"The Convertible Hearse" by Bill Gault
Review by
August West

"Callahan. Nice work, for a private man."

"Thank you, Sergeant," I said humbly, and went out to my own '54 Ford Victoria with the recapped tires, the burned-out muffler and clean, unmortgaged title. I felt kind of noble as I headed her back toward the office.

William Campbell Gault was one of the best. During the 50s, he created two popular P.I.s . Brock Callahan and Joe Puma. Some readers favor one over the other, but I never met anyone that didn't like both.

If you are in the mood for a tough, angry, Italian stud PI, that the ladies swoon over-you read a Puma novel.

If you want the strong, understanding, caring type, with a steady girl and a real life-you read a Callahan story. I lean to the Brock 'The Rock" Callahan novels, but it's a close race.

The excellent first chapter of The Convertible Hearse starts off with Jan (Brock's girl) looking to trade in her car for a convertible Cadillac. Callahan is not keen on the idea. It really captures their up and down relationship that Gault makes prevalent throughout the series. Callahan discovers that the Cadillac is hot, and the owner of the dealership can't be found. The dealer's attractive ex-wife hires Callahan to locate him. Brock finds him alright. With a bullet hole in his head.

Along the way we have a stolen car racket, organizations muscling in on each other, embezzlement, suspicious dames and more shootings. Callahan even gets to pull out his .38 in this one.

This is the third Callahan novel and to me, the best from the series. The streets, alleys and estates of 50s Southern California are well depicted. The plot is excellent, with many "smelly" characters. Callahan's relationship with Jan is turbulent throughout the novel. There is more loneliness in him, but he keeps plugging along. Callahan followings the leads, takes his lumps and thinks his way through it-eventually beating the cops and figuring it out.

At the end, I had the wrong suspect.

A marvelous, versatile writer and a great P.I. series.

The Convertible Hearse
By Bill Gault
Bantam 1927, copyright 1957.
Buy this book

Report respectfully submitted by August West. First published n January 2008 on August's amazing Vintage Hardboiled Reads. Used with permission.

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