JACK FOXX – Freebooty. Fergus O’Hara #1. Bobbs-Merrill, hardcover, 1976. Speaking Volumes, softcover, 2014

   San Francisco, in the 1860s. Where you’d meet a man like Paladin perhaps, or even more likely, a man like Fergus O’Hara. Or the other assorted miners, gamblers, sailors and such whom O’Hara encounters in the booming California city on the bay. Luckily O’Hara’s lovely wife Hattie is traveling with him and can help restrain his natural affinity for drink, but even she cannot stop the way that adventure continuously finds the red-headed Irishman, who is always ready for action when it comes.

   And both robbery and murder occur while aboard the steamer Freebooty they take upriver to Stockton, and when O’Hara shows his secret credentials as a Pinkerton detective he’s given a free hand in the subsequent investigation. This is a cheerful bawdy tale taking place a century ago that also becomes an intricate puzzle in detection, complete with a multitude of clues.

   The scenery and atmosphere are great – it’d make a marvelous movie – and while the middle section seems a little too long, the ending is most satisfactory, and without a doubt well worth waiting for.

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1977.


Bibliographic Note: I do not know if I knew at the time that Jack Foxx was the pen name of author Bill Pronzini. If I had, I’m sure I would have mentioned it. Bill wrote four novels as Jack Foxx, with two of the other three starring a South Seas pilot-for-hire named Dan Connell. This was the only recorded case for Fergus O’Hara. Since he worked for the Pinkerton Agency, I think it’s safe to call him a PI.