Sunday, April 11, 2021

No Business for a Lady (James L. Rubel, 1950)

Another blonde (don't let the cover fool you) bombshell private eye, but this one is very different from Mavis Seidlitz whom we had the pleasure of meeting in the previous post. For this one, I'm still a bit on the fence.

It's most definitely no page-turner. The plot is based on some pretty ludicrous premise and the story progresses painfully slow as our heartbroken heroine runs around pretty much with no apparent (or at least working) plan about solving the case. We need to wait for 100 pages for the first (and the only one) corpse!? One thing that helped me pass time was counting occurrences of the word "love".

But on the other hand, I have found Miss Donovan to be a really interesting lady, far from some stereotypical blonde bimbo. Sure, I prefer to have my private detectives more hard-boiled but in this one, the lack of toughness and witty one-liners is well compensated with well defined and developed character. Eli is an ex-burlesque girl (!), ex-Marine (!!) who needs no man to take care of her and has her life priorities all figured out. Check out the 'title' section of the facts below and you'll see what I mean,

And to return to the plotline - yes, it is a bit bonkers and not very plausible but at the same time it's at least original and there are some twists and turns towards the end. The final revelation makes sense which is something we cannot really say for some of these old paperbacks we are addicted to, right?

Hardly my cup of tea, but still I'm glad I've checked it out. It seems like one of those unfortunate ones that were simply ahead of its time. Not just because it has a female protagonist but also because of its feminist angle (again, check out the 'title' section below). I suspect the publishers didn't quite know how to promote it as the first edition's cover portrays a damsel in distress which Eli is most definitely not. It took Gold Medal eight (!) years to reprint it and the second time around they gave it a more proper illustration. Who knows how the sales would have been affected if these two covers were reversed...



From the front cover:
Meet Miss Donovan, the only private eye who wears mascara. She's easily the most beautiful shamus living.

From the back cover:
Most detectives have angles, but here's one who has curves.

See the 'hero' section.


Body count:

The first time she faints is due to the hangover she has over too many Sazaracs. Absinthe + whiskey? Ouch! She surely can be forgiven.

Then we have a couple of proper ones:

Something heavy and enveloping dropped over my head, the gun was wrenched from my hand, and the blackness exploded into blazing light. The light faded into a whirling dervish of stars that spun faster and faster until they too were blacked out by utter darkness.


The room was suddenly filled with thunder. The bottle broke off at the neck and I smelled vodka. After that my knees were too weak to hold me any longer. I went back into my cocoon for another rest.

Yes, indeed she is a hard-working gal who deserves her fee!

Cool Blurbs:
See the 'hero' section.

"This is no business for a lady."
I shook my head and smiled at him. He was a swell friend and I liked him. But he hadn't analyzed me correctly. I liked men. I loved they whistled when they saw me. I was still young and I had a lot of years ahead of me before my hair turned gray, my face got lined, and the whistling stopped. I couldn't picture myself living in semipoverty surrounded by wet diapers and screaming infants. Maybe someday I'd be lucky enough to meet the right man. Until I did-?
I said, "Sorry, Bill. But I'm no lady."

Gold Medal #765, Second Printing, May 1958

No credit is given to the illustrator and there's no signature I could locate. This time even the ever-reliable can't help. Any ideas?

Cool lines:
For the final time, see the 'title' section

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