Created by Stuart Palmer
Pseudonyms include Jay Stewart
A tongue-in-cheek spin on the hard-boiled detective genre (Mike Grost dubbed him “the least hard-boiled of all private eyes”), HOWIE ROOK is a former Los Angeles newshawk turned P.I., about as hard-boiled as a bowl of soup. He’s an odd duck, who views women with disdain, collects newspaper clippings and isn’t shy about casting dispersions on the competence of the police in a stream of letters to his former newspaper.
Of course, that means he finds more than a few wingnuts on his doorstep, asking him for help, which in turn lands him in some mighty peculiar situations, such as going undercover at a circus.
Unfortunately, Rook only appeared in a couple of novels and only a few short stories.
Before turning to writing mysteries, Stuart Palmer worked as an apple picker, a journalist and an advertising copywriter. He’s probably best known for creating spinster amateur sleuth Hildegarde Withers, who appeared in fourteen novels and several short stories, several of which featured Craig Rice‘s John J. Malone.
Coincidentally, a 1941 novel featuring Hildegarde Withers, Palmer’s best known character, was called The Case of the Happy Hooligan; fifteen years later, Rook appeared in The Unhappy Hooligan (1956).
- There’