December 2013



KONGO. MGM, 1932. Walter Huston, Lupe Velez, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Bruce, C. Henry Gordon. Director: William J. Cowen.

WHITE WOMAN. Paramount, 1933. Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton, Charles Bickford, Kent Taylor, Percy Kilbride. Director: Stuart Walker.

   Caught a couple of of lush tropical melodrama-cum-horror flcks a few weeks back; both are based on stage plays and both quite fun.

   Kongo is a sweaty, steamy, depraved-looking thing, with Walter Huston… well, I almost said he was in excellent form, but here he plays a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair and determined to wreak baroque vengeance on the man who put him there (a role he played on Broadway before Lon Chaney took it up in the film west of Zanzibar).

   To this end, he has set up a trading post in the African jungle, where he cows the natives with stage magic, helped along by Lupe Velez, who radiates her own steam, thank you very much.

   Houston wriggles about the place like a grimy spider, moving his victims about like game-pieces, marking the days till he springs his trap on a calendar scrawled iver with the words “HE SNEERED!”


   This could be corny stuff, all right, but everyone plays it to the edge without tripping over. Director William Cowen (who he?) keeps things moving right along and handles the crucial scene — a satisfying and improbable twist that reverses everything we thought was happening — without blinking at the old-fashioned melodrama, and Harold Rosson photographs with what looks like s sheen of sweat over it all.

   Even normally uninspired actors like Conrad Nagel and Virginia Bruce put it across quite well. In all, a movie to set aside your critical faculties and simply enjoy.


   White Woman tiptoes through similar tropical tulips, and does it quite neatly, thanks mostly to a script by Frank Butler that keeps things edgy and unpredictable, pacey direction from Bluert (Werewolf of London) Walker, and the usual Paramount patina of soft-focus splendor.

   There’s moody acting from Carole Lombard as the eponymous “entertainer” who winds up in a remote rubber plantation, Charles Bickford, Kent Taylor, and Charles Middleton, as lost souls slaving away in the heat, but the film belongs to Charles Laughton, who plays the jungle tyrant, and plays it for laughs — which makes a nasty part somehow more disturbing.


   Made up with frizzy hair and a silly moustache, Laughton gads about in a stripes, plaids and polka-dots, inflicting one deliberately sick joke after another on his unwilling workers, oblivious to the mounting tension until he sets off a tribal uprising (in hilarious fashion) and tries to deal with the bloody outcome.

   Where Kongo seems deliberately theatrical, Woman keeps undercutting the melodrama with surprising bits of business from characters who stubbornly refuse to play by the rules of the genre: Laughton in particular is constantly faced with dramatic outbursts, only to respond as if he wasn’t even in the same movie, kidding around with an unnerving humor about as funny as Richard Widmsrk’s laugh.

   The result is that rarity, an old-fashioned tale that keeps one wondering what’s coming next.


William F. Deeck


  GEORGETTE HEYER – A Blunt Instrument. E. P. Dutton, hardcover reprint, 1970. First UK edition: Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1938. First US edition: Doubleday, hardcover, 1938. Also: Bantam, paperback, 1973; Berkley, paperback, 1987.

   Police Constable Glass, following his appointed rounds, discovers the bludgeoned body of Ernest Fletcher in his study. Fletcher was not a well-loved man, but his only major fault appears to have been womanizing.

   Superintendent Hannasyde and Sergeant Hemingway begin an investigation. No weapon is found on the scene, a woman’s footprints are in the garden, and apparently Fletcher had had a busy evening with people both known and unknown visiting him. After comparing the stories of the various participants, Hannasyde and Hemingway nearly conclude that Fletcher, despite the reality of his corpse, could not have been killed. There just wasn’t time for it.


   To add to their problems, P.C. G!ass, who aids in the investigation, is an inveterate quoter of the Bible, usually from the Old Testament and mostly of the unhappier sort.

   Who, how, and why do manage to get sorted out. The who and how I had, most uncommon for me, figured out; the why is not explained until the end. If Heyer didn’t fool me, she probably won’t fool anyone else, either.

   But don’t let that stop you from reading this one. It’s a good investigation, and there are some quite amusing characters in the monocled young lady mystery writer and Fletcher’s nephew, Neville, who would like to be thought of as a ne’er-do-well. Plus, Hannasyde and Hemingway are engaging investigators.

— From The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 10, No. 1, Winter 1988.

