I didn't know much about the man's wife except that she photographed nicely against zebra upholstery. She had a few small parts in pictures, but her appeal, whatever it was, hadn't come through on screen. She had returned to her original career, which in the federal census is given the misleading label of "housewife".
I liked Robert Terrall a lot after finishing up Kill Now, Pay Later. But I had trouble finding the guy in old used book stores, despite the fact that he wrote under 953 different pen names (or maybe because of that fact). When he passed away this past March, it (morbidly?) re-ignited my then half-assed attempts to TRY HARDER. And abebooks is a much nicer place to look then ebay.
Kill Now, Pay Later featured a private detective named Ben Gates that Terrall wrote a few books about, so it felt only natural to start with his first appearance. And in his first appearance - chapter one, paragraph one - Gates is out of a job. His detective license has been revoked by the city of New York, so he's drowning his sorrows in a dive bar. But before the chapter is over he's getting job offers from two separate potential clients. Seemingly out of character for him, he chooses to work for the scandal rag rather than the actress the rag's planning to smear.
But there's a reason. Gates smells something fishy going on here.
What I like about his character is that he's one of the better realized pulp era PIs. He's seen it all, but he's not exactly "world weary". He's tough, bot not in a posturing way as a more junior detective who unsuccessfully tries to tail him finds out.
I snapped on the dashboard light and read the name on the registration taped to the steering post. "Acme protection. I know them well. Now why don't we stop horsing around? You haven't had working papers long, and I can save you some grief. The first thing you have to learn is that there's a time to be hard, and a time to be reasonable. It makes the back of my neck prickle when somebody follows me. I want to know your client's name, and where you picked me up."
"Screw you, Jack."
He sneered at me; they learn that sneer in the first grade, if they don't know it already. My left arm was along the back of the seat. Without moving it very far, I hit him behind the lobe of the ear.
A really good book. I've already sent off payment for the second Gates novel to another abebooks seller.