"The Drifter Detective" (2013) by Garnett Elliott
Reviewed by Barry Ergang
In Texas just after World War II, investigative jobs in cities like Dallas and Houston are hard to come by for one-man operations because big firms like the Pinkertons and others tend to get them, so ex-G.I.-turned-P.I. Jack Laramie tools around rural areas in search of business, hoping to eventually amass enough money to open an office in San Antonio or Austin. Towing a horse trailer, which he sleeps in, behind his DeSoto coupe, he's on his way to Abilene where there is a "hint of a job" when the car begins to act up. He manages to get it to the small town of Clyde and to a service garage. The proprietor assures him that because it's late afternoon, the car's problem won't be diagnosed until the next day at the earliest.
The man gives Laramie directions to the local saloon, and tells him the widow Talbot runs a boarding house where he might get a room for the night. (Laramie figures it wouldn't be a good idea to sneak back to the garage to sleep in the horse trailer.) Soon after he meets Sheriff Gideon Hawes, who says he can throw some work Laramie's way. The job, he learns the next morning, entails keeping an eye on the estate of a prominent local citizen, Thomas McFaull, who might be engaged in some illicit activities. Laramie agrees to do it, and quickly finds himself entangled with McFaull's promiscuous wife, a surly sheriff's deputy, a railroad worker, and the flirtatious widow Talbot. It isn't long before matters turn dangerous, and Laramie finds himself wondering if things are really as they seem and whether he'll survive so he can get back on the road to Abilene again.
A neatly-paced, action-packed long short story, "The Drifter Detective" is written in a colorful but not overwrought style and populated with characters the author imparts life to. For fans of hardboiled fiction with pulpy flavor and texture, this one is well worth Amazon's 99¢ asking price.
Barry Ergang ©2013
Derringer Award-winning author Barry Ergang's fiction, poetry and non-fiction have appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic--see http://www.writetrack.yolasite.com/. He has been selling some of the many books he's accumulated over many years, and will contribute 20% of the price of the books to our fund--see http://www.barryergangbooksforsale.yolasite.com/. You can find some of his work in e-book editions at Amazon and Smashwords.