Sergio Angelini: Death at Half-Term by Josephine Bell
Matt Baker: Death Valley by Sandy Dengler
Yvette Banek: Death of Jezabel by Christianna Brand
Les Blatt: Tragedy at Ravensthorpe by J.J. Connington
Brian Busby: The Long November by James Benson Nablo
Bill Crider: My Gun, Her Body (Dinah for Danger) by Jeff Bogard (Leslie Bernard)
Martin Edwards: Angel in the Case by Milward Kennedy
Curt Evans: Black Widow by Patrick Quentin (book & movie)
Rich Horton: Cleek of Scotland Yard by T.W. Hanshew
Jerry House: Hell-For-Leather by Jake Foster (James Reasoner and Ed Gorman)
Randy Johnson: The Saint Closes the Case by Leslie Charteris
Tracy K: The Davidian Report by Dorothy B. Hughes
George Kelley: Where the Summer Ends by Karl Edward Wagner
Rob Kitchin: I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich
B.V. Lawson: Fool's Gold by Ted Wood
Todd Mason: The Best of the West, Joe R. Lansdale, ed.
Neer: Oil! by Upton Sinclair
J.F. Norris: Bury Me Deep by Harold Q. Masur
James Reasoner: Private Eye Action As You Like It by Joe R. Lansdale & Lewis Shiner
Karyn Reeves: The Murders in Praed Street by John Rhode
Gerald Saylor: A Twisted Thing by Mickey Spillane
Ron Scheer: Heartwood by James Lee Burke
Kerrie Smith: Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Kevin Tipple: The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald
TomCat: The Abandoned Room by Wadsworth Camp
Prashant C. Trikannad: Defending Jacob by William Landay
And now . . .
This cover doesn't look much like 1979, does it? That's because it ain't. It's a brand spanking new edition of this lost Mertz classic now available in both trade pb and eBook from Rough Edges Press. The original, in all it's 1979 glory, is below.
In the all-new afterward to the new edition, Steve reveals that the pen name on that first edition, "Stephen Brett," was a hat tip to Brett Halliday, author of the Michael Shayne series. At the time, Steve had been selling stories to Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, and Some Die Hard was his first novel (the number is now somewhere in the neighborhood of 60, and counting).
Steve also reveals that his working title for this one was "The Flying Corpse," which pretty much describes the core of the mystery. A rich guy, about to remove his wastrel son from his will, fears the son is about to murder him, and hires private detective "Rock" Dugan on a contingency basis. If the guy is murdered before the new will is signed, Dugan will get twenty grand to catch the killer. And sure enough, the guy is stabbed to death, while alone in the cockpit of an airborne glider. Yep, it's a locked room mystery in the sky.
I read the Manor House edition long ago and remembered nothing except I enjoyed it. So it was a pleasure to rediscover this novel in its new incarnation. And I was a bit surprised. I know Steve to be a long-time fan of the hard-boiled detective genre, so I expected a guy named Rock Dugan to be hard as nails. But that ain't so. Dugan lets his inner tough guy loose when necessary - particularly when he beats the crap out of a dirty police chief - but by and large he's a polite, sensitive and even romantic guy. Excluding that cop-beating scene, I'd rate him mediumboiled.
Mertz the mystery fan shows though in several places. We learn that Dugan too is a mystery fan, and in chapter one he's reading a Perry Mason mystery. Later, after meeting the soon-to-be murder victim, he ruminates on the similarities between his situation and that faced by Philip Marlowe in the opening scenes of The Big Sleep. He likens his problem to the locked room puzzles of Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. And later, after a conk on the head, Dugan tells us a real-life conk is harder to recover from than the fictional conks Mike Hammer used to get.
Altogether, Some Die Hard is a nicely rounded mystery with just about the right amounts of sex, violence and old-fashioned deduction. Unlike Race Williams, Dugan uses his brain - rather than his guns - to solve the case. And unMarlowelike as he is, I came across a couple of Chandlerlike lines:
I wouldn't have left Langdon Springs then for all the graft in Washington.
and . . .
And there he is - deader than Philadelphia on a Tuesday night.
Some Die Hard was a great read - Again! Get it HERE.