Four Men and a Dame by Florence Stonebraker. Quarter Books (1951), 128 pp.
Rose Kelly is one tough cookie. Although she’s still only twenty, she’s been serving drinks in San Diego’s Skid Row for four years. Sex is the major part of her life. She picks up random sailors for an evening and has regular sexual relations with two men from the bar. One is Fritz, her current boss, who sees her as an entrepreneurial entitlement; the other is Al Brooks, his predecessor, who loves her despite everything. Into Rose’s world comes handsome and classy Chet Foster, accidentally shot by her mother, Sal, a dissolute prostitute with bad aim. Chet, though married to a domineering movie star, might change some of Rose’s ideas about men.
This is a wonderful example of noir romance. The protagonist comes from the scrap heap of society. Thrown out of the house at fifteen, she’s had to rely on her good looks ever since. Her cynicism derives from years of mistreatment. But she maintains a kernel of self-respect. A change of environment and a dose of non-judgmental love are what she needs for a new life. As usual, Stonebraker relies heavily on conversation to move the story along. Still, she adds quite a bit of action and creates a large cast of characters to offer various viewpoints on the goings-on. The ending seems somewhat rushed, but otherwise the book shows Stonebraker in top form.