A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Crider


ROBERT DIETRICH – Murder on the Rocks. Steve Bentley #1.  Dell First Edition A141, paperback original, 1957. Cutting Edge, trade paperback, 2020.

   Steve Bentley, series fiction’s toughest tax accountant, was the creation of Robert Dietrich. better known by his more famous (or infamous) real name of E. Howard Hunt. Because he was employed by the CIA, Hunt used pseudonyms for much of his paperback writing in the 1950s and 1960s; the Dietrich name was used first for Dell Books and later for Lancer.

   In Murder on the Rocks, the first book in the series, Bentley is asked by the beautiful daughter of a South American ambassador to investigate the theft of an emerald worth over $ I million. Instead of the emerald, Bentley finds a corpse, and the case becomes even more complicated when the emerald is apparently returned.

   Another murder takes place; Bentley is threatened by gangsters; and the ambassador’s other daughter, even more beautiful than her sister, practically proposes to him. Eventually Bentley, functioning much like any hard-boiled private eye, sorts things out and deals out a bit of his own kind of justice.

   This is one of the better books in the Bentley series, and most of the tough narrative rings true. How tough? Here’s an example: “When Cadena was a tank sergeant on Luzon he had pulled the head off a dead Jap to win a ten-cent bet.” The Washington setting is described with easy familiarity and the characterization is adequate, although readers may be put off by Bentley’s frequent disparaging comments about homosexuals, which are entirely unrelated to the book’s plot.

   Readers looking for more of Bentley’s adventures should also enjoy End of a Stripper (1960). Perhaps Hunt’s best book as Dietrich, however, is a non-series work, Be My Victim (1956).

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

      The Steve Bentley series

Murder On the Rocks (1957)
The House on Q Street (1959)
End of a Stripper (1960)
Mistress to Murder (1960)
Murder on Her Mind (1960)
Angel Eyes (1961)
Calypso Caper (1961)
Curtains for a Lover (1962)
My Body (1973)



MARELE DAY – The Disappearances of Madalena Grimaldi. Claudia Valentine #4. Walker, hardcover, 1996. First published in Australia by Allen & Unwin, paperback, 1994.

   I missed the first of these (*), which won a 1993 Shamus —The Last Tango of Delores Delgado.   The title deserved an award, anyway. Claudia Valentine is an Australian Pl operating out of Sydney, though a good bit of the action takes place in Melbourne.

   Claudia Valentine has just found out that her father, who deserted her mother and her when she was a child, died a derelict a decade ago. At about the same time she takes the case of a runaway and missing 15 year old child. The father is an intemperate and maybe brutal man, the mother emotionally (at least) bruised. So Claudia has two cases, though she’s only getting paid for one: find the missing girl, and a dead father she didn’t know she’d missed, but who now obsesses her.

   There are two stories here, obviously, and I’ll save you some suspense and tell you that they’ re not connected. The personal search is the primary story; indeed, I found the putative main plot to be almost an afterthought, and not that interesting. Which isn’t to say it was a bad book — it wasn’t. Day writes very readable first-person prose, and Valentine is a believable and likable character

   Still, here’s another not-too-thick “mystery” that without a sub-plot wouldn’t be a book, only partially redeemed by the fact that the subplot does involve detection.

(*) Steve here. The books were apparently published out of order in the US, if at all. Here’s a list of all four books as (I assume) they appeared in Australia:

1. The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender (1988)
2. The Case of the Chinese Boxes (1990)
3. The Last Tango of Dolores Delgado (1992)
4. The Disappearances of Madalena Grimaldi (1994)



DAVID DANIEL – The Skelly Man. Alex Rasmussen #2. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1995. No paperback edition.

   I thought Daniel’s The Heaven Stone, winner of St. Martin’s 1993 Best First Pl Novel contest, wasn’t really of award quality, though it wasn’t actually bad. I got a copy of this when it came out, but just now got around to it.

