William F. Deeck

DAVID GALLOWAY – Lamaar Ransom–Private Eye. Riverrun Press, Dallas, hardcover, 1979; published simultaneously by John Calder, London, hardcover, 1979 .

   For a change, something unusual in private eyes. Lamaar Ransom is hard boiled, a frequent daytime drinker with booze in the filing cabinet, extremely interested in females, especially those who have overdeveloped chests, and given to wise cracks at most unseemly times. Ransom’s secretary is crazy about males.

DAVID GALLOWAY Lamaar Ransom Private Eye

   What then, you may ask, is unusual about Ransom? Well, Ransom is a female. Her secretary is Lavender Trevelyan, black, male, gay, and a transvestite. When Ransom wants to borrow some sexy clothes for a disguise, she gets them from Trevelyan.

   The director of the Fairfield Academy, dedicated to the training of actresses and models, hires Ransom to find Yvette LaFlamme, no less, who has mysteriously disappeared. The reason Ransom is chosen is because she has tact. Ransom insults her potential client throughout the job interview, forcing one to wonder whether the director knows what tact is.

   Perhaps not, since no graduate of the academy has ever been hired as an actress or a model.

   Ransom does find the missing LaFlamme, part of her in one suitcase and part of her in another. This leads to additional unpleasantness, even involving Ransom’s lover, a not-very-bright young lady whom Ransom strangely puts in harm’s way by having her enroll at the academy.

   A professional’s professional, Ransom, having dyed her hair black — she’s a blonde — in order to impersonate her girlfriend, part Mexican, in a possibly intimate situation, also dyes her pubic hair. It is unlikely that Holmes, Kleek, or Carter, those masters of disguise, were ever that thorough.

   The time period of the novel is World War II, and the setting is Hollywood. The ending is deus ex machina, but tolerable.

   Aside from wishing that the author had learned how to spell “discreet” and “all right” and had not used “game plan” long before its time, the only anachronism I noticed, my enjoyment of this novel — and whether it is a parody of the private-eye novel I won’t hazard a guess — was considerable.

   The cross-talk between Ransom and Trevelyan is alone worth the price of the book. Which, since it has been recently remaindered at $1.98, makes it an even greater bargain.

From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 2, Spring 1988.

Editorial Comments:   Since Bill wrote this some 22 years ago, you shouldn’t think that you can find a copy very easily at your local remainder outlet, wherever that may be. It is not too difficult to find online, however, and I just purchased a copy myself.

   You should not be surprised to know that this is the only book by David Galloway in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV. It has “one shot” written all over it, but then again I’ve been surprised and been wrong the other way, several times over.

   The book — and here I was surprised — was reviewed by Newgate Callendar in the New York Times, and favorably, too. The link works for me, but it may require your registering at the Times website if you haven’t already done so.

   Was Lamaar Ransom the first lesbian private eye? Kevin Burton Smith, on his Thrilling Detective website, says no, it was Eve Zaremba’s Helen Keremos, who preceded her by a year.