KEN ROTHROCK – The Deadly Welcome. Major Books, paperback original, 1976.

   No matter how obscure a book or an author may be — and I believe this one qualifies on both counts — if there’s a PI in it, I will probably read it, or at least give it an all out try.

   Rick North, who tells the story in first person, qualifies as a private detective, barely. He’s low man on the totem pole at Taber, Kline and North, an artist’s management firm based in LA, but he’s about to be booted out of the firm unless he finds out who has been threatening the life of Rory Maclaine, one of their clients and a comedian who’s just hit the big time.

   Threats are one thing, but when Maclaine collapses and dies on stage after finishing his new act, North, who used to be a comedian himself until he found his career going nowhere, now finds he must solve the case, or else.

   After a slightly shaky start, the tale that follows is solid enough, but a clutter of too any characters, all of whom seem to be acting individually in various and sundry ways, slow the story down to a near crawl around the two-thirds point. It has to be hard, in my opinion, for a new writer to maintain his (or her) momentum for the entirety of a full-length novel, no matter what kind of twist you plan on ending it with. And so it is here.

   As for the author, Al Hubin in Crime Fiction IV, says that Ken Rothrock is probably Harley Kent Rothrock (1939-1999), but Google reveals no more. This was his only work of detective fiction, a good effort, but cliched. Maybe if North had been better at a quip (he isn’t), the ride would have been a little less bumpy.