STEVE KNICKMEYER – Straight. Steve Cranmer & Butch Maneri #1. Random House, hardcover, 1976. Pocket, paperback, 1977.

   Referring to the comment with which I ended my previous review, it is too early to mourn the passing of the private eye yarn. This is Knickmeyer’s first novel, and one presumes it won’t be the last we shall hear of the detective agency team of Steve Cranmer and Butch Maneri.

   There office is in Oklahoma City, a locale which certainly is not the usual New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. A jeweler in the small town of Solano, population 3000, is at first thought to have committed suicide, but their investigations delve deeply into this outwardly friendly country of western swing and John Wayne rednecks. Intruding on the scene are two high-powered syndicate killers, hired for local reasons.

   Knickmeyer has good control over his main characters, although Maneri might agree that he could reign in his active sex life a lot more effectively. The minor characters are less well drawn, and in particular the transformation of Richard Straight from dedicate city cop to mysterious Mafia hit-man seems too flatly stated.

   In the end, it is the wry humor throughout and the strong portrayal of a pair of private eyes happy with what they’re doing that carry the book along so agreeably.

Rating: B

–Very slightly revised from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 1, No. 2, March 1977.


Bibliographic Update: Knickmeyer has only one other entry in Al Hubin’s Crime Fiction IV, that being Cranmer (Random House, hardcover, 1978).