William Campbell Gault

(1910-1995; also wrote as Roney Scott, Will Duke

"I'm proud of what I can do in my field. And I'm proud of the field. I don't need any false additions to that. If I could write like John Cheever, I'd write like Cheever. Unfortunately I can't, so I write as well as I can and as fast as I can. And some of it is good."

-- William Campbell Gault

And some of it, my friends, was very very good.

Even as a kid, long before I knew -- or cared -- that William Campbell Gault wrote detective stories, my early-teen car-loving self had fallen under the spell of his hot rod books for young adults: The Checkered Flag, Dirt Track Summer, Speedway Challenge, Thunder Road and all the rest were just what I was looking for. Foot to the floor action, narrow escapes and the roar of thunder were what I craved, and Gault delivered. But, even better, I never got the feeling he was talking down to his audience. The crazy, mixed-up kids in his book were recognizable; varations on me and my friends, our hopes, our fears. He got us.

* * * * *

William Campbell Gault was a prolific writer of mysteries and books for young people; in a long career, he wrote some of the most interesting private eye novels I have ever read (two series, featuring Brock Callahan and Joe Puma, respectively), nonseries novels, and many short stories for the pulps.

Born in Milwaukee in 1910, his first big break came in 1936, when he began selling short-shots to the McClure Newspaper Syndicate and such soft-porn mags as Paris Nights and Scarlet Adventuress. He soon moved on to sports fiction, an interest that found its way into his private eye fiction. He also was concerned with the problems of youth, and often used ethnic characters in his fiction, treating them with sensitivity and respect, something not exactly common in the genre at the time.

Gault was never particularly flashy as a writer, but his simple, straightforward style made him one of the most dependable and solid P.I. writers to have written for the pulps (he wrote over 300 short stories for them). His stories were always good reads, and if there were sharper stylists, there were few who were as consistent. A Gault story is always worth reading.

His greatest creation was ex-LA Rams guard turned South California private eye Brock Callahan. One of the first of the compassionate eyes, Brock was also one of first eyes to have a steady girlfriend, (they actually get married in the 1984 comeback, The Bad Samaritan).

In 1984's The Cana Diversion, Brock helps out another Gault PI, the troubled Joe Puma, who had his own series back in the fifties and sixties.

In fact, one of my all-time favorite Gault's is featured Puma, but it's often overlooked because it was published under the pseudonym of Roney Scott. The book is called Shakedown, and it marked the first appearance of Joe, although he's a much different Joe Puma from the down-and-out P.I. of the eighties. However, it's a classic noir tale of a P. I. so corrupt that at times we can't even tell whose side he's on.

Gault was responsible for several other one-shot PI's, who appeared in various short stories, in the pulps and elsewhere, including Honolulu's Sandy McKane, Armenian gumshoe Pierre Apoyan, debt collector (and wannabe detective) Mickey Dolan, and Mortimer Jones, a predecessor of Brock's who appeared several times in the pages of Black Mask. Despite his acclaim, Gault in fact stopped writing detective fiction in the early sixties, abandoning it for the far more lucrative field of juvenile sports fiction, and only returned to detective fiction in the eighties.

Highly recommended.

TRIVIA

  • Ross Macdonald, another of the last of the pulpsters and a fellow resident of Santa Barbara, dedicated his last novel to William Campbell Gault.

THE EVIDENCE

  • "Slopping through life with no discipline, no goal! And they find themselves 40 and empty, and go looking for what they missed in a bottle."

