Re: RARA-AVIS: Other Contenders

From: Joe Hoffman (
Date: 21 Mar 2000

Hi Bill:

Yes, Bertha Cool and Donald Lam, an unlikely duo of huge, crude and direct Bertha, the P.I., and the small, shady and brilliant private eye Donald. The first book, The Bigger They Come, in 1939, introduced the characters. It wasn't until the first 12 titles were published, in 1952, that the dust wrapper of Top of the Heap confirmed the long rumored fact that Fair, was in fact, Erle Stanley Gardner.

Bertha Cool owns a private investigation agency. She is big, crude and stingy, adorned with a large tonnage of gold jewelry and likes physical exertion only a little better than spending money. Donald Lam, a lawyer whose frank trickiness has run him afoul of the powers to be in the bar association, causes him to change his profession from attorney to private eye. Lam is tiny, about 120 pounds. Bertha weighs that much in her gold jewelry alone.

I have always felt that Donald Lam is the Gardner character which comes closest to the author's own personality and experience as a young lawyer in Oxnard.


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