Grofield: The Dame (1969)

The Dame by Richard Stark (AKA Donald Westlake)

Grofield, not knowing what it was all about, got of the plane and walked through the sun into the main terminal building. He was at Isla Verde International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with sunshine and sea breezes sweeping through the open walls.

The Damsel is the second of the four Alan Grofield solo adventures. It was published between The Green Eagle Score and The Black Ice Score. The novel takes place immediately after the events depicted in The Damsel.

General Pozos, the banana republic dictator from The Damsel, sends a note to Grofield reading “You can perhaps help an acquaintance of mine. There will be profit in it.” Included are airline tickets to Puerto Rico. Intrigued, Grofield flies to Puerto Rico and eventually ends up at the home of Belle Danamato, the title dame, who thinks she could use his services. They do not get along, so Grofield leaves before finding out what services she was after.

After being carjacked by a mysterious fellow, Grofield is abandoned in the Puerto Rican jungle and forced to walk back to Belle Danamato’s place as his only way to get back to San Juan and get out of Puerto Rico. After inviting himself to dinner and meeting several guests, among them a young sexually-repressed woman named Patricia Chelm, Grofield and the guests turn in for the night.

Screams awaken the house guests, and they rush out of their rooms to find the body of Belle Danamato. Grofield is instantly suspected and held prisoner while they await the arrival of her husband, mobster B. G. Danamato, who will likely administer the type of justice that mobsters administer to Grofield, the one he believes murdered his wife. When Danamato arrives and intends to do just that, Grofield makes his escape with the help of Patricia Chelm and her brother, fleeing the mobster in an attempt to get back to the United States, with Danamato’s minions in hot pursuit.

Like The Damsel, The Dame is much lighter than the Parker books, and parts of it are quite funny (this most humorous of all Stark books is dedicated “to Parker”). The setup allows for good parody of murder-mystery conventions in the first half of the book. An enjoyable read, and an improvement over The Damsel.

A detailed synopsis of The Dame is here. Warning: Spoilers galore! (Incomplete)

Known printings and cover gallery here

To The Damsel, the previous novel in the Alan Grofield series

To The Green Eagle Score, the Parker novel that precedes The Dame chronologically

To The Black Ice Score, which follows The Dame chronologically

To The Blackbird, the next and final novel in the Alan Grofield series