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Erle Stanley Gardner
In Print
Dorchester Publishing Company (Hard Case Crime) (2004)

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This entry created 16 April 2010. Last revised on 5 September 2016.

1,652 hits since 15 Apr 2010
©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
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222 pages.

Hard Case Crime is doing a wonderful job of republishing some terrific fiction that's been long forgotten or never saw publication in book form before, and in this case, they're found a tale from Erle Stanley Gardner. He's best known today as the creator of Perry Mason, but writing under the pseudonym of A.A. Fair, he also wrote 29 books in the lesser-known Cool and Lam series.

Chapter One (p.11):

One look at the expression on Bertha's face and I knew everything was fine. Bertha's little, greedy eyes were glittering. Her lips were all smiles. "Donald," she said, "this is John Carver Billings."

"The Second," he amended.

"The Second," she echoed. "And this is Mr. Donald Lam, my partner."

We shook hands.

I knew from experience that it took cold, hard cash to get Bertha to assume that ingratiating manner and that cooing, kittenish voice.

"Mr. Billings," she said, "has a problem. He feels that perhaps a man should work on that problem, that it might -"

"Be more conducive of results," John Carver Billings the Second finished.

"Exactly," Bertha agreed with an cash-inspired alacrity of good humor.

"What's the problem?" I asked.

Bertha's chair squeaked as she moved her hundred and sixty-five pounds around so as to pick up the newspaper clipping on the far corner of her desk. She handed it to me without a word.

I read:



Donald Lam is a "cocky little bastard," a man with a shady past and a legal background. He works for Bertha Cool's detective agency.

This strongly plotted crime novel takes place in Los Angeles and San Francisco during the 1950s, and involves everything from crime bosses to mining operations, gambling joints and interfering cops and mistaken identity.

Chapter Nine (p. 83):

"...John Carver Billings says you tried to blackmail him. Police say you were snooping around trying to get something which you could use to blackmail a client. That's not being smart, Donald."

"So you've decided to sell me out?"

"No. I've decided to buy me in."

"You can't get away with it, Millie. Don't try it," I pleaded.

"You run your business. I'll run mine."

Because the story has many twists and turns, and features quite a few characters, this book should do fine as inspiration for a crime-based campaign using your favorite Pulp-flavored miniatures rules.

Reviewed by Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian.