers favor one over the other, but I never met anyone that didn't like both. If you are in the mood for a tough, angry, Italian stud PI, that the ladies swoon over-you read a Puma novel. If you want the strong, understanding, caring type, with a steady girl and a real life-you read a Callahan story. I lean to the Brock 'The Rock" Callahan novels, but it's a close race.

The excellent first chapter of "The Convertible Hearse," starts off with Jan (Brock's girl) looking to trade in her car for a convertible Cadillac. Callahan is not keen on the idea. It really captures their up and down relationship that Gault makes prevalent throughout the series. Callahan discovers that the Cadillac is hot, and the owner of the dealership can't be found. The dealer's attractive ex-wife hires Callahan to locate him. Brock finds him-with a bullet hole in his head. Along the way we have a stolen car racket, organizations muscling in on each other, embezzlement, suspicious dames and more shootings. Callahan even gets to pull out his .38 in this one.

It's the third Brock Callahan novel and for me the best from the series.
The streets, alleys and estates of 50s Southern California are well depicted. The plot is excellent, with many "smelly" characters. Callahan's relationship with Jan is turbulent throughout the novel. There is more loneliness in him, but he keeps plugging along. Callahan followings the leads, takes his lumps and thinks his way through it-eventually beating the cops and figuring it out.
At the end, I had the wrong suspect.

A marvelous, versatile writer and a great P.I. series.

"Callahan. Nice work, for a private man." "Thank you, Sergeant," I said humbly, and went out to my own '54 Ford Victoria with the recapped tires, the burned-out muffler and clean, unmortgaged title. I felt kind of noble as I headed her back toward the office.

I have yet to read the Callahan books that came out in the 80s, after Gault stopped writing mysteries for 20 years. I believe I have the ones published by Raven House. Just another thing I have to do in 2008.


Glen Davis said...

I found the '80s novels much inferior to the '50s series. Brock gets rich, gets married, and gets a punk kid sidekick.

Anonymous said...

Very nice posting on William Campbell Gault. He was a gifted writer. Great Blog. I was wondering if you would be interested
having teammembers for your blog? I would be willing to contribute and write a posting about reviews and the genre.
WGT in JAX Beach, FL

August West said...

Bill: Thanks for the positive review. Yes-I am very open to adding a few team members to my site. Please E-Mail me and we can correspond. Anyone else?-drop me an E-Mail.

mybillcrider said...

Gault is a great favorite of mine. 30 years ago, or thereabouts, I wrote him and asked for an interview for a little amateur publication, and he graciously consented. I got to know him a bit later on, at conventions, and corresponded with him a little. He was a great guy. I know the '80s novels aren't as good as the early ones, but he tuckerized me in one of the '80s books. So naturally I like that one.