Though he’s been estranged from his wife Natalie for years, Erle Stanley Gardner thinks he’s about to be restored to the love of his life: Amy Latimer Thompson, whom he pushed into marriage with Hollywood star Tink Thompson because a lawyer-turned-pulp-writer couldn’t offer her anything like Tink’s money or status. Now Amy, shocked by the way unloving Tink’s hounded their little boy to a fatal accident, has turned up on Gardner’s door with every indication that she’s ready to turn down his sheets tonight and every night. But the bright promise is only a teaser, as Gardner finds out when Amy is murdered and her last-minute will leaving everything to her old flame brings the LAPD down on Gardner’s neck. How can he prove his innocence? By using his connections with fellow Black Mask alumni Dashiell Hammett (who offers to hide him from the cops) and Raymond Chandler (who talks a judge into setting a bail low enough for Hammett, flush with MGM cash, to pay). The ensuing investigations into Tink’s amours (betrayals, secret marriages, love children) don’t bear any closer scrutiny than the climactic scene that brings Perry Mason’s creator into the courtroom as his own free-wheeling counsel, but they do give the Black Mask boys an excuse for doing some more high-spirited roughhousing and running into historical figures from Gloria Swanson to Barney Oldfield. An amiable valentine to 1937 Los Angeles that’s more ragtag than Chandler’s alleged contribution to Nolan’s Black Mask trilogy (The Marble Orchard, 1996) and a lot shaggier than Gardner’s own work.