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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Ride the Gold Mare

cover image By: Demaris, Ovid (pseudonym of Ovide E. Desmarais) (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Gold Medal Books 644)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, Connecticut
Catalog #: Kelley Box 518: PS3554 .E4555 R53 1957
Contributor: J. Cordaro

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: Ovid Demaris Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1957  |  Original Date: 1957 Setting: urban and middle-class suburban; wealthy North Hollywood, Malibu Beach, Fish Harbor, Temple Street, Mulhullin Drive overlooking the San Fernando Valley Motives: greed, hatred, murder, drug addiction, syndicated crime, prostitution, a bad marriage, loneliness

Plot Summary

Los Angeles police sergeant Vince Fusco is explosive, brutal, and corrupt. Shortly after forcing his .45 automatic into the mouth of drug importer Raul Lopez and pulling the trigger, Fusco realizes that he has big problems. Foremost, there are two hapless witnesses he needs to identify and silence. In addition, he killed Lopez before discovering the location of his most recent shipment of pure heroin. In his attempt to gain information on both the witnesses and the shipment, Fusco begins a rampage through the streets of L.A.'s dark and sordid drug world. He treats, without mercy, anyone standing in the way of his ultimate plan to sell the heroin and leave the country with Raul's woman, Mae North. Eventually, he comes up against strong, one-eared fisherman Harry Miller, who smuggled for Lopez. Literally left holding the bag, Miller has no intention of giving it up. Another obstacle in Fusco's path is Phil Lambert, a crime reporter who senses a big story brewing. Ultimately, the police sergeant's plan to pursue a new, upscale lifestyle comes to an abrupt end, foiled both by his underestimation of Lambert and his unholy alliance with the mob.


Major Characters

Vincent Fusco adult male, near middle-aged, strong, "lumbering hulk" of a man with fat lips and brooding eyes; police sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Dept. Narcotics Squad, also on the payroll of a major crime syndicate

Philip Lambert adult male, hard-drinking, crime reporter searching for that one story that will give him his big break

Doris Couteau adolescent female, 19 years old, peroxide-blonde hair, moist deep-set eyes, thin baby-like voice, transparent skin, small breasts and long thin legs; prostitute

Harry Miller adult male, big, blonde hair, strong chin, dark blue scar where one of his ears had been; fisherman; also smuggles heroin for a drug importer

Norman Smith adult male, age unclear, sweats easily; bookkeeper for a small advertising agency

Tom Walsh adult male, slim, athletic, college-educated patrolman with the Los Angeles Police Department Narcotics Squad

Jock adult male, African-American, large, strong, unable to speak because of an injury to his throat, able to make only deep rumbling sounds in his chest; ex-fighter who takes care of Harry's boat

Gino and Nino Pisano adult males, twins, purportedly straight but they avoid women because of their dedication to their work. Average height with a "lean and hungry" look; their eyes are "dead and unblinking," physically identical, they often speak and act in unison, flashy dressers, hired killers for a crime syndicate

Weepy adult male, middle-aged, small, bone-thin, red toothless gums, long gray hair, wrinkled face; former professional clarinet player, now a heroin addict who earns money by pimping or selling information

Marie adult female, Asian, age unclear (most likely middle-aged), husky voice, thick face, flashing gold-capped teeth, fat fingers and wrists, huge sagging breasts; owns the Red Lion (a bar) and sells drugs

Mae North adult female, age unclear, full-figured, nude dancer/stripper and the Carioca Club's owner of record

Angela Fusco adult female, middle-aged, sickly and slim, housewife

Lucy Miller adult female, wide padded hips, housewife

Larry Spencer adult male, age unclear, handsome face, white hair, pale blue eyes, police captain


Weapons

fists, hands, guns (.45 automatic, .32 police special), knife, liquor bottles


Level of Violence

most of the violence is very graphic: one male, after he has been mortally beaten, is shot through the head with a .45 automatic that has been forced into his mouth. One female is physically assaulted, and while she is unconscious, an "H" for heroin is carved into the skin of her abdomen. One male is brutally stabbed to death, his throat slashed. One female and one male are briefly knocked out after being hit over the head with liquor bottles. Two males are brutally beaten with a broken whiskey bottle and then kicked (one dies, the other will soon follow). Two males fight; one is shot through the chest, bleeds internally, and then drowns. One male is knocked out by being hit on the back of his neck with the heel of an open hand. One male is beaten and then threatened with a razor-sharp knife. One male is slapped around on two occasions, one time being lifted off the ground, his arms and legs flailing in all directions. One male has his legs kicked out from beneath him. One male is slapped and punched. Finally, one male is blown up after entering a dynamite-rigged house.


