Friday, July 25, 2014

Forgotten Books: THE CONVERTIBLE HEARSE by William Campbell Gault (1957)

This is the third book in the Brock Callahan series, and the third Brock Callahan I've read within the last thirty days. As I hope I conveyed last week, I enjoyed Day of the Ram quite a bit, so dived right into this one. Maybe I shouldn't have.

The Convertible Hearse is a good enough book. Brock digs into the murder of one of L.A.'s sleazier used car salesmen, continues his love/hate relationship with police and his hate/hate relationship with hoodlums, and continues to find himself not quite suited to his new profession of private investigator. In other words, it's more of the same, only this time without the pro football angle that made Day of the Ram so interesting. The only new thing here is that Brock's girlfriend Jan gets pissy early in the book and stays that way until late in the book, giving him another reason to feel sorry for himself.

My problem with Brock, I suspect, is that he's not Robert B. Parker's Spenser, and after umpteen readings of that series I tend to judge all other detectives against Spenser's standard. On the Spensermeter, Brock is just too polite, too cautious, too serious and too unsure of himself. You know, more like a real human being.

For me, that problem is easily solved. I'll just read another Spenser book (again). Maybe two. Then something completely different. And one of these days, when I'm in the mood for a nice guy detective again, I'll hunt up my copy of the next Callahan book.


Oscar Case said...

That's an interesting title, never seen one.

RJR said...

Evan, there's GOTTA be something you like better than Spenser!


George said...

I know what you mean by Spenser setting the P.I. standard. Plus, he had Hawk.

Albie The Good said...

I like the Brock the Rock a lot. He may be my fave PI of all. I like the usual world-weariness painted thru a jock's eyes. It's unusual and somehow very realistic. And the prose always has that perfect So-Cal mellowness that is actually really hard to duplicate. I always pictured Fred Dryer-- the 6 foot 6 LA Rams D-end who played HUNTER on TV-- as the perfect guy to play him in a movie. Too bad it never happened.

I have read almost all of them [I think I have 2 left to find] but may fave was COUNTY KILL from the mid '60s I think.

But to be fair, I even read his sports stories out loud-- THE LONELY MOUND is a true classic!-- to my 11 year old son... so I am just a huge Gault fan to begin with. .

Evan Lewis said...

I read and reviewed Gault's first Joe Puma book (Shakedown by "Roney Scott") a couple of years ago. That's here:

It was surprisingly raunchy. When Gault later got around to making Joe a series character, I suspect he cleaned him up - but just don't remember. Maybe I'll dig out the second Puma book and give that one a second look.

Albie The Good said...

EVAN: I thought it went more like this: The Puma stories were about the dark, amoral PI; while the Callahans were about a moral, painfully honest one. I know Brock mentions Puma more than once, even in the earlier titles, and it is always a nod to the fact that Brock could make a better living if he was less honest. Of course in the late entry THE CANA DIVERSION Gault actually killed off Puma in disgraced circumstances. I found that whole thing kinda fascinating, as thought Gault had always used Puma to make easy paperback money and saved the Brock series for more thoughtful kinds of performances.... which when you think about it is an interesting case of art imitating life.

Anyway thanks for the reviews... they made me wanna read another Gault!