Created by Robert J. Ray
Happiness is a warm gun for MATT MURDOCK, a pistol-packin’ P.I. from Orange County. The blurbs may mention Philip Marlowe and Travis McGee, but there’s more than a little Mike Hammer and Mack Bolan tossed in here, too.
Matt was an army brat who grew up all over the States. Seems his father, aka the “Top Kick” and the “Sergeant,” was a 30-year army man, and Matt grew up in Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and South Carolina. He and his father never really got along, though. In an act of rebellion, Matt dropped out of high school and joined the army himself. He picked up some shrapnel in his right thigh in Vienam, and later served in CID in Germany. Returning Stateside, he did a hitch with the CIA in California, teaching English (I’m not sure if this was a cover). In the seventies, he joined the police force, where he ended up training other officers in SWAT tactics and small arms in Los Angeles and Orange County.
And then he dropped out, went into construction, using the skills (and tools) his Uncle Walt had left him. When that business went belly up, he became a private eye, doing security consulting, bodyguard work and recovery of lost property and people. He works out of his office/apartment over a surf shop near the Newport Beach pier. Oh, and he allegedly does a bit of carpentry on the side.
Somewhere along the way, Matt was briefly married, but now he seems content to do manly things, playing soldier, bedding various “ladies” and cleaning his guns.
He isn’t so much politically incorrect, as just a plain out-dated and proudly out-of-touch, suspicious of almost anything post-1950 or so. He also seems a little out of focus as a character. Like, he claims to have been a professor of English, yet he boasts of all the books he hasn’t read. Women seem to be drawn to him, but he seems to have little use for them (beyond sex) or even display much respect for them –he collects photos of the various “ladies” he’s slept with. He refers to other people as “civilians,” and has this annoying habit of referring to himself in the third person. What’s that about?
He also collects guns. Lots of guns. A partial list of his weaponry includes a .357 Magnum with a 6″ barrel, a 12-gauge shotgun, a Colt Commando, a sawed-off shotgun, an army issue .45, a .22 target pistol, a .32 snubnose, a Colt Diamondback, an AR-15, a Beretta automatic 9mm with a silencer, a Smith and Wesson .38, a Winchester Defender short-barrel and a Walther PPK. He also boasts of “a hundred or so fake I.D.s,” and often employs such goodies as smoke bombs, plastic explosives, and stun guns.
As a detective, he makes a good one-man army. His M.O. seems to consist of a lot of shooting and stuff. Heads will be cracked, people will invariably be shot. In Murdock for Hire (1987), for example, he admits his strategy is to “line up your ducks before you shoot.” Where Murdock goes, mayhem seems to follow. Or, as Kirkus put it, in their review of Murdock Cracks the Ice (1992), “There’ll be injuries galore before Murdock wraps up the case.”
Me, I find there’s something vaguely cheesy about the books, but an awful lot of people seem to enjoy his rootin’-tootin’ two-fisted adventures, full of big booms and shoot’em ups (and the original illustrated covers had a nice pulpy feel to them). So what do I know?
Robert J. Ray has taught college literature, writing and tennis. His first novel, Cage of Mirrors (1980) featuring Texas private eye Clayton Yankee Taggart, failed to set the world on fire, but his subsequent Matt Murdockseries was much more successful. Ray is also the author of two writing guides, The Weekend Novelist (1994) and with Jack Remick The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery (1998).
- “Witty, sly and sneaky-fast…Murdock is a West Coast Travis McGee.”
— T. Jefferson Parker
- “The story never stops and the lushly decadent southern California life was never more so.”
–Publishers Weekly on Bloody Murdock
- “Murdock’s may be a man’s man, but he sure does a lot of pretty sexist whining. I mean, even I noticed it…”
— Duke Seabrook
- Bloody Murdock (1986) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Murdock for Hire (1987) | Buy this book
- Dial “M” for Murdock (1988) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Merry Christmas, Murdock (1989) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Murdock Cracks Ice (1992) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Murder Tackles Taos (2012) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Murder Rocks Sedona (2015) | Buy this book