“Rock” Dugan

Created by Stephen Brett
Pseudonym of Stephen Mertz
Other pseudonyms include Jim Case, and  pseudonyms Jack Buchanan, Cliff Garnett, Don Pendleton and Dick Stivers

Published under the pen name of Stephen Brett (a wink to Brett Holliday), prolific pulpster and Men’s Adventure writer Steve Mertz’s first book was a P.I. paperback original, Some Die Hard. It came out way back in 1979, and boy, does it show it!

As the back cover blurb puts it, ex-stuntman and private eye “ROCK” DUGAN is “a hip thirty year old Vietnam vet (weren’t they all, by then?) who runs his own one-man private detective agency (Kilroy Investigations) in the swinging Mile High City of Denver, Colorado.”

“Hip”? “Swinging”? And the murder victim is killed while flying solo on a glider while a crowd watches from below? And Rock drives a frickin’ Chevrolet Nova?

If this sucker was any more seventies, it would have had a smiley face on its oh-so-seventies cheesy photo cover.


Or should that be “far-out”?

Along the way, while trying to solve the seemingly impossible crime, Rock has to deal with “the decadent super-rich, dangerous hoods, crooked cops and beautiful women.”

Which is all to be expected. Mertz is a true fan of the P.I. genre, and he can’t help but seed the book with mini-shout-outs. Rock, of course, is also a mystery fan, and Perry Mason, the Hardy Boys, Philip Marlowe, Ellery Queen John Dickson Carr and Mike Hammer are all casually name-checked.

It may not be quite as hard-boiled or action-packed as his later work might suggest (Rock shows signs of being a sensitive kinda guy, who doesn’t like to carry “heat” while working a case), but he’s plenty tough when he has to be. As Even Lewis puts it in a great overview, it’s “a nicely rounded mystery with just about the right amounts of sex, violence and old-fashioned deduction.”

Lewis goes on to point out that, as unMarlowelike as Rock may be, he was still able to come up with some Chandler-worthy cracks, like “I wouldn’t have left Langdon Springs then for all the graft in Washington.” or “And there he is, deader than Philadelphia on a Tuesday night.”


Stephen Mertz has traveled widely and is a U.S. Army veteran. A long time fan of the P.I. genre, Some Die Hard was his first book. Since then, he’s cranked out over sixty books, writing military action, paranormals, historical fiction, adult westerns, and even a vampire novel, as well as mainstream thrillers, but he’s probably best known (to those in the know) for his Men’s Adventure books. He’s been credited with writing some of the very best Executioner/Mack Bolan novels as “Don Pendleton,” and creating the bestselling MIA Hunter and Cody’s Army series, as “Jack Buchanan” and “Jim Case,” respectively. He’s also a popular lecturer on writing, and has appeared as a guest speaker before writer’s groups and at universities. He currently lives somewhere in the American Southwest, and is always at work on a new book.

Sadly, Some Die Hard was Dugan’s only appearance, although he did eventually return to Shamus Town, with a new series, set in the seventies about a tough-guy private eye named… Kilroy.

Which, of course, was the name of Rock’s agency.


  • “Ranks right up there with the best in the genre . . . strongly recommended!”
    — Wayne D. Dundee
  • “One of my favorite writers . . . A born storyteller who deserves to be much more than the genres best-kept secret!”
    — Max Allan Collins


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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