A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Julie Smith

ROBERT UPTON – Fade Out. Viking, hardcover, 1984. Penguin, reprint paperback, 1986.


   You could love private eye Amos McGuffin for his name alone — but he also has a wry way about him. After McGuffin crashes two cars, Ronald Worthy, the president of Executive Rent-A-Car, denies him any more vehicles. “Isn’t that just like Ron,” says our hero to the clerk. “As if I were the only guy sleeping with his wife.”

   McGuffin lives in San Francisco, where he hangs out at Goody’s bar, putting away Paddy’s when he isn’t on a case — which is just about all the time of late. In fact, he’s just bending an elbow when Nat Volpersky tracks him down at Goody’s. It seems Volpersky’s son, Ben Volper, a Hollywood producer, is thought to have committed suicide by wading out into the Pacific Ocean after leaving an unsigned note on his typewriter.

   But Volpersky doesn’t believe it; and Izzy Schwartz the deli man, his only friend in California, has recommended McGuffin to find his son. That means McGuffin has to go to Los Angeles, where he encounters the Bronx Social Club- a group of Ben’s childhood friends who’ve made it big in show biz. “Who else can you trust?” Volpersky asks.

   But McGuffin isn’t so sure the old neighborhood pals are trustworthy. He’s even less inclined to put his faith in Aha Ben Mahoud, a wealthy Arab who financed Ben’s last picture. And he has serious doubts about Pedro Chan, the six-foot-six cop assigned to the case.

   After pursuing a single-minded inquiry throughout most of the book, he suddenly sees the light and pulls the solution out of a hat. Upton didn’t really play fair on this one, McGuffin’s latest case. (He made his debut in 1977 in Who’d Want to Kill Old George?) But no matter. Even though we can’t see it coming, the denouement is ingenious. And McGuffin is a delight.

   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 Amos McGuffin series —

Who’d Want to Kill Old George? (n.) Putnam 1977.
Fade Out (n.) Viking 1984.
Dead on the Stick (n.) Viking 1986.
The Farberge Egg (n.) Dutton 1988.
A Killing in Real Estate (n.) Dutton 1990.