Showing posts with label Jay Flynn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jay Flynn. Show all posts

Thursday, May 6, 2021

McHugh #02 - It's Murder, McHugh

The McHugh series of American spy novels was a five-book series originally published between 1959 and 1962. The author of the McHugh books was a colorful, hard-drinking character named Jay Flynn (1927-1985). The first four books in the series remain available as affordable ebooks, including the second installment, It’s Murder, McHugh from 1960.

McHugh is a spy for the Pentagon who spends his time working in a San Francisco bar awaiting his next assignment from D.C. This case finds McHugh dispatched to Mexico to find two missing Navy pilots from the same jet squadron and a missing supersonic fighter jet. The Department of Defense doesn’t know if the men are alive or dead, guilty or innocent, and it’s McHugh’s job to figure out the truth.

The missing pilots are Nate Bramhall and Donald Long. Before they disappeared, they were both sharing the same woman, Nate’s wife Peggy. McHugh thinks that Peggy may be the key to this mystery as she recently drove to Mexico and has a history of radical leftist politics. When McHugh tracks her down in a small Mexican village, she’s changed her hair color and is otherwise acting quite squirrelly.

While in Mexico, McHugh is joined by his seaplane-flying sidekick and a freelance soldier of fortune with questionable loyalties. The search for the missing pilots and the jet uncovers a sinister Soviet plot with high stakes for Mexico - and the U.S. - requiring some expert thwarting. The author writes good action sequences, but he relies on seaplane travel way too much to push the messy plot forward.

As long as you control your expectations, It’s Murder, McHugh (a crappy title that doesn’t fit the book) is a fun way to kill a few hours. It’s slightly better than an average Nick Carter: Killmaster novel but nowhere near as good as the espionage fiction of Ian Fleming, Donald Hamilton or Edward S. Aarons. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this paperback, but it’s also nothing you should be eager to tackle. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

McHugh #01 - McHugh

“Deadlier than Mike Hammer. Sexier than James Bond. Meet McHugh”

I can't help but groan at the poor marketing choice made by Modern Promotions, a division of Unisystems Inc. Publishing. Perhaps that horrific tagline, or the equally horrific cover art, led to the short lifespan for paperback hero McHugh. 

The series, launched in 1959, lasted for five total books – all by author Jay Flynn. The series, rumored to have been created over a drunken lunch by both Flynn and original publisher Avon (who printed under improved artwork), stars US government agent McHugh operating out of a San Francisco watering hole called The Door. His boss is Burton Harts, who routinely sends McHugh chasing island dictators or downed Navy flyers. But the series debut, the eponymous “McHugh”, is a throwback to the hardboiled writing style. 

The book opens with FBI agents Murrell and Foote meeting McHugh at an airport. They want information on a quarry named Johnny Stover, an electronics expert who's gone missing. How is McHugh involved? Stover is dating the sister of McHugh's lover Loris. McHugh, fearing the danger might be too close to Loris, takes to gumshoeing in search of Stover's track. 

The book really gains footing when McHugh runs into San Francisco Inspector Kline. Stover, a hot rod enthusiast, may have purchased a car used in a 1936 gold heist. Some heavy mob players think that car contains clues on where the robbers hid a bulk of the heist. As McHugh becomes closer, both the mob and some heavy-handed criminals start squeezing in. The book's finale is a race to find Stover – hopefully alive holding keys to the car.

Jay Flynn was a talented writer with a penchant for quirky, over the top criminals. While never really pulpy or too contrived, these McHugh books seem wildly cartoonish. Oddly, this writing style or narrative flow doesn't detract from a thrilling story. Flynn's work with McHugh is a joy to read; entertaining, feisty and far from the “Mike Hammer Knockoff” description it unfairly receives from genre fans. While Flynn's life was tumultuous, and an adventurous novel in itself, his work on McHugh is admirable. It's what keeps the old guy turning those yellowed pages. 

Note – For the wild story on the life of Jay Flynn, read author Bill Pronzini's 1988 article HERE.

Buy a copy of the book HERE