Mon 25 Feb 2008
BRETT HALLIDAY – Last Seen Hitchhiking
Dell 4683; paperback original. 1st printing, August 1974.
By this date in the career of famed private investigator Mike Shayne, all of his adventures were appearing as paperback originals and (unknown to unwary buyers) were ghost-written by other writers. Brett Halliday — as I’m sure you know, but I’ll mention it anyway — was the pseudonym of Davis Dresser. After 1960 or so Dresser started to contract out the stories to authors such as Robert Terrall (mostly) and Ryerson Johnson (once or twice). What the circumstances were, I don’t know, but in any case Terrall was the man who wrote this one.
Which makes difficult such judgments as comparisons in style between this and Halliday’s Tickets for Death, reviewed here (by me) not too long ago. Dresser’s books were written in the 40s and 50s, though, and the 60s and 70s were a different era altogether.
Mike Shayne was still a tough private eye based in Miami, but society itself had changed, and sexual freedom had come to a large sectors of it. The F-word is used with no inhibitions in this book, for example, and that a fairly graphic description of sexual perversions (you might say) is included seems to say that this is not your grandfather’s brand of mystery tale. (Well, maybe yours, but certainly not mine.)
Shayne is called in by a fellow (female) detective, who needs his help in tracking down a missing (female) grad student, who disappeared while (probably) hitchhiking away from the scene of a crime — the theft of an extremely valuable Central American artifact.
We (the reader) know that she was indeed the captive of a certain kind of predator — again fairly graphically. We don’t (quite) know her final fate, but that that it’s tied rather intricately with each of the two cases Shayne is working on certainly comes as no surprise, a near no-brainer.
There is also a rather unique way in which Shayne solves them: by doing a live broadcast from a radio talk show, trying to entice a killer out of hiding as well as the captor of his lady friend — the killer and the captor are perhaps the same person, but we suspect not — plus any witnesses who believe they have anything else of interest to share.
All in all, this is a solid, suspenseful mystery, unraveled in part by the intelligence, believe it or not, of the detective at work. As a bonus — depending on your point of view, perhaps — hippies, LSD and free sex are elements of this country’s cultural history, and this is definitely a jolt back into time, describing a huge capsule chunk of our past only now getting into schoolbooks. (And some of this never will.)
[UPDATE] 02-25-08. Since the review was already written, and it has been for seven and a half years, I didnít see any reason for having you wait any longer for it.
For the best one page coverage of Mike Shayne and all of the venues heís appeared in, along with the authors who wrote about him, you really ought to go to this portion of Kevin Burton Smithís “Thrilling Detective” website.
If thatís not enough, then thereís more: an entire website devoted to the red-headed Irishman. Check it out at http://www.mikeshayne.com/.