ROY HUGGINS The Double Take

THE DOUBLE TAKE – Roy Huggins. William Morrow & Co., hardcover, 1946. Hardcover reprint: Detective Book Club, 3-in-1 edition, January 1946. Pocket 524, paperback, June 1948; Pocket 2524, 2nd printing, 1959. Basis for the film I Love Trouble, 1947, reviewed here.

   Surprisingly enough, this is the only novel featuring PI Stu Bailey that Roy Huggins wrote. (The 1959 paperback 77 Sunset Strip was made up of three previously published novelettes, and it’s obvious that it came out only after the TV show became a hit.)

   I say “surprisingly” because I didn’t realize it myself until I just looked it up in Hubin’s book. Huggins wrote two other novels, but neither one has Stu Bailey as a character in it. And yet, because of the TV show, Stu Bailey still might be one of the country’s more famous private eyes.

ROY HUGGINS The Double Take

   The book is a retread of Chandler territory, though, while the Stu Bailey in the TV series was a much more “hip” character, light and breezy. The book is a murky, dark and drizzly sort of affair, complete with witty similes, spread like fertilizer, two or three to a page, and the ground it covers is a long way from the glitzy world of Hollywood and Sunset Strip. (Not that any of the above is a bad thing!)

   In the case covered by The Double Take, Bailey is hired to find out what secret lies in the past of the wife of a worried husband, a secret so dangerous she could be blackmailed about it. The deeper he digs, however, the more bewildering the trail becomes. She was a stripper at one time, he finds out, and then she may (or may not) have headed off to Brazil.

ROY HUGGINS The Double Take

   Then when someone who knew her back then dies, then someone who also knew her no longer recognizes her, the trail becomes even more confused. Except to veteran detective story readers, of course, who should be counted on to put two and two together just a little more quickly than Stu Bailey.

   The end result is a book that is interesting, but one that never becomes enthralling. Huggins soon left the world of book fiction, going into TV almost exclusively, writing, producing and directing.

   It’s hard to say he made the wrong choice. Speaking for myself, though, I think it would have been nice if there had been a second full-length appearance by the Stu Bailey who appears in this book. Or more!

Rating: B plus.

— This review was intended to appear in Mystery*File 35. It was first published in Deadly Pleasures, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall 1993 (slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 10-05-11.   If you were to go read the review of the movie I wrote, and you should, of course, you may be amused as much as I was when I said that I thought I’d read the book, but after watching the movie, I decided I hadn’t! Didn’t recognize it at all.