Bibliographies, Lists & Checklists


SARAH DUNANT – Birth Marks. Hannah Wolfe #1. Doubleday, hardcover, 1992. First published in the UK: Michael Joseph, hardcover, 1991.

   This is Sarah Dunant’s second mystery, but the first (I believe) featuring London-based private detective Hannah Wolfe.’ I believe we have a winner here.

   Hannah accepts a job that’s basically a missing persons case — young ballet dancer hasn’t send her more-or-less adopted mother a card when she should have, and the woman is concerned. Though Hannah first believes that the young woman simply wanted not to be found, she takes the case because she needs the money. After the investigation has begun, but before anything substantive has been learned, the missing dancer is fished out of the Thames, dead, an apparent suicide, eight months pregnant.

   Based on what she’s learned, Hannah doesn’t believe it,`nor does someone else: she is retained by an anonymous client to investigate further. The` trail leads to Paris, and leads Hannah into an ever-deepening questioning of her own feelings about motherhood.

   Hannah Wolfe was not only believable, but appealing, and altogether the best feminine PI I’ve met in a long while. The character was beautifully developed, as were those of her sister, her ex-boss and “mentor,” and several others. Dunant’s prose style is literate and understated, and the narrative flow was very good.

   This was an excellent book. There were no unbelievable characters, the plot made sense, the writing was fine, and it didn’t end in an orgy of violence. I don’t want to go overboard, but I liked this better than any first book (for me) Ive read in a while. You need to give this lady a try.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #5, January 1993.

       The Hannah Wolfe series —

Birth Marks. Joseph, 1991.
Fatlands. H. Hamilton, 1993.
Under My Skin. H. Hamilton, 1995.

ANDREW BERGMAN – The Big Kiss-Off of 1944. Holt Rinehart & Winston, hardcover, 1974. Ballantine, paperback, March 1975. Perennial Library P673, paperback, 1983.

   Andrew Bergman’s novels about Manhattan-based private eye Jack LeVine are very much in the Raymond Chandler vein, which is not a bad vein to be in at all.

   From page 15:

   I really wanted to soak up the box scores, to follow the exploits of wartime baseball’s one-armed outfielders, and blind, deaf and dumb infielders, but I was trying to figure how I had wandered into a murder in a space of two hours. World wars were all very interesting, but the stiff in 805 had me staring into my coffee long before I could drink it. The feeling was unmistakable. I have it one one case a year, maybe every year and a half. I was getting in over my head.

   Jack is a big guy, bald, Jewish, once married but no longer, smokes Luckies, drinks Blatz, and is a very good guy for a Broadway chorus girl being blackmailed for making the wrong kind of movie to have on her side. What Jack doesn’t count on is that the case will end up with him deeply involved in the Roosevelt-Dewey election campaign of 1944.

   Mr. Dewey, in fact, makes a major appearance. Mr. Roosevelt does not. Mr. Bergman, who later on became a well-known scriptwriter and director, knew his way around a typewriter even at this early date, and the story goes down nice and easy. Very enjoyable.

Bibliographic Note:   There was one immediate followup novel, Hollywood and LeVine (Holt, 1975), then nothing was heard from Mr. LeVine for over 25 years, when Tender Is LeVine came out from St. Martin’s in 2001.

CHARLES KNIEF – Emerald Flash. St. Martin’s, hardcover, April, 1999; paperback, May 2000.

   Opening paragraph:

   The first time I saw Margo Halliday she was stark naked, running for all she was worth down a Honolulu alley in the middle of the night.

   Telling the story is ex-SEAL and now Hawaii-based private eye John Caine. Emerald Flash is the third of four recorded adventures.

   Chasing Margo Halliday is her ex-husband:

   The big man jogged past and I dropped him with a flying kick, He went down easy but refused to let go of the pistol, so I broke his wrist and he gave it up. All the fight went out of him. He deflated like an octopus brought up on a lure and dropped into the bottom of a canoe, when it knew it was going to die.

   Caine doesn’t see Margo again until seven months later, when she is accused of killing her ex-husband. Not only that, but hard on her trail is a gang of Colombian thugs, and for good reason. They think she is somehow in possession of a fortune in stolen emeralds. She remembers Caine, and she calls on him for help.

   He does, but it isn’t easy. I was reminded of John D. MacDonald in a couple of ways, not only the obvious one, but Caine also has a philosophy of life very similar to that of a certain Travis McGee. But there is a difference: no matter how close he and Margo get as man and woman, they sleep in separate beds, and none of the McGee books had the same amount of firepower that is called upon in this one: rifles, grenades, Glocks, even an elephant gun.

