Many, many years ago, when it was new, I watched and enjoyed some of the episodes of the TV series HONEY WEST. Even as a young lad, I appreciated how beautiful Anne Francis was. It wasn't regular viewing for us, however, because it was on opposite GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C., and my mother really enjoyed ol' Gomer's antics. (To be completely honest, I like Gomer, too.) These days, I own the entire HONEY WEST series on DVD but have never gotten around to watching it. Soon, maybe.
Also over the years I've owned copies of some of the novels in the series that was the source material for the TV show. I may have read one back in the Seventies. I don't recall for sure about that. But recently, I read the very first one, THIS GIRL FOR HIRE, published by Pyramid Books in 1957.
Honey West is the daughter of Los Angeles private eye Hank West. She took over his agency when he was murdered, a crime that remains unsolved as this book opens. However, THIS GIRL FOR HIRE isn't the story of Honey tracking down her dad's killer, as you might expect. Instead, in a very Spillane-like opening, Honey and her cop friend, Lt. Mark Storm, are looking at the body of a murdered actor Honey was fond of. A short time later, Honey is hired by a TV executive who believes the star of the show he produces is trying to kill him. As Honey investigates, she discovers that almost everybody connected with the show has a motive to murder one or more of the other people involved. And that's what happens when they all go on location to shoot some scenes on the island of Catalina. Bodies start dropping all over the place. And wouldn't you know it, there may even be a connection to that murdered actor from the first scene of the book.
Okay, calling this a classic private eye novel may be stretching it a mite. The plot is so overly complicated that it's just too busy and frantic, rather than complex. The big twist ending is entirely predictable. The characterization is really shallow. And despite the claim on the cover, there's very little sex and it's extremely tame. Honey loses some clothes a couple of times. That's about it.
And yet, despite all that, I enjoyed THIS GIRL FOR HIRE. Most of that appeal is probably nostalgic. This is the kind of stuff I would have eaten up back in the Sixties, when I was tearing through any book I could find with a private eye in it. The pace is fast, there are some funny lines here and there, and it's just sexy enough that teenage me would have found it intriguing. It's a Front Porch Book, for sure. I don't know if that's enough to prompt me to read more of the series, but I sure might. This one is available in an e-book edition, as are most of the other Honey West novels.