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University at Buffalo Libraries

George Kelley Paperback & Pulp Fiction Collection

Trial By Perjury

cover image By: Creighton, John (pseudonym of Joseph L. Chadwick) (male)
Publisher: Ace Books, Inc. (D 321)
Place of Publication: New York, NY
Catalog #: Kelley Box 836: PS3505 .H215 T74 1958
Contributor: P. Ryan

General

Era: 1950s Author as on Cover: John Creighton Geographic Locale: anonymous city at a fictional seacoast locale in a nameless northeastern state Date of Publication: 1958  |  Original Date: 1958 Setting: urban and suburban; various settings range from an "imposing estate" to Kirby's apartment furnished in blonde wood and threadbare upholstery; Donna Armand's "pseudo-colonial" apartment at the "semi-suburban" Colonial Manor development; Dolan's city address at the Claremont Hotel and Camp Hiawatha (a boys' camp in the country) Motives: political blackmail; murder to cover up an extortion attempt

Plot Summary

Dan Kirby is released from prison after serving a 7 and one-half month term for vehicular homicide; a crime which he confessed to but did not commit. Kirby was paid $10,000 by agents of gubernatorial candidate Mark Leland to confess to the hit-and-run homicide, a crime actually committed by Leland himself. While in prison, Kirby's wife Lila has divorced him, expropriated the $10,000 and vanished. Upon his release, Kirby is picked up by a woman named Donna Armand who steers him to a meeting with Leland. Leland gives Kirby an additional $1,000 and tells him to leave town, suggesting that he look up his ex-wife. Returning to his apartment, Kirby meets a new neighbor, "song stylist" Anne Sorensen. Later, Leland sends private detective P.J. Dolan to tell Kirby where his ex-wife is, but Kirby warns him to drop the investigation. When Dolan leaves, Kirby receives a call from his ex-wife warning him that he will be an unpaid fall guy if he doesn't leave town. When Kirby's place is ransacked, he suspects Dolan and drives to Dolan's hideout where he discovers the body of his murdered ex-wife. Kirby is framed for the murder and finds himself in a vicious trap -- if he goes to the police, they'll send him up for perjury, but if he approaches Leland, he'll be accused of blackmail. Eager to clear his name, Kirby follows a dangerous trail that ultimately leads to the identification of the murderer.


Major Characters

Daniel Kirby "Dan," adult male, 34 years old, sandy hair, average height and build, regular features; formerly operated a service station, unemployed for the duration of the novel; ex-con seeking to clear his name

Donna Armand adult female, 20s, very tan, blonde, gray/green eyes, long legs

Lila Kirby (ne Hammond), adult female, approximately 30 years old, attractive, "flame" red hair and a "lush" figure; prior to marrying Kirby, she was a restaurant hostess

Mark Leland adult male, 52 years old, "above medium height, broad of shoulder, flat of stomach....undeniably handsome....only the touch of gray at his temples hinted at his age," war profiteer and political aspirant for governor who convinces Kirby to perjure himself and is blackmailed for it

Peter Dolan "P.J.," adult male, "tall, husky blonde....rugged looking, coarsely handsome....middle thirties;" "radiated trustiworthiness," private investigator

Fred Jarrett adult male, "stocky, florid man who took himself too seriously and possessed a habitual aura of worriment," Leland's attorney

Anne Sorensen adult female, dark-haired, slim, pretty, 22 years old, blues song stylist at a supper club and Kirby's neighbor/spy

Myra Forbes adult female, early 40s "with small features that made her a delicate beauty," Leland's fiance; socialite


Weapons

guns, fists, blunt object (pistol butt or blackjack), car, brass knuckles


Level of Violence

the tone of the violence is understated and both murders occur offstage. The hit-and-run homicide that precipitates the action occurred a year before the beginning of the book.


Sexuality

apparently Kirby, to his own surprise, is getting more sex and offers of intimacy than he did before he was incarcerated, possibly more often than when he was married. However, the sex is non-explicit.


Gender Roles

the prime mover in this novel is Donna Armand. She uses shabby keyhole peeper P.J. Dolan as her legman and stalking horse, and uses her sexual allure to control half-bright males. However, her motivation for blackmail is based equally on sexual jealousy and greed -- she has been jilted and she wants "her end." Anne Sorensen is a more "traditional" good girl figure. She is creative (she paints and sings professionally) and attractive. Dan Kirby is indecisive and not defiant in his resistance to Leland's insistence that he leave town. He is quite compliant as Donna Armand's pawn for most of the story. He will fight to save his life but it is really fear of death that finally motivates him to clear his name.


Ethnicity

all characters are presumably caucasian Americans; ethnicity is not emphasized. Prejudice is not an issue.


Alcohol/Drug Abuse

alcohol abuse causes Leland to kill a pedestrian, enabling Donna Armand to blackmail him, so alcohol is portrayed in a negative light in Leland's case. Dan drinks socially (scotch and soda at Leland's mansion) and to relieve stress (a scotch-on-the-rocks after he finds Lila's body.) He also has a "flat and oddly bitter" beer at his apartment. However, alcohol is not his problem and he spends little time on it. Donna Armand, the femme fatale, is not a compulsive drinker either. Most characters smoke tobacco but not inordinately so.


Law Enforcement

the state police are honest and competent. The justice system does not fare so well, but even Kirby acknowledges his mistake, seeing "the wrong of it." The real villain seems to be part of the establishment, bending the law to their own ends. Private detective P.J. Dolan is utterly corrupt, using a bluff, hearty manner to conceal the fact that he is collecting at both ends and stealing anything left in the middle.


Added Features

familiar theme in the post-McCarthy era describing an innocent man unjustly accused, with the added twist that the innocent man is perjuring himself and admitting to a crime that he did not commit, for money. Social conditions are largely ignored, but several of Creighton's casual observations refer to how image is everything in politics, e.g. Leland's paid political advertisements on television. There are a number of strikingly similar character names and locales found in this novel and Stranglehold, another of Creighton's books (Myra Forbes/Myra Fenton, John Grierson/Ed Grierson, Sergeant Kulaski/Julie Kulaski) indicating the formulaic nature of these novels.


Subject Headings

Perjury/ Blackmail/ Corruption (In Politics)


Psychological Elements

this is a straightforward melodrama with little psychological depth. Kirby is apparently depressed (unusual for a recently freed man but perhaps typical of someone robbed of $10,000 by his wife). P.J. Dolan apparently is a sex addict ("That Dolan....he's like one of them private eyes in the movies and on television. A sort of Mike Hammer. Beautiful dames found dead in his cottage.")