Thu 30 Sep 2010
RICHARD ABSHIRE – Turnaround Jack. Morrow, hardcover, 1990. Penguin, paperback, 1992.
According to the short biography inside the front cover, Abshire was a policeman for 12 years before becoming a real-life PI for two. And not so coincidentally, this is exactly why the activity in this mystery, the second recorded case of fictional PI Jack Kyle, is authentic enough to be — dare I say it? — boring.
Which is by no means meant to be derogatory. In fact, quite the opposite. Most real-life PI work consists of endless hours doing nothing but watching, checking down leads, looking up information, and sitting and driving and sitting again.
That’s just what the case is here, and it’s well into the second half of the book before anything at all out of the ordinary begins to happen.
Kyle is hired to take some pictures of a rich man’s wife, and on page 127 he has turned in his report, along with some well-received video tapes. The client is very pleased.
Case closed? No, sir. Seven pages later Kyle is worked over by a couple of professionals. A body is found, then two, and a customs agent suddenly seems to have disappeared.
This is a hard-boiled detective story, and in spite of the slow beginning, the second half of the book is well worth waiting for. And so that you don’t get me wrong, let me hasten to add that even in the first half Abshire is nearly as witty in descriptive passages as Robert B. Parker, say, and it doesn’t drag. It speeds by almost as fast as a hot rod on roller skates. (This is NOT an example of the author’s wit.)
Sometime in his past, Kyle earned his nickname — the book’s title — from his tendency to become involved in cases amply endowed with the inscrutable art of the double-cross, in its several and sundry forms.
So it is with the story in this book. There are a couple of small glitches in the plot, but none, I dare say, that are even closely essential to the story line. They’re just enough to make you wonder why editors don’t bother to edit any more.
The first Jack Kyle mystery was Dallas Drop (1989). Did a third one ever appear? If so, I’ve missed it, and from the evidence shown here, I certainly hope I haven’t.
[UPDATE] 09-29-10. There was a third one, as I suspected at the time, The Dallas Deception (1992), but that was it. No other cases for Jack Kyle besides these three, which may be a case of Too Bad, given my comments above.
In the 1980s Richard Abshire was the co-author of two mystery novels with a series character called Charlie Gants, who according to one website, is an ex-homicide detective who as a PI of sorts investigates cases with a super-natural twist. In 1991 he and William R. Clair collaborated again under the name of Terry Marlow, producing one police novel, a thriller titled Target Blue.
As Cliff Garnett, a house name, in 2000 Abshire wrote at least one of the “Talon Force” men’s adventure books, but he doesn’t appear to have written anything since.