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Top of the Heap (Hard Case Crime) (Hard Case Crime Novels) Mass Market Paperback – 24 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (24 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857683160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857683168
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.5 x 17.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 851,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

One of the best-selling authors of all time, Erle Stanley Gardner's greatest creations include crusading attorney Perry Mason (star of more than eighty novels, not to mention the long-running TV series and TV movies) and the hardboiled detective team of Bertha Cool and Donald Lam, who appeared in more than two dozen adventures of their own.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Dowden HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 May 2012
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As was common with the vast majority of pulp authors Erle Stanley Gardner, who is best known for 'Perry Mason', had a handful of names that he also wrote under, A A Fair being one of those. This book is one from the Cool and Lam Mystery series.

When a client approaches Cool to have his alibi checked to prove that he wasn't involved with a missing woman, Lam is called upon to do the investigation. The alibi checks out, but it is all a bit too pat for Lam, so he digs deeper. But little does Lam know what he will get involved in, as he gets caught up in murder, a frame-up, scams, illegal gambling, and a mobster. Will Lam be able to find out the truth and stay alive, and will he be able to make some money in the progress?

This isn't the best crime pulp novel ever written, but it is immensely fun and as it isn't necessarily that easy to get hold of these mysteries nowadays, perhaps something of a collectable.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Foggy Tewsday VINE VOICE on 20 Oct. 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Private detective, Donald Lam, finds it all too easy to take apart a potential murderer's alibi, but is there more to his story than meets the eye? This novel by Earle Stanley Gardner was first published in 1952 with the author using the name A.A. Fair. The B. Cool Confidential Investigations Agency is owned by the redoubtable Bertha Cool, a larger-than-life character with a large stock of phrases to express surprise ("Stew me for a clam!") and a peculiar habit of referring to herself in the third person. She's comedy gold and sadly underused in this story.

While Bertha doesn't mind employing underhand methods to get results, and thereby more lovely cash, Donald Lam has a more systematic, low-key approach. He's a clever and resourceful man and always one step ahead of the baddies.

There are several Cool and Lam stories, but this is the only one that I've read. For me, `Top of the Heap' suffers from a plot that sprawls into unnecessary complexity; I kept getting the feeling that some elements were added to pad the story out. This was somewhat surprising because there are a few examples of exposition being gleaned by Lam by way of newspaper and radio news stories. I feel it may have been better for the author to have woven these elements into the story at the expense of the padding.

However, despite these flaws, it's not a bad read. In fact, I'd like to read more from the Cool and Lam series. Perhaps Hard Case Crime will oblige.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 30 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A surprise from the creator of Perry Mason 15 Oct. 2004
By Craig Clarke - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Erle Stanley Gardner is best known for creating the archetype of the good lawyer in the series of novels starring his character Perry Mason, who was featured in a number of films in the 1930s played by Warren William and others, but was most famously portrayed by Raymond Burr in the popular television drama that ran for nine seasons on CBS and that thrives in syndication to this day. (Did you know that Gardner himself played a judge in the final episode?)

What most people don't know is that he also wrote another series of novels, under the pseudonym A.A. Fair, featuring the investigation team of Bertha Cool and Donald Lam. The Cool and Lam books numbered 29 and were published between 1939 and 1970, around the same time that Gardner was writing the Mason novels. Though Top of the Heap is the thirteenth in the series, it also serves as a fine introduction to the characters, though mostly Lam, as the legman, is featured.

When John Carver Billings ('"The Second," he amended.') enters the offices of Cool and Lam, asking for the "senior partner," Donald Lam sits back and waits for the sparks to fly, since that title refers to Bertha Cool and Billings doesn't appear to be the kind of guy who will accept a woman as a detective. But when Bertha calmly calls Donald into her office, sans explosion, he knows there must be a lot of money involved. Billings is looking for someone to corroborate his whereabouts of the previous Tuesday night and is willing to pay for the privilege, but what seems like a simple job -- with a five-hundred-dollar bonus attached -- turns into something entirely other when Donald actually does some investigation and discovers that Billings has other things on his mind besides his innocence.

