It's 1953, and Pierce Duncan leaves college an innocent. Seeking the freedom of the road, Dunc sets off to see America. His road trip brings strange, fateful encounters: with a savage Georgia chain gang; with a killer on a lonely Texas road; and with the darker side of the Las Vegas fight game. Finally, Dunc reaches San Francisco, a city seething with the unexpected.
In the backstreets and along the freight lines, Dunc meets beautiful women, dangerous men . . . and murder. In California, home of the lost and the outcast, he joins up with the hard-nosed head of a private investigation agency, and his life changes for ever.
A violence-marked love letter to a time in America now lost, Cases is as vivid as a lightning storm over a deserted highway, as unforgettable as a first kiss, as haunting as a dead woman's eyes.
"In Cases I have tried to mix fact and fiction so thoroughly that nobody--not even myself--can now entangle them," writes three-time Edgar winner Gores in an author's note to this intermittently gripping, semiautobiographical saga of a young man's entry into the life of a San Francisco PI. The entanglement is part of the problem: on his journey from Notre Dame to Baghdad by the Bay, bits of real life and enhanced memory seem to have become mixed up with the many films noir that Pierce Duncan enjoys. There's the Georgia chain gang movie, in which convicts murder a cruel guard; the Las Vegas crime and boxing movie, in which an honest pug dies rather than throw a fight; the Los Angeles religious cult movie, in which a young man finds love in a cloud of cuckoos. And, finally, there's the movie that Gores (who has worked as a PI) has been acting out, and writing down so well, for most of his professional life: the San Francisco PI film--part homage to Hammett, but mostly his own richly detailed vision of the world of skip-tracers, hired guns, sexy dames named April and Sherry and corruptible gumshoes like the memorable Drinker Cope. Gores is a master of noir fiction, an exuberant practitioner of staccato prose deepened by occasional moral reflection. This novel, while rich in atmospheric pleasures and sharp character sketches, is less meaty with plot. It reads best as the source of local color for such Gores classics as Dead Skip.