Showing posts with label Robert Terrall. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Terrall. Show all posts

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Harry Horne #01 - End of a J.D.

Robert Morton Terrall (1914-2009) is mostly remembered for his Ben Gates series written under the pseudonym Robert Kyle and his late-period Mike Shayne novels as Brett Halliday. He also authored a little-known three-book series as John Gonzales starring journalist Harry Horne starting with End of a J.D. from 1960.

Our narrator is Harry Horne, investigative reporter for a New York weekly news magazine, similar to Time (where the author started his own career as a professional writer). One night Harry returns home from a nightclub to find a beautiful young woman showering in his apartment naked - because that’s how people showered in 1960. After getting out of the bathroom and getting minimally dressed, she attempts to kill Harry in his own bachelor pad before taking off into the night. Who does that?

Before the attack, Harry had been working on a big story about juvenile delinquent gangs. He embedded with a youth gang called the Sorcerers who took a liking to Harry - until they decided they didn’t like his attitude. Harry sets out to determine who wants him dead employing a gambit that is one of the most clever I can remember in a vintage crime paperback. There are a lot of instances of cleverness and wit here, and Horne is a great narrator to guide the reader on this mystery.

Mostly, Death of a J.D. is a typical Terrall novel - well-written, smart, funny with a plot too convoluted for its own good. It’s also an artifact of its time when Americans were terrified of teenage delinquents with switchblades, pomade and rock-n-roll music. Now we just call that era “the good old days.” And in the big scheme of things, I suppose this yellowing paperback was a “good old book.” Recommended.


The Harry Horne books are:

1. Death of a J.D. (1960) - Recently re-released as an ebook retitled as “Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Funeral” (Buy a copy of that book HERE)

2. Someone’s Sleeping in My Bed (1962)

3. Follow that Hearse (1963)

Monday, March 29, 2021

Paperback Warrior Podcast - Episode 84

Welcome to Paperback Warrior Episode 84! Our feature this week is Robert Terrall, who wrote mysteries as Robert Kyle, John Gonzales, and Brett Halliday. Also discussed: Nursing Noir, Manhunt Companion, E. Howard Hunt, Robert Bloch and more! Listen on your favorite podcast app or or download directly HERE

Donate to the show HERE

Listen to "Episode 84: Robert Terrall" on Spreaker.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Ben Gates #03 - Kill Now, Pay Later

Robert Terrall (1914-2009) served in WWII and later wrote for Time and the Saturday Evening Post. After becoming a full-time writer, Terrall used the pseudonym John Gonzales to author a three-book series starring crime-fighting journalist Harry Horne. Arguably, Terrall's claim to fame came when Mike Shayne creator and author Davis Dresser departed the successful private-eye series. Terrall took over the reigns and authored another 25 installments using the series house name Brett Halliday. From 1958-1964, Terrall also authored a five-book series of mysteries starring private-eye Ben Gates using the pseudonym of Robert Kyle. My first experience with the series is the third installment, Kill Now, Pay Later, published by Dell in 1960 and later reprinted by Hard Case Crime in 2007.

In the book's beginning pages, New York City private-eye Ben Gates is working a ritzy wedding for an insurance company. The job is simple: guard the wedding presents and keep the tipsy guests from making off with the family jewels. After Gates is teased by a sultry female guest, he mistakenly drinks a handful of sleeping pills hidden in a mug of hot coffee. Gates falls into snoozeland while the groom's mother is shot and killed in a robbery attempt. The thief is also killed, but there's more to the story.

After Gates awakens, he is questioned by the groom's family and a hard-nosed cop named Lieutenant Minturn. The police think Gates was in on the grab, and the officer seems to have a personal vendetta against private-eyes in general (not uncommon in crime-fiction). A combination of events puts Gates into the driver's seat of the investigation.

First, a newspaper article is published about the murder and points out that Gates was asleep through the debacle. Gates wants to redeem himself and discover who was serving him loaded coffee. Second, Mr. Pope, the wealthy groom's father, brings Gates into the family circle. He explains to Gates that the police and family aren't aware that $75,000 was stolen from his safe during the murder. He wants the money back and hires Gates to find it.

I really love this Ben Gates character. He's the middle ground between serious Lew Archer and comedic Shell Scott. The author's witty dialogue and candor enhance the story and character, making them both instantly enjoyable. Gates doesn't necessarily chase women, but he isn't one to turn away from a hot undercover romp. In Kill Now, Pay Later, there are a number of sexy women attempting to lure Gates into bed or simply remove him from the investigation. While mostly a loner, Gates does rely on a few supporting characters throughout the procedure including a colleague named Davidson.

If you love these urban detective novels, there's plenty to enjoy here. Kill Now, Pay Later is another solid private-eye novel that stands out in the crowded field of mid-20th Century crime-fiction. Ben Gates’ charisma is leveraged by the author to really define the storytelling experience. Based on the high level of quality here, I'll be searching for the remaining series installments.

Buy a copy of this book HERE