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If an openly gay novel with a few explicit sex scenes could have been published in 1948, it might have looked something like this. The author pays loving homage to the hard-boiled American detective tradition while gaying it up: “My name is Grey Randall, and I’m a private dick.” But given the times, he acknowledges: “It wasn’t good business to get known as a private dick with an interest in dick.”
Set in Las Vegas, the narrator is hired by a famous dancer, Lily McIntyre, to investigate who killed the nightclub singer Marguerite Saint-Ville. Lily fears, correctly, that the police are not doing enough. Though Grey’s police friend, investigating officer Reggie Harding, is exempt from suspicion, evidence of general police corruption mounts. Harding passes on to Grey a crucial clue that he recognized at the scene but could not disclose without indirectly outing himself to the force.
Following the lead, Grey discovers that Marguerite had been singing in a clandestine gay nightclub located near the alley where she was found strangled. Feeling an undeniable attraction to the supposedly straight club owner, Phil Martin, Grey uses rather unorthodox methods of interrogating him, with satisfactory results for both of them. Moving from the shadowy world of postwar gays into the echelons of Vegas society, Grey sets up an elaborate trap to reveal which of three suspects is the villain.
The novel, whose evocative cover was designed by the author, is subtitled Grey Randall: Private Dick / Casefile #1. One hopes that Ford will continue to balance detection and romance as smartly as she has in this first outing.
LILY WHITE, ROSE RED
Grey Randall: Private Dick (Casefile #1)
By Catt Ford
Paperback, 208 p., $14.99