. . . And Be My Love by Ledru Baker. Fawcett Gold Medal (1951), 180 pp.
Billy Robbins, writer of a radio series, is startled when he gets a call from gangster Tony di Marco, whom he had helped send to prison ten years earlier. Now Tony owns an aquarium-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. He wants Billy’s assistance in promoting a movie career for his girlfriend, Kay, who performs at the club with a porpoise. Kay, however, seems less interested in stardom than in hooking up with Billy. And Billy, in turn, has fallen hard for Varna, the club’s sultry but unemotional hostess. Some of these folks are not going to get what they want.
This novel takes its time revealing its true identity. Readers will go through half the book before they know whether it’s a comedy, a romance or some sort of crime story. When that becomes clear, the scene shifts to Mexico for thirty pages. The reason for this move is not obvious. Perhaps Baker just wanted to write about Mexico for awhile. In this book, as in the author’s more tightly constructed novel, The Cheaters (1952), the characters act in ways that don’t quite make sense. Even Billy, the protagonist and narrator, often can’t or won’t explain his actions. Surprisingly, the book was reprinted in 1959, suggesting that readers a half-century ago found it an entertaining read, and was recently published in an electronic edition, indicating that Digital Vintage Pulps has some hope for it today.