Thu 8 Jul 2010
GEORGE C. CHESBRO – In the House of Secret Enemies. Mysterious Press, hardcover, September 1990; reprint paperback: January 1992.
Quiz time. Can you think of another series character who began his existence in Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine and whose adventures eventually ended up in hardcover? (I don’t know the answer, if there is one. I’m only asking.)
This is the collection of such a man, Dr. Robert Frederickson, a/k/a Mongo the Magnificent. Mongo is a dwarf, a former circus acrobat, a Ph.D. in criminology, and a practicing private detective. There have been at least eight full-length novels chronicling his cases, and wide-open woolly cases they are, indeed.
In his introduction to this gathering of stories from Mike Shayne and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as one from An Eye for Justice (edited by Robert J. Randisi, 1989), Chesbro tells something of Mongo’s creation, and how the character developed.
Part of how Mongo began to take on a life of his own, Chesbro says, was his need to be respected, in compensation for his physical lack of stature. And I think that’s the reason the stories take the direction they do. These are not your ordinary PI bill of fare, none of them.
The first few Chesbro wrote deal with drug smugglers and espionage agents, but when the adventures begin to involve Mongo with agents of sensory deprivation, psychic healing and out-right witchcraft, you know they’ve become more than a step further out.
To tell you the truth, I don’t think there is a world for Mongo other than this. As a character he simply couldn’t live in the world of a Spenser and/or a V.I. Warshawski.
That said, I still have to admit that I liked the “every-day” adventures better — the occult underground really being no match for the much more believable terrors of reality. The final story, “Candala,” a story of the Indian caste system as it still exists today, is my case in point — and it’s the story Chesbro is proudest of also.
Previously on this blog:
Shadow of a Broken Man (A 1001 Midnights review by John Lutz, posted here on the occasion of Chesbro’s death.)