Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Meet Me at the Morgue

cover image By: MacDonald, John Ross (pseudonym of Kenneth Millar) (male)
Publisher: Pocket Books, Inc. (1020)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 333: PS3525 .I486 M43 1954
Contributor: K. Majewski


Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: John Ross MacDonald Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, Palmdale, Pacific Point and adjacent desert area, California Date of Publication: 1954  |  Original Date: 1953 Setting: urban and inner city Motives: kidnapping Alternate Title: Experience With Evil

Plot Summary

Howard Cross, head of the Los Angeles probation department, sees little Jamie Johnson at nine o'clock in the morning with Fred Miner, a man on probation under his watch. A ransom letter is delivered to Jamie's parents at nine-thirty. Fred and Jamie have disappeared. Could Fred, who is considered by all to be dependable, kind, and fatherly toward Jamie, have snapped? Cross discovers extortion, murder and love as he scours the L.A. underground in search of Jamie and the truth about Miner.

Major Characters

Howard Cross "Howie," adult male, 37 years old, six feet tall, 180 pounds, light on his feet, head of probation department

Amy Miner adult female, middle-aged, "under a cheap, print house-dress, her body was long and angular," straight brown hair with strands of gray, high cheekbones, knuckles red and cracked from housework, housewife

Ann Devon adult female, 24 years old, "a mouse blonde with a recent degree in psychology and large untapped reserves of girlish fervor," blue eyes, "makes a pleasant silhouette," assistant probation officer

Fred Miner adult male, "a heavily built man in his thirties, very broad in the shoulders. He has a stiff back. It was broken in the war. He wears old khaki uniforms most of the time. He has rather a large head with heavy features, big jaw and a thick nose, sandy hair cut short, gray eyes. Deep bass voice. Midwestern accent. Fred likes to use Navy slang. Driver.

Helen Johnson adult female, middle-aged, red hair, attractive, "fair bold brow," green eyes, lieutenant in the nursing corps, head of the orthopedic wards in the Navy Hospital in San Diego, retired for marriage to Abel Johnson

Larry Seifel adult male, 20s, "tall and young and broadshouldered in a double-breasted gabardine suit." "Except that his eyes were a shade too sharp and bright in his tanned face, his square crew-cut a shade too consciously youthful, Larry Seifel was a very presentable young man." Lawyer.

Abel Johnson adult male, elderly, sickly, quickly aging professional, real estate agent

Jamie Johnson child, male, 4 years old, red hair, precocious, son of Abel and Helen Johnson

Kerry Snow adult male, late 20s, five feet, nine inches tall, wavy blondish hair, "nice clean-cut features if it wasn't for the sneaky look," well-built, talks like a sailor, hula-girl tattoo on left forearm, Navy photographer, swindler

Arthur Lemp "Art," adult male, middle-aged, large, bald, wears a dark, reddish-brown toupee, has a slight limp, ex-cop

Molly Fawn adolescent female, late teens, dyed blonde hair, five feet, four inches tall, 125 pounds, purple eyes, light skin, aspiring actress

Sam Dressen adult male, middle-aged, tired-out but generally dependable, sheriff's identification officer


ice pick, gun

Level of Violence

stabbing implied once, shooting explicit once


no sexual activity is described, however two heterosexual relationships develop over the course of the novel.

Gender Roles

traditional gender roles are glorified in this novel. The women hold fairly traditional, care-giving roles. Work described includes nursing, secretarial work, and assistantships. Women are generally described in terms of their sexual attractiveness (or lack thereof). Men are the protectors, providers, or aggressors.


issues of race are not mentioned or implied; all characters are European-American.

Alcohol/Drug Abuse

an accidental death, which took place prior to the beginning of the novel, is blamed on alcohol abuse by the major suspect.

Law Enforcement

Cross, as head of the probation department, works with (and just ahead of) the local police in solving the crime.

Subject Headings

California - Los Angeles/ Kidnapping/ Murder

Psychological Elements

the main psychological theme is the transition from innocence to moral corruption. Jealousy, greed, and unrequited love are the criminals of the story.