Of course, the more Lam investigates, the more he uncovers, eventually angering both Billings and Bertha. Speaking of, extreme detective characters like Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe -- and now the foul-mouthed, greedy, ungrateful, jumping-to-conclusions charmer Bertha Cool -- are best taken in small doses. Some entries of the series are reported to focus more on her but Top of the Heap offers just enough for us to still find her amusing without crossing over into annoyance. It's the sidekick/legman character: Doctor Watson and Archie Goodwin -- and Donald Lam -- that we're supposed to identify with, anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised at how Gardner made the story intriguingly complicated but managed to keep it understandable. I never really got into his Perry Mason novels (I wanted them to be as tightly-written as the TV shows), but I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of the Cool and Lam series. (Maybe Hard Case Crime can issue more entries? Hint, hint.) The cover picture (and tagline, for that matter) doesn't have much at all to do with the story, but it's certainly beautiful work and in any case, this is another terrific offering from this new imprint. It's almost too much to ask that they keep up this level of quality, but I only expect more greatness to come.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Who says you can never go back home again? 8 Oct. 2004
By Michael Morris - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This glorious book is by one of the grand masters of the genre, Erle Stanley Gardner. Although best known for bringing the world's best known lawyer to the forefront of the reading public, the creation of his that is pure detective fiction is the main characters of this novel... Bertha Cool and Donald Lam.

This novel is Gardner and Lam at their best. Lam is hired by a rich young man to find the girls he had been partying with a few days before and that is the last easily explained happening in the book. From then on Gardner weaves a plot as far-reaching and mystifying that most detectives would be lost following. But, in Gardner's golden words, not only does Donald Lam follow along with few hiccups, but we, the reader, are able to keep right up with the diminuitive detective.

For those readers who have found today's writers and their stories a little lacking, or those just looking for some great, edge-of-your-seat reading, this book is for you.

For many years, I have been telling friends that read that they have missed out on some of the best stories of all time by not reading any of the great mysteries of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Guess I must not have been the only one who has felt this way. A new publisher, Hard Case Crime, is bringing back not only some of the books I loved, one of which this book is one, but are also publishing new stories written in the same way as those wonderful old books but by present day authors.

For all of the new readers out there, you will love this book. For those of you who are old enough to have read this book and others by Mr. Gardner, let's, you and I, go back home again and visit with an old friend...Donald Lam in "Top of the Heap".
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good book, Great Publisher/Series 28 Mar. 2005
By Rick Ollerman - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Previous reviewers have discussed the plot of this book, and another discussed the Lam/Cool series so I don't need to go there. This may not be Gardner's best book, it may not even be the best Lam/Cool book, but what it is is a wonderful, long unavailable example of a genre that has been too long lost to the past.

With the exception of one resounding dud, Hard Case Crime has released (and is releasing) seminal reprints from the pulp era, as well as new works in the spirit of the same style. First of all, anyone who resurrects classics like "Top of the Heap" has earned as much support as I can give them. This may not be your idea of classic literature, but at the very least it's a great read; I get similar thrills from reading classic Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spider, and the insidious Fu Manchu novels.

Any innovations or stylistic inventions these novels once yielded have long since been seen and absorbed (or not) into the mainstream. What they still offer, and always will, is the same fast-paced, breathless entertaining reading experiences that they were intended to be. And by masters that helped shape the modern literature of today.

"Top of the Heap" is an entertaining read, and if not the best of the Lam/Cool series, it is still the first. That alone makes it important - who wants to read the third and fourth without first reading the first and second?

Buy the book, enjoy the book, and check out the other Hard Case Crime titles. Out of their first six releases, two of them are nominated for Edgar awards; they're doing something right.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Gardner and Hard Case Crime Top The Heap!! 15 Jan. 2005
By ASalm - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Any mystery fan out there knows Perry Mason, but who remembers Cool and Lam? Well, whether you've heard of them or not, here's your chance to try out this dynamic duo of investigators making there first appearance it almost 30 years! In an attractive, affordable new edition with a great, painted retro cover, Top Of The Heap is one of the shining stars in the new Hard Case Crime line. With an engaging, wonderfully convuluted plot and dialogue sharp enough to shave with, Gardner delivers in this classic mystery novel. Just watching Cool and Lam go at each other is worth the price of admission. Top Of The Heap is a great, fun, quick read and I give it my highest recommendation.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not the best of the bunch 12 May 2005
By CEB - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Donald Lam, private investigator for the Lam/Cool Detective Agency, is hired by John Billings to find two women with whom he had been partying several nights before in a Los Angeles nightclub. It takes Lam less than a day to follow the "paper trail" from Los Angeles to San Francisco, find one of the girls, and realize that Billings has set the whole thing up to give himself an alibi. But an alibi for what--the murder of a wealthy mining tycoon, the abduction of Maurine Auburn, girlfriend of mobster "Gabby" Garvanza, or something else?

Originally published in 1952, Top of the Heap has recently been reissued by Hard Case Crime. Twenty-nine books in this series were written and published under the pseudonym A.A.Fair, most at the same time Erle Stanley Gardner was also writing his more well-known Perry Mason series. The Lam/Cool books are fun, fast reads and fairly typical of classic hardboiled fare. However, these books are not all created equally, and Top of the Heap is not the best of the bunch.
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