Friday, September 24, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Double Take by Roy Huggins

Yeah, I know this book has been unForgotten before, notably in fine reviews by Richard Robinson and J. Kingston Pierce, and I encourage you to check them out.

I wrote this piece some months back for THE TAINTED ARCHIVE's TV Cops Weekend, but I screwed up and failed to send Gary all the artwork. So here's the article with art included . . .

Along with all the TV Westerns I watched as a kid, and there were a LOT of them, I somehow found time for the Warner Brothers stable of private eye shows - Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside Six, and the best of them all - 77 Sunset Strip.

Back then, I had no idea that 77’s lead detective, Stu Bailey, had first appeared in a novel.  But I know now, and would see the show (if I COULD see it) in a whole different light.

The Double Take was published in 1946, appearing both in hardcover from William Morrow & Co, and in the March 1946 issue of Mammoth Mystery, a magazine edited by mystery writer Howard Browne. Browne must have loved this extremely Chandleresque novel by newcomer Roy Huggins, because Browne’s own first homage to Chandler (Halo in Blood by John Evans) was published that same year.

The opening sentence of The Double Take tells you what to expect:
“I was sitting in his paneled office on the top floor of the Security Bank Building looking at him across a desk that was bare as a mannequin’s mind and large enough for a pair of midgets to play badmitton on.”

Yep, it starts like a Philip Marlowe novel and never lets up. Reading the book again recently, I found myself smiling on every page.

(click to enlarge)

Huggins followed up later that same year with two Stuart Bailey novelettes for The Saturday Evening Post. A third Stu Bailey story appeared in Esquire in 1952. Meantime, The Double Take appeared in paperback and Huggins wrote two more unrelated mystery novels, Too Late for Tears and Lovely Lady, Pity Me

Huggins got his first taste of the motion picture business in 1948, writing the screenplay for the film version of The Double Take, titled I Love Trouble. In this one, Stu Bailey was portrayed by Franchot Tone.

From then on, Huggins’ literary career fell by the wayside as he devoted himself almost exclusively to films and television. In the late 50s he went to work for Warner Brothers, revitalizing Cheyenne (a show that was in trouble) and creating Maverick.

That’s when Jack Warner asked him for a detective show, and Huggins created 77 Sunset Strip, using old Stu Bailey as the hero. He moved Bailey of his shabby Marlowe-style office into swanky digs on the Sunset Strip, right next to Dean Martin’s nightclub, Dino’s. He made the new Bailey an ex-secret service man, and gave him an ex-lawyer (played by Roger Smith) as a partner.

Unfortunately, Huggins was robbed of the credit. Jack Warner wanted to own the show outright, so he had a pilot written and produced by someone else, then had it briefly shown as a motion picture in the Caribbean. This gave Warner the legal footing to claim that the TV show was based on the film “Girl on the Run” rather than on Huggins’ literary works.

This soured Huggins’ relationship with Warner Brothers and he had little more to do with the show. But he’d given it a great start, and it rolled on from 1958 to 1964. Ed Byrnes, who had died as a villain in the pilot, was so well-received that he returned in a new role as “Kookie” the parking lot attendant and eventually graduated to private eye.  77 Sunset Strip was so popular that Warner Brothers built the three shows mentioned above on the same formula, and sometimes had crossovers between the series.

(from Mammoth Mystery - click to enlarge)

In 1959, Huggins strung his three Stu Bailey novelettes into a “novel”, published in paperback as 77 Sunset Strip. To see my review of that book, pics of 77 memorabilia and a complete episode of the show (from YouTube) click HERE.

Roy Huggins went on to create The Fugitive and (with Stephen J. Cannell) The Rockford Files, and produced such shows as The Virginian, Baretta and Alias Smith and Jones. He died in 2002.

You know the drill: Check out more Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott's pattinase.


Paul D Brazill said...

The man who created the Rockford Files should NEVER be forgotten. Great post. I'll have to try to get it. Top tag line too.

Walker Martin said...

I've read THE DOUBLE TAKE a couple times and think it is one of the best hardboiled detective novels. Roy Huggins and Howard Browne are just about as close as you can get to the real Raymond Chandler style.

Richard R. said...

Yes, this is a really good book, I enjoyed the heck out of it and am glad to see another FFB on it. Yours is of course superior to mine with all that great background. Great job!

pattinase (abbott) said...

