By William Neubauer, ©1964
Cover illustration by Rudy Nappi
They warned her—you’re asking for trouble! But Nurse Elaine wouldn’t give up. As a police nurse it was her job to help people, and Ed Morley, accused of murder, needed her help. His youth, good looks, and wealth had turned the whole town against him. Elaine was sure he wouldn’t get a fair trial unless Lydia Shelton helped. Lydia was the owner of the town’s paper—and Elaine’s rival for reporter Mike Jones’ heart. And Lydia promised to help, but her price was high—Nurse Elaine must leave town and never see Mike Jones again.
“The purple eyes glared. Elaine didn’t die.”
“Girls, you know, have the oddest minds.”
“If it wasn’t for men, us girls wouldn’t have no trouble. I say a girl which marries a guy can’t blame anybody but herself. Don’t ask me to say more.”
“True feminine beauty, Warburton, is compounded of appearance and serenity. Always be serene.”
Elaine Warburton is both a police sergeant and a prison nurse, which makes her one exceptionally tough cookie. And this proves very helpful to her, for at book’s open, she is embroiled in a political situation that I never quite got a handle on—one of the book’s few weaknesses. As far as I can tell, the hospital director, Dr. O. Walter Thorpe, is tussling for control of the prison hospital with Police Commissioner Hendricks; the mayor, too, is involved in the fray, and the upcoming election is going to decide the fate of the prison ward. Elaine, who is head of the prison ward, is being thrown under the bus as a means of demonstrating that the police are not suited to run a hospital. The problem here is that by pretty much everyone’s standards, Elaine is absolute tops at her job. As various factions push to get her fired, she ups the ante by threatening to quit, and is quickly begged not to leave, which gives her more power than ever. It’s a real pleasure to watch Elaine Warburton successfully wrangle numerous politicos and doctors with a hard-boiled aplomb that would do Sam Spade proud—she even knocks out with a punch to the face someone attempting to abduct her. Doing her one better than even Mr. Spade, however, is the fact that she’s a damned good nurse, knowing even before her surgeons what they will need next.
Complicating the situation is the fact that one of Elaine’s nemeses is Miss Lydia Sheldon, who is publisher of the Pacific City Times, 400 pounds, and angling to steal Elaine’s boyfriend, newspaper reporter Mike Jones. Lydia’s scheme is to set Mike up as editor of the paper if he will marry her. Interestingly, though Mike is, of course, an excellent reporter, he understands that he is not a very good editor, which conflicts with his desire to hold the top spot. In a way, this inner discord helps him choose the right woman in the end (you knew he would), but it adds a bit of unexpected complexity to the story.
Lydia’s father is planning to run for mayor, so it all loops back again to the prison vs. hospital control of Elaine’s ward. I never exactly understood why the prison ward was so important to everyone, and all the machinations of all the characters were hard to follow, but overall this is a very enjoyable book. It’s funny, written in a succinct style, entertaining, energetic, and remarkably appreciative of its heroine in a way few VNRNs are—Elaine is not just talented and smart, but powerful. Elaine’s female coworkers are supportive and strong, which I must confess I didn’t expect from a male writer (curious that William abbreviates to just the initial; usually it’s women writers who do this, depending on basic sexism that readers will assume the writer is male and correspondingly give the book more weight; was Mr. Neubauer hoping his readers would assume he is female?). I confess a fondness for William Neubauer beyond his apparently egalitarian views as suggested in this book, as he penned the fabulously titled Scandalous Career Girl under the pen name Gordon Semple—“She would do anything for success,” breathes the cover lines. Neubauer wrote many other nurse novels as well as sluttier nurse books (including Playboy Nurse) that I will look forward to after the romp—or alley fistfight—that is Police Nurse.