A 1001 MIDNIGHTS Review
by Robert J. Randisi

MAX BYRD – California Thriller. Bantam, paperback original; 1st printing, April 1981. Reprinted several times.

   California Thriller is the first of three Mike Haller books, and the most noteworthy; it was awarded the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award for Best Paperback Novel of 1981. It was the author’s first novel

   Mike Haller is a transplanted Boston PI now working out of San Francisco. Although a viable character, he has been strongly influenced by Robert B. Parker’s Boston PI, Spenser. He’s as physical, well read, and quick with a wisecrack as Spenser, but where the latter works alone, Haller has an Irish partner who covers his back. He also has a regular lady friend, as does Spenser, and she is Dinah Farrell, who is a psychoanalyst — which, of course, comes in handy now and again.

   When one of the country’s leading journalists disappears in Sacramento’s Central Valley, the man’s editor, acting for his wife, hires Mike Haller to find him. With nothing but a two-year-old newspaper clipping to go on, Haller begins retracing the man’s steps. He becomes involved with a professor of biochemistry at Berkeley and an ex-cop who has made a fortune in private security work and has his eye on the governor’s seat.

   Before long a young girl turns up dead and Haller becomes convinced that somebody doesn’t want the journalist found. When Haller finally finds out what the journalist was onto — politics, murder, and private bacteriological-warfare tests — and gets his hands on some incriminating tapes, he’s running for his life and trying to save the lives of thousands.

   Byrd’s second Mike Haller novel is Fly Away, Jill (1981), and the third is Finders Weepers (1983).

   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.