-- Blood on the Boards

SHORT STORIES

  • "Crime Collection" (January 1940, 10-Story Detective Magazine)
  • "Agent for Murder " (April 1940, Ten Detective Aces; Mickey Dolan)
  • "Marksman" (September 1940, Clues; aka "Nobody Wants to Kill")
  • "Picture of Doom" (December 1940, Ten Detective Aces)
  • "The Revolt of Widow Murphy" (May 24, 1941, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • "Killer's Game" (Winter 1941, Detective Book Magazine)
  • "Alibi for Sale" March 1942, Ten Detective Aces)
  • "Murder Comes High" (May 1942, Black Book Detective; Mickey Dolan)
  • "The Things You Never See" (May 1942, Strange Detective Mysteries)
  • "Curio for a Killer" (June 1942, Ten Detective Aces)
  • "Beat of His Heart" (July 1942, Street & Smith's Mystery Magazine)
  • "The Door to Hell" (July 1942, Dime Mystery)
  • "The Last Act" (August 1942, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "They Die by Night" (September 1942, Detective Tales)
  • "Three Men in a Hearse" (September 1942, Flynn's Detective)
  • "Death Has Yellow Eyes" (September 1942, Dime Mystery; as Roney Scott)
  • "Hell on Wheels" (Fall 1942, Detective Book Magazine)
  • "The Golden Web" (December 1942, Detective Tales)
  • "Four Kings and a Jack" (December 1942, Thrilling Detective)
  • "Dead Man's Hand" (Winter 1943, Thrilling Mystery)
  • "Dark Is the Night" January 1943, Detective Tales)
  • "Death and the Little Daisy" (January 1943, Mammoth Detective)
  • "The Corpse Wore Gloves" (February/March 1943, 5-Detective Mysteries)
  • "Dead of the Night" (March 1943, Street & Smith's Mystery Magazine)
  • "The Man Who Died Too Often" (March 1943, Strange Detective Mysteries)
  • "Death Pays the Winne" (April 1943, Thrilling Detective)
  • "The Devil's Agent" (May 1943, The Shadow)
  • "Money Is the Motive" (May 1943, Clues Detective Stories)
  • "Black Market Pay-Off" (Summer 1943, Detective Book Magazine)
  • "Murder No Object" (Fall 1943, Detective Book Magazine)
  • "The Open Grave" (November 1943, The Shadow)
  • "Whistle in the Dark" (November 1943, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Dead Man's Hand" (Winter 1943, Thrilling Mystery)
  • "Mr. Meek Goes to Hell" (July 1944,Ten Detective; with Larry Sternig)
  • "Three Strikes on Satan" (August 1944, 10-Story Detective Magazine; with Larry Sternig)
  • "The Weak's Wages-Death" September 1944, Ten Detective Aces; with Larry Sternig; Mickey Dolan)
  • "Shadows in the Night" (December 1945, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Assassin Anonymous" (September 1946, Detective Tales; Mickey Dolan)
  • "Hot-House Homicide" (September 1946, Black Mask; Mortimer Jones)
  • "Five-Star Filly" (September/October 1946, Five-Novels Magazine)
  • "They'd Die for Linda" (September 1946, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "And Dust to Dust" (October 1946, The Shadow)
  • "Curtain Call for the Corpse" (November 1946, Detective Tales)
  • "Tin-Pan Alibi" (November 1946, Dime Detective)
  • "The Cold, Cold Ground" (January 1947, Black Mask; Mortimer Jones)
  • "No Weeds for the Widow" (February 1947, Detective Story Magazine)
  • "A Murder For Mac" (March 1947, Dime Detective; Mortimer Jones)
  • "Pick-Up" (March 1947, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Two Biers for Buster" (March 1947, Dime Detective)
  • "Pale Hands I Loathed" (April 1947, Detective Story [UK])
  • "The Man in the Street" (May 1947, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "The Walls Are Hard and High" (May 1947, Detective Tales)
  • "The Constant Shadow" (July 1947, Black Mask; Mortimer Jones)
  • "The Pewter Urn" (July 1947, G-Men Detective)
  • "The Book of the Damned" (October 1947, Detective Short Stories; with William Fredric Kruge)
