P. B. YUILL – Hazell and the Menacing Jester. James Hazell #4. Macmillan, UK, hardcover, 1976. Penguin, UK, paperback, 1977. No US edition.

   I had long thought that there was no way in which the private eye novel. could be successfully translated to the British scene. But here is Mr. Yuill (in reality novelist Gordon Williams and pro association football manager Terry Venables) proving me dead wrong.

   In fact I’d go as far as to say that Yuill is just as enjoyable as either Robert B. Parker or Andrew Bergman (my :favorite Americans) and rather better than the other. American PI writers currently practising. Ex-copper James Hazell has what to me is the one essential ingredient for any PI in literature:the gift of witty repartee. Spenser has it, LeVine has it, Hazell has it.

   This is the second Hazell adventure I’ve read (the third in the series) and in it our anti-hero is called upon to identify a practical joker whose jokes are becoming increasingly unfunny. he victims are Philip Beevers {fat middle-aged entrepreneur) and his wife Simone (twenties, sexy, sensational), What more could a good PI ask?

   There’s plenty of action for Hazell {in more ways than one) and a couple of superbly described dust ups. What’s more, the plot twists and turns beautifully so that you don’t know until right at the end who’s responsible for what.

   Excellent work, Mr. Yuill. I don’t know how you could better it, but why nothing since. your third collaboration? Now don’t go all coy on us.

Footnote: British  ITV has recently  staged a couple of series based on the Hazell characters. Those I saw were original scripts (not by Yuill) and although much of the wit was retained, the plotting tended to falter. Well worth watching, however, when compared to most fare served up these days on television.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 2, Number 5 (Sept-Oct 1979).


      The James Hazell series —

The Bornless Keeper. Macmillan 1974.     [Hazell is only a minor character.]
Hazell Plays Solomon. Macmillan 1974.
Hazell and the Three Card Trick. Macmillan 1975.
Hazell and the Menacing Jester. Macmillan 1976.