Between 1955 and 1992, William Campbell Gault authored 14 novels starring Hollywood private investigator - and former L.A. Rams guard - Brock Callahan. I’m told the books stand-alone well enough, so I’m starting the series with the 1956 second installment, “Day of the Ram,” a hardboiled mystery that brings Callahan back into the world of NFL football.
It’s pre-season for the L.A. Rams who just beat George Hallas’ Chicago Bears in an exhibition game thanks to the leadership of rookie quarterback, Johnny Quirk. Brock knows a thing or two about pro-football and believes that it’s entirely possible that Quirk could be one of the immortals of the game. As such, he’s surprised when Quirk shows up at his office seeking to engage Brock’s investigative services. Quirk has received a vague but threatening letter that may have been from an underworld sports gambler seeking to manipulate his performance on the field, and he wants Brock to get to the bottom of the situation.
Brock loops the police into his investigation and is relegated to nighttime protection detail of the football prodigy. When the stakes increase with a murder, Brock begins investigating in tandem with the police causing the working relationship to become strained, and the story becomes a rather commonplace private eye mystery with clues, suspects, red herrings, and tough-guy stuff.
I can’t imagine anyone enjoying this book if they don’t have an interest in NFL football. If that’s your bag, the inside information presented to the reader about nuances of the game and players’ lives will be a fascinating window dressing for a pretty straightforward, by-the-numbers mystery story. Of particular interest is the league’s determined efforts to keep the sport free of underworld gambling influence, so it doesn’t wind up like boxing.
Brock is a likable character - tough but self-deprecating and fiercely loyal to his new girlfriend, Jan, who plays a recurring and evolving role in Brock’s life over the entire series of paperbacks. Overall, there’s nothing really to dislike about “Day of the Ram” - particularly for fans of private eye mysteries and the NFL. Recommended.
Here is the series order for the Brock Callahan books:
1. Ring Around the Rosa (1955, also titled: Murder in the Raw)
2. Day of the Ram (1956)
3. The Convertible Hearse (1957)
4. Come Die With Me (1959)
5. Vein of Violence (1961)
6. County Kill (1962)
7. Dead Hero (1963)
8. The Bad Samaritan (1982)
9. The Cana Diversion (1982; crossover with the author’s other series character, Joe Puma)
10. Death in Donegal Bay (1984)
11. The Dead Seed (1985)
12. The Chicano War (1986)
13. Cat and Mouse (1988)
14. Dead Pigeon (1992)
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