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 But the thought of unpublished Dewey novels that are probably lost forever .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.


Juri said...

Dewey's THE MEAN STREETS is a very good juvenile delinquent novel, very serious and with a heart.

Anonymous said...

I just happened to stop by a used book store this morning after reading your post and saw severl books by Dewey so I bought two. One is a Schofield book and the other a Mac. Now if I can just find the time to read them.


phil musick said...

glad to see that dewey is remembered. a longtime admirer of PI fiction--some of it helped turn me into a writer in the long ago--i liked the early dewey books and just lost track of him. I once interviewed the dean of the genre, robert b. parker, on my radio show and he said he also recalled dewey. Mac and his copy buddy, Lt. Donovan, were well-drawn charcters. thanks for triggering a nice memory.

diane said...

Dewey spent his last years in Tempe AZ and taught at ASU. His wife was born in Mason TX, but he never lived there. He is buried in Brady TX.

To the best of my knowledge there are no unpublished books of his. There are few partial books, he started, but nothing complete.


I have been looking for people who knew Tom, and what the last years of his life were like.
My mother and he dated for quite a few years-then went their own way-I'm still trying to figure out why they split up in 1969. I'd really like to talk to his kids from his first marriage. They would be about my age or a little older. If you are reading this, I have wonderful memories of your father. I was only a kid then, and didn't appreciate the fact that he was an accomplished writer. Wow,I wish I could talk to him now about his writing!He and my Mom pursued their English lit Masters degrees together at UCLA. And they drank a lot of martinis together, especially at their favorite Italian restaurant in Westwood Village.