If The Coffin Fits
by Day Keene
Private investigator Tom Doyle is hired by a buddy from the war to look into a case in the gambling town of Central City. James Burton is on death row for a murder he may not have committed. Those in criminal power are blackmailing the wife of a sitting Senator running for governor (and who vows to clean up Central City) into calling it quits. The blackmail: Burton may be the illegitimate child of the Senator’s wife given up for adoption. Doyle takes the case to discover the truth but already knows the stakes are high and the people with whom he has to deal are powerful…and deadly.
Gambling, politics, blackmail. These always are favorites to make a good pulp fiction thriller.
Tom Doyle: Married with twin sons, private investigator in Chicgo, was a Marine in WWII, owns a gambling joint in Central City, has a stomach scar from a bayonet, smokes, white hair, blue eyes
Tiny Anderson: 45, was in World War II, smokes cigars, white hair, sunken eyes, big man, was a Marine in WWII
Fay Rogers:18, attends a girls college out east taking design courses, father dead, thin, mother owns a gambling joint
Meager: Justice of the Peace in Central City, scrawny neck, tall, rheumy eyes
Lieutenant Phillips: Central City police officer, clean cut, smokes cigars
Phil and Bill Karney: twins, blonde, bad cops
Paul Hanlon: doctor, Central City Commissioner of Public Health, drinker, white hair, wears pince-nez
John T. Eggers: attorney, alcoholic, married, small man, bulbous nose, dyed black hair, smokes cigars
Pretty standard characters and just what you’d expect from a book like this. Still, it’s refreshing to read about these types from time to time. Everything you need to know can be summed up in a few sentences. No need for a lot of back story unless it’s relevant to the plot.
The men are men, the women are women, the bad guys talk like bad guys. The drunks are drunks and the lackeys are lackeys. Standard fare. No nonsense, no extraneous words. Narratives stay on track.
First person from Doyle’s POV. This book was written long before computers, cell phones and ipads. I love the references and the phrasing to what used to be. Portable plug in phones, four bits, jalopy, eight dollars a day for a motel room. No profanity. Action is tough and straight. Death was swift and violent. Just what a pulp fiction book should be.