A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Marcia Muller

CHARLES ALVERSON – Goodey’s Last Stand. Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1975. Playboy Press, paperback, 1977, 1979.

CHARLES ALVERSON Goodey's Last Stand

   Joe Goodey’s career as a private investigator is launched when he mistakes the mayor’s cousin for a gunman and shoots him, an error that forces his resignation from the San Francisco Police Department.

   His boss, Chief of Detectives Ralph Lehman, promises to wangle Goodey a PI’s license as soon as emotions cool, and Goodey takes off — for Mexico, he thinks — stopping at a seaside motel just over the county line. But by the next morning, Lehman tracks Goodey down and forces him to take his first case, dangling the promise of an immediate license.

   A stripper named Tina D’Oro — whom Goodey knew slightly but San Francisco mayor Sanford F. Kolchick knew altogether too well — has been stabbed to death, and the mayor wants the homicide cleared up quickly without involving his name or risking his reelection.

   Goodey begins by studying Tina’s diary, which has been stashed in the safe of Deputy Chief of Police Bruno Kolchick (by no coincidence, the mayor’s brother), but finds little to go on. “You could pick up more gossip on a bus ticket,” Goodey concludes.

   Goodey’s investigation takes him to the strip clubs of North Beach; into the back alleys of Chinatown; to the offices of a plastic surgeon who claims to have “created” Tina’s body; to the posh home of the mayor himself (who inexplicably lives outside the city in Marin County across the Bay); and even, for a while, to jail. Along the way he finds a Chinese girl asleep in his bed, a dead man on his stair landing — and his true calling as a private eye.

   This book is rich in San Francisco background and colorful characters, and includes a nice ongoing bit about Goodey’s Chinese landlord, but Goodey’s wisecracking manner and lone-wolf posture make him virtually indistinguishable from scores of other stereotypical fictional private eyes. Goodey has appeared in one other adventure, Not Sleeping, Just Dead (1977).

   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.

[UPDATE] 02-02-12.   And the two books of Joe Goodey’s adventures were all there were. For more about the author, check out his entry on Wikipedia here, where you’ll also find this description of Goodey’s Last Stand in a review in The New Yorker, where the novel is called “the next best thing to finding a new and unsuspected Raymond Chandler phantasmagoria.”