One of the all-time great mismatched team-ups in detective fiction and -- at the time -- a real blast of fresh air. Grade A Extra Large widow and penny pincher BERTHA COOL, the head of the B. Cool Confidential Investigations, isn't overly concerned with ethics. "I'll handle any disbarred lawyer," she says, and that she will.
Truth be told, I've always had a soft spot for Mrs. Cool. Greedy, corrupt, dishonest, unpleasant and weighing slightly less than a Buick, she ran her own detective agency while most female sleuths of the time were puttering around in the rose garden, making tea for the vicar or waiting to be rescued. Politically correct? Who the hell cares?
Fortunately, she finds her match in DONALD LAM, who shows a delightful aptitude for bending, twisting, tweaking and otherwise subverting the law, while Bertha tends to just out and out break it. As she puts it, Donald is "a little runt, but he's brainy."
Together they are simply one of the best teams of P.I.s ever -- colourful characters, brain-spinning plots and some of Gardner's best writing. And if a successful TV series had been developed from it, Cool and Lam may have received the respect they deserved, instead of being a footnote in Gardner's career.
In fact, a TV pilot was aired in 1958 by CBS, starring Billy Pearson (who?) and Benay Venuta (who?) as Lam and Cool, directed by Jacques Tourneur, but it never developed into a series.
Erle Stanley Gardner was, of course, the creator of Perry Mason and one of the most popular American authors of all time, with over 100 million books sold.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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