"I hear he's improving."
So said Raymond Chandler himself in a BBC interview with Ian Fleming back in the day when the two were on top of the world with James Bond and Philip Marlowe. Chandler had just released Playback, Fleming's Goldfinger was in proofs, and Ray also talked about what would later become Poodle Springs where he has Marlowe married and wasn't really sure what to do next. Of course, Chandler died before finishing that book and Robert B. Parker completed it. But Chandler uttered the quote above after Fleming talked about his enjoyment of Howard Browne's Paul Pine novels. Everybody who reads PI stories knows the Pine books were Chandler clones--and good ones, too.
One can almost see Chandler's tongue planted in cheek when he says that line, and you know that he knew what Browne was up to. How could he not?
If you have never had the opportunity to read Howard Browne's Paul Pine books, very soon you'll get your chance. Haffner Press is releasing the books and we are very excited to hear of this development.
I have, so far, only read Halo for Satan, which I picked up at a used bookshop one day many years ago. In the introduction, Browne states that he wanted to write a story where the identity of the murderer hinges on a clue that no reader would be able to guess or predict. And he was right! It's been used time and again since but you'd never know it while reading the book and you'll marvel at how poorly such a twist has been handled by others and how smoothly Browne pulled it off. Granted the clue is based on the prejudices of the time it was written, even Browne admitted so, and it will surely cause much weeping and gnashing of teeth from the PC crowd, but it's a heck of a thriller and anything that offends the PC crowd is OK in my book.
Paul Pine is a Chicago private investigator; in Halo for Satan, he's hired by worried parents to track down their missing daughter. He gets conked on the head a few times, engages in the usual hokum, and solves the mystery. But it's so well-written and so engaging that such a bland premise takes on new life and you cannot help but stay glued to the page.
I am very excited to be able to get my hands on all of the books in one collection. Hurry, Santa, hurry!