       The Supt. Hannasyde & Sgt. Hemingway series —

Death in the Stocks, Hodder, 1935
Behold, Here’s Poison!, Hodder, 1936
They Found Him Dead, Hodder, 1937
A Blunt Instrument, Hodder, 1938


       The Inspector Hemingway series

No Wind of Blame. Hodder 1939
Envious Casca. Hodder 1941
Duplicate Death. Heinemann 1951

   For more on Georgette Heyer and her detective fiction, the best place to start would be her page on the Golden Age of Detection Wiki here.


MICHAEL KURLAND, Editor – Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years. St. Martin’s, hardcover, November 2004; softcover, January 2006.

MICHAEL KURLAND Holmes Missing Years

    A solid collection of 12 pastiches recounting some of the adventures Holmes had during the “missing years” when he was thought to have died with Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. All are original to this volume except for “The God of the Naked Unicorn,” by Richard Lupoff, written in 1976.

    Highlights are “The Beast of the Guangming Peak,” by Michael Mallory, which has an elderly Colonel in a retired soldiers’ home recalling events 50 years ago in the Himalayas on which he met an explorer named Sigerson (Holmes’s alias) and needy met the abominable snowman.

    “The Case of the Lugubrious Servant,” by Rhys Bowen, has Holmes suffering from amnesia after his encounter with Moriarty and thought to be a half-wit. He’s working as a handyman at a Swiss inn where he meets Sigmund Freud and recovers his memory in time to solve a murder.

    “The Bughouse Caper” features Holmes in San Francisco where Pronzini’s cowboy/PI Jack Quincannon gets jealous of him while working on a burglary and murder case. Michael Kurland’s own “Reichenbach” has both Holmes and Moriarty faking their deaths to go undercover for the British government at the behest of brother Mycroft.

    In “The Adventure of the Missing Detective,” by Gary Lovisi, Holmes crosses into a parallel universe where he died and Moriarty survived to become the power behind King Albert Christian Edward Victor of England (Victoria’s grandson thought by some to be Jack the Ripper) who is turning Britain into a dictatorship.

    And “Cross of Gold” by Michael Collins tells the story of an elderly stepgrandmother telling how the grandfather, a newly arrived immigrant to America, was accused of murdering a wealthy man because of his left-wing sympathies and was cleared by Sherlock Holmes in New York City. The grandson is Dan Fortune.

    These and the other stories here make worthwhile reading and healthy additions to the mountain of Holmes stories written about him since Conan Doyle went to that undiscovered country.

What To Do With Our Collections As We Get Older
by Walker Martin

   Recently, once again, the old question came up about why wives often hate book and pulp collections and what should be done as the collector gets older.

   I can only speak about my own wife and collection but I have heard that many other pulp and book collectors suffer from the hatred of the non-collector. I stress the word “non-collector” because I really have found out during a half century of collecting that the non-collector does not understand the collector at all. I am not talking about a nice little collection of books in dust jackets that sort of look nice in the den.

   No, I am talking about filling a house full of books, pulps, vintage paperbacks, DVDs, and original art. My house is a 5 bedroom house with a full basement and a two car garage that I converted into a library. All the rooms have books in them except for my son’s room and the dining room. The family room, the living room, the bedrooms, the basement, are all stuffed with my collection which I have happily accumulated since 1956.

   I have found out that it is not reasonable to expect a non-collector to understand the joy and fun such a collection gives to the collector. Most non-collectors see such a large collection as clutter, a hoarder’s sickness, a mess, a waste of money.

   If you tell a non-collector that something is worth a thousand dollars, they will say “great, sell it and buy a sofa” or something. I once did a series of posts on PulpMags called “The Loneliness of the Pulp Collector.” I tried to do it with a sense of humor but many other collectors saw my point about being alone with no one to talk to about what you are reading or collecting. My neighbors, my relatives, my co workers, all do not understand me or why I have such a large amount of books and pulps. They think my original cover paintings from the pulps and paperbacks are trash or offensive because most show women in peril or distress being threatened by insane cretins.

   I am now 71 and don’t think about getting rid of my collection or selling it or what will happen after I’m gone. It’s been my life for so many years that I cannot imagine being without it. I keep telling myself that I should slow down and maybe stop but I’m still going strong and spending thousands on rare cover art and sets of magazines. I’m not rich but my one vice is I love reading and collecting books and pulps.

   To give you an idea of the way I think as a collector, when I was discharged from the army I was so happy that I had survived, that I wrote out some life goals for myself to follow. The first two were to collect complete sets of Weird Tales and Black Mask. Which I managed to do in the 1970’s. In other words my goals were not the usual ones of getting a good job and starting a career, getting married and starting a family, buying a nice car house, etc.

