Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fit to Kill (Brett Halliday, 1959)

Basic detective novel structure dictates that our gumshoeing hero gets hired by some unfortunate soul or gets involved in a crime accidentally or is pulled into some family shit. But not this one: Fit to Kill starts with some sort of journalistic investigation spy-ish background story and it spends quite hefty 50+ pages on it which means that our main protagonist, PI Mike Shayne, makes his entrance as late as in 7th chapter.

Which is a good and a bad thing at the same time. It's good because it's a bit unconventional (and therefore interesting) and it's bad because this background story is pretty mediocre one. Standard stuff involving some dictator of unidentified banana republic, resistant fighters, damsel in distress, mysterious package and so on. Its main character, Shayne's friend Rourke, isn't exactly convincing and is in fact pretty fucking boring. He's supposed to be this stereotypical kind of hardened newspaper reporter but for most of the times he acts like some naive horny kid. I don't know, probably Halliday characterized him intentionally this way so Mike Shayne would be cooler in a contrast.

With Shayne's arrival on the scene, novel's pace shifts several gears up. In fact, it turns into the "real-time mode" which - once again - turns out to be a good and a bad thing. Good thing being that shit really starts to happen pretty rapidly, but bad aspect of this is that it simply doesn't work too well. Don't get me wrong: plot is not terribly complex and it it's easy to follow, it's just that its timing is way off sometimes. Simply too many things happen in the period of twelve hours to make story believable.

But it was still cool to read. Shayne is pretty interesting character because he's supposed to be this cliched hard-boiled detective but still he makes few mistakes. Right at the start of the case he loses the girl he was tailing (He was frozen with indecision, which was an unusual state for Shayne), later moves a corpse before police arrives to the crime scene, walks into the Professor Quesada's house without any plan (so he gets knocked out) and other silly stuff like that. But still he manages to tie up all the loose ends very efficiently in a great ending when all the pieces fall in place.



Michael Shayne, PI

First part in some unidentified "Central American republic", second part in Miami.

Body count: 3

Carla Adams with "elegantly nyloned legs" - She had the delicacy of colouring that is only found in girls with precisely that color hair.

Yes, but it's just "Shayne fell forward and the mist closed in about him.

Cool sounding, but also pretty puzzling one. Badass who does all the killings seemed very fit to me. Or is it referring to Rourke who is finally fit to kill someone after his whole ordeal? If yes, who is he supposed to kill?

Not the usual paperback half-naked chicks & guns stuff but quite interesting and nice one. Relevant to story too because thick glasses do play part in the novel although it is pretty far fetched. Let me explain: killer wears glasses so without any second thoughts Shayne links him to the asshole Renzullo and - even more far fetched - police buys this idea without any reservation so - check this, I shit you not! - they start a manhunt for a guy wearing glasses - "I want every outgoing train, bus and plane checked for a man wearing thick glasses"

Cool lines:  
Rourke asked the switchboard girl for the right time. It turned out to be time for supper, so he called room service, and ordered a bottle of rye and ice.

1 comment:

  1. I am also an armchair expert on the history of Central America. The unidentified 'banana republic' country here was most likely Nicaragua. Very much in the newspapers in 1956 when greedy-ass dictator / tyrant SOMOZA was assassinated, then his son, Luis Somoza took over, 1956-63.
    Timely novel, because in Oct 1960 there was a military coup in El Salvador.
    You may delete / edit this comment if you think it is irrelevant to the novel, btw, ghost written by Robert Terrall. I made many comments in my own journal. FIRST Halliday novel to be ghost written.