Night LadyBy: Gault, William Campbell (male)
Publisher: Fawcett World Library (Crest Books 260)
Place of Publication: Greenwich, CT
Catalog #: Kelley Box 566: PS3557 .A948 N54 1958
Contributor: R. Tuohy
GeneralEra: 1950s Author as on Cover: William Campbell Gault Geographic Locale: Los Angeles, California Date of Publication: 1958 | Original Date: 1958 Setting: urban; various parts of Los Angeles; Joe Puma investigates in both rough areas and very wealthy homes. The world of 1950s professional wrestling is chronicled. Motives: Duncan Guest's murder appears to be related to the wrestling industry. Einar Hansen is murdered because of what he knows.
Adonis Devine, professional wrestler, appears at Joe Puma's one-man detective agency and asks Puma to locate Duncan Guest, Devine's friend and manager. When Puma discovers that Duncan Guest has been murdered, Adonis Devine posts a reward for the killer but it is Guest's wealthy girlfriend, Deborah Huntington, who hires Puma to find the killer. In an interesting twist, the Los Angeles Police Department also requests that Puma unofficially help them find the murderer. During Puma's investigation, he finds that Guest has been suggesting that honest wrestling might be a good idea. This does not please Mike "the policeman" Petalious, whose job it is to keep wrestlers in line. Puma also meets Einar Hansen, Duncan's friend, who runs a burger joint at Muscle Beach and is later found murdered. Puma's efforts to locate the murderers lead him through the world of professional wrestling, and take him to all parts of the city before he finally uncovers the truth.
Joe Puma adult male, Italian ancestry, 217 lbs., big, tough, private investigator
Adonis Devine adult male, blonde, handsome, used to be gay but went to therapy and says he is straight, wrestler
Deborah Huntington adult female, beautiful, wealthy, young, Duncan's former girlfriend
Curtis Huntington adult male, Deborah's brother, rich, owns the wrestling arena where Adonis Devine wrestles
Greg Harvest adult male, intelligent, attorney for the Huntingtons
Sheila Gallegan adult female, beautiful redhead who lives across the hall from Duncan Guest's other apartment
Mike Petalious "The Policeman," adult male, very big Greek man with a cauliflower ear and a bent nose; an excellent wrestler
Juanita Quintana adult female, big, sexy, wealthy, Mike Petalious's girlfriend
Arnold Giampolo adult male, Italian, wealthy; a major player in the wrestling racket
Duncan Guest adult male, well-built, handsome, referred to as "double-gaited" (bisexual), wrestling agent for Adonis Devine
Einar Hansen adult male, thin, freckled, straight, ran a low-class burger joint
Sergeant Macrae adult male, detective with the L.A. Police Department
Duncan Guest was murdered by being hit with a bronze ashtray and then had his throat sliced with a razor blade. Einar Hansen was stabbed in the throat.
Level of Violence
there are many violent scenes in this book; Puma gets in a few fights and is beaten severely by some thugs. Near the end of the book, Puma beats Adonis in a wrestling match. Violence is described with relish and in a fair amount of detail.
sexual orientation is discussed in euphemisms. Adonis and Duncan are "lavendar lads" (gay) or double-gaited" (bisexual). One of the other characters is a transvestite and the author feels that he needs to describe what that is. Adonis says that he used to be gay, but after many hours of therapy is now straight. Anything other than straight sexuality is described as being odd.
extremely stereotypical; the straight men are all big tough guys and the women are all young and beautiful. The men advance the plot, the women decorate it. If the main female characters have jobs, we never find out what they are.
ethnic prejudice is a given; Puma is called a dago and a wop by some of the thugs. Italians are not held in high regard in the novel. Adonis Devine's real name is Clarence Kutchenreuter, a German. Mike Petalious is described as a Greek. Ethnic origin is used as a way to describe the characters.
social drinking, but alcohol is not a large factor in the book; no other drugs are described.
the police are described as generally honest, but they will keep a piece of information from leaking to the press if Puma makes a donation to the retirement fund. The police have asked that Puma help them in this investigation.
dry humor is sprinkled throughout the novel, and there are some very funny lines, for example "It was enough to make a Democrat out of a man."
California - Los Angeles/ Detectives, Private/ Wrestling/ Police/ Murder/ Homosexuality
this is a "tough guy" action novel. The characters do not have really deep thoughts and their psychological motivations are shallow, if they exist at all.