   True, I did all these things but my main goals have always revolved around reading and collecting books, pulps, paperbacks, and original art. Speaking of original art, I’ve been trying to stop buying it because I’ve filled up all the wall space and since I’m getting older, why keep buying, etc. But here is another example, recently while at the Windy City Pulp convention in Chicago I saw a beautiful and amazing piece of art, quite large, by Howard Wandrei. It is an unpublished work and cost more than I like to spend but it was so impressive and bizarre that I had to buy it.

   Maybe you get my point by now. I’m a collector first and foremost and intend to keep at it until I die. I also happen to be a father, husband, retired from a responsible job, etc. But these are things that billions of other people have also done. Being a collector and reader is something special and unusual especially in these times of electronic gadgets, facebook, and twitter.

   So, right now I’m doing nothing about my books except reading them. After I’m gone someone else will read and enjoy them.

   OK, enough, I have to tell my wife that I just bought another set of Planet Stories, even though I have the Frank Robinson set already. See, his set is too nice to read and ….

Allen J. Hubin

DONALD E. WESTLAKE – Drowned Hopes. Mysterious Press, hardcover, 1990; paperback, 1991.


   While it seems to me that Donald E. Westlake’s Dortmunder series began at its highest point with The Hot Rock in 1970, succeeding volumes have certainly been amusing. And now, with the seventh, Drowned Hopes, you can also add long. Four hundred and twenty-two pages long, in fact.

   Tom Jimson turns up one day in John Dortmunder’s apartment. Rather surprisingly, since Jimson, one of nature’s nastiest creatures, was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms. But prison budgets in New York being what they are, here’s Tom, looking for help in retrieving $700,000 in armored car loot buried twenty years before.

   On land which the state, in its wisdom, has turned into a reservoir, so the money is under three feet of earth and fifty feet of water. If John won’t help, Tom will simply dynamite the dam, killing a few thousand people, and retrieve the money from the reappearing turf.

   It’s a matter of some indifference to Tom how the money is recovered, but John is of finer mettle and begins to plan furiously. There are several noteworthy things about Dortmunder’s plans: they are carefully, thoughtfully conceived, the details are painstakingly worked out, and they usually fail in spectacular ways.

   Pleasant Drowned Hopes is, with chuckles and some poignancy, though it’s a little attenuated and gifted with the season’s least imaginative title.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1990.

      The John Dortmunder series —

1. The Hot Rock (1970)
2. Bank Shot (1972)
3. Jimmy the Kid (1974)
4. Nobody’s Perfect (1977)
5. Why Me? (1983)
6. Good Behaviour (1987)
7. Drowned Hopes (1990)
8. Don’t Ask (1993)
9. What’s the Worst That Could Happen? (1996)
10. Bad News (2001)
11. The Road to Ruin (2004)
12. Watch Your Back! (2005)
13. What’s So Funny? (2007)
14. Get Real (2009)

Thieves’ Dozen (ss collection; 2004)



7th HEAVEN. Fox, 1927. Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell, Ben Bard, David Butler, Marie Mosquini, Albert Gran, Gladys Brockwell, Emile Chautard, George Stone. Scenario by Benjamin Glazer, based on the novel by Austin Strong. Cinematography by Ernest Palmer. Director: Frank Borzage. Shown at Cinevent 38, Columbus OH, May 2006.

   After thirty years of film festivals, there are undoubtedly notable films that have eluded me, but I have finally seen the film that established Gaynor and Farrell as major stars and led to a partnership that lasted for twelve films.

   Still, this is not a partnership that has endured in the experience of current film fans as have the Eddy/McDonald films of the mid-1930s, although for a roomful of viewers at Cinevent I venture to say that the magic of the two distant stars flamed again in their glory, albeit briefly.

   The film follows the fortunes of Diane, a waif rescued from the streets by Chico, a sewer worker who’s just been promoted to his long dreamed-of job as a street cleaner. But, of course, he’s no ordinary blue-collar worker but a dreamer and a poet whose act of rescuing the disreputable waif leads to an undying love that flourishes in a garret apartment where they transform the humble room through the miracle of love into a privileged place where their lives flourish and expand.

   Then, the reality of war intrudes, separating them for years during which their devotion unites them daily in a ritual of remembrance. Finally, a tragic event seems to part them forever, unless a miracle can work its magic.

