William Campbell Gault Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

William Campbell Gault was one of the few writers of detective fiction able to take various motifs from the different pulp magazine genres—sports, mystery, science fiction—and blend them into a distinctive style of his own. Gault’s fiction deals with themes of racial, ethnic, and social equality. His most successful fictional character, Brock “the Rock” Callahan, maintains a gruff, no-nonsense demeanor while championing the defenseless.

Gault’s style is tough and fast-paced, true to its pulp-magazine genesis, yet he manages to evoke compassion for and understanding of all his characters. Through former football star Callahan, Gault elaborates on the sports credo of fair play, showing how it can be applied to the urban world of manipulators and murderers.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Baker, Robert A., and Michael T. Nieztzel. “The Rock-Like Knight: Brock Callahan.” In Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights—A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922-1984. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1985. Critical essay focusing on Gault’s best-known detective.

Landrum, Larry. American Mystery and Detective Novels. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1999. An important resource for understanding the development of the genre in the United States. Mentions of Gault are brief but instructive.

Locke, John, ed. Pulp Fictioneers. Silver Spring, Md.: Adventure House, 2004. A fascinating compilation of firsthand accounts of working and writing for the pulp-fiction industry in its heyday. Provides background for understanding Gault.

Steinbrunner, Chris, and Otto Penzler, eds. Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976. Given the period of Gault’s greatest productivity as a writer, this old but reliable resource is still one of the best places to go for contextualizing his work.