Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bodies Are Where You Find Them: Brett Halliday

This novel is the fifth book in a series of over 70 novels about Mike Shayne, the tough and determined private investigator. The first thirty novels in the series were written by Davis Dresser, using the pseudonym Brett Halliday. The remaining novels were written by other authors, still using the same pseudonym.

There were two reasons that I read this as my first Mike Shayne novel. It was the earliest novel I had in the series, and I wanted to start close to the beginning. Also, this novel was inspiration for the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and I wanted to see how much they resembled each other.


Mike Shayne is a hard-boiled, unsentimental private detective in Miami, Florida. The only thing he is sentimental about is his new wife, and she is not around for very much of this story. She is sent off to New York on a vacation that they were supposed to take together, but Mike must remain behind to work on a case related to a prominent politician who is running for Mayor.

While Shayne is getting ready to go on the trip with his wife, a young woman comes to his office with some information on the Mayoral candidate, Burt Stallings. She is very inebriated and passes out before she can tell Shayne her secret. He leaves her alone and when he returns she is dead, strangled with one of her stockings. Afraid that he will be arrested for her murder before he can prove his innocence, he sends his friend,  reporter Timothy Rourke, to get a car to move her. When they both return, the body has disappeared.

While all of this is going on, Stallings comes to Shayne and demands that he find his stepdaughter, who has been kidnapped. It seems obvious that the dead body in his bedroom must be the kidnapped stepdaughter, and Shayne has to figure out what is really going on.

After finishing the book, I moved on to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which we had viewed several times before. I hadn't expected there to be so many similarities between the book and the film. The main differences I noted were the setting (Miami vs Hollywood) and the time (1941 vs 2005).

In the book, the woman's body pops up when least expected. The subject is serious but the tone of the novel is light. Eventually some of the clues lead Shayne and Rourke to a sanitarium, and in the end the motive for the murder is money. These elements all exist in the movie also, just rearranged and updated to fit current times.

In the book, Mike Shayne is the detective and his sidekick is a reporter and friend. In the movie, Gay Perry (played by Val Kilmer) is the detective and Harry Lockhart (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) is his sidekick, pulled into the story first because he is getting experience for a role in a movie as a private detective, and then later because his childhood friend, Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), now an aspiring actress, is involved. The events in both the book and the movie are chaotic, confusing, and seemingly random but as with most private detective stories, the pieces all come together in the end.

I enjoyed both the book and the film. The actors in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang are wonderful, and the story is a lot of fun. There are thrills combined with comedy and romance, and allusions to Raymond Chandler's books. The chapter titles in the movie are all taken from Raymond Chandler novels or stories: "Trouble is My Business", "The Lady in the Lake", "The Little Sister", "The Simple Art of Murder", and the epilogue, "Farewell, My Lovely". And to top it off, it is set at Christmas.

The poster for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is from enigmabadger via Flickr.

 -----------------------------

Publisher:  Dell, 1959. Orig. pub. 1941.
Length:     183 pages
Format:     Paperback
Series:      Mike Shayne, #5
Setting:     Miami, Florida
Genre:      Mystery, private detective
Source:     I purchased my copy.





17 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you reminded me of Mike Shayne, Tracy. And I'm very glad, of course, that you enjoyed both the book and the film. I really need to do a spotlight on one of Halliday's novels...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margot, I would love it if you did a spotlight post on a Brett Halliday novel.

      Delete
  2. I've heard of Halliday and Mike Shayne but don't have any of the books. Oh well, not like I'm hurting for reading material. It does sound as if I'd enjoy one or two from this author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you ever run into one of the Mike Shayne books you should try one, Col. I will sample a few more.

      Delete
  3. My understanding is that the last 30 novels in the series were not so much ghost-written by authors other than Halliday, but ghost-collaborated, Dresser, at the very least, did light edits, and usually did final drafts.

    It was the Shayne short stories in MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE that were wholly and completely written by other hands, though still credited to Halliday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for that information, Jim. I had not read that anywhere. I am very new to reading the Mike Shayne novels.

      Delete
  4. Great choice and review, Tracy. I have not read Brett Halliday but his Mike Shayne is never beyond the ken of my memory. I do want to read Halliday along with the Mike Hammer novels of Mickey Spillane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad I finally read a Mike Shayne novel, Prashant. I haven't read anything by Spillane yet either.

      Delete
  5. Well, I did watch the trailer "Kiss, kiss bang bang" and it does look like fun. Where did you find this movie (2005)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a very fun movie, Nancy. I don't even remember how we found the movie but we bought a DVD years ago because we are such big fans of Robert Downey Jr. and also liked the director Shane Black. It fits our definition of a Christmas movie, and we often watch it then.

      Delete
  6. I've known of the Mike Shayne series for most of my cognizant life, but have never read one. Nor did I see the movie, altho I like Kilmer and Downey and can imagine they'd play well together. I just may go for the movie, Tracy. Thanks for the nudge!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you like both those actors, Mathew, I think you would like the movie too.

      Delete
  7. Oh fascinating! We have compared notes before, as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite films, I have watched it many times, and have always vaguely thought I might read the book - but like you, I assumed the script would have changed everything. But perhaps I should give it a go, based on your review...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I saw some other posts that had read the book after watching the movie, and many thought that there was little connection. I think this was because of the different setting in time, thus the characters behaved differently. Myself, I was surprised at how many plot points corresponded. But you may see it differently. It was fun for me. I have just ordered the 2nd book in the series because there is a movie based on it and I hope to get to both of those soonish.

      Delete
  8. These covers!

    Have you seen the collection of classic covers at Yvette Can Draw blog? I thought of you are I looked at them. Some are eerie with skeletons or bones on them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I have seen them, Kathy, and there were some of them I would love to own.

      Delete
  9. I bet. Some of those covers made me laugh. Can you imagine sitting on the NYC subway with a book with a cover with bones on it or full of drama? People would be trying to see what one was reading or trying to get away from someone with a book with one of those covers.

    I could live without the one with the title, "Wives to Burn," though. I think the women's movement would have influenced publishers not to do that.

    ReplyDelete