Created by W. Glenn Duncan
“Smiting the wicked sounds biblical, but mostly it’s good clean fun.”
— Rafferty’s Rule #39.
At first sniff, it may smell a like Spenser with a cowboy hat, but take a good whiff: W. Glenn Duncan’s Dallas, Texas private eye RAFFERTY was actually a blast of fresh air in what was rapidly becoming a glut of sensitive, soul-searching, overly politically-correct cookie cutter Spenser-ish P.I.s in the late eighties.
Of course, it helped that Dallas ain’t Boston.
In fact, Rafferty may have at first glance shared some DNA with the Beantown eye — he was, after all, a rough, tough (and extremely entertaining) ex-cop turned private eye and self-professed thug in a decidedly adult relationship, but in other ways he was a real throwback to an earlier era; owing at least as much to all those pulpy Gold Medal of the fifties, as well a healthy dose of manly adventire books from the seventies. So, yeah, Rafferty screws up sometimes, he drinks too much, he shoots off his gun (and his mouth) too much at the wrong times, and brawn always seems to win over brains, but damn, he’s also a hell of a lot of fun to follow. Because sometimes you just want to see someone shoot a gun without moralizing about it, you know?
So it’s very appropriate that his six original adventures were all paperback originals (they were even published by Fawcett), because Rafferty was definitely a working class, paperback kinda guy, with a taste for beer, Johnny Walker Red and an occasional pipe; a man who believes in the hands-on approach. And at 6’2″, and 220 pounds, he’s well prepared to take that approach. Granted, he also carries a .38 in a shoulder holster, with a .45 Colt military automatic as his backup “car gun.” His bag of tricks also includes a sawed-off Ithaca shotgun, a Winchester 12-guage pump, a blackjack, an ankle holter, and a box of garage door openers he carries in the trunk of his battered old Mustang.
You know, just in case…
Not that Rafferty was a complete throwback. In true eighties tradition, he had the almost-obigatory significant other, Hilda Gardener, an antiques store owner, who was every bit as sexy and smart as Susan Silverman, and a whole helluva lot less neurotic. And of course, there was a Hawk-like figure as well. Cowboy, whom Rafferty calls “the most dangerous man alive,” a gunshop owner who believes in taking the merchandise out for frequent test drives. But there’s also a little spin — Cowboy is usually accompanied by his wife, Mimi, who’s “shorter than short” and every bit as violent as her husband. Or Rafferty, for that matter.
Rafferty tends to play dirty, boasting at one point that he “hasn’t fought fair in twenty years.” No brainiac, his chief M.O. seems to be to stir things up, and then see what happens. And he tends to be pretty stubborn, as well. “I often ignore what people tell me to do,” he says.
Like, no kidding. And that’s part of the fun.
Not that Rafferty’s completely without integrity — he lives by a seemingly endless set of rules and “aw, shucks” maxims he’s dubbed “Rafferty’s Rules” (also the title of the first book in the series). He’s not beyond reciting them to his readers, either; favouring them with choice bits of hard-boiled, folksy wisdom every now and then. The joke is that “Rafferty’s rules” is an Australian football term for “no rules at all.” The last book in the original series, Rafferty: Fatal Sisters won a 1991 Shamus for Best Paperback Original. All in all, an entertaining, and very highly recommended series.
W. Glenn Duncan was a former journalist and pilot who lived in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Texas and California, before settling in Australia with his wife and three children. Even more exciting news, though, is that one of those kids, his son Bill, has recently taken up the mantle. His first Rafferty novel, False Gods, was published in 2018, and a sequel, Wright or Wrong, followed in 2020.
- “One of the best and most underrated hardboiled, wisecracking, private eye series.”
— Paul Bishop
- “Twenty years have passed since the first of W. Glenn Duncan’s Rafferty novels hit the shelves. Damn, has it been that long? Just a week ago I picked up one of his novels and couldn’t help but notice how well the books have stood the test of time. Every novel’s plot is centered around an issue we still deal with today. Duncan truely captured the pure essence of the definitive smart-ass private eye in his character Rafferty. Take part Sam Spade with a little Mike Hammer, mix in some Spenser and you have an awesome character.”
— Cliff Fausset (Spring 2007)
- Rafferty’s Rules (1987) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Last Seen Alive (1987) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Poor Dead Cricket (1988) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1989) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Cannon’s Mouth (1990) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Fatal Sisters (1990) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- By Glenn W. Duncan, Jr.
- False Gods (2018) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Wright and Wrong (2020) | Kindle it!
- Three-in-a-Box (2017) | Kindle it!
The first three novels.
- Rafferty’s Rules
Our handy guide to all the rules you need, compiled from the original six books.
A son says goodbye.
- Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys
Contemporary Cowboy Eyes