Thursday, March 02, 2006
The Golden Hooligan/Thomas B. Dewey
When I was answering the question on Ed Gorman's blog about forgotten mystery authors who deserve to be reprinted, I should have thought of Thomas B. Dewey. He was one of my favorites when I first started reading PI fiction back in the Sixties, but I doubt if very many people today are familiar with his work.
Dewey was best known for a long series of novels about a private eye called Mac. The reader never learned the character's full name. But he also wrote another series about PI Pete Schofield, who was different from most fictional private eyes in the fact that he was married, to a gorgeous redhead named Jeannie who usually managed to get involved in helping Schofield solve his cases. (Shades of Mike Shayne and Phyllis! Those are wonderful books. But that's a different post . . .)
The fact that Schofield was married doesn't seem to have had much effect on how many beautiful women throw themselves at him in each book. It still happens with considerable regularity. He just turns them down and remains faithful to Jeannie, even when he winds up in bed with some nude lovely, as he does in this book. The plot involves a dead bullfighter and a drug-smuggling ring operating across the California/Mexico border, not that it matters a whole lot. The fun in this book -- and it's a lot of fun -- comes from Dewey's breezy style and the headlong pace of the story.
To a lot of modern readers of PI fiction, a book like this (from 1961) must seem almost as much of a relic as an Old Sleuth dime novel. THE GOLDEN HOOLIGAN certainly has its faults: the plot is maybe a little too simple, Schofield probably gets hit on the head and knocked out one too many times, and the frequency with which the female characters get naked seems pretty contrived at times. But I don't care. I grew up on this stuff, and I still love it.
Dewey's Mac novels are considerably more serious than the Pete Schofield books, which come across as lightweight but highly enjoyable potboilers. If the guys at HardCase Crime are looking for good books to reprint, they could do a lot worse than some of Dewey's early Mac novels, such as EVERY BET'S A SURE THING.
One last note on Dewey: I've been told that he spent the last years of his life in Mason, Texas, and continued to write books even though the market had changed and he could no longer sell them. Maybe they just weren't any good. But the thought of unpublished Dewey novels that are probably lost forever . . . well, it makes me shake my head in regret, that's for sure. But at least there are several of his published novels that I haven't gotten around to reading yet.