RAOUL WHITFIELD – Jo Gar’s Casebook. Crippen & Landru, hardcover/softcover, 2002.

   Originally published in the pages of Black Mask by Whitfield writing under the pen name of Ramon Decolta, the eighteen stories featuring the “little island detective” Joe Gar are selected from the 24 stories that were published in the pulp magazine and include the final two stories published (as by Raoul Whitfield) in Cosmopolitan.

   Jo Gar is a private investigator in the Philippines, intelligent (he speaks at least six languages), and always outperforming the police. He was, at one time, a member of the Manila police force, and he has retained his friendship with Lieutenant Juan Arragon, although that friendship is now tempered with a certain wariness on Arragon’s part.

   When Arragon is killed, his replacement, Sadi Ratan, is no friend of Gar’s, treating him with s measure of hatred and contempt even though Gar always proves him to be wrong. (Or, possibly, because Gar always shows him up.) When Ratan, perhaps half-joking, proposes that he should join Gar in his private agency, Gar’s polite, but telling reply, is that he fears that “the loss to the Force would be too great, Lieutenant.”

   Gar is a man of few words, an observant and reticent investigator, who moves quietly through these colorful tales, eventually resolving his cases in ways that show a deep understanding of human character and the class relationships that figure so prominently in the island’s multi-ethnic composition.

   Another fine contribution to the publisher’s growing, and impressive, list of short-story collections. This volume also includes abridged reprints of essays by E. R. Hagemann on Whitfield and his work that appeared originally in The Armchair Detective, with “A Remembrance of E. R. Hagemann,” an afterword by R. H. Miller.

   There are, in addition, bibliographic data on the publication history of the stories used in the collection as well as Hagemann’s “Annotated Bibliography of the Works of Raoul F. Whitfield Appearing in Black Mask,” updated with additional notes by Tom Roberts and Peter Ruber.

— Reprinted from Walter’s Place #159, March 2004.