Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Calling Michael Shayne!

We were delighted to hear that Hard Case Crime will soon publish a Michael Shayne novel, but I am somewhat surprised at the choice. I’ve always had a hit-or-miss relationship with Brett Halliday’s Mike Shayne books. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re not, and his writing was so clunky it made the bad ones even worse. I never hesitate to buy a Shayne book should I come across one, but if he doesn’t have me by the neck after three chapters, it goes into a box. It’s a worthwhile investment, because when Halliday fires all 12 cylinders, he’s very good indeed. I like the Miami books better than the New Orleans adventures, but certainly don’t avoid them.

My two favorites would be Dividend on Death, or Mike Shayne #1, and This Is It, Michael Shayne. What I like about Shayne is that he’s the next best thing to Sam Spade. Shayne gives you brains-over-brawn and does his best to get one over on everybody he meets, not unlike Spade. I just wish Halliday had actually read more Hammett, because maybe then he wouldn’t have used so many unnecessary words.

Dividend on Death, of course, introduces Shayne, and is a very entertaining murder mystery. It took me a few days to read, so it was a little slow in parts, but the payoff was worth it.

This Is It, Michael Shayne is one of the Miami books, and, wow, I finished that book in one day. It’s absolutely breathless and races along to a great conclusion that will keep you reading the series even when you find a clunker. Like I said, when Halliday was good, he was GOOD.

So I’m very much looking forward to Murder Is My Business, soon to be published by Hard Case Crime. Maybe this will rekindle some interest in the Mike Shayne books. He’s hard to come by lately. None of the local used bookstores carry the books; luckily, we have eBay and ABEBooks. (In fact, I still kick myself for passing on a big set of Shayne books that one local shop had; before I could save up enough geetus to buy the whole set, the store closed down, and none of the other stores picked up the inventory.)

I should talk about some of the other Shayne media. I’ve never read the comics, but I’ve watched the movies with Lloyd Nolan playing Shayne. They tossed out the books, but the flicks are entertaining and Nolan is a treat to watch. I don’t care for the radio program, especially the Jeff Chandler episodes which took place in New Orleans. They’re generic private eye radio shows like all the others done at the time. I have heard one or two pre-Chandler episodes where Shayne has Lucy Hamilton with him, and those are good, if not a little preachy on the evils of crime.

Eventually Halliday turned the series over to ghost writers, and I've read one or two of those ghosted stories, and enjoyed them. The ghost writers turned Halliday’s excessive wordsmithing into very tight and economical stories. Fun stuff indeed.

So give Brett Halliday and Michael Shayne a try. I think you’ll be very happy with what you experience.

1 comment:

  1. I really like MURDER IS MY BUSINESS. It takes place in El Paso, and Dresser was from that area. I agree that DIVIDEND ON DEATH is a good one. I've read it several times. THIS IS IT, MICHAEL SHAYNE was the first Shayne novel I ever read (I still vividly remember checking it out of the library more than forty years ago), and I must have liked it because I went on to read many more of the series, but I've never reread that one. Maybe it's time to give it a try.