Last week’s post was on Hard Case Crime’s upcoming reissue of The Count of Nine. Since I was in a Cool and Lam mood, I went ahead and re-read the prior reissue from Hard Case, Top of the Heap, which was only the third book from the imprint. I recommend reading one of my prior posts on the Cool and Lam series to help provide some background for this post. You can find them here, here, and here (last week’s).
As usual, a client is not up front with them, but he pays well, so also as usual, Bertha doesn’t care. Donald is always a little cautious, but business is business and he quickly delivers results. Once again, Bertha does nothing. But Donald keeps digging and the client stops payment on the check. Bertha is pissed at Donald.
As always, there’s a lot going on and Donald has angles everywhere, heading up from Los Angeles to San Francisco for most of the case. He’s actually less cagey with the police than he usually is, but the bay area’s Lieutenant Sheldon doesn’t think so and wants Lam picked up and brought to headquarters.
A dead gangster’s moll, a dead businessman, missing bodies, a wounded gangster, mining companies, an undercover gambling joint, a yacht club: you need a scorecard for this one.
You can buy this one yourself, and it’s Bertha at her best. Furious with Donald, though she has no clue what he’s up to, she dissolves the partnership, scratches his name off the door (ha!) and unloads on him when he finally comes back to the office, telling the receptionist to call the police.
“It felt as though an earthquake were rocking the office building on its foundations. Somewhere in the outer office a chair tipped over, a desk was shoved to one side and slammed against the partition, as though it had been hurled by some giant hand, the door almost ripped off its hinges, and Bertha Cool stood there on the threshold, her eyes glittering, her voice raised so that it was audible all over the office, and well out into the corridor”
Well, now. I haven’t said it yet in this post because it’s so well-known I didn’t think I needed to, but Erle Stanley Gardner was a first-class writer. The man was very, very, very good. That’s why he was the best-selling author in the world when he died. THAT is a great paragraph!
Bertha’s diatribe to the unflappable Lam is well worth reading, but I’m not going to retype it here. You can pick up a copy of Top of the Heap and enjoy 217 pages of top-flight private eye fiction before you get to it.
Previous entries in the series:
With a (Black) Gat: George Harmon Coxe
With a (Black) Gat: Raoul Whitfield
With a (Black) Gat: Some Hard Boiled Anthologies
With a (Black) Gat: Frederick Nebel’s Donahue
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Thomas Walsh
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – January, 1935
A (Black) Gat in the hand: Norbert Davis’ Ben Shaley
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: D.L. Champion’s Rex Sackler
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Dime Detective – August, 1939
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #1
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: W.T. Ballard’s Bill Lennox
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Day Keene
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – October, 1933
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Back Deck Pulp #2
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Black Mask – Spring, 2017
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: Frank Schildiner’s ‘Max Allen Collins & The Hard Boiled Hero’
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: William Campbell Gault
A (Black) Gat in the Hand: More Cool & Lam From Hard Case Crime
Other hard-boiled related ramblings I’ve done at Black Gate:
A Century of John D. MacDonald
A Man Called Spade
Asimov’s The Caves of Steel
Carroll John Daly & the Birth of Hard Boiled
Cool & Lam are Back!
Erle Stanley Gardner on Mysteries
Gideon Lowry – Key West Private Eye
Glen Cook’s Garret – PI
Hard Boiled Holmes (my best pre-Black Gate work. Click on over!)
Hard Case Crime Q&A
John D. MacDonald – A Writer’s Writer
Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula
The Maltese Falcon in Film
Michael Stone’s Streeter
Richard Diamond – Private Eye
Robert E. Howard Goes Hard boiled (Steve Harrison)
Shovel’s Painful Predicament
Bob Byrne’s A (Black) Gat in the Hand appears weekly every Monday morning at Black Gate.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March 2014 through March 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!). He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.