Harry MacNeil

Created by H. Paul Jeffers
Pseudonyms include M. T. Jefferson & Harry Paul Lonsdale

HARRY MacNEIL is a New York P. I. who appeared in three books, all set in the Big Apple in the years leading up to World War II.

Rubout at the Onyx (1981) is a private eye story, but by no means is it your common, everyday sort of private eye story. Instead, it’s a swinging trip into the past, an excursion by make-believe time machine into the history book of yesterday, back to the post-Prohibition jazz-era days of the Big Apple’s “Cradle of Jazz” — Fifty-Second Street, that is, between Fifth and Sixth. The year, 1935.

The private eye is HARRY MacNEIL. His office is located upstairs over the Onyx Club, the heart of the jazz district. His client is a lately bereaved widow. Her husband was a two-bit gambler who was rubbed out downstairs on New Year’s Eve. She brings Harry a message in code that may lead them to a three million dollar fortune in stolen diamonds. She is also a little lonely.

Balancing the two rather nicely, Jeffers never really seems to commit himself all the way to whether he’s writing a history first, or a mystery. Whatever it is, in the end, there’s no doubt whatsoever that it’s a lot more fun to puzzle through than any classroom textbook anyone’s ever been assigned to read. Strictly as a mystery, though… well, sad to say, there’s no great revelation that comes at the end. MacNeil uncovers the truth by just plain diligence, and the culprit is fairly obvious from a long way off.

I’d give it a B minus.


Under the pseudonym M.T. Jefferson, Harry Paul Jeffers wrote another historical series, the three-book World War II-era  Homefront Mystery series, featuring amateur sleuth Kate Fallon, who’s trying like hell to keep the homefires burning while her fiancé is overseas, and as Harry Paul Lonsdale he write a couple of books about Nick Chase, an NYPD homicide dick who chucks it all to open a cigar shop in Boston. Under his own name, he’s also written a slew of non-fiction books on such varied topics as Teddy Roosevelt, axe murders, the Great Depression, Grover Cleveland, the Vatican and Sal Mineo,


  • “Like Steve, I thought these were okay, but–shallow creature that I am– I really loved the covers on the paperback editions, which used old black and white crime photos, and had such a great Weegee vibe to them.”
    — Kevin Burton Smith


Mini-review respectfully submitted by Steve Lewis. An earlier version of this appeared in the November/December 1981 issue of The MYSTERY FANcier. Used with permission of the author.

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