Monday, July 29, 2013

In the dog days of summer, I thought I'd post a few reviews of Gardner's works involving
animals. I'm starting with a feline book, Cats Prowl at Night. For the collectors, there is a MapBack version of this title available. 

In Cats Prowl at Night, Bertha is hired by Everett Belder to settle a claim against him and take a percentage of its worth for payment. The client has put everything in his wife’s name and has no assets to be forfeited in a lawsuit. He wants Bertha to act as a proxy to settle the claim for him.
In this case, Lam is said to be serving at the front, blocking any possibility of his last minute intervention in the case. Bertha again nearly manages to be arrested for breaking and entering; however, she manages to solve the case even though Sergeant Sellers must rescue her from the killers.
Despite the humor of situations involving Bertha, this is not one of the better cases for Cool and Lam. Too many of the plot elements are recycled from previous books. Harkening back to Double or Quits, two of the victims die from carbon monoxide poisoning. The case revolves around an estate, similar to those in both Bats Fly at Dusk and The D.A. Cooks a Goose.
Before publication Gardner’s agent, Eve Woodburn, asked for a rewrite of the book.

I have read Cats Prowl at Night very carefully. As you know, I’ve always been keen about Bertha and I felt the humor was something extra special in this book. I particularly liked the situation when Bertha gets in the lawsuit and I liked the cross fire between Bertha and Sellers.

Thayer Hobson called me up before I had finished the book and asked me how I liked it and I told him that as far as I had read I liked it very much. He said he didn’t and you’ve heard from him by this time as he is writing you today. After I had finished the book I talked with him again.

I found the ending, ie the explanation of the crime a bit confused. I read it twice yesterday and once today and it still doesn’t seem to be very clear cut. But outside of that, I really enjoyed the book.[i]

[i] Letter from Eve Woodburn to Erle Stanley Gardner, January 28, 1943. Erle Stanley Gardner collection. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas – Austin, Austin, Texas.

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