   Somewhat toward the end of the book:

   It had been a year of extremes. I felt good and fit. My wounds all had healed. I had gone up against powerful enemies and had vanquished them all, including the one who had ordered my destruction.

   And now it was over.

   It’s not a perfect book. Too much of the story depends on things that happened in earlier ones, for example, and a long, lengthy portion of the book consists of Caine and Margo on the run, which with all of the aforementioned firepower is exciting enough for two or three books, but crammed into just this one, it somehow managed to slow the pace down rather than enhance it.

   On the other hand, when things are going a little slower, Caine manages to get along with a brain as well as brawn, and is as quick with a quip as Jon Stewart on a good night, and that’s very good indeed.

       The John Caine series —

Diamond Head (1996)
Sand Dollars (1998)
Emerald Flash (1999)
Silversword (2001)

JACK LYNCH – Seattle. Warner, paperback original, October 1985. Reprinted under the author’s original title Yesterday is Dead, Brash Books, softcover, May 2015.

   Jack Lynch, who died in 2008, was a long time newspaper reporter who began his career in Seattle before moving to San Francisco and the Chronicle, then quitting to write eight PI Pete Bragg novels, all but the last paperback originals in the 1980s. Of these one won a Edgar and two received Shamus nominations.

   The books came out during a time in my life when I was buying paperbacks like crazy but reading almost none of them. This is the first of the Bragg books that I’ve read, and I have to knock myself on the side of head and wonder why.

   The information that the original title for this, the seventh in the series and the last until 17 years later, came from the Thrilling Detective website, and as is often the case in situations like this, the original title, Yesterday Is Dead, is better. In this book Bragg, who is based in San Francisco, makes a return trip to his home town of Seattle to help a friend who’s in trouble, and along the way he finds that going home is almost never as easy as it sounds.

   The friend is Benny Bartlett, a mild-mannered photographer and freelance writer whose life has been threatened. If he doesn’t get out of town, he’s been warned, he’s going to be killed. Bragg drops everything at once and heads northward to Seattle, where he hasn’t been in five years.

   In the course of helping Benny with his problem, Bragg’s path crosses those of several distinctive women, one of them his ex-wife Lorna. Sparks fly with at least two of them, including Lorna. It also shouldn’t come as any surprise that several seemingly unconnected threads of the story are connected, in a fairly prosaic fashion.

   But it is Bragg as a character, who tells his own story, that’s the fascination here. Over the years he’s changed a lot, Lorna says, he’s tougher now, and in the course of his stay in Seattle, he takes an graphically described beating with perhaps an even more painful recovery. He learns even more about himself in Seattle, and for me it’s a bit of a shame that this last novel turns out to me to be the first one I read. Worse, though, I’m sure, for fans of the series at the time, as it took longer and longer for a next book to occur, it left them wondering if there would ever be another one.

      The PI Peter Bragg series —

Bragg’s Hunch. Gold Medal, 1981.

The Missing and the Dead. Gold Medal, 1982.
Pieces of Death. Gold Medal, 1982.
Sausalito. Warner, 1984.
San Quentin. Warner, 1984.

Monterey. Warner, 1985.
Seattle. Warner, 1985.
Wolf House. iUniverse, 2002.


MICHAEL BOWEN – Faithfully Executed. Richard Michaelson #2, St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1992. No paperback edition.

   I enjoyed both this and the first Michaelson novel, Washington Deceased. Michaelson is a retired foreign service officer, now with the Brookings Institution. He is somewhat of a Washington insider, and is shamelessly angling for a high ranking post with the`next administration.

   The Michaelson novels remind me somewhat of Ross Thomas in their plots and general outlook on the world of politics, though Bowen isn’t the writer that Thomas is. He’s more than adequate, though, and writes entertainingly. He’s also written two baseball mysteries that I haven’t had the opportunity to read, and one other non-series mystery.

   The current book deals with the murder of a man about to be executed, plots to rig computerized elections results, and various other kinds of skullduggery. Recommended for those who enjoy political goings on mixed with mayhem.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.