   Gaynor is the miracle that infuses this film with a life that can touch a contemporary audience. Farrell is an appealing partner, somewhat gauche in his romantic ardor, and certainly lacking the transfiguring grace of Gaynor’s smile (so memorable also in Murnau’s Sunrise) or the gamin-like reticence of her mime.

   The two may have starred in better films, but I suspect that they never appeared together in a more appealing one.


CHRIS WILTZ Killing Circle

CHRIS WILTZ – The Killing Circle. Macmillan, hardcover, 1981. Pinnacle, paperback, 1985.

   I like private detective stories. Ordinarily, the first in what promises to be a new private eye series is a matter for rejoicing. Add a plot that begins with a set of missing books, rare editions of William Blake, and the vividly moody back-ground of New Orleans, and what we get this time is, well, a book that just doesn’t live up to its potential.

   The detective is named Neal Rafferty, and his biggest problem in life is that his father doesn’t understand him, and his love life is in trouble too. He’s quit the police force under fire, and they don’t like him too well either.

   The plot is nicely twisted, although heavily tangled at times in massive coincidence. Rafferty meets a girl he can respond to, of course. The problem here is that the converse does not seem to be wholly true.

   What lets us down is the writing. The art of subtlety seems beyond Wiltz’s capabilities. Most of the story she tells is stiff, formal, perfunctory and placid.

Rating: C minus.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 6, No. 3, May-June 1982 (truncated and slightly revised).

[UPDATE] 12-17-13.   I ended this review in its first appearance rather smugly with a PostScript commenting on the fact that all the while reading this book I was under the impression (false) that Chris Wiltz was male. Further comment in this regard unnecessary. A re-do on this one might be in order.

       The Neal Rafferty series —

1. The Killing Circle (1981)
2. A Diamond Before You Die (1987)
3. The Emerald Lizard (1991)
4. Glass House (1994)

   Chris Wiltz has written one other work of crime fiction, that being Shoot The Money (2012), described by one source as a “racy gumbo of suspense, comedy, and ‘sisters-in-crime.'”


GENE FOWLER – Salute to Yesterday. Random House, hardcover, 1937. No paperback edition.

   The lead-in to this review is long and fairly pointless, but I’ll tell it anyway.

GENE FOWLER Salute to Yesterday

   Around Thanksgiving I decided to lighten the Holiday Mood by watching some old W.C.Fields movies (there aren’t any new ones) and reading a couple books on the old master: Robert Lewis Taylor’s W. C. FIELDS, HIS FORTUNES AND FOLLIES and William K. Everson’s THE ART OF W.C. FIELDS.

   Everson does his usual fine job analyzing and evaluating films which at the time it was written (1967) were nearly impossible to see. I think he over-praises Fields’ Paramount films, some of which seem slow and self-indulgent to me (but others, like THE OLD FASHIONED WAY and TILLIE & GUS are lots of fun) and he misses the fun of Fields’ Universal films, which are fast and pleasantly surreal… but he’s entitled to his opinions.

   Everson also takes some pains to point out that Taylor’s book on Fields is filled with inaccuracies and downright lies, which may be true, but it’s also one of the most fun-to-read biographies I’ve ever opened, which seems only fitting for a subject like this. And while perusing FORTUNES & FOLLIES I came upon mention of SALUTE TO YESTERDAY, a novel written by Gene Fowler, a close friend of Fields, Barrymore, Flynn and the crowd they ran with.

   Taylor’s story is that Fields loved this book and wanted to buy it for the movies — there’s juicy part in it that would have suited him perfectly. Fowler, however, knew that Fields tried to cheat everyone he did business with, and he didn’t want to put a strain on their friendship, so all his life he refused to do any professional work for him. More’s the pity that this was probably a wise decision.

   At any rate, the story inspired me to seek out a copy of SALUTE TO YESTERDAY, which is probably the most enjoyable book I’ve read all year. Fowler fills his story with colorful characters, hilarious happenings and humorous asides that had me laughing out loud as I read.

   The plot revolves around Captain Trolley, a colorful and rather talkative veteran of the Civil War, who was a gunner’s mate on the Monitor but earned the nickname “Captain” later in life when he was in a brothel that got caught in a flash-flood and swept downstream, whereupon Trolley (the story goes) assumed command, fashioned a rudder out of a headboard, quelled mutiny on board as he piloted his Magdalenic Ark to shore, and held back the gentlemen present at gunpoint until the ladies had all safely debarked and was himself the last to leave the sinking bark of ill-repute.

