Gault's first novel was Don't Cry for Me, published in 1952. It won the Best First Novel Edgar for that year. In 1955, he published Ring Around Rosa, the first in a series of novels featuring Brock Callahan, an ex-LA Ram football player, who becomes a private detective in Beverly Hills, California. That novel was later published under the name Murder in the Raw. The paperback edition I read had that title.
In this first book in the series, Callahan has just started his PI business and still wonders if he has it in him to go back to a year or two more of football. Although he has some contacts with the police in the area, in general they give him a hard time. Brock is doing his best to be an honest detective and stay within the law.
The basic story is that Callahan sets up his business and the first client who walks into his office is Juan Mira, a retired Filipino boxer. Juan wants to hire Callahan to find his missing girlfriend, Rosa Carmona, a dancer in a nightclub. Callahan does not want to take his money; he thinks Juan just wants him to make his girlfriend return to him. Juan talks Callahan into trying to find Rosa and things rapidly get more complicated.
Juan stood about five-four and would now weigh about a hundred and thirty. He wore a neat and creamy tropical weave suit and white buck shoes and a big-brimmed leghorn hat with an extremely colorful band. There are not many Miras in Beverly Hills; Juan was out of his league.The cover of my edition describes the book as a hard-boiled classic. This book seemed to have less sex and violence than many books in that genre.
Brock often referred to his car as his "flivver." I am familiar with the word but haven't seen it used a lot, in books of any vintage.
My flivver is what is known as the Victoria model and it has really deluxe upholstery in white and green plastic. Tufted and buttoned and with beaded edges, I was so proud of it.
I opened the door and turned sick.
Somebody had really worked the upholstery over with a knife. It was slashed viciously, both the front and rear seats. It was ruined.The definition of "flivver" from the Urban Dictionary:
A 1930s (Great Depression era) slang term for a old, dilapidated, and/or otherwise ragged-out automobiles; appears commonly in 1930s literature like Jack Conroy's "The Disinherited."Many of the books written by Gault feature sports. In addition to football, there is boxing, racing, and golf. In the mid-1960's and the 1970's he turned to juvenile fiction, often featuring sports, which was more lucrative. In the 1980's he returned to the Brock Callahan series and other crime fiction novels.
I enjoyed this book a lot, and I am glad I finally sampled this author's work. I will be looking for more in the Brock Callahan series and also plan to try some of his other mysteries.
- Bill Pronzini wrote an overview of Gault's work, which is featured in this post at Mystery*File.
- A post at Davy Crockett's Almanack reviews this book and showcases other covers.
Publisher: Charter Books, 1988 (orig. pub. 1955 as Ring Around Rosa)
Length: 191 pages
Series: Brock Callahan, #1
Setting: Beverly Hills, California
Genre: Hard-boiled mystery
Source: Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2013.