A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Art Scott

MICHAEL BRETT – Slit My Throat, Gently. Pocket Books, paperback original; 1st printing, April 1968.

   Michael Brett’s series of paperback originals about private eye Pete McGrath were likely intended to provide Pocket Books with a series character to rival Fawcett’s Shell Scott, Dell’s Mike Shayne, and Signet’s various Carter Brown series. McGrath appeared a bit late in the game and apparently failed to find a loyal readership, since only one of the books made it past a single printing. (Sales were probably not helped by the unattractive photo covers.)

   Nevertheless, the McGrath novels are entertaining and adroitly written — satisfying, off-the-rack private eye yarns that should please most unfussy readers of this sort of thing. One odd note about the seriesL Brett seems to have been unsure as to what sort of private-eye novel to produce. Some titles, like this one, are straightforward hard-boiled actioners. Others. like The Flight of the Stiff (1967), have a strong farcical element, in the manner of Richard S. Prather. Pete McGrath never quite came into his own as an identifiable character, though in one respect — his penchant for talking to himself — he probably leads the field.

   Here McGrath is hired to find a missing heiress who has run off with a small-time crook and drug addict. Also looking for her — or maybe just for her boyfriend — is a big-time mob boss, who takes drastic measures to get McGrath out of the picture.

   Corpses with their throats cut start turning up, and McGrath has quite a time with it. Two excellent scenes stand out: McGrath adroitly pumping a shady Atlantic City motel owner by posing as a sleazy divorce detective, and McGrath playing hardball with a junkie prostitute to turn up a lead.

   One of the Pete McGrath novels, Lie a Little, Die a Little (1968), much changed, was filmed as a moderately pornographic detective spoof, Cry Uncle, which attained a modest cult status. Other enjoyable books in the series: Kill Him Quickly, It’s Raining (1966), Dead Upstairs in the Tub (1967), Turn Blue, You Murderer (1967).

   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.

Editorial Comment:   My review of Kill Him Quickly, It’s Raining also included a complete list of the Pete McGrath books, all of ten of them, with covers shown for about half. (You will be able to see for yourself how unattractive they are, just as Art says.)