Sweet Wild WenchBy: Gault, William Campbell (male)
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc. (Crest Original Novel no. 309)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, CT
Catalog #: Kelley Box 566: PS3557 .A948 S93 1959
Contributor: K. Quinlivan
GeneralEra: 1950s Author as on Cover: William Campbell Gault Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1959 | Original Date: 1959 Setting: urban; homes and offices in and around L.A., including affluent neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Malibu, Hollywood and Brentwood Motives: jealousy, greed
Joe Puma, a cynical and slightly disreputable private investigator, is hired by the district attorney to examine the Children of Proton, a questionable religious cult that has moved into the area. The cult has attracted sizeable donations from some very wealthy citizens including Eve Deering, the beautiful daughter of a prominent local businessman. Puma's search for the truth about the cult soon turns into a murder investigation after another P.I. and the cult leader both turn up dead. Tough-talking Puma carefully navigates the treacherous waters of local politics, encountering various scheming thugs, informers, and back-handers anxious to further their own interests. He pieces together the identity of the murderer amid the conflicting demands of the police chief, the mayor, and the D. A. each of whom has his own personal agenda. Mistrusting everyone and continually questioning his own personal moral code, Puma skillfully outmaneuvers several double-crossing informers and solves the case.
Joe Puma adult male, former cop turned private investigator, 30s, strong, independent, macho type with a well-earned reputation as a womanizer
Deke Puma adult male, Joe's younger brother, 27 years old, gambler and card player, frequently wins and then loses large sums of money, has a love-hate relationship with his older brother
Adele Griffin adult female, 37 years old, beautiful sister of the district attorney, Joe's loyal and understanding girlfriend
Sam Griffin adult male, broad build, wealthy, honorable, dedicated district attorney
Jeremiah Adams adult male, thin, aristocratic-looking, blue eyes, cult founder who promises his followers faith without morality and salvation without ethics
J.D. Deering adult male, middle-aged, wealthy, conservative, short and stocky, white hair, square-faced, snobbish and rude
Eve Deering adult female, seductive, disenchanted "little rich girl," blonde hair, blue eyes, manipulative, misguided and emotionally unstable
Jim Murphy adult male, bulky, medium height, wealthy, shady trucking contractor and influential former bootlegger, controls the local political scene
Burns Murphy adult male, private detective hired by Deering to investigate the cult and its leader, brother of Jim Murphy
Sergeant Ernie Kafke adult male, homicide detective, occasionally unscrupulous
Ned Deutscher adult male, private investigator, supposedly working for Jim Murphy, but really working for himself; has plenty of friends on the police force
gun, fists, baseball bat
Level of Violence
the threat of violence lurks continually in the background, but for the most part it is implied rather than overt. Descriptions of the murder scenes are very brief and not excessively violent, but several fist fights are described in detail. Joe doesn't hesitate to use strong-arm tactics if he thinks they are necessary.
Joe Puma has a reputation as a ladies' man. He enjoys sex with the two major female characters in the novel, and readily admits that he is powerless when it comes to resisting the physical charms of beautiful women, whether it's his long-term girlfriend or a young woman he has just met. Both women dress provocatively, wear plenty of perfume, are openly flirtatious, and eager to have sex with Joe.
traditional. The women come from very wealthy families and seem to have no need for jobs outside the home. They live in luxurious surroundings and have servants take care of their homes. They remain safely in the background, but are always ready to provide a home-cooked meal and a warm bed for Joe Puma whenever he needs or requests it.
bigotry is alluded to, but not described to any great extent. Puma believes that other folks hold racist attitudes, and he is quite sensitive about his own ethnic and religious background. At one point, he comments that minorities, specifically Japanese, Mexicans and Blacks, get attention "only at tax time and campaign time."
most of the characters are fairly heavy drinkers who turn to alcohol regularly to solve their problems. Beer, rye, bourbon and whisky are always on offer in homes, bars and restaurants. Many of the characters smoke cigarettes frequently. Alcohol and tobacco seem to provide distinct methods of relaxation.
Puma has a cynical world view and this holds true for the LAPD. He believes that many detectives along with the top brass are incompetent and on the take, and he doesn't hesitate to make his views known. There is a great deal of tension between members of the police force and the private investigators throughout the entire novel.
the narrator compares the plots of old pulp magazines with television programs, suggesting that TV merely replaces the same tired old story lines from the cheap detective magazines, dime novels and penny dreadfuls by packaging them in a sleek new format. There are brief references to the atomic age and the Iron Curtain, reflecting issues that would have been very familiar to readers during the 1950s. Joe is disillusioned with nearly every aspect of society, including organized religion -- he has left the Catholic Church -- political wheeling and dealing (he feels that most elected officials are controlled by wealthy business interests), personal relationships (he can't picture himself getting married), and his own job situation.
California - Los Angeles/ Italian Americans/ Cults/ Detectives, Private/ Murder/ Paranoia
there is some minor speculation that Eve turned to the cult because of her rather troubled childhood; perhaps seeking a father figure in the cult's leader. Her own father is a control freak who suffers from some type of mental illness, but this is never clearly defined. Joe feels a sense of guilt about everything; he continually agonizes over his lifestyle choices, and worries about life after death, but he can find no answers in the world around him.