WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT – Dead Hero. E. P. Dutton, hardcover, 1963. Diamond Books, paperback, 1988.


   This was the seventh in the adventures of ex-football player and current PI Brock (The Rock) Callahan, and the last for nearly 20 years, until The Bad Samaritan was published by Raven House in 1980. I’d like to speak more highly of it than I’m about to, and I feel as though I should apologize when I have to say that I can’t.

   Even though Callahan wraps this case up in quite satisfactory fashion, the book itself never seems to jell. His investigation of a suspected affair on the part of a old friend’s wife ends in the murder of another friend, a teammate of Brock’s with the Rams, and — mammoth coincidence, or is it? — a large canyon fire near Malibu wipes out most of the evidence.

   While Brock Callahan may not always be totally ethical, he is always a moral person. While he may stay in his girl friend’s apartment overnight, he will not use her to provide a alibi for him: her reputation as one of the town’s leading businesswomen ay be ruined. On my patented Hard-Boiled Scale (from 0 to 10) this ranks as a solid Negative Five.

   A couple of paragraphs later, on page 62, only confirmed what I already suspected:

    She opened the door. “I’m sure you’ve visited a number of beds, Brock Callahan, but you’re an innocent just the same, aren’t you?”

    “Try me sometime,” I answered wth a sneer.

    The sneer was phony; the girl was right. I had never really left Long Beach.

   This is not the only reason the book never seems to take shape, however. Its low-key style ever sees to get the reader involved, and even though there is a message from a dying man to be deciphered, there is not enough detective story here (until the end) to keep anyone up past past 10 o’clock in the evening.

   A warm milk and cookies type of hard-boiled PI story, in other words — not the greatest combination in the world.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 37, no date given, slightly revised.