By Brett Halliday
I read this book as a substitute for Bodies Are Where You Find Them, since I couldn’t easily get hold of the latter and I wanted to read a Mike Shayne novel.
This is classic hard-boiled detective, in the same way the B-movies in my $.38 moment collection are classic thrillers: serviceable but hardly noteworthy. Shane is a no-nonsense badass whose persona reminds me very much of Bogart in the Maltese Falcon, particularly when he grapples with the hood sent by the fat man. Shayne smacks people around and navigates the dangerous waters of Centerville easily. The book also displays the cynical hope that many hard-boiled detective novels show in the power of a man to overcome corruption: the story ends with his takeover of the town and the attempt to make things better.
At the same time, we see an early version of the refrain from the end of Chinatown. Whenever Mike asks about some horrific happening in town (the police beating a man to death on the side of a busy road and no witnesses to speak of, the convenient vanishing and hanging of criminals, etc), they say “This is Centerville.” Mike says it doesn’t have to be.
This cover, which is part of a 1960s re-release, has nothing to do with the novel, from what I can tell. The only person possibly depicted on this cover is Ann, the local not-prostitute who like to make time with lots of fellas. She had a wimpy drug-addict husband named Angus to kick around.
I’m looking forward to reading more of these books as I find them.