Sexuality

characters are either depicted as straight, or, there is no mention of their sexual preferences. There is no overt sexual activity described, although Doris does use her feminine wiles to entice Norman. Feeling lonely while his wife is away for the summer, he is transfixed by Doris' fragile beauty. He also feels protective toward her because he has a daughter her age. The Pisano twins are known to avoid women because of their dedication to their line of work. Both of them leered at a female character while she was nude and took pleasure from beating and maiming her.


Gender Roles

traditional, stereotypical; Angela, the sickly wife of Vince Fusco, knows that her husband hates her and is, in fact, cheating on her. Yet, she pleads with Mae, the other woman, to let go of her man and help save her marriage. She calls Mae "wicked" while being blind to the full extent of Vince's crimes.


Ethnicity

the major crime figures and the flashy dressers are either Italian or Mexican. The term "Spic" (used to describe the characters of Mexican origin) is used only by Vince Fusco and the Pisano twins. Jock, an African-American, is portrayed as a good-hearted, brave man. Marie, an Asian woman, is described as having "thick yellow skin." She is a strong woman who owns the "classiest dive on Temple;" however, she also is involved in the drug trade.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

drugs: the smuggling and sale of heroin, as well as the devastating problems stemming from heroin addiction, are central to the story. The police captain of the L.A. Narcotics Squad gives his men a documentary-style lecture on the social and economic factors surrounding the heroin problem in Los Angeles. A female's death from an accidental overdose of pure, uncut heroin is graphic. A North Hollywood party is described where a variety of drugs are dispensed for a price. The physical toll that heroin extracts, as well as the lengths to which an addict will go to obtain the drug, are vividly portrayed. Alcohol: many of the characters imbibe alcohol. Phil Lambert, while still able to do his job, drinks to excess. He will drink bourbon for breakfast, and keeps a bottle in the glove compartment of his car. On the plus side, he is probably alive because Vince Foster doesn't feel overly threatened by him, basically dismissing him as a "lush." One character's inability to consume hard liquor (he is used to beer), leaves him vulnerable to the charms of a prostitute. It also leaves him physically ill, landing him in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Pisano twins force Jock to drink from a bottle of liquor in an attempt to confuse him in their quest for information.


Law Enforcement

Sergeant Vince Fusco, a 23-year veteran of the Los Angeles police force, is a brutal and corrupt murderer. While the other personnel in his department are portrayed as upright law enforcement officers, they clearly know (at least) about Fusco's propensity toward physical violence. Aside from admonishing the behavior they directly see, they do nothing. According to crime reporter Phil Lambert, they feel that any attack on Fusco would be an attack on the entire police force and on the local politicians. For the same reason, the local newspapers are apparently reluctant to expose Fusco's corruption even though Lambert seems to know that this dirty cop has committed at least four murders.


Subject Headings

Corruption/ California - Los Angeles/ Police/ Drug Addiction/ Drug Traffic/ Greed/ Murder


Psychological Elements

police sergeant Vince Fusco is a brutal murderer who enjoys wielding his power over others. According to his partner, Fusco's major problem-solving skill involves forcing round pegs into square holes. Although he is in love with his girlfriend Mae, he holds most people in contempt. How Fusco became as cold as stone is not revealed. He is the stereotypical hard cop, physically abusing suspects and roughing people up in order to obtain information. His fellow officers do not like his tactics, nor does he respect their softer approaches. He exhibits only disdain toward his college-educated partner, perhaps sensing that he is becoming an anachronism. Certainly greed must be one reason why he is on the mob's payroll; and greed factors into his decision to steal Raul's heroin shipment. It is apparent that he can no longer abide his sickly wife, Angela. However, instead of just leaving her for his lover, he decides to have her killed. He wonders what method the killers will use and when the job will be accomplished, but he appears to be without remorse. Norman Smith's loneliness for his wife and daughter is the factor that leads him to the Bamba, a real dive of a bar. Perhaps because he has a daughter near her age, he seeks to shelter the prostitute Doris. He also seems to be somewhat transfixed by her, drawn to her fragile beauty. A truly mild-mannered bookkeeper, he is willing to do whatever Doris asks of him, even though he is shocked by her lifestyle. Phil Lambert has a monkey on his back. Once a hard-hitting political columnist, Lambert ruffled the feathers of the local politicians, and for four years, he has had to satisfy himself with being a crime reporter. Obsessed with finding a big story that will set his career soaring, Phil does not feel free enough to commit to marriage and a family. He also drinks a great deal, enabling Vince Fusco to basically dismiss him as a "lush."