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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Square in the Middle

cover image By: Gault, William Campbell (male)
Publisher: Bantam Books (1602)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 566: PS3557 .A948 S69 1957
Contributor: K. Quinlivan

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: William Campbell Gault Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1957  |  Original Date: 1955 Setting: urban; LA and surrounding communities; offices, homes and bars Motives: revenge

Plot Summary

Successful California businessman Jim Gulliver has too much time on his hands while his wife and children are away, and after a few drinks one evening in a local bar, he finds himself attracted to the beautiful and seemingly vulnerable Lynn Bedloe. Gulliver drinks far more than he normally would while partying into the wee hours with this footloose young woman and her rather unsavory circle of friends. After spending the night with Miss Bedloe, Gulliver attempts to straighten out her financial situation and ease his guilty conscience at the same time. While doing so, he discovers the body of a dead man who has also been at the same party, and all the circumstantial evidence points to Gulliver as the murderer. Kicked out of the house when his wife discovers his infidelity, Gulliver moves into a motel and begins to search for clues in order to reveal the killer's true identity. Pressure mounts as he tries to cope with shady business deals, the press, the police, and his new-found acquaintances from the bar until the truth is finally revealed.


Major Characters

Jim Gulliver adult male, 34 years old, partner in a loan brokerage firm, restless and bored with his rather humdrum existence

Max Schuman adult male, 32 years old, Jewish, high energy, his questionable business practices have nevertheless resulted in large profits for the loan company

Lynn Bedloe adult female, 28 years old, unemployed, interested in having a good time and using her good looks to attract men who can pay her way

Joyce Padbury adult female, 35 years old, secretary at the loan company, she is willing to invest her hard-earned savings if a good deal presents itself

Joe Paige adult male, 30s, poster artist who enjoys drinking and socializing with the group at Heeney's Bar

Janis Paige adult female, presumably in her 30s, Joe Paige's wife and a member of the group that calls Heeney's Bar its home

Tom Edlinger adult male, 33 years old, prosperous architect in the process of getting a divorce; women find him very attractive; one of the regulars at Heeney's Bar

Rita Edlinger adult female, Mexican, beautiful, wealthy ex-wife of Tom Edlinger, she financed his business interests

Ernest Dyke adult male, detective sergeant, L.A.P.D.; clever and eager to pin a murder rap on Jim Gulliver

Mike Chopko adult male, former police detective turned private investigator

Tex Newman adult male, semi-respectable test pilot, dating but not yet ready to settle down, a member of the party crowd at Heeney's

Jackie Teller adult female, belongs to the party group, but all she really wants is a house and kids back in Texas

George Wallace adult male, trade paper editor, shady financial history, mingles with the party crowd at Heeney's bar


Weapons

poker from a fireplace set


Level of Violence

very little description of violence; one paragraph summarizes details of the murder


Sexuality

the main character commits adultery once, and this haunts him throughout the novel; there is also implied adultery on the part of several other characters.


Gender Roles

traditional; men are portrayed as the family breadwinners, and women are either devoted housewives or secretaries. Several characters lead lives which include casual sex with various partners.


Ethnicity

none evident


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

several scenes are set inside bars; most characters drink cocktails and smoke cigarettes to relax. At times they drink excessively.


Law Enforcement

Sergeant Dyke is depicted as a clever and scheming law officer with political ambitions. He is held in contempt by other officers on the force because of his willingness to leak information to the tabloid press in exchange for favorable publicity.


Added Features

Jim struggles with the morality of his actions throughout the novel, often describing himself as a "square" whose Iowa upbringing is at odds with the party-filled, easygoing California lifestyle that he finds so alluring. The booming 1950s California economy is credited with attracting people from the East and the Midwest to well-paying jobs in the aircraft industry and the film industry.


Subject Headings

Murder/ California - Los Angeles/ Chemists/ Guilt/ Revenge/ Adultery