‘Dogtown’ a Downright Delight for Hardboiled Mystery Fans
(originally posted on September 2, 2007)
I love a hardboiled detective story with a female protagonist, but when the protagonist is also an attorney, it really gets my attention. DOGTOWN was the first in a series by Mercedes Lambert about Los Angeles lawyer Whitney Logan, “a young attorney who can count her billable hours on one hand,” to quote the cover blurb. When a client comes to her about finding her missing Guatemalan maid, Whitney’s not sure about taking the case–until her client lays ten crisp hundred dollar bills out on her desk.
Whitney has to work hard for the money, though — especially when it turns out that the missing maid is dead and her client is a liar, who may be trying to set her up. Together with an Hispanic prostitute, with whom she forms an unusual alliance, Whitney negotiates the mean streets of L.A. to find out who killed the woman and what her client (who pulls a vanishing act, after hiring Whitney) really wants. Whitney’s tough, funny, opinionated and vulnerable, without being sappy. Lambert’s descriptions of L.A. make you feel like you’re right there. She wrote in a raw, unsentimental style that pulled no punches. And Whitney doesn’t take a lot of crap from anyone. At times, she almost makes V.I. Warshawski look like a cream puff — and that’s saying something.
It’s the kind of book that could make me weep — with joy, at discovering such a great series; with envy, of Lambert’s exquisite writing style; and with sorrow, that the series ended with the third book and will go no farther. Lambert (born Douglas Ann Munson) died of cancer on December 22, 2003.
The book is out of print, but used copies are still available online.
More Praise For Mercedes Lambert
(originally posted on October 8, 2007)
After having read DOGTOWN, the first in the Whitney Logan series by the late Mercedes Lambert (aka Douglas Anne Munson), I proceeded in short order to polish off the remainder of the trilogy, SOULTOWN and GHOSTTOWN.
The books show how Lambert was a writer who grew better with each outing. SOULTOWN gives one a fascinating glimpse into the Korean-American community in Los Angeles, while GHOSTTOWN acquaints you with the Native American culture. In each one, Whitney Logan is a strong, yet vulnerable, character, whose “white bread,” Southern background (which she rejects so strongly) and liberal idealism play well off the cynicism of her street-wise sidekick Lupe, the prostitute-turned-secretary for Whitney’s struggling law office.
Although DOGTOWN and SOULTOWN are currently out of print, they will be reprinted in an omnibus edition from Stark House Press in Spring 2008. GHOSTTOWN was only recently published by Five Star Press — an event that Lambert/Munson sadly didn’t live to see. Of the three books, it is her most interesting and ambitious effort — a mystery that pushes the boundaries of the hardboiled/noir genre by delving into the realm of magical realism. The story is riveting and the ending both fantastic (in every sense of the word) and original. The book includes a great foreword by Michael Connelly and a moving afterword by the author’s good friend, Lucas Crown.
I remember seeing Denise Hamilton at Bouchercon in St. Louis, and telling her how much I appreciated her article about Lambert, which was how I learned about her novels. I also appeared several years ago on a panel with Denise at Cape Fear Crime Festival or whatever. Seems like a lifetime ago now.
Shall we end things with some pulp fiction? 🙂