Friday, December 02, 2016

The Knife Slipped -- Erle Stanley Gardner

Hard Case Crime has found a really lost book, this time an A. A. Fair novel by Erle Stanley Gardner.  As Russell Atwood explains in his Afterword, the book was to be the second in the Cool and Lam series but was rejected by Morrow because Bertha Cool was too hard-boiled for them. She tended to "talk tough, swear, smoke cigarettes, and try to gyp people."  Instead of of reworking the book, Gardner wrote an entirely different novel and put The Knife Slipped in the trunk.  Now, 75 years later, we can read it for the first time.

The case appears to be a divorce job, but it soon develops into something much more complicated, as you'd expect from Gardner, though not as complicated as some of the later books in the series.  Lam still has a lot to learn about the detective biz, and Bertha's an enthusiastic teacher.  Atwood speculates that the series might have developed differently had this book been published.  As it is, Lam makes some crucial errors along the way and gets the crap beaten out of him more than once, but things work out in the end.

A lot of the fun here isn't the case itself but in the characters, especially Bertha Cool.  She's cheap (if you ever want someone to sell your old used car, get her on the job), but she's generous when she gets a big slice of the cake.  This book's a lot of fun.  Check it out.

5 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Whenever I think of Bertha Cool I picture Ellen Nehr.

Bill Crider said...

She would have been great in a Bertha Cool movie.

Mimi Wolske said...

Thanks; I added this to my short list of books my family could buy as a gift for the coming holidays :)

Don Coffin said...

In a lot of ways the Mason books are my third favorite series by ESG. The Lam & Cool books are better, I think, mostly because I find the characters more interesting. And I like the D.D. books a lot as well, and it's fun to see ESG transforming Perry Mason into an evil, mob-connected lawyer (good old ABC).

George said...

I have THE KNIFE SLIPPED on order. It was supposed to be the second books in the LAM/COOL series.