      The Richard Michaelson series —

1. Washington Deceased (1990)

2. Faithfully Executed (1992)
3. Corruptly Procured (1994)
4. Worst Case Scenario (1996)
5. Collateral Damage (1999)

Other Bibliographic Notes:   Bowen has written three books in his Thomas & Sandrine Cadette Curry series, taking place in New York in the 1960s, but only the second, Fielder’s Choice, appears to have baseball as part of its plot. Since the year 2000, Bowen has also written five books in a series featuring Rep & Melissa Pennyworth. Rep is an attorney who keeps running across cases of murder.


MATT & BONNIE TAYLOR – Neon Dancers. Palmer Kingston #2. Walker, hardcover, 1991. No paperback edition.

   This is the second in a series set in an unnamed Florida city featuring two reporters: Palmer Kingston and his lover and rival, A. J. Egan.

   Kingston is something of an eccentric, living in a garish mansion surrounded by neon signs and antique cars. Egan is a tenant in the mansion. If it all sounds a little strange, well, it is. The story, though, is a relatively straightforward tale of hijinks with the zoning board, a U. S. Attorney out to make a name for himself, and various parties trying to either aid or thwart his and the zoning board’s designs.

   The attorney turns up dead, and Kingston has problems with A. J., his publisher, the law, and just about everybody else. I found him to be a very likeable character, the milieu an interesting one, and the Taylors’ storytelling skills more than adequate.

   In short, I liked it, and will hunt up the first in the series. Recommended.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.

      — The Palmer Kingston & A. J. Egan series:

Neon Flamingo. Dodd Mead, 1987.
Black Dutch. Walker, April 1991.
Neon Dancers. Walker, November 1991.

KIN PLATT – The Screwball King Murder. Random House, hardcover, 1978. No paperback edition.

   Private eye Max Roper’s latest sports-related caper involves the not-so-accidental drowning of a flaky left-hander who had just signed a million-dollar contract to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

   Murder follows Roper like a well-trained puppy, but baseball fans will be disappointed to learn that the motive for Hondo Kenyon’s death really lies in the totally antithetical world of skin flicks and acid rock.

   Slick, and superficial, detective work.

Rating:   C.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 2, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1978. This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant.

      The Max Roper series —

The Pushbutton Butterfly (1970)

The Kissing Gourami (1973)
The Princess Stakes Murder (1973)
The Giant Kill (1974)
Match Point for Murder (1975)
The Body Beautiful Murder (1976)

The Screwball King Murder (1978)

JOHN LUTZ – Buyer Beware. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, 1976. Paperjacks, paperback, 1986. Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1992.

   Private eyes tend to specialize these days. Alo, Nudger, for example, comes highly recommended in child custody cases. That he’s not the hard-boiled type is well illustrated by his dependence on antacid tablets, but enough money can overcome many qualms.

   Murder is not in his line, but once persuaded, he takes his investigation into the efficient world of business and finance, which is faced with a deadly extension of the rules it plays by.

   Lutz has an eye for people and background that adds greatly to a tale that holds its own most of the way, yet I did wish the scheme were not ultimately so far-fetched, made all the more so by the rushed wrap-up.

Rating: C plus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 4, July 1977. This review also appeared earlier in the Hartford Courant.

      The Alo Nudger series —

1. Buyer Beware (1976)
2. Night Lines (1985)

3. The Right to Sing the Blues (1986)
4. Ride the Lightning (1987)
5. Dancer’s Debt (1988)

6. Time Exposure (1989)
7. Diamond Eyes (1990)
8. Thicker Than Blood (1993)

9. Death by Jury (1995)
10. Oops! (1998)
11. The Nudger Dilemmas (story collection, 2001)

An Author Profile by BARRY GARDNER:

   Ross Thomas to me succeeds on every level as a writer of fiction. His plots are intriguing, complex without being bewildering; his prose is smooth, seamless and unobtrusive; his dialogue fits his characters like a made-to-measure suit; but his strongest suite is characterization. I have yet to read a Thomas book without the feeling that here was a person, usually a group of people, that I would like to meet again.

   For better or worse, I have had that pleasure relatively seldom, for with the exception of eleven books featuring three different sets of characters (see list below), Thomas has chosen to eschew the series character. Eleven out of twenty-three might not seem all that much like eschewing, but except for two they were written over fourteen years ago. Perhaps he is wise; none of the sequels have quite measured up to the originals, in my eyes.

   Thomas has won two Edgars: for Best First Novel with The Cold War Swap in 1966, and nearly 20 years later for Best Novel with Briarpatch in 1984. Many people, though, consider Chinaman’s Chance his best novel; certainly it’s the book that finally began to gain him the major recognition he so richly deserved.

