Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy Birthday / Traps Need Fresh Bait

Today marks Erle Stanley Gardner's birthday. He was born on July 17, 1889. I thought I'd blog about the only appearance of a birthday for any of Gardner's series characters. 

Traps Need Fresh Bait begins with a rare event in any of Gardner’s series, a character aging. The office surprises Lam with a birthday party in his honor. Barney Adams, an executive at an insurance company, interrupts the celebration. The company is concerned because advertisements have begun to appear in local newspapers, requesting witnesses who saw a particular automobile accident. Adams is concerned because the accident had clearly been caused by one party. The advertisements appear to want to subvert justice as only witnesses willing to testify that the innocent party was actually to blame for the accident are requested. Lam suspects something even more suspicious after he receives Adams’ business card.
Donald investigates and learns that the accident has already been settled with the insurance companies, leaving no possible lawsuit or reason for the advertisement. Donald tries to apply for the job as witness, but is rejected. He meets another applicant for the job of witness there. Lam is accused of murder because he is in the vicinity of a murder while tailing the woman. The plot device had been used before when characters lied to implicate Lam, but in this case, it just appears that Sellers has it in for Lam.
Gardner is especially cynical about women in this book, calling them “creatures of intrigue. They love to set obscure causes in motion to bring about results that will take place behind the scenes.”[i]

[i] Gardner, Erle Stanley (as A.A. Fair). Traps Need Fresh Bait. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1967. Page 104.

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