No Questions Asked by Ross Thomas read by Malcolm Hillgartner

An old book, a tits and bits insurance agent, an ex-intelligence bully, a rich chick on Malibu beach, a bitter ex-girlfriend somebody called “Virgie”, a short tight crooked alcoholic cop, and a Go-Between man who gets an Eviction Notice and a letter from the Wall Street Journal saying he could get rich if only he subscribed for six months.

In six months and a week, Philip St. Ives has earned $75,000, received 2 invitations to live and play with a woman, one in NYC and one on Malibu Beach, failed but then found an old book, but not before somebody shot a bullet through it.

At the end, on his way back to New York, his trusty helper asks him if there’s anything he can study in University to help him become a Go-Between man. St. Ives thinks about it for a while and says “Ethics, you might study Ethics.”

Ah, Treachery! by Ross Thomas read by Frank Muller

The salad dressing was the only one Partain ever used: “9 parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar, vinegar soaked salt, ground black pepper and more garlic than most people liked.” Write this down. Ross Thomas’ recipes are rare, legendary and authoritative. As are his stories, his characters, and his dialogue.

‘What did you do in the army for fun when you weren’t soldiering?
‘I read a lot.’
‘What?’
‘European history. When I got to World War I, I always stopped.’
‘Why?’
‘Because I already knew how it would end  in 1945.’
‘That was the end of World War II, not I.’
‘Was it?’

Not only authoritative but establishing authority, establishing themselves as authorities.

When he was soldiering, Edd (“Two-Dees”) was Infantry in Vietnam, then the States, then Germany, then Central America (“…not dangerous for an observer.”).  After 19 years he beat up his superior officer and was discharged for the good of the service without a pension or PX privileges. The loss of PX privileges was annoying.

Now Two-Dees is staying in a condo on Wiltshire Boulevard, where he is observing the pretty daughter of Millicent Altford in between jobs and/or lovers. Ask any political geographer to map out D.C. in L.A, and he’ll draw you the route to the 86 volumes of Who’s Who in Millicent Altford’s study, in a luxury building named after a failed British prime minister.

The very femdom, very wily, not so old political rainmaker Millicent Altford is however hiding out in her own ‘significant money salon’ in the extravagantly elegant wing of the exclusive “Olympia” Hospital a few blocks east of Century City, for which she herself raised the seed money. Gourmet meals  and a French menu every morning.

Partain entered Millicent Altford’s hospital room and found her sitting in an armchair, wearing a smoke-grey silk suit, herlong legs tucked back to the left and crossed at the ankles. On her feet were black suede pumps with two inch heels that matched her purse. Next to her feet was a worn black leather suitcase with silver fittings that looked both old and expensive.

Edd Twodees gets shot just before they’re scheduled to fly from LAX. Millicent buys him something temporary to wear at the airport; he takes off the nice blue suit with the bullet holes and says:

‘What I do with my shirt, tie and coat?’
‘I’ll take care of them.’
He handed them over and watched with dismay as she dropped all three into a nearby trash container.
‘That coat could have been re-woven,’ he said when she returned.
‘I told you; we’ll buy you new stuff in Washington. A nice top coat from Burberry’s, some suits and a couple of jackets and pants from Brooks Brothers or Niemann’s.’
‘You ever been inside a J.C. Penny’s?’
‘Not in 42 years,’ she said.

When she is not giving orders, putting together “soft money” and “bundling”, Millicent Altford gives congressmen lectures in the ancient history of campaign financing.

It was a typical campaign office for the times. One big room, lots of desks, typewriters, ringing phones, hot as hell, noisy… and then there was this 50 year old slob sitting behind one of the desks..and a red headed guy. I tell the slob my name and that I want to help out in the campaign and he tells me that they aren’t hiring…The red head of course is Joey Sizemore. He takes me outside where we catch a cab and head for the old Morrison Hotel that they tore down years ago. We ride up to the 11th floor and go into a big room that has two desks, two phones on each desk, a secretary called Norma who’s at least 60, and nothing else. Joey introduces me to Norma. Tells me that she used to be a senior long distance telephone operator with SouthWestern Bell, uses a key to open a desk drawer and hands me a typewritten list of names with addresses and phone numbers thats about an inch thick. It was the fat cat list. Every Democrat in the country who had an estimated net worth of $100,000 or more.. which would be around a million today… All I had to do was call each name and talk whoever answered into contributing a minimum of $1000 to the Stevenson campaign. Norma had this sexy contralto voice and placed each call person to person working east to west — all operator assisted then, no touch tone, no direct dialing.. ancient times. I asked Sizemore what to say. He said since I was in the ad business I’d think up something. There were almost 2000 names on that list and we called every damn one of ’em. A lot of ’em twice.
‘What was your batting average?’, the congressman asked.
‘.593′ That’s when I learned what makes people give money to politicians.
The congressman smiled: “is it a secret?’
She shook her head, “Fear. And Flattery.”
Still smiling, the congressman said: “What about hope for a better tomorrow?”
“Forget hope,” she said.