   Fowler fills SALUTE with charming incident like this, and also eventually gets around to a plot of sorts involving Trolley, his daughter (equal parts Goneril and Regan, but a very likable character when she appears) a suicidal reporter, venal politicians, cops (corrupt inefficient and inept) a faded harlot with whom the aged Trolley dallies, and a really nasty local millionaire who years ago legally murdered Trolley’s son, and whose own murder sets off a chain of events that are only wrapped up by one of the finest amateur sleuths in literature, anthropologist Otto Thumb, whose criminological creds are that after thirty years of research he proved conclusively that Egyptian queen Hatshepsut poisoned her husband, Pharaoh Thotmes II.

   SALUTE TO YESTERDAY abounds with enjoyable twists like this and turns of plot that keep the reader (this one anyway) entertainingly engrossed from start to finish. A book I’m glad I discovered, and one I’ll cherish.

Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         

ROBERT GALBRAITH (J. K. ROWLING) – The Cuckoo’s Calling. Mulholland Books, US, hardcover, 2013. First published in the UK by Sphere Books, 2013.

ROBER GALBRAITH Cuckoo's Calling

   It was no surprise that this critically acclaimed book went from near obscurity to bestseller status when it was revealed Robert Galbraith was none other than J.K. Rowling, the mega-selling author of the Harry Potter series. It was no real shock the book was well written. It may, however, come as a surprise to some readers who avoided the book that its virtues are its own and not second hand Pottery. The Cuckoo’s Calling is one of the better debut mysteries I’ve been lucky enough to read in recent years written by anyone under any name.

   Cormoran Strike is a burly London-based private investigator who lost a leg in Afghanistan, and runs a one man operation. He’s more in the line of the Continental Op than Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, and neither a mental or physical superman nor tarnished knight. If any kind of knight he’s the Green Knight whose wound never heals.

   His artificial leg is a realistic problem, but never used as a gimmick. It’s something that happened to him and effects his life, but not melodrama. He’s not angry or bitter, but he isn’t happy about it either. It’s more often an obstacle and hindrance — or a source of unwanted vulnerability. For all his size, training, and toughness, vulnerable is a word you will associate with Strike.

   We meet Strike as he’s about to hire a new temp from the Temporary Solution Agency. Her name is Robin Ellacott, an attractive twenty-five year old engaged to her boyfriend Matthew that same day. Robin is the closest the book gets to a character who might fit in the Harry Potter saga. She’s smart, she’s quick, and she is just a shade out of step with the world around her. She’s no Lucy Hamilton, Moneypenny, Della Street, or John J. Malone’s Maggie. She is more involved in the action and more important to it, something Strike didn’t know he needed, a crutch.

   And she is thrilled when she finds out what Strike’s profession is; she’s dreamed about this since she was a child. An engagement and her fantasy job — what a great day.

   She and Strike meet cute. He runs into her on the stairs and nearly sends her toppling. He’s gruff and just a bit wounded in a slightly romantic way and she is young and optimistic. He agrees to try her out, but only because he has a client coming. It won’t be for long, he can’t pay her what she should get anyway.

   John Bristow is the client, and he thinks his half sister’s suicide was foul play. His sister was Lula Landry, the supermodel known as Cuckoo, and the reason for the haunted look in Cormoran Strike’s eyes. Lula wasn’t easy either: “… the lies she told were weaved into the fabric of her being, her life; so that to live with her was to become enmeshed by them, to wrestle her for the truth …”

   She’s dead now and the fabric of lies has to be unraveled, even those he may have told himself to stay with her.

   The case grows deeper, it becomes clear there was murder involved, and Strike finds himself relying more and more on the bright and empathic Robin. As the book progresses it is clear to us and to Strike that Robin is something he has needed for a long time, a connection with humanity.

   Strike may not strike a Byronic figure at first glance, but the shadows haunting him are real and deep, the book is dark, but never gloomy, and Robin’s touch of optimism and a trace of whimsey keep Strike and the novel in balance. There is no Dis-Pollyanna voice here, no brutal violence in place of plot, no poor imitation of Spillane or Parker. This is a mature and exciting hard boiled mystery with what promises to be an important new protagonist.

   This could easily have gone wrong in other hands, the Byronic wounded soldier either too much a romantic figure or too pitiable, but it is kept in perfect balance. You pull for Strike for the same reason Robin does, because he won’t give up, even when the darkness gathered in his soul tells him to. His one connection to Harry Potter may be that he is an orphan of sorts — especially from the army, as set apart by his artificial leg as Harry was by that scar on his forehead. The scars are visible reminders of the darkness that has touched them.