   A famous homeboy, the king of late night TV, is returning to Lowell, Massachusetts, and may be bringing trouble with him.. He’s coming to town to kick off a proposed new show, but not everyone’s thrilled. He’s been receiving cryptic threatening messages, and he wants PI Alex Rasmussen to find out who and why, and stop them. The answer is somewhere in the man’s past, but where? And can it be found in time?

   I closed the review of Daniel’s first book with this:  “… but I guess the main problem was that it’s the same old recipe, and the ingredients weren’t special enough to make the end product anything really out of the ordinary.”

   The same could literally be said of this one, but while the earlier review was mostly damning with faint praise, I liked this book somewhat better. It still isn’t anything really exceptional, but it is solid genre fiction. with a decent lead, good first-person prose and narrative, nice sense of place and an adequate plot.

   Bigger names among PI writers haven’t always done that well these last few years.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.

      The Alex Rasmussen series —

1. The Heaven Stone (1994)
2. The Skelly Man (1995)
3. Goofy Foot (2004)
4. The Marble Kite (2005)

LIA MATERA – A Radical Departure. Willa Jansson #2. Bantam, paperback original; 1st printing, March 1988. Ballantine, paperback, 1991.

   I reviewed lawyer Willa Jansson’s first brush with mass murder in M*F 4, a book called Where Lawyers Fear to Tread, which took place while she was still in law school. It’s now two years later, and she is a junior associate (not partner) in a liberal law firm.

   And people start being killed all over again. The case is intimately connected with left-wing politics, most of which has been left over from the ’60s. Willa’s mother is also involved. Still intense and cluttered, but well-clued, with a nicely appropriate ending.

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1988.


Bibliographic Update: There were seven books in Matera’s Willa Jansson series, published between 1987 and 1998, plus five in a series starring Laura Di Palma, another young lawyer. These appeared between 1988 and 1995. Matera also has had two collections of short stories published, the first in 2000, the other in 2012.

CATHERINE DAIN – Bet Against the House. Freddie O’Neal #5. Berkley, paperback original; 1st printing, February 1995.

   In the wake of such trailblazers as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller and (of course) Sue Grafton, all with well-known, successful female PI characters, there came a small flood of other authors and female PI creations, few of which turned out to be either well-known or terribly successful as the ones previously cited.

   But Catherine Dain’s series if Reno-based female PI Freddie O’Neal novels lasted for seven, and as they say, that ain’t nothing. Freddie is more in the Kinsey Millhone mold, which if you’re going to be in the mold of someone, you can’t do much better than that.  She’s independent, not presently attached, and with a bit of sass to her.

   In this one she’s hired to dig up dirt on her client’s mother, who’s inherited all her father’s holdings in a computer chip company, to the dismay of the client and her two brothers who put a lot of effort in making the company what it is today: very very profitable.

   Freddie’s problem is that once she meets the mother, who agreed is a little flaky, she likes her. The bigger problem is that when the mother is killed, she finds herself investigating her death, in spite of her usual avoidance of cases where the police are involved.

   Dain has a good way with words, which helps the reader immensely in following a case in which the number of possible suspects is really very limited, with the weakest part of the Freddie O’Neal’s investigation being the ending. Oops, you might say, but the fun in this one is in getting there. This one wasn’t a bestseller, but as far as lesser known detective novels with female PI’s go, this one’s one of the better ones.


      The Freddie O’Neal series –

1. Lay It on the Line (1992)
2. Sing a Song of Death (1993)
3. Walk a Crooked Mile (1994)
4. Lament For a Dead Cowboy (1994)
5. Bet Against the House (1995)
6. The Luck of the Draw (1996)
7. Dead Man’s Hand (1997)



MICHAEL McGARRITY – Tularosa. Kevin Kerney #1. Norton, hardcover, 1996. Pocket, paperback, 2004.

   This is the second book from Norton that I’ve thought highly of lately; maybe they’re stepping up their crime line. It’s a first novel by a man who became a law enforcement officer for the State of New Mexico while in his forties. He established their first sex crimes unit, and had great success with it. The book was recommended to me by [a good friend of mine], but I went ahead and read it anyway.