A good book needs mentioning more than once.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this one too, and I enjoyed 77 Sunset Strip.

Hey, why not? I still remember the show fondly.

*heads for geezer bus*

Jeff M.

George said...

I think I have that hardcover of THE DOUBLE TAKE around here somewhere. Excellent review!

Todd Mason said...

Browne also commissioned Huggins to write a story for Browne's later magazine FANTASTIC...I really need to pick up some of Browne's MAMMOTH issues, just to see what they were like, given they were at least in his preferred field of literature...that first cover is a bit too close to home, though my vision of late is blurred rather than double...

Evan Lewis said...

Didn't know about the Fantastic story. Like to see that.

Todd Mason said...

Since I was checking ISFDb for something else, I see that the Huggins story, they think, was ghosted by Browne, much as Browne would ghost the "Mickey Spillane" story in the next (third) issue of FANTASTIC:

fep • They Write... • essay by Truman Capote
fep • They Write... • essay by Eric Frank Russell
fep • They Write... • essay by Howard Browne [as by Roy Huggins ]
4 • Angels in the Jets • shortstory by Jerome Bixby
16 • I'm Looking for "Jeff" • shortstory by Fritz Leiber
28 • The Sin of Hyacinth Peuch • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell
46 • The Star Dummy • shortstory by Anthony Boucher
66 • The Sex Opposite • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
91 • Beatrice • shortstory by Dean Evans
108 • Man in the Dark • shortstory by Howard Browne [as by Roy Huggins ]
141 • Miriam • (1945) • shortstory by Truman Capote
154 • The Tell-Tale Heart • (1843) • shortstory by Edgar Allan Poe

Evan Lewis said...


Anonymous said...

Huggins, who went on to a hugely successful career as the creator of Maverick, the Fugitive, the Rockford Files, and a few others, brings a lot of Chandler-influenced style to this story of a detective hired to find out who is blackmailing an advertising exec married to a woman with a mysterious past. Unfortunately, there isn't enough meat at the heart of this one to really make you care, and the pretty writing just calls attention to itself instead of blending seamlessly into the atmosphere as it does in Chandler. There are twists, some pretty extreme violence, and a few potentially interesting characters, but Huggins never brings the panache to the sordid story that a John D. MacDonald, Dan Marlowe, or John McPartland would, and as a result, it just falls flat.

- datrappert (from LibraryThing)

Evan Lewis said...

I guess panache is in the eye of the reader - and I know I got plenty in MY eye.

Max Allan Collins said...

Huggins used THE DOUBLE TAKE as the basis for scripts on probably every show he was ever attached to, including westerns like MAVERICK.

What is really interesting (to me, anyway) is that Huggins based the show CITY OF ANGELS (co-created by Stephen Cannell) directly on THE DOUBLE TAKE and his original version of Stu Baily. Wayne Rogers as Jake Axminster worked out of the Bradbury Building in a set-up identical to Bailey's (right down to the outer-office secretary who ran an answering service) and the cop adversary, Lt. Quint, appears by name in THE DOUBLE TAKE. (Quint is openly corrupt and borderline evil on ANGELS, though.) The short stories that made up the 77 SUNSET STRIP paperback were also a CITY OF ANGELS source. At least one of them was adapted into a CITY OF ANGELS episode (as, of course, was THE DOUBLE TAKE). The short-lived '70s PI show is a cult favorite -- it's my favorite PI show of all, and it had a direct influence on my Nathan Heller novels.

Evan Lewis said...

Cool, Max! I knew there was a reason I liked City of Angels. It deserves to be on DVD.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I'm fortunate enough to have City of Angels on DVD, but I've never seen the film I Love Trouble. Maybe someday I shall stumble upon it. That will be a lucky day!


Montag said...


Thanks so much for this excellent review. I'd been trying to do some research on the pulp/film noir/hardboiled detective origins of 77 Sunset Strip and this has been very helpful.

@J. Kingston Pierce:

The film I LOVE TROUBLE (1948) can be viewed online at the Internet Archive ( in the Film Noir section of the Moving Image Archive.

The print is unfortunately not in the best of shape, but since the movie has been allowed to fall out of copyright and to lapse into the public domain, we'll probably never see a restored version on DVD - which is a shame because it's a terrific little film noir.

I loved the CITY OF ANGELS series, too, and wasn't aware it had come out on DVD (another series I'd love to find on DVD is Robert Forster's BANYON).

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