Thursday, January 3, 2019

Give 'Em the Ax by A. A. Fair (1944)

About the author: A. A. Fair is a pseudonym of Erle Stanley Gardner.

Major characters:

Bertha Cool, Private eye
Donald Lam, Private eye

Miss Georgia Rushe, their client
Ellery Crail, head of the Crail Venetian Blind Co.
Irma Begley (now Irma Crail), his wife
Pittman Rimley, owner of several night clubs
Rufus Stanberry, building owner
Archie Stanberry, his nephew
Philip Cullingdon, lost an accident settlement to Irma Begley
Billy Prue, cigarette girl at the Rimley Rendezvous club
Esther Witson, witness to car accident
Colgate & Glimson, attorneys

Locale: not stated

Synopsis: Private Eyes Bertha Cool and Donald Lam are hired by Miss Georgia Rushe. She had been having an affair with Ellery Crail, who was married. His (unnamed) wife died, and before Rushe could grab him, he married wife #2, Irma (Begley) Crail, whom he met following a minor car accident. Rushe hires Cool & Lam to try to break them up so she can get him.

Lam discovers Irma has a history of staging little car accidents to collect insurance money. While following her to a night club (Rimley's Rendezvous), he finds she is cozy with Rufus Stanberry, the building owner. Lam gets information from the cigarette girl, Billy Prue; who returns to her apartment to find Stanberry dead there.

Review: Erle Stanley Gardner's writings as A. A. Fair are fast paced, without the slow plodding courtroom scenes of the Perry Masons, and he has a lot more fun with Donald Lam. The long involvement and complex discussions of minor car accident details detracts from the action - but provides an opportunity for an almost-courtroom scene when a deposition is taken from Bertha Cool in her office, and we see her unusually flustered. 

The writing is certainly colorful, check these eyebrow-raising quotes:

  • [while approaching a rundown apartment building]: One look at the place and you could smell the psychic stench of dejected spirits, the physical odors of ancient cooking, the irritating fumes of defective gas heaters.
  • The second floor was silent as a deserted courtroom after the defendant has been sentenced to death and the judge has gathered his papers and gone out to play golf.
I always find the A. A. Fair books to be a good one-session read.

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