Created by James Hadley Chase
Pseudonym of Rene Brabazon Raymond
Other pseudonyms include Raymond Marshall, Ambrose Grant, James L. Doherty
“My name is Dirk Wallace: unmarried, pushing 40 years of age, tall, dark, with a face that, so far, doesn’t frighten the kiddies.”
— beginning lines of Hit Them Where It Hurts
When a frog farmer’s grandson goes missing, or a mother wants someone to find out who is blackmailing her daughter, who do they call?
Why, DIRK WALLACE of the Paradise, Florida-based Parnell Detective Agency, of course. In his first adventure, Hand Me a Fig Leaf (1981) by James Hadley Chase, Dirk is dispatched by Colonel Parnell himself to the hick town of Searle (wherever that is) to find the aforementioned grandchild, only to get caught up in a drug trafficking ring. Seems there’s something in those cans of frog legs besides frog legs.
And things get even dicier in the 1984 follow-up, Hit Them Where It Hurts, when Dirk finds himself way out of his depth when a simple blackmail case brings him and his assistant into a dangerous conflict with some very organized crime, and Dirk’s fiancée, Suzy, is murdered. As, you know, a subtle warning. So Wallace and his assistant quit the Agency, because the Agency has its rules. And Dirk Wallace doesn’t want to have to play by the rules anymore.
Hand Me a Fig Leaf and Hit Them Where it Hurts are actually the second and third of Chase’s books involving the detective agency owned and operated by Parnell, a Vietnam veteran. It’s apparently a going concern, one of the most respected agencies on the Atlantic Coast, headquartered on the top floor of the Trueman Building on Paradise Avenue on Paradise City.
Never a stickler for American geography (or any sort of detail, really), it’s probably a good thing Chase finally created a fictional city and stuck with it. It’s just a shame it took him so late in his career to do it. The totally fictional Paradise City was the setting for the Parnell Agency books (see below) novels, as well as several featuring Capt. Terrell and Detective Tom Lepski of the local police, perhaps Chase’s most enduring characters, who appeared in Well Now My Pretty, There’s a Hippy on the Highway, Believed Violent, Want to Stay Alive?, You Must Be Kidding and Try This One For Size. They also popped up in Hit Them Where It Hurts.
But I digress…
In the first of the “Parnell” series, A Can of Worms (1979), another Parnell man, Bart Anderson, takes the lead, as he comes across a wanted felon while doing a routine tail job for a rich author who just wants to research his next book, while his fellow op, Dirk, takes the lead in Hand Me a Fig Leaf and Hit Them Where It Hurts, which turned out to be Chase’s last novel.
But if private eye Dirk (or Bart) don’t quite strike your fancy, don’t sweat it. During his long and successful career, Chase pumped out a wide assortment of generally ruthless and cynical hard guy P.I.’s, including Dave Fenner, Vic Mallory, Ryan Nelson and Floyd Jackson.
HEY! WAIT A MINUTE!
- In updating this entry, I came across a curious thing–various reviewers and bloggers refer to the agency where Dirk works as, alternately, The Parnell Detective Agency, the Paradise City Detective Agency or the Acme Detective Agency. What gives? Did everyone go to the bar but me, was Chase that sloppy a writer, or were different publishers tailoring different versions for different markets?
- A Can of Worms (1979; featuring P.I. Bart Anderson) | Buy this book
- Hand Me a Fig Leaf (1981) | Buy this book
- Hit Them Where It Hurts (1984) | Buy this book
Respectfully submitted by Dale Stoyer, with a little interference by Kevin Burton Smith.