Vinnie Altobelli

Created by Milton Bass

After a massive heart attack levels him, hot shot San Bernadino cop VINCENT “VINNIE” ALTOBELLI is forced to retire, and is left “walking on eggshells — afraid of over-exertion, sex and spaghetti” in the 1993 paperback original, The Half-Hearted Detective.

So what’s a guy to do? Apparently the obvious, non-stressful thing — he goes to work for a mob boss to find out who’s trying to kill him.

Yep. Sounds like like nice, relaxing work.

There was a sequel, The Broken-Hearted Detective, that came out the next year, with Vinnie stomping all over the Southwest, hunting for his missing nurse girlfriend and soon runs afoul of various FBI and CIA agents.

I read both of them, and I didn’t think they were all that bad. The health scare angle was handled well enough, I suppose, but could have dug a little deeper, and the broad humour sometimes fell flat;  the result left Vinnie feeling like just another generic, post-Spenser P.I., albeit one with a bad ticker.  I never bothered looking for the third — which, it turned out, didn’t exist. The Private Eye Writers of America thought enough of The Half-Hearted Detective, though, to nominate it for a Shamus for Best Paperback Original.


Milton Bass (sometimes Milton R. Bass) was born in and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s in English from Smith College in 1948. During World War II, he served in the army as a medic. After the war, he became a columnist and entertainer editor for the Berkshire Eagle. He’s probably best known for his four books back in the mid-to-late ’80s about a cop named Benny Freedman.



  • June 2, 2023
    The Bottom Line: Forced to resign from the San Berdoo PD after a massive heart attack, afraid of “over-exertion, sex and spaghetti,” Vinnie opts for a nice,  less stressful job—bodyguarding a mob boss? A Shamus finalist.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a special thank you to Big Phil for (finally) setting the record straight!


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