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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Room To Swing

cover image By: Lacy, Ed (pseudonym of Leonard S. Zinberg) (male)
Publisher: Pyramid Books (G353)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 317: PS3523 .A238 R66 1958
Contributor: J. Vourgourakis


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Ed Lacy Geographic Locale: New York City and Bingston, Ohio Date of Publication: 1958  |  Original Date: 1957 Setting: urban Motives: frame-up for murder

Plot Summary

Toussaint Marcus Moore, private eye, is hired by Kay Robbens to keep an eye on Robert Thomas, the man who is going to premiere Kay's new television show about felons on the loose. When Moore walks into Thomas's bloodied room and discovers a corpse, he know that he's been framed for murder. As a black man, Moore realizes that he has no chance for justice unless he finds the real killer himself. He travels to Bingston, Ohio to try and track down clues to the murder. There he digs through the past of this racially divided town until he comes upon the clue that leads him to the murderer. He returns to New York and with the help of Kay Robbens and his old boss, Ted Bailey, Moore traps the real killer and solves the crime.

Major Characters

Toussaint Marcus Moore adult male, African-American, World War II veteran, worked as a security guard and then worked for a detective service before starting his own detective agency, private detective

Kay Robbens adult female, bisexual, was married once to a man but he disapproved of her career and was bad in bed so she left him, television producer

Steve McDonald adult male, homosexual, writer, cousin of Robert Thomas who is killed in the opening of the novel, but he and his family never had anything to do with this cousin despite the fact that they were fairly well off and the cousin was often without food or shelter

Sybil adult female, Moore's girlfriend in New York

Frances Davis adult female, daughter of the postman in whose house Moore stays in Bingston, Ohio

Barbara "Bobby," adult female, Kay Robbens' girlfriend

Ted Bailey adult male, Moore's ex-boss, private investigator who helps Moore catch McDonald

Level of Violence

Moore finds Robert Thomas bludgeoned to death in his room. Steve McDonald slashes at Moore with a knife. Moore then punches McDonald in the chest and knocks him out in time for the police to arrest McDonald for murder.


Kay and Barbara are lovers, but Kay, apparently unsatisfied with Barbara, must go out and seduce men from time to time. We find out toward the middle of the novel that Steve McDonald is a homosexual. Though Steve turns out to be the killer, his homosexuality is not used as an outright metaphor for his guilt. Steve is out of the closet in terms of his sexuality, but will go so far as to kill his cousin in order to hide his "hick" past. Both Kay and Steve's homosexuality seems to be used to indicate corrupt sophistication linked with New York City and the television industry that Moore is both drawn to and desires to flee from.

Gender Roles

as the lascivious bisexual, Kay Robbens tries to seduce Toussaint Moore early in the novel. Sybil, straight and pragmatic, plays the role of the frigid fiance who withholds sex in an attempt to get Moore to give up his dreams of opening a detective agency and settling down into a postal job and marriage. Kay and Barbara are "married," with Kay playing the role of wife and Barbara of husband.


there is a lot of description of race relations. Moore stands out in the predominantly white town of Bingston, Ohio. He gets reprimanded by a white cop for trying to eat in a white drug store; gets called "boy" frequently; gets hassled for driving a jaguar because a New York City cop assumes he stole it. There are also incidents of intraracial prejudice. Moore's girlfriend, Sybil, is hesitant to take her relationship with Moore seriously because his skin is so much darker than her own. In Tennessee, out in the middle of nowhere, Moore is teased by a black gas station owner for being an out-of-towner.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

Moore goes out drinking with Kay, Barbara and Steve.

Law Enforcement

the police officers in the novel are depicted as racist, but for the most part harmless.

Subject Headings

African-Americans/ Detectives, Private/ New York (N.Y.) - Harlem

Psychological Elements

Moore must run from the police because the color of his skin ensures that he would be found guilty. His skin color at once implicates him, but it also hides him because to white folks "all black people look alike." He is therefore both incognito and obvious as he walks down the streets of New York City. This "double consciousness" -- innocent but seen as guilty, an honest, working man yet perceived as a thief -- creates a psychological tension in the novel. Ultimately, Moore does not know which of his white friends he can trust, but he has to throw himself at the mercy of Kay and Ted Bailey to help him catch the killer.