Dead Pigeon - William Campbell Gault - ebook

Dead Pigeon ebook

William Campbell Gault

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In his final case, Brock investigates the murder of his troubled college roommate. Maybe Mike Gregory was too smart for football. When he and Brock Callahan roomed together at Stanford University, Mike was a second-stringer with the skill to go pro. But he squandered his talent and drifted after college, briefly working as a stockbroker before descending down society's ladder, becoming a drunk, then an addict, and finally a snitch. The police aren't surprised when they find him in Santa Monica, face blown off with a sawed-off shotgun, but Brock is puzzled. Even at his lowest, Mike was too smart to go out like that. Though he's been retired for years, Brock's investigative instincts kick in at Mike's funeral. As he plumbs the depths of his old friend's broken life, he uncovers a toxic cocktail of cultists, mobsters, and corrupt law enforcement. Caught in the middle, this unlucky snitch had nowhere to turn.

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Contents

Cover

About the Book

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Some words About William Campbell Gault

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Looking for more suspense?

Cover

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About the Book

In his final case, Brock investigates the murder of his troubled college roommate.

Maybe Mike Gregory was too smart for football. When he and Brock Callahan roomed together at Stanford University, Mike was a second-stringer with the skill to go pro. But he squandered his talent and drifted after college, briefly working as a stockbroker before descending down society’s ladder, becoming a drunk, then an addict, and finally a snitch. The police aren’t surprised when they find him in Santa Monica, face blown off with a sawed-off shotgun, but Brock is puzzled. Even at his lowest, Mike was too smart to go out like that.

Though he’s been retired for years, Brock’s investigative instincts kick in at Mike’s funeral. As he plumbs the depths of his old friend’s broken life, he uncovers a toxic cocktail of cultists, mobsters, and corrupt law enforcement. Caught in the middle, this unlucky snitch had nowhere to turn.

About the Author

William Campbell Gault (1910–1995) was a critically acclaimed pulp novelist. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he took seven years to graduate from high school. Though he was part of a juvenile gang, he wrote poetry in his spare time, signing it with a girl’s name lest one of his friends find it. He sold his first story in 1936, and built a great career writing for pulps like Paris Nights, Scarlet Adventures, and the infamous Black Mask. In 1939, Gault quit his job and started writing fulltime.

Dead Pigeon

A Brock Callahan Mystery

William Campbell Gault

 

BASTEI ENTERTAINMENT

 

Bastei Entertainment is an imprint of Bastei Lübbe AG

 

Copyright © 2015 by Bastei Lübbe AG, Schanzenstraße 6-20, 51063 Cologne, Germany

 

For the original edition:

Copyright © 2012 by The Mysterious Press, LLC, 58 Warren Street, New York, NY. U.S.A.

 

Copyright © 1992 by William Campbell Gault

 

Project management: Lori Herber

Cover adaptation: Christin Wilhelm, www.grafic4u.de

Cover design by Jason Gabbert

 

E-book production: Jouve Germany GmbH & Co. KG

 

ISBN 978-3-95859-337-4

 

www.bastei-entertainment.com

 

All rights reserved, including without limitation the right to reproduce this e-book or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

To Sally Sergenian, ardent reader

SOME WORDS ABOUT WILLIAM CAMPBELL GAULT

By Bill Pronzini

BILL GAULT IS THAT rara avis, a legend in his own time.

Few writers have had a career as long, distinguished, honored, and critically acclaimed. He has been a professional writer for more than half a century, having made his first sale in the midst of the Great Depression. His credits include scores of quality novels, both mysteries and juvenile sports fiction, and hundreds of short stories, many of which have been anthologized. Among his awards are an Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America and the Life Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. Noted author and critic Anthony Boucher said of him: “[He is] a fresh voice—a writer who sounds like nobody else, who has ideas of his own and his own way of uttering them.” Another of his peers, Dorothy B. Hughes, in reviewing one of his novels stated that he “writes with passion, beauty, and with an ineffable sadness which has previously been found only in Raymond Chandler.”

Born in Milwaukee in 1910, Gault began writing while in high school and continued to write sporadically during a brief stint at the University of Wisconsin and then while holding down a series of odd jobs. But his early efforts displeased him; he made no attempt to market any of his stories until 1936. He was working as a sole cutter in a shoe factory when he entered a story called “Inadequate” in a Milwaukee Journal-McClure Newspaper Syndicate short story contest. The judges found it to be anything but inadequate, awarding it the fifty-dollar first prize.

Spurred on by this success, Gault wrote and placed several more stories with the McClure Syndicate, then in 1937 entered the wide-open pulp fiction field with the sale of a drag-racing story, “Hell Driver’s Partnership,” to Ace Sports. Over the next fifteen years he was a prolific provider of tales of mystery, detection, sports, both light and spicy romance, and science fiction to such pulps as Scarlet Adventuress, 10-Story Detective (which published his first mystery story, “Crime Collection,” in its January 1940 issue), Detective Fiction Weekly, The Shadow, Clues, All-American Football, Strange Detective Mysteries, Adventure, Dime Mystery, Dime Detective, Doc Savage, Argosy, Detective Tales, Five Novels Monthly, and Thrilling Wonder, and to such “slick” and specialty magazines as The Saturday Evening Post (which published three of his sports stories), Grit, McClure’s, and Young Catholic Messenger. In the late forties he was a cover-featured contributor to the most revered of detective magazines, Black Mask, in whose pages he published nine stories—five of them featuring an offbeat, Duesenberg-driving private detective named Mortimer Jones.