   Kevin Kerney is the ex-Chief of Detectives for the Santa Fe PD, retired now after being shot up, an embittered man living alone in the New Mexico desert. He’s visited by the cop, a Navajo Indian, who caused him to be shot (by drinking on duty), and the man needs help. His son has gone AWOL from his Army assignment at White Sands Missile Range, and no one can find him.

   Kerney is the boy’s godfather, and for this reason alone eventually agrees to look. The trail leads back in history, and then to death and Mexico.

   In terms of prose and characterization, this is one of the best I’ve read in a while. My only problem with it came from the fact that it started out to be a detective story and turned into something more of a cowboy story for the second half of the book. A darned good one, mind you, but still.

   McGarrity obviously has a love of and a real feel for the desert country of New Mexico, and writes of evocatively of it as anyone this side of Tony Hillerman. I didn’t think a couple; of the villains were fleshed out quite well enough to make them completely believable, but that was one of the few slips I thought McGarrity made. This has the potential to be a very good series.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.

      The Kevin Kerney series —

1. Tularosa (1996)
2. Mexican Hat (1997)
3. Serpent Gate (1998)
4. Hermit’s Peak (1999)
5. The Judas Judge (2000)
6. Under the Color of Law (2001)
7. The Big Gamble (2002)
8. Everyone Dies (2003)
9. Slow Kill (2004)
10. Nothing But Trouble (2005)
11. Death Song (2007)
12. Dead or Alive (2008)
13. Residue (2018)
14. Head Wounds (2020)

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Bill Pronzini


THOMAS B. DEWEY – Only on Tuesdays. Pete Schofield #8. Dell 6680, paperback original, 1964.

   In addition to the “Mac” series, Dewey also created another private eye, Los Angeles-based Pete Schofield, for a series of paperback originals in the Fifties and early Sixties. The Schofield novels are much lighter in tone, much sexier (as sexy as paperback mysteries could get in that era, anyhow), and lacking the depth and quality of the Mac novels.

   Schofield, who is married to a sultry lady named Jeannie (married private eyes never seem to work out well in fiction), is something of a bumbler and spends as much time trying to crawl into the sack with Jeannie as he does solving crimes. But things keep happening to prevent his connubial bliss — telephone calls, people showing up at highly inopportune moments, squabbles, battle wounds, and various other interventions.

   Dewey’s technical skill and sense of humor make this sort of thing work: The Schofield books are exactly what they were intended to be-pleasant light reading — and no more.

   Only on Tuesdays, perhaps the best of the series, begins when Pete comes home after a hard day and finds an unemployed actor holding a gun on Jeannie; he also finds. not irrelevantly, a new addition to the family (a dachshund, Hildy) hidden away in the bedroom closet.

   It ends with a frantic sailboat race to Catalina Island and another confrontation in the Schofield domicile, this time with a murderer. In between he encounters a missing wife, a wealthy yachtsman named Conway, some highly compromising photographs, and of course plenty of murder and mayhem. The sailing scenes are genuinely exciting and suspenseful, and the byplay between Pete and Jeannie, which in some of the other books becomes a bit tedious, is restrained and amusing.

   All the Schoficlds are worth reading; along with Only on Tuesdays, the best of them are Go to Sleep, Jeannie (1959), Too Hot for Hawaii (1960), and The Girl with the Sweet Plump Knees (1963).

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

      The Pete Schofield series

1. And Where She Stops (1957)
2. Go to Sleep, Jeanie (1959)
3. Too Hot for Hawaii (1960)
4. The Golden Hooligan (1961)
5. Go, Honey Lou (1962)
6. The Girl with the Sweet Plump Knees (1963)
7. The Girl in the Punchbowl (1964)
8. Only On Tuesdays (1964)
9. Nude in Nevada (1965)

PHILIP CARLTON WILLIAMS – Mission Bay Murder. Michael Thompson #1. PaperJacks, Canada, paperback original; 1st printing, July 1988.