  • "The Girl Next Door" (October 1947, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Hibiscus and Homicide" (October 1947, Thrilling Detective; Sandy McKane)
  • "The Case of the Sleeping Beauty" (November 1947, Black Mask; Mortimer Jones)
  • "A Tombstone for Taro" (December 1947, Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Dead-End Road" (January 1948, Dime Mystery)
  • "The Heart Guy" (January 1948, Sports Novels Magazine)
  • "Satan's Children" (February 1948, Dime Mystery)
  • "Red Runaround" (March 1948, Black Mask; Mortimer Jones)
  • "Wakiki Widow" (March 1948, Detective Story; Sandy McKane)
  • "The Silent Suckers" (March 1948, Detective Tales)
  • "Nightfall" (May 1948, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Home to Die" (June 1948, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "White Hands I Fear!" (June 1948, Dime Mystery)
  • "Don't Bet on Death" (July 1948, Black Mask; Cary Vaughn & Ned Orlow, P.I.s)
  • "Fallen Star" (September 1948, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "The Man Who Couldn't Die!" (October 1948, Dime Mystery)
  • "Blood for the Murder Master!" (April 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "The Longest Count" (June 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "Fallen Star" (September 1948, Street & Smith's Detective Story Magazine)
  • "The Threatening Trio" (October 1948, 10-Story Detective Magazine)
  • "The Man Who Couldn't Die!" (October 1948, Dime Mystery)
  • "The Bloody Bokhara" (November 1948, Black Mask)
  • "Hot Shot, Big Shot--Dead Shot!" (February 1949, Detective Tales)
  • "A Bier for Baby" (March 1949, New Detective Magazine)
  • "The Last Guest" (Spring 1949, Detective Novel Magazine)
  • "Blood for the Murder Master!" (April 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "The Longest Count" (June 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "In the Bag--" (Summer 1949, Doc Savage)
  • "Some Other Body" (July 1949, New Detective Magazine)
  • "What Do You Want... Blood?" (July 1949, Detective Tales)
  • "Send Me Your Killers!" (August Detective Tales)
  • "All That Murder Can Buy" (October 1949, Detective Tales)
  • "Return to Terror" (October 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "Redhead, Stay Dead!" (December 1949, Detective Tales)
  • "Slay You in My Dreams" (December 1949, Dime Mystery)
  • "Never Marry Murder" (December 1949, Dime Mystery; as Roney Scott)
  • "Dog Eat Dog!" (January 1950, Detective Tales)
  • "A Time to Kill" (January 1950, New Detective Magazine)
  • "Home Is Where the Corpse Is" (February 1950, Detective Tales)
  • "Moment of Flame" (February 1950, 15 Mystery Stories)
  • "The Cackle Bladder" (March 1950, Detective Tales; aka "The Corpse and the Cackle Bladder")
  • Death Is My Shadow" (March 1950, New Detective)
  • "Keeper of the Cat-Bride" (April 1950, 15 Mystery Stories)
  • "This Way to the Morgue" (April 1950, Detective Tales)
  • "The Last Count" (June 1950, Detective Tales)
  • "Hot-Rod Homicide" (June 1950, Detective Tales; as Roney Scott)
  • "No Grave So Deep" (June 1950, 15 Mystery Stories)
  • "Satan's Protege" (August 1950, 15 Story Detective)
  • "So Dead, My Love!" (August 1950, 15 Mystery Stories)
  • "See No Evil" (September 1950, New Detective; aka "See No Murder")
  • "Creature of Habit" (October 1950, 15 Mystery Stories)
  • "Death Watch" (October 1950, Thrilling Detective)
  • "The Big Time" (November 1950, Detective Tales)
  • "Dead-End for Delia" (November 1950, Black Mask)
  • "Ace in the Hole" (January 1951, Sports Novels Magazine; golf)
  • "None But the Lethal Heart" (January 1951, Dime Detective)
  • "Murderer's Way" (February 1951, Detective Tales)
  • "And Murder Makes Four!" (March 1951, Detective Tales)
