GEORGE BAGBY – The Golden Creep. George Bagby/Inspector Schmidt #48. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1982. Detective Book Club, hardcover, 3-in-1 edition. No paperback edition.

   At one time in my life, I think you could say that Aaron Marc Stein (aka George Bagby) was my favorite mystery writer. Emphasis on writer. He had a fluid, smooth style of putting words on paper that I’ve never been able to describe to my own satisfaction, much less anyone else’s, and his dialogue may have been even better. When two people are having conversations in his books, you always know who’s speaking, even when all you have are the words they are saying to judge by.

   There were 49 books in his George Bagby series — Bagby is the fellow who tags along with New York City police inspector Schmidt on his many many cases– and this one is number 48, and I don’t even remember seeing the title before. Stein was in his late 70s when he wrote it, and while the writing is as good as ever, the plot itself is one of his weaker ones.

   It starts out in semi-salacious fashion, with Bagby visiting a girlie joint on his own and ending up in an alley behind the place afterward next to a dead body. The dead man is the character the book is titled after — he made himself rather obnoxious with the Amazonian-built girls who are the main attraction — referred to, surprisingly, as “tit elation” — and Bagby, having been slipped a mickey, as he supposes, is the main suspect.

   And Inspector Schmidt — I don’t know if he ever had a first name — has to play it carefully, as the press knows full well how close the two of them are. But rather than concentrate on the doings leading up to the murder, the two of them focus instead on the murder weapon — the tail of a huge stone dragon that someone carted to the roof of the place and dropped down on the dead man.

   You have the feeling that when the appropriate number of pages have gone by, Stein/Bagby decided it was time to close things up and get back to the people in and around the strip joing itself, and sure enough, that’s all it takes to solve the case.

   I found the book enjoyable, but if you aren’t a fan of Bagby’s from before, or worse yet, you’ve never heard of him, this one won’t be the one to convince you that you ought to read more of him.