   The pair find themselves plunged into the artificial world of multimillionaire models, designers, rock stars, drugs, champagne, and all that accompanies it until there is another murder, and Strike himself is in danger.

   Long before this was revealed to be Rowling’s work it was getting critical praise if few sales (about 15 K in the UK — there was no American edition), many of them praising Galbraith for bringing the hard-boiled private genre back to life with an important new character in Cormoran Strike.

   That may be the biggest shock here, it is a very good hard-boiled eye novel just realistic enough to feel real and just out of the ordinary enough to be fun. Strike may be the most promising and least derivative private eye since the boom of the eighties. I didn’t know what to expect when I gambled on this one, but I never expected how perfect the voice or how far from Harry Potter this is; only the literacy and insight are the same.

   There is no question Rowling writes well. Even if you hate Harry Potter, the writing is very good. That’s true here. The style is nothing like Potter save being in the third person, but it is as perfect for this genre as it was for the juvenile fantasy.

   A few examples:

   His notebook lay open before him at a page full of truncated sentences and questions …

   Even the pale pugnacious commuters squashed into the Tube carriage around her were gilded by by the radiance of the ring (Robin’s wedding ring) …

   Instinct was clawing at him like an inopportune dog.

   It stated to rain on on Wednesday. London weather; dank and gray, through which the old city presented a stolid front, pale faces under black umbrellas, the eternal smell of damp clothing, the steady pattering on Strike’s office window in the night.

   He felt weary and sore, very conscious of the pain in his leg, of his unwashed body, of the greasy food lying heavily in his stomach.

   We aren’t in Hogwarts anymore. Nor are we in the world of borrowed Chandler and Macdonald. She recognizes and plays with the genres familiar tropes, but she never relies on them for second hand atmosphere or shorthand in lieu of narrative.

   I can’t oversell this. It’s that good, a well-written mystery, a well-observed novel, involving characters, a sense of threat and danger, heroes to cheer for, and believable bad guys to hiss. This is one of the most confident debuts I can remember in the hard boiled stakes. It isn’t perfect, few things are, but I’m concentrating on the good things because I know quite a few hard-boiled fans will likely be put off by the Harry Potter connection or even Rowling’s superstar status. She seems to have done something rare, step out of her comfort zone successfully and be accepted for it. Of course Harry Potter sales didn’t hurt, the Potter books had more than enough adult readers to propel this to the heights.

   Rowling/Galbraith ends on a line of poetry appropriate to this book: I am become a name.

   J. K. Rowling was already a name, but now so are Robert Galbraith and Cormoran Strike.

Allen J. Hubin

LES ROBERTS – Full Cleveland. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1989; paperback, 1990.


   Full Cleveland, the second of Les Roberts’ novels about private investigator Milan Jacovich, doesn’t have the high appeal for me that the first (Pepper Pike) did, but it’s agreeable enough.

   Jacovich, a former cop like most PI’s, operates in Cleveland and mourns his lost family (his wife divorced him, and his sons, particularly the older, are drifting away). He consoles himself with no-commitment sex and here accepts what seems a simple and tranquil assignment: track down a downscale swindler who ripped off a bunch of would-be advertisers in his won’t-be magazine.

   But complications soon arise. Milan’s client, a lakeside hotel, invested an incredible amount for an ad, and said hotel proves to have mob connections whom Milan has unhappily met before. Said connections provide Jacovich with a most unwelcome assistant. And why should businesses so little in need of publicity have invested in advertising space?

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1990.

     The Milan Jacovich series —

1. Pepper Pike (1988)


2. Full Cleveland (1989)
3. Deep Shaker (1991)
4. The Cleveland Connection (1993)
5. The Lake Effect (1994)


6. The Duke Of Cleveland (1995)
7. Collision Bend (1996)
8. The Cleveland Local (1997)
9. A Shoot In Cleveland (1998)
10. The Best Kept Secret (1999)
11. The Indian Sign (2000)


12. The Dutch (2001)
13. The Irish Sports Pages (2002)
14. King of the Holly Hop (2008)
15. The Cleveland Creep (2011)
16. Whiskey Island (2012)
17. Win, Place, or Die (2013) (with Dan S Kennedy)

Note: Between 1987 and 1994, Les Roberts also wrote six mysteries featuring an LA-based PI named Saxon. More recently he has has published two standalone crime novels and one collection of short fiction, The Scent of Spiced Oranges (2002).

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