Richard Curtis was a successful literary agent and author who wrote nearly fifty works of fiction and nonfiction. In 1974, Curtis authored The $3-Million Turn-Over, the debut of a four-book series starring sports agent Dave Bolt. Like the “newshound heroes” of the mid-20th Century, the idea of an amateur solving crimes and murder mysteries works like a quasi private-detective novel. Wolfpack Publishing has just reprinted The $3-Million Turn-Over for modern readers.
In the series debut, readers learn about series star Bolt through a few dialogue sequences scattered throughout the book. He was born in Texas, excelled at collegiate sports, served a stint in the Army and then became a successful wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Other than being very athletic, Curtis wisely chooses not to validate Bolt as stereotypical 1970s action hero. The Pro is a mystery series with some action sprinkled in to lure prospective shoppers. After a horrific ankle injury ends his career, Bolt engages in a two-year swim in the bottle before rehabilitating and finding work in the Cowboys front office. This eventually leads to a sports agency deal that now finds Bolt representing a number of clients across all major sports.
Bolt's office is in NYC, a rather busy place that's kept in order by sexy secretary Trish. As the novel opens, Bolt receives a call from the father of a top basketball recruit. IL star athlete Richie Sadler wants to discuss contracts with Bolt. It's this early portion of the book that really caters to basketball fans. In 1974, when this book was published, the NBA and ABA were two separate leagues. The two competed with each other for fans, TV rights and endorsement deals. Bolt, along with Richie's family, has an interesting discussion about the two possibly merging and teams like the Nets eventually becoming NBA properties. All of this is marvelous to read considering the merger actually came to fruition two years later.
While all this is insightful and engaging as a sports read, readers want crime. As a precursor to the heist, Bolt begins contract negotiations on behalf of Sadler. The asking price is a lofty three-million for two years (preposterous in 1974) but it's done for a reason. This price is important because soon the Sadlers receive a ransom call demanding three-million in cash or Richie dies. Afraid to risk the FBI's help (the first place I would have turned to personally), Bolt and Richie's sister Sondra tangle in the sheets and streets trying to locate Richie's whereabouts. The book has Bolt combing NYC, Harlem and the city's outskirts while the ABA commissioner puts together the needed funds.
The Pro reads like Robert B. Parker's Spenser in that it is loosely a PI series with northeastern ties. Further, Bolt displays some of the same characteristics that make Spenser engaging – sports car, humor, drinking, sex. Arguably, those traits are found with most detectives in fiction, but I found incredible similarities. These novels also work as a sort of precursor to Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series of mysteries starring a former basketball star turned sports agent and “accidental detective.” The author even thanks Richard Curtis in the acknowledgment page of the series debut Deal Breaker (1995).
The Pro series would later focus on hockey, baseball and football – America's most popular sports. Curtis also wrote at least one other sports related novel, a stand-alone called The Sunday Alibi which was published under the pseudonym Ray Lilly.
Buy a copy of The $3-Million Turnover HERE