   My own favorite of Thomas’s books is The Fools in Town Are on Our Side. It is really two stories, the first of a man who doesn’t care about anything and how he came to that condition, the second the story of cleanup-by-further-corruption of a town. Comparisons to Hammett’s Red Harvest are inevitable, at least partially apt, and have been made; nevertheless the two books bear little resemblance but for that partially shared theme.

   He may have created his most numerous set of memorable characters here, and that is high praise indeed. To me, this is the quintessential Ross Thomas novel.

   My choice for second-best is The Seersucker Whipsaw. The character of Quentin Sharlene is unforgettable, and the story of an African coup is both entertaining and riveting from beginning to end. Almost every character is a major or minor masterpiece. The treatment of the African milieu was exceptional, I think, for 1967.

   His next, due out possibly by the time this sees print, is reported to be a third in the Durant-Wu series; but that’s immaterial — as long as there is a next.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #3, September 1992.

       The Mac McCorkle-Michael Padillo series —

1. The Cold War Swap (1966)
2. Cast a Yellow Shadow (1967)

3. The Backup Men (1971)
4. Twilight at Mac’s Place (1990)

       The Philip St. Ives series (as by Oliver Bleeck)

1. The Brass Go-Between (1969)

2. The Procane Chronicle (1971)

3. Protocol for a Kidnapping (1971)
4. The Highbinders (1974)
5. No Questions Asked (1976)

       The Quincy Durant-Artie Wu series —

1. Chinaman’s Chance (1978)

2. Out On the Rim (1987)
3. Voodoo, Ltd. (1992)

       Other novels —

The Seersucker Whipsaw (1967)
The Singapore Wink (1969)

The Fools in Town Are On Our Side (1970)
The Porkchoppers (1972)
If You Can’t Be Good (1973)
The Money Harvest (1975)
Yellow Dog Contract (1976)
The Eighth Dwarf (1979)

The Mordida Man (1981)
Missionary Stew (1983)
Briarpatch (1984)
The Fourth Durango (1989)
Ah, Treachery! (1994)

Editorial Comment:   Voodoo, Ltd. was the book that Barry was referring in his last paragraph. Ah, Treachery! was Ross Thomas’s final book, and was also not included in the bibliography Barry prepared for this profile when it was first published.


C. J. HENDERSON – No Free Lunch. Jack Hagee #1. Diamond, paperback original, 1992.

   Jack Hagee had his genesis in Wayne Dundee’s Hardboiled, and the short stories were collcted by Gary Lovisi under the title What You Pay For (Gryphon Publications, 1990). I’ve seen them in neither form. Hagee is an ex-cop from Pittsburgh, and his home now is New York City. It’s a Big Apple decayed as that of Vachss and Solamita, and the first few pages are as grim, angst-ridden, and overwritten as anything you are likely to see.

   Hagee is visited by a singularly unappetizing fat man from Pennsylvania, whose fianceĆ© has disappeared. The would-be client fears she has fallen with bad company at home and come with them to NYC, and wants Hagee to find her. Hagee, reluctant but broke, accepts the case.

   A trip to the Pennsylvania hometown reveals that the lady was a tramp and the client not as harmless as he appeared. Hagee returns to the city and begins hunting down the players. When he starts finding them people begin to die.

   This got some nice advance notices, including one by Richard Prather likening the thrill he got from it to the one he had upon reading Raymond Chandler. I’m not sure about Prather; maybe his memory failed him, or could be he mistook indigestion for a thrill. Something, anyway.

   Prose sample describing a woman’s red hair: “It jumped in long, fierce waves whenever she turned her head, crashing against her bare shoulders like the tide against white sand. It teased the blood with sparkling shocks — flaming crackles, the kind of look men kill their best friends over.” It all sounds painful.

   The writing gets in the way of the story. In some places it’s pretty good writing, in some places abysmally bad. but it gets in the way of the story. The whole thing was suggestive to me of an attempt by Mickey Spillane to imitate Raymond Chandler. There’s enough mindless violence and brutality to make up five modern PI novels. If you liked Spillane and Mike Hammer, you might like Henderson and Jack Hagee. I did (sort of), but I don’t.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.

      The Jack Hagee novels —

No Free Lunch (1992)
Something For Nothing (1993)

Nothing Lasts Forever (1994)

   Jack Hagee has also appeared in short stories and graphic novels. For more information, please consult the Thrilling Detective website.

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