Monday, October 31, 2016

Don't Call Tonight a.k.a. End of a Call Girl (William Campbell Gault, 1958)

Had a pretty shitty streak of book choices lately, ranging from an ultra boring and annoying Perry Mason to a couple of old British spy thrillers so I just wanted to get back on track with some classic PI stuff. Had read Gault's Million Dollar Tramp not long ago so I knew what to expect with this one.

And I did get the classical detective stuff that I'd wanted. But unfortunately, except for my favorite type of opening (PI hired by a damsel in distress in his shabby office), there's nothing really positive to report about this one.

I think the biggest problem is our protagonist. He's simply not very imaginative and totally lacks initiative. At times he gets so lost that instead of doing proper gumshoeing, he reads western paperbacks (cool) or goes playing golf (not fucking cool). On one occasion he simply goes out on a stakeout because "I had nothing else to do"?!? And even though he works with the police, he gets most of the information from newspapers and radio.

It gets worse. Or maybe better since it's a bit comical. When he finally gets a hold of the suspect who might be able to give him some useful clues, our man Joe fucks up the interrogation and subsequently gets so frustrated that he beats this poor schmuck so hard that the guy ends up in a hospital. Not exactly Marlowe-esque, right? So, due to his inefficient techniques, it takes him 150+ pages to get a vital clue. He goes for a lunch and accidentally runs into one of his fellow sleuthing colleagues who investigated one of Joe's current suspects a while ago in a totally unrelated case. During the chat he then opens Joe's eyes with an information that both him and police have somehow managed to overlook. Eureka! And again - not exactly Marlowe-esque...

A bit amateurish but still bearable and in a way amusing. But coupled with a corny romance that involves one of his suspects and topped with some lame self-pitying midlife crisis philosophy it proved to be a bit too much for me.

Not good, not bad, just another formulaic novel. I think I'm probably a bit pissed off and mean towards Joe because of the climax. You see, the twist has got to do something about homosexuality. I'm certainly no prude, don't care much about the political correctness and try not to judge old books from the modern perspective but at the same time reading about the queers, degenerates, half-people, etc, etc did leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I mean, for fuck's sake - half people!?

Okay if you were reading Perry Mason prior to this one, but otherwise...

2.5/5

Facts:

Hero:
"My name is Puma," I said.
She stood in the doorway of her apartment and looked at me without interest. "Is that supposed to mean anything to me?"

Location:
L.A.

Body count: 2

Dames:
Jean Talsman, the call girl. Her madame Mrs. Dora Diggert. Her flatmate (and Joe's playmate) Mary Cefalu, the model. Mrs Rafferty, red headed secretary with a shady past.

Blackouts:
Redness flooded my brain, but I was still conscious as I went down, conscious and powerless. As soon as I went prone, they began to kick me.
The last thing I heard, before a shoe caught mu chin and brought oblivion, was the voice of the man whose throat I had held.
"God-damned snooping shamus," he was muttering.

Title: 
Have no idea where this "calling tonight" business came from. I'm pretty sure there was no fatal phone call in this one. The original American title "End of a Call Girl" is a bit more appropriate and in a way accurate too. The call girl in question survives this book but she's now engaged to be married so I guess it is the end of her as a call girl.

Edition:
Mayflower B-39, 1962

Cover:
Nice colors with nice Kim Novak lookalike blonde. Original one with Marilyn Monroe lookalike doesn't look bad either.

Cool lines: /

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