Terry Traven is an L. A. private-eye, a man who chose his profession because of his admiration for the work of Hammett and Chandler, knowing all along that their version of his job was a fantasy. He opened the Black Mask Detective Agency. For a while, he talked out of the side of his mouth, wore vintage clothing, and drove a vintage car. Now he just has the car, and his time as a minor celebrity has passed. He's hard up for work and money.
I have to mention here that in a move that would endear him to about 50% of the members of rara-avis, the hardboiled list, Traven picketed Robert Altman's home when his movie version of The Long Good-Bye came out. When it failed at the box office, Traven returned with a sign that said "JUSTICE WILL OUT." Why did he picket? Because "where decency had once been, now there was passivity and arrested adolescence."
But I digress. Traven is hired to find the sone of a wealthy man. The job turns out to be much more complicated than that, as is often the case. It would take a Hammett or Chandler to unravel this one, which gets into the darkest hard of L. A. in 1979. The more Traven investigates the darker it gets. The case apparently ends a couple of times, but Traven keeps going, working for free, of course, in the best Marlowe tradition.
The book's not without flaws, but it's far too good to be forgotten. Check it out.