Apparently this is a pretty famous novel. I remember reading it years ago, and then occasionally using the names of the characters from this book in Yahoo chat as aliases. But I hadn't read it recently and it's been long enough that I didn't remember the story at all. So I pulled it off the shelf and re-read it over the last couple of days. Damn glad I did.
C.W. Sughrue is the private detective in the story, but it's not really a mystery. Well, there is a mystery. Catherine Trahearne hires Sughrue to find her ex-husband who is floating around the West on a drinking binge. Sughrue finds him and while he waits for the man to get out of the hospital, spend a little bit of time trying to find Betty Sue Flowers, the daughter of the proprietress of the watering hole where Sughrue has found the author Trahearne.
About the actual plot, I can't reveal too much more without ruining it. Suffice to say, everyone loves Betty Sue Flowers. Even when she has been gone for 10 years, Sughrue falls in love with her. But she is bad for people. Everyone who falls is love with her is ruined, as are many of the people around her. The prose is descriptive, and the characters are a strange combination of hard-boiled and emotionally fragile.
Yep, definitely read this book. It's only about 230 pages as well, so it goes by pretty quickly.