When the pulp markets collapsed in the early 1950’s, their once-lofty eminence having been undermined by paperback original novels and that insidious new medium, television, Gault turned his hand to book-length works. In 1952, he published the first of his thirty-three novels for young adults, Thunder Road, which earned him numerous plau­dits from readers, reviewers, and educators and which remained in print for more than three de­cades. That same year saw publication of his first mystery, Don’t Cry for Me, one of the seminal crime novels of its time.

Prior to Don’t Cry for Me, the emphasis in mystery fiction was on the mystery itself: whodunit and why. Gault’s novel broke new ground in that its whodunit elements are subordinate to the personal and inner lives of its major characters and to a razor-sharp depiction of the socioeconomic aspects of its era—an accepted and widely practiced approach utilized by many of today’s best writers of mystery and detective fiction. Don’t Cry for Me’s narrator, Pete Worden, is anything but a standard hero; he lives a disorganized and unconventional life, walking a thin line between respectability and corruption, searching for purpose and identity. His girlfriend, Ellen, wants him to be one thing; his brother, John, who controls the family purse strings, wants him to be another; and some of his “friends” want him to be a third. What finally puts an end to Worden’s aimless lifestyle is the discovery in his apartment of a murdered hoodlum with whom he had a fistfight the previous night. Hounded by both the police and members of the underworld, he is not only forced into his own hunt for the killer but to resolve his personal ambivalence as well. Gault’s fellow crime novelist, Fredric Brown, said that the novel “is not only a beautiful chunk of story but, refreshingly, it’s about people instead of characters, people so real and vivid that you’ll think you know them personally. Even more important, this boy Gault can write, never badly and sometimes like an angel.” Gault’s other peers, the members of the Mystery Writers of America, agreed, voting Don’t Cry for Me a Best First Novel Edgar.

Gault’s subsequent mysteries are likewise novels of character and social commentary, whether they feature average individuals or professional detectives as protagonists. Many have unusual and/or sports backgrounds, in particular his nonseries books. For instance, The Bloody Bokhara (1952) deals with the selling of valuable Oriental rugs and carpets in his native Milwaukee; Blood on the Boards (1953) has a little-theater setting in the Los Angeles area, where Gault and his family moved in the postwar forties; The Canvas Coffin (1953) concerns the fight game and is narrated by a middleweight champion boxer; Fair Prey (1956), published under the pseudonym Will Duke, has a golfing background; Death Out of Focus (1959) is about Hollywood filmmakers and script writers, told from an “insider’s” point of view.

The bulk of Gault’s thirty-one crime novels—as well as many of his short stories—showcase series detectives. One of his first was Mortimer Jones, in the pages of Black Mask; another pulp detective hero, Honolulu private eye Sandy McKane, debuted in Thrilling Detective in 1947 and solved a handful of other cases in the Hawaiian Islands (where Gault was stationed with the 166th Infantry during World War II). Italian P.I. Joe Puma, who operates out of Los Angeles, was created for the paperback original market in the fifties, first as the narrator of a pseudonymous novel, Shakedown (1953, as by Roney Scott), and then of several books published under Gault’s own name between 1958 and 1961, notably Night Lady (1958) and The Hundred-Dollar Girl (1961). Puma is also the fea­tured performer in more than a dozen excellent novelettes published in the fifties and sixties in such magazines as Manhunt and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

But Gault’s most enduring and successful fictional creation is Brock “The Rock” Callahan, an ex-L.A. Rams lineman turned private eye, who initially appeared in Ring Around Rosa in 1955. Callahan, along with his lady friend, interior decorator Jan Bonnet, did duty in six novels over the next eight years. In a rave review of the best of these, Day of the Ram (1956), The New York Times called Callahan “surely one of the major private detectives created in American fiction since Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.”

After the publication of Dead Hero in 1963, Gault decided to abandon detective fiction and concentrate on the more lucrative juvenile market. He did not return to a life of fictional crime until nearly twenty years later, when the young-adult vein had been played out; and when he did return, it was exclusively with an older, wiser, and changed Callahan: now married to Jan and, thanks to a substantial inheritance, living in comfortable semiretirement in the California coastal city of San Valdesto (a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, Gault’s adopted home for many years). The new series of Callahan books began with The Bad Samaritan (1982) and was followed that same year by The Cana Diversion, in which Gault also brought back Joe Puma—dead. The central premise of The Cana Diversion is Puma’s murder and Callahan’s search for the killer, a surprising tour de force that earned Gault yet another award, the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus for Best Paperback Original of 1982.

Dead Pigeon is the seventh in the new series of Brock Callahan mysteries, and the fourteenth Callahan overall. It is also Bill Gault’s sixty-fourth published novel, marking the fortieth anniversary of the novel-writing phase of his career and the fifty-sixth anniversary of his first professional sale. It begins with the mysterious death of Callahan’s old college football roommate, then follows a twisty path through a maze peopled by religious cultists, gangsters, cops both honest and crooked, a couple of designing women, and a stockbroker who may or may not be guilty of illegalities. Among its virtues are such vintage Gault stocks-in-trade as finely tuned dialogue, wry humor, sharp social observation, a vivid evocation of both upscale and downscale lifestyles in that world unto itself, southern California. Most importantly, it is about people rather than characters—people, in Fredric Brown’s words, so real and vivid that you’ll think you know them personally.

More than that no reader can ask of any writer. And no writer can give more to any reader, especially when he happens to be a living legend at the age of eighty-two.

CHAPTER TWO

IT WAS RAINING THAT Tuesday morning when I picked up Heinie at his bar and grill in Beverly Hills. “Rain in May,” he said. “How often do we get that?”

“Not often enough,” I said.

“The missus come with you?”

I shook my head. “She’s on her way to Tacoma for her annual visit to her aunt. I was going with her—until I got your call.”

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

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Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!

Lesen Sie weiter in der vollständigen Ausgabe!