Million-Dollar Tramp

1960 MILLION DOLLAR TRAMP by William Campbell Gault 1st Crest Paperback VGN | eBay

Gault had two long-running detective series, one featuring former football star Brock Callahan and one featuring Joe Puma, both of whom worked out of the Los Angeles area. “Million Dollar Tramp” is the sixth of Gault’s Joe Puma novels and they are all good.

Joe Puma was but one of a large number of private investigators that the 1950’s gave birth to. He was just like many others, a lone operator, a wisecracking son of a gun operating on instinct and intuition as much as intellect, and always a little quick with his fists. Puma, unlike many other of the 1950’s PIs actually got along well with the police most of the time and cooperated with them most of the time. He liked drinking, but never did it enough to get good at it. He had a well-deserved reputation as a ladies’ man and prided himself on being an eternal bachelor, in love with all women and not willing to ever settle down with just one. He throws a mean punch and usually carries a gun.

In “Million Dollar Tramp,” Puma is tasked with finding a rich heiress-to- be (as soon as she reaches an age to inherit her millions) who is in hock to a loan shark who works out of a sleazy downtown LA office to the tune of $40,000. She seems to have disappeared and the loan officer is getting nervous, it seems. While finding Fidelia Sherwood wasn’t too difficult, neither was falling head over heels for her or finding that she could use a PI, when a body falls on her front porch. Between drinks, bar fights, and squiring Ms Sherwood around time, Puma has his hands full.

Puma is a bit of an angry young man in this book with his fists flying at nearly every opportunity. He doesn’t like quacks posing as psychologists or hoods parading around town. Nor does he like it when the Santa Monica PD throws around their weight.

There’s also a funny bit where Gault pays homage to jazz great Joe Puma, noting that there was a jazz musician with the same name.

This is a quick reading hardboiled detective novel that firmly takes the reader back to 1960 with the bars and the sketchy clientele and the problems that follow around a poor little rich girl like Fidelia. It is just plain good reading like most of Gault’s work.

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