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Dead Hero, by William Campbell Gault (1963)



I have certain peasant superstitions my conscious mind has abandoned but my unconscious stubbornly refuses to surrender.
     I still half believe in patterns, in the full cycle, in the inevitability of retribution, the artistic necessity for revenge. They are not theories respected by the enlightened and I will not defend them. I half believe in prescience.

Heady thoughts from an ex-NFL guard-turned-private detective. But he doesn't flash his intelligence that much and as a result he's constantly underestimated by others.

Another ex-teammate of Brock's approaches him and asks him if he can tail his wife one night. He has suspicions. The conversation is an awkward, embarrassing one for both men, but Brock grudgingly agrees to do his friend this favor, pro bono. He is godfather to their son.

Much to his disappointment, he discovers that the wife is having an affair with yet another ex-teammate - one who is younger, more successful post-football career, and already goes through several "girlfriends" on a weekly basis.
Rather than break his friend's heart, he decides to approach the homewrecker after the wife has left for the night and informs him that the affair has to end. The man laughs in Brock's face, so Brock punches him in the stomach and stomps off, feeling disgusted even with himself.

Of course, the homewrecking ex-teammate is dead by the next morning, killed with a fireplace poker before the house is burned to the ground. And someone witnessed Brock's visit to him the night before.

So Brock spends most of the book hiding from the law. It doesn't stop his girlfriend from hanging out with him at one point.

"...Tell me you love me, Brock Callahan."
     "I love you," I said,"all the ways there are. Come closer and let me enfold you in my enormous arms."
     "Oh, boy!" she said. "What a corn pone!"

They are starting to become a corny couple. In a good way. And they don't (temporarily) break up (again) in this one! Hope for them yet...

Goes without saying that I enjoyed this one. I've never been disappointed with a Gault yet. Definitely a palette cleanser after the last few books.

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