  • "Blood on the Rocks" (March 1951, Popular Detective)
  • "The Big Fix" (June 1951, Detective Tales)
  • "Sunday's Dust" (July 1951, Blue Book)
  • "Deadly Cargo!" (October 1951, Detective Tales)
  • "A Little Murder Music, Professor!" (December 1951, Detective Tales)
  • "Cloud Over Elysium" (December 1951, Blue Book)
  • "Father, May I Go Out to Kill?" (February 1952, Detective Tales)
  • "There's Got to Be an Angle" (April 1952, Dime Detective)
  • "The Crowd Screamed" (June 14, 1952, The Saturday Evening Post)
  • "The Long Night" (Fall 1952, 5 Detective Novels Magazine)
  • "Racing Fever" (April 1953, Argosy)
  • "The Bleeding Heart" (May 1953, Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Death for Sale" (September 1953, Detective Story Magazine)
  • "Dead Man's Town" (September 1953, Detective Story Magazine; as Roney Scott)
  • "Sweet Rolls and Murder" (October/November 1953, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "Night Work" (July 1954, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "Punk's Widow" (October 1954, Fifteen Detective Stories)
  • "Home Sweet Homicide" (December 1954, Fifteen Detective Stories)
  • "But the Prophet Died" (January/March 1955, Dell Mystery Novels Magazine)
  • "The Sacrificial Lamb" (August 1955, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "Who's Buying Murder?" (December 1955, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "The Unholy Three" (May 1956, Manhunt; Joe Puma)
  • "Kill if you Have To" (October 1956, Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • "Deadly Beloved" (October 1956, Manhunt; Joe Puma)
  • "Kill if You Have To" (October 1956, Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • "Be Smart, Really Smart" (December 1956, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "I'll Be Waiting" (January 1957, Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • "Death of a Big Wheel (April 1957, Manhunt; Joe Puma)
  • "Don't Crowd Your Luck (May 1957, EQMM; Joe Puma)
  • "Blood of the Innocent" (July 1967, The Saint Detective Magazine)
  • "Take Care of Yourself" (July 1957, Murder; Joe Puma)
  • "No Client of Mine (July 1957, Mercury Mystery Magazine; 2003; Joe Puma)
  • "Conspiracy" (August 1957, AHMM)
  • "Don't Call Tonight" (October 1957, Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine)
  • "Stolen Star (November 1957, Manhunt; 1990, Detective Story Magazine #9; 2003, Marksman and Other Stories; Joe Puma)
  • "Stolen Star" (November 1957, Manhunt)
  • "Take Care of Yourself (1957, Murder; 1987, The Black Lizard Anthology of Crime Fiction; Joe Puma)
  • "Million Dollar Gesture" (January 1958, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine)
  • "April in Peril" (1986, Mean Streets; Brock Callahan)
  • "The Kerman Kill" (1987, Murder in Los Angeles; Pierre Apoyan)
  • "The Sister" (Winter 1994,New Mystery #2)
  • "An Ordinary Man" (1996, New Mystery #4)

NOVELS

COLLECTIONS

  • Marksman and Other Stories (2003; edited by Bill Pronzini)... Buy this book

Unbelievably, the first collection of Gault's pulp and digest magazine short fiction. Includes six Joe Puma stories.

Five stories featuring Joe Puma.

TELEVISION

  • DEAD END FOR DELIA
    (1993, Showtime)
    Aired as episode of Showtime's crime anthology, Fallen Angels
    Based on the short story by William Campbell Gault
    Teleplay by Scott Frank
    Directed by Phil Joanou
    Starring Gary Oldman, Meg Tilly, Gabrielle Anwar

RELATED LINKS

Review by August West

A reprint of David Laurence Wilson's 1984 Los Angeles Times interview with William Campbell Gault, from which the opening quote on this page was taken.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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