 

Hard Boiled

Some Hard-Boiled Characters of 20th C
(by the Members of Rara-Avis, compliled by Joe Dante and Mark Blumenthal, 2002)
(numerical order does not denote value)

Philip Marlowe (from the series by Raymond Chandler)
Sam Spade (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
3. The Continental Op (from the series by Dashiell Hammett)
4. Lew Archer (from the series by Ross Macdonald)
5. Matt Scudder (from the series by Lawrence Block)
6. Parker (from the series by Richard Stark)
7. Travis McGee (from the series by John D. MacDonald)
8. Easy Rawlins (from the series by Walter Mosley)
9. Harry aka Hieronymus Bosch (from the series by Michael Connelly)
10. Hoke Moseley (from the series by Charles Willeford)
11. Lou Ford (from the novels The Killer Inside Me and Wild Town by Jim Thompson)
12. Mike Hammer (from the series by Mickey Spillane)
13. Matt Helm (from the series by Donald Hamilton)
14. Dave Robicheaux (from the series by James Lee Burke)
15. Nick Stefanos (from the series by George Pelecanos)
14. Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson (from the series by Chester Himes)
14. C.W. Sughrue (from the series by James Crumley)
14. Hap Collins & Leonard Pine (from the series by Joe R. Lansdale)
14. Nameless (from the series by Bill Pronzini)
14. John Rebus (from the series by Ian Rankin)
14. Mouse (from the Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley)
22. Spenser (from the series by Robert B. Parker)
23. Eddie Coyle (from the novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins)
24. Brigid O’Shaughnessy (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
25. V.I. Warshawski (from the series by Sara Paretsky)
26. Dudley Smith (from the novels by James Ellroy)
26. Paul Pine (from the series by Howard Browne)
26. Dimitri Karras (from the series by George Pelecanos)
26. Arkady Renko (from the series by Martin Cruz Smith)
30. Hanson (from the novels by Kent Anderson)
30. Burke (from the series by Andrew Vachss)
31. Ned Beaumont (from the novel, The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett)
32. Artie Wu & Quincy Durant (from the series by Ross Thomas)
33. Tom Ripley (from the series by Patricia Highsmith)
34. Hawk (from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker)
35. Amos Walker (from the series by Loren D. Estleman)
36. Kinsey Millhone (from the series by Sue Grafton)
37. Steve Carella (from the 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain)
38. George Smiley (from the series by John Le Carre)
39. James Bond (from the series by Ian Fleming)
40. Jack Reacher (from the series by Lee Child)
41. Earl Drake (from The Operation series by Dan J. Marlowe)
42. Bill Crane (from the series by Jonathan Latimer)
43. Keller (from the Hit Man series by Lawrence Block)
44. Frank Chambers (from the novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain)
45. Frederick J. Frenger Jr. (from the novel, Miami Blues, by Charles Willeford)
46. Dan Kearney (from the DKA series by Joe Gores)
47. Hannibal Lecter (from the series by Thomas Harris)
48. Batman (from the comics/novels series by various authors)
49. Chili Palmer (from the novels Get Shorty and Be Cool by Elmore Leonard)
50. Martin Beck (from the series by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo)
51. Lucas Davenport (from the series by John Sandford)
52. Doc McCoy (from the novel, The Getaway, by Jim Thompson)
53. Peter Bondurant (from the trilogy by James Ellroy)
54. Harry Lime (from the novel, The Third Man, by Graham Greene)
55. Buzz Meeks (from the novel, The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy)
56. Dan Turner (from the series by Robert Leslie Bellem)
57. Milo Milodragovitch (from the series by James Crumley)
58. Lew Griffin (from the series by James Sallis)
59. Mario Balzic (from the series by K.C. Constantine)
60. Charlie Resnick (from the series by John Harvey)
61. Jack Carter (from the series by Ted Lewis)
62. Clete Purcell (from the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke)
63. Max Latin (from the short stories by Norbert Davis)
64. Lloyd Hopkins (from the series by James Ellroy)
65. Joe Friday (from the Dragnet series by various authors)
66. Shell Scott (from the series by Richard S. Prather)
67. Nate Heller (from the series by Max Allan Collins)
68. Nick Corey (from the novel, Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson)
69. Nick and Nora Charles (from the novel, The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett)
70. Marcus Clay (from the series by George Pelecanos)
71. Socrates Fortlow (from the series by Walter Mosley)
72. Richard Bone (from the novel, Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg)
73. Detective Sergeant Department of Unexplained Deaths (from the Factory series by Derek Raymond)
74. Elvis Cole (from the series by Robert Crais)
75. Walter Huff (from the novel, Double Indemnity, by James M Cain)
76. James Figueras (from the novel, The Burnt Orange Heresy, by Charles Willeford)
77. Casper Gutman (from the novel, The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett)
78. Mike Shayne (from the series by Brett Halliday)
79. Frank Clemons (from the trilogy by Thomas Cook)
80. Sharon McCone (from the series by Marcia Muller)
81. Race Williams/Three Gun Mack (from the series by Carroll John Daly)
82. John Shaft (from the series by Ernest Tidyman)
83. David Brandstetter (from the series by Joseph Hansen)
84 Jack Liffey (from the series by John Shannon)
85. Perry Mason (from the series by Erle Stanley Gardner)
86. Bernie Gunther (from the Berlin Trilogy by Philip Kerr)
87. Joe Gall (from the series by Philip Atlee)
88. Jonathan Hemlock (from the from the novels The Eiger Sanction and The Loo Sanction by Trevanian)
89. Kells (from the novel, Fast One, by Paul Cain)
90. Joe Pike (from the Elvis Cole series by Robert Crais)
91. Fast Eddie Felson (from the novels The Hustler and The Color of Money, by Walter Tevis)
92. Bob Lee Swagger (from the series by Steven Hunter)
93. Cora Papadakis (from the novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain)
94. Roy Dillon (from the novel, The Grifters, by Jim Thompson)
95. Eva Wylie (from the from the series by Liza Cody)
96. Ed and Am Hunter (from the series by Fredric Brown)
97. Skink a.k.a. The Governor (from the a recurring character in the novels by Carl Hiassen)
98. Derek Strange (from the series by George Pelecanos)
99. Lionel Essrog (from the novel, Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem)
100. Charlie Arglist (from the novel, The Ice Harvest, by Scott Phillips)
101. Richard Hudson (from the novel, The Woman Chaser, by Charles Willeford)
102. Ernest Stickney (from the novels Stick and Swag by Elmore Leonard)
103. John Marshall Tanner (from the series by Stephen Greenleaf)
104. Doc Ford (from the series by Randy Wayne White)
105. Jay Gatsby (from the novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
106. Dick Tracy (from the newspaper strip by Chester Gould)
107. Mick Ballou (from the Matt Scudder series by Lawrence Block)
108. Quiller (from the series by Adam Hall)
109. Deputy Detective Carl Houseman (from the series by Donald Harstad)
110. Maigret (from the series by Georges Simenon)
The 21 runner-ups
(Joe Gar almost made it):

Doan and Carstairs (from the novels and short stories by Norbert Davis)
Alexander Cutter (from the novel, Cutter and Bone, by Newton Thornburg)
Patrick Kenzie (from the series by Dennis Lehane)
Harry Stoner (from the series by Jonathan Valin)
Satan Hall (from the series by Carroll John Daly)
Jane Whitefield (from the series by Thomas Perry)
Will Graham (from the novel, Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris)
Abraham Trahearne (from the novel, The Last Good Kiss, by James Crumley)
Dave “The Enforcer” Klein (from the novel, White Jazz, by James Ellroy)
Repairman Jack (from the series by F. Paul Wilson)
Fang Mulheisen (from the series by Jon A. Jackson)
Thorn (from the series by James W. Hall)
Neal Fargo (from the novel, Interface, plus short stories by Joe Gores)
Dan Fortune (from the series by Michael Collins)
Max Cady (from the novel, The Executioners, by John D. MacDonald)
John Francis Cuddy (from the series by Jeremiah Healy)
Mike Dolan (from the novel, No Pockets In a Shroud, by Horace McCoy)
Jo Gar (from the short stories by Raoul Whitfield)
Maximum Bob Gibbs (from the novel, Maximum Bob, by Elmore Leonard)
Bernie Ohls (from the novel, The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler)
Carmen Sternwood (from the novel, The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler)

Thanks to Joe Dante and Mark Blumenthal and, as always, William Denton, who manages the Rara-Avis list.