   A lawyer for a California defense attorney intercepts a confidential memo that makes him suspicions. He takes it to a lady PI he finds in the phone book. She investigates.When her car is run off a bridge, somehow the police seem to suspect him of her murder.

   This may be the worst mystery I have ever read. It is either written for dull teenagers or for illiterates who have never read a mystery before. The hero is supposed to be a lawyer, but I think he has to have someone help him on with his shoes every morning.

– Reprinted from Mystery.File.6, June 1980.


      The Michael Thompson series —

Mission Bay Murder (PaperJacks, 1988)
The Tartan Murders (PaperJacks, 1989)

Note: The two books were reprinted later on in a combined 2-for-1 edition (1990). See image above.

A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Julie Smith


JANE DENTINGER – First Hit of the Season. Doubleday Crime Club, hardcover, 1984. Dell, paperback, 1985. Penguin, paperback, 1993.

   Critic Jason Saylin used his typewriter like a machete, hacking bits and pieces off the reputation of his least favorite actress almost daily. The lady in question, Irene Ingersoll, hated him so much she once dumped a plate of fettucini on him in a restaurant. Which was absolutely no reason to suspect her of doing him in — even though she had excellent opportunity and ample motive.

   Or such is the theory of Ingersoll’s pal, actress and amateur sleuth Jocelyn O’ Roarke. O’ Roarke happens to be the girlfriend of Phillip Gerrard, the detective assigned to the case, who wants her of course, to mind her own business. And that, luckily for Dentinger’s readers, is about as likely as Sarah Bernhardt’s return to the stage.

   Dentinger introduced the likable O’Roarke in her first book, the very well-reviewed Murder on Cue, published in 1983. She’s plucky, smart, and deliciously caustic: “The muscles in Maxine’s face twitched as much as two face jobs would let them.” Dentinger, an actress herself, writes with an insider’s knowledge of Manhattan’s theatrical subculture and with a literacy obviously achieved by voracious reading of books as well as plays. Fans of witty, witchy dialogue will find themselves laughing out loud.

Reprinted with permission from 1001 Midnights, edited by Bill Pronzini & Marcia Muller and published by The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, 2007.   Copyright © 1986, 2007 by the Pronzini-Muller Family Trust.

      The Jocelyn O’Roarke series

1. Murder on Cue (1983)
2. First Hit of the Season (1984)
3. Death Mask (1988)
4. Dead Pan (1992)
5. The Queen is Dead (1994)
6. Who Dropped Peter Pan? (1995)



NEIL ALBERT – Appointment in May.  Dave Garrett #5, hardcover, Walker, 1996.  No paperback edition.

   Well, I see Albert has moved back down Publisher’s Row to his point of origin (see list below), another PI writer having a rough time of it. In all honesty, I wasn’t impressed that much with his first two, and quit the third without finishing it, and didn’t try the fourth. Pickings are slim right now, though, so once more into the breach. Or maybe breech.

   Dave Garrett is hired to follow a woman who has left her husband, to find out why. He does, and does, but the husband wants him to keep shadowing her for reasons that are unclear. The money’s solid though, so he does again. But then someone dies, and he wishes he hadn’t.

   The problem with Albert’s books is that I haven’t believed any of them. Many times in each I’ve found myself stopping to think, “Would this person really do this?” or “Could it really happen this way?”

   Some of ’em are big things and some of ’em are small, and sometimes the answer’s “maybe” and sometimes it’s “hell, no.” The point is, there are always lots of them, and they occur time after time, book after book. Albert and I just seem to have very different ideas about how people are and how they act, and about what’s credible and what’s not. I won’t read another of these.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #25, May 1996.


      The Dave Garrett series

The January Corpse. Walker 1991.
The February Trouble. Walker 1992.
Burning March. Dutton 1994.
Cruel April. Dutton 1995.
Appointment in May. Walker 1996.
Tangled June. Walker 1997.

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