Gillian Baltic

Created by Dale Clark
Pseudonym of Ronal Kayser
Other pseudonyms include Clark Clayton, Dale Clarke

Here I was, getting all jazzed because I thought I’d discovered a whole new hard-boiled female P.I. from the 1940s when I stumbled across this mini-review of Dale Clark’s 1946 novel The Red Rods by Anthony Boucher from the December 8, 1946 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle:

“Civic corruption, the dope racket and vanity publishing weave several plot threads into a net of persistent peril for private investigator Gillian Baltic. Terse, cryptic, effective–one of the strongest, solidest toughies of the year.”

Sounds pretty good, eh?

Only problem? The Gillian in this case is a dude.

Still, it sounded like a good read. Turns out trouble-bound Gillian is ex-army, back in Camino City, California after four long years overseas. Okay, the place is just as filthy with graft as ever, even if the names have changed, but home is home.

And then Detective Lieutenant Pete Storm, whom he’s never been particularly close to, tries to suck up to him. Meanwhile, a local writer writing a book on graft in Camino City gets bumped off, a few weeks after Denzon, his assistant (and ghost writer) committed suicide. Through a long, wonky string of connections (his girlfriend, Betty Kiley, is the sister of Steve Kiley, a man who works for Louie Carmett, the new boss of rackets in Camino City, who’d had some business dealing with Denzon… got all that?), Gillian decides to look into things.

But regardless of Gillian gender, The Red Rods got around. The next year it was republished under the title of The Blond, The Gangster And The Private Eye as an Avon Murder Monthly, with a delightfully cheesy cover is by Ann Cantor, and it popped up a few years later, once again as The Red Rods (1949), featuring “what appears to be Lauren Bacall on the cover,” according to Vintage Paperback & Book Covers.


Dale Clark was a pseudonym used by American author Ronal Kayser, who was born in Springfield, Minnesota in 1905. He married in 1930 and worked as an investigator for Chicago’s Juvenile Protective Association (he boasts in the intro to one novel that he was the one who solved “the Cabrillo Freeway Skeleton thinga few years back’). Anyway, soon after, his early stories began to appear in Weird Tales under the pen name of Dale Clark, but by late 1934, they were appearing under his own name. But he soon turned to crime, pounding out hundreds of stories for Detective Story Magazine, Detective Fiction Weekly, Dime Detective and other mystery and detective pulps, under the “Dale Clark” pseudonym, drawing on his experience as an investigator. Many of his crime stories included  a scientific angle, oddball characters, vivid use of SoCal settings and a slightly satiric edge. Among the many quirky characters he created were cheapskate private eye Highland Park Price, criminologist detective Doc Judson, and FBI agent/scientist Steve Harrigan. He also managed to squeeze out several other novels, including Focus on Murder (1943), The Narrow Cell (1944), Mambo to Murder (1955), featuring private eye Joe Moran, and Country Coffins (1961). Clark passed away in 1988 in La Jolla, California, where he’d lived for many years. In fact, in his 1959 novel Death Wore Fins (1959), which takes place there, he name drops several real-life literary residents of that town, including Raymond Chandler, Jonathan Latimer and, uh, Dr. Seuss.


  • “It has the punch, the pace, the pulse-quickening qualities of a squad carride through Harlem on New Year’s Eve.”
    — Jonathan Latimer
  • “No holds (literally) barred as Gil Baltic, returned veteran, finds his civilian adjustment problems are concerned with keeping alive and a multiplying double-cross. Murders, cum orderiferous city politics (California again), city rackets, police scandals, dope — all are part of his troubles in protecting a young hoodlum and inviting paralysing punishment. Gentle understatement is to say it is brutal and below the belt.”
    — Kirkus Review
  • “Humor and subtlety go hand in hand to make this an unusual mystery.”
    — Max Miller



  • April 11, 2023
    The Bottom Line: Anthony Boucher tagged it “Terse, cryptic, effective–one of the strongest, solidest toughies of the year.” The year was 1946.” And Gillian was a dude.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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