Created by Stephen Mertz
Other pseudonyms include Stephen Brett, Jim Case, and house pseudonyms Jack Buchanan, Cliff Garnett, Don Pendleton and Dick Stivers
“McShan! I want a report!”
— Agatha‘s refrain
Prolific pulpster (and huge P.I. fan) Stephen Mertz’s very first novel was Some Die Hard (which introduced Denver gumshoe “Rock” Dugan). It was published back in 1979, but it took the author a while (almost forty years and over sixty books) before he showed his face in Shamus Town again.
I still can’t figure out why.
It’s clear, though, that Mertz knows his stuff, and he certainly seems to know what he’s doing. His first P.I. novel in decades, the action-heavy Say It Was Murder (originally self-published in 2018), is rough, tough and right. As Even Lewis puts it in his great review, “This novel is not only more hard-boiled than the earlier book, it’s more thoughtful, it’s funnier, and the characters are more fully developed. More than anything, it reminds me of Ross Macdonald’s early (and best) Lew Archer novels.”
That’s pretty high praise, folks. After all, if Davy Crockett likes it…
Billed as “A McShan Thriller” (alas, we’re still waiting for number two), Say It Was Murder introduced us to McSHAN, your classic hard-boiled private eye, a mono-named, shaggy-haired and defiantly old-school dick with plenty of tricks up his sleeve and not a lot of patience for protocol, caught up in the gears of the serious-as-cancer Honeycutt Personal Services, a thoroughly modern, high-tech detective agency with offices around the country.
The perennial square peg in a corporate round hole, McShan’s regularly being chewed up by the bureaucracy, and chewed out by his boss, the abrasive, cantankerous Agatha Honey.
Only reason she doesn’t just fire his ass?
Because, as Evan puts it, “Much of the deftly handed humor is in the repartee between McShan and Agatha. He is unfailingly insubordinate, but gets away with it because he’s her best detective—and because she just plain likes him.”
It all plays out a bit like Mannix and Lew at Intertect, with some Donald and Bertha fireworks tossed in; a sort of humorous character study… with murder.
Don’t see the connections? Agatha is overweight, confined to a wheelchair, overbearing and as easy-going as diaper rash, and McShan often seems to annoy her just for fun.
The characters are great, the Southern Arizona is used to startlingly vivid effect, the dialogue snaps, crackles and pops, and the plot burns like a wildfire. Fans of old-fashioned hard-boiled action, in which damsels need saving, men need to save damsels and action is always the shortest distance between two plot points will dig Mertz’s first private eye novel in almost forty years.
Makes you wonder why he ever left…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephen Mertz has traveled widely and is a U.S. Army veteran. A long time fan of the P.I. genre, Some Die Hard, featuring private eye “Rock” Dugan, 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 Say It Was Murder in 2018, followed soon after by a new series, set in the seventies about a tough-guy private eye named… Kilroy.
- Say It Was Murder (2018) | Buy this book | Kindle it!