Brock “the Rock” Callahan, a gumshoe who operates outs of West Hollywood, muses to himself: “I’m not a private eye. … I’m a private I. I am what I am and it hasn’t cost me too much yet, except for the lump on the head, the sore ribs, the puffed lip. And, of course, the bad knee.” The bad knee he got from his brief, unillustrious career as a guard for the Los Angeles Rams. The lump on the head, along with the damaged ribs and lip, he got from working his latest case, which involves the murder of the Rams’ new star quarterback, a Beverly Hills–bred golden boy named Johnny Quirk—a case that has Callahan trading blows with slick gamblers and their henchmen, trading barbs with obstreperous cops, and trading sharp looks with would-be starlets. The muscular yet beleaguered sense of self, meanwhile, is something that Callahan gets from the ethos of his time. The 1950s were an Age of Conformity, or so pundits of the era said, and weaving one’s way around the blocking and tackling of other selves was a tough job, even for an old football pro. Callahan, who also narrates this very compact tale, makes most of the right moves; he licks the bad guys and preserves his sensitive soul, too. He also proves himself to be at once a man’s man and an able protector of women. (He’s an arrow from Lew Archer’s quiver, rather than a misogynistic tool like Mike Hammer.) In a case that pivots around addled young swains and the damsels they love, that’s a nice pair of qualities to have.
[ADDENDUM: Link-wise, I couldn’t find much quality writing on the Web either about this book or about the its series detective, but there are a few meaty online articles about William Campbell Gault. In the last of those three linked pieces, for example, Bill Pronzini refers to Gault as “a writer of the old school, a consummate professional throughout a distinguished career that spanned more than half a century.” According to Pronzini, Gault’s publishing career lasted from 1936 to 1995—in other words, from the pulp-magazine era to the dawn of the Internet.]