I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2017. The challenge is to read books that you already own.
Spill the Jackpot – Erle Stanley Gardner writing as A.A. Fair
Gardner wrote 29 Bertha Cool-Donald Lam mysteries. This 1941 entry, the fourth, is one of the better ones. It opens with Bertha checking out of a sanitarium where she was recovering from a combined form of flu and pneumonia for six months. In a well-plotted story, Lam investigates a disappearance and a murder.
When Gardner wrote as Fair, he allowed himself more digressions from the plot than in Perry Mason novels. He describes the desert country of Nevada and Arizona with affection and awe. He gives the reader the feeling that she’s learning something with a tangent on the inner workings of slot machines. For athletes he gives retro advice on the road work and training that goes into becoming a pugilist. He explores Lam’s moral ambiguity with his relationship with a bad girl on the run - who is using whom?
He also touches on the variety of complex relationships between men. A punch-drunk boxer takes an unaccountable shine to Lam and offers to teach him how to box. A hyper-masculine father sees his son as too sensitive and makes bad choices in protecting the kid.
I highly recommend this vintage mystery.