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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

End of a Call Girl

cover image By: Gault, William Campbell (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Crest Books 248)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, CT
Catalog #: Kelley Box 566: PS3557 .A948 E53 1958
Contributor: K. Quinlivan

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: William Campbell Gault Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California and Palm Springs, California Date of Publication: 1958  |  Original Date: 1958 Setting: urban; a variety of homes, apartments, restaurants and offices in and around Los Angeles, ranging from very wealthy neighborhoods to middle class to downright dingy Motives: hatred, fear of exposure Alternate Title: Don't Call Tonight

Plot Summary

Dora Diggert is worried because Jean Talsman, one of the call girls who works for Dora's escort service, fails to show up for an appointment with an important client. Mrs. Diggert wants private investigator Joe Puma to locate the missing woman. Jean turns up safe and sound in Palm Springs, in the company of wealthy businessman Jack Ross, but the man who had previously arranged to meet her is found dead shortly after missing their appointed rendezvous. Eager to make some money and work on a case that's a welcome change from his typical run-of-the-mill divorce suits, Puma agrees to investigate the murder. Ever the cynical operative, Puma charts his own course, cooperating with the local police, but maintaining his independence as he pieces together clues to identify the real killer. Along the way he manages to question a variety of suspects on both sides of the law, overpower dangerous thugs, and remind himself that deep down he's just a humble, sensitive, caring kind of guy.


Major Characters

Joe Puma adult male, "I was no poet, I was a big, tough wop." Cynical private investigator, fond of paperback westerns

Sergeant Lehner adult male, thin pugnacious face, plainclothes detective, resents Puma's involvement in the case

Horace Jeswold adult male, police captain

George Ryerson adult male, middle-aged, tall, beefy build, thinning hair, former gambler, now an accountant whose clients include several shady operators

Tom Talsman adult male, mobster whose syndicate connections enable him to live high off the hog

Mrs. Ryerson adult female, middle-aged, former Las Vegas lounge floozy, now a wealthy widow with a young lover

Dennis Greene adult male, middle-aged homosexual, tough gambler turned mobster

Eileen Rafferty adult female, red hair, receptionist once involved romantically with her boss, George Ryerson

Arno Eriksen adult male, medium height, pale, beefy thug

Jean Talsman adult female, 26 years old, attractive, call girl

Dora Diggert adult female, lesbian, 40-ish, imitation blonde, "remarkably well-preserved," operates a successful escort agency

Mary Cefalu adult female, mid-20s, tall, thin, brown eyes, model, romantically involved with Joe Puma

Jack Ross adult male, middle-aged, tall, blue eyes, sandy-haired, wealthy, former gambler and nightclub owner

Leslie Colt adult male, possibly bisexual, average height, blonde, tanned, muscular, beach bum and ladies' man


Weapons

guns, ice pick, fists


Level of Violence

Puma claims that he doesn't like to use physical force, yet he is quick to pound his adversaries with considerable strength when necessary. There are several fistfights described in vivid detail that give Puma a chance to showcase his pugilistic skill.


Sexuality

Joe Puma and Mary Cefalu quickly become involved in a sexual relationship, and theirs is one of the few relationships untroubled by complications from previous romantic entanglements. Several characters are thought to be homosexuals; they are referred to as "lavender lads," "queers," "fags" and "homos."


Gender Roles

the women are mainly prostitutes, models or office workers whose main goal seems to be snaring a wealthy husband. According to Mary, "Men are so damned narrow and superior about morality," and she questions society's double standard when it comes to sex. In Puma's opinion, "A girl today can go almost anywhere if she's pretty and properly endowed and not too dumb."


Ethnicity

Mary and Joe Puma frequently trade wisecracks about their common Italian ancestry, often referring to each other as "paisan" and "wop," but these epithets are viewed as an insult when spoken by anyone else. The red-headed receptionist is described as "a perfect example of brick-house Irish."


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

most characters enjoy a few drinks in social settings; one character who overindulges is presented in a pitiable light.


Law Enforcement

there is little love lost between Puma and members of the police force, but there is a grudging tolerance on both sides. Puma acknowledges that private investigators are barely tolerated by the police, especially when it comes to a murder case. The police are portrayed as efficient and methodical, but they resent Puma's independence. They agree to include Puma in their investigation as long as he provides them with daily reports of his findings.


Added Features

Puma takes a grim view of his life and those around him; he is disillusioned and disgusted by the fact that "crime was now respectable; it was even admired." Money is a recurring theme and Puma is convinced that most people will sell out if the price is right. He claims that he holds himself to a higher moral standard, and declares that no one knows he has enough money to make him betray his professional ethics. The Kefauver Committee and the Senate Interim Committee probing private investigation racketeers are mentioned briefly. Puma states that connecting a P.I. with any kind of congressional committee "was the road to bankruptcy in these frightened 'fifties." Puma's cynicism extends to the legal system; he believes that wealthy businessmen are simply hoodlums in disguise, and that they frequently escape punishment because they can afford expensive lawyers who "could prove black was white."


Subject Headings

Detectives, Private/ California - Los Angeles/ Italian Americans/ Murder/ Prostitutes/ Police


Psychological Elements

homosexuality is viewed as a "mental quirk," and Joe Puma considers the "perversion angle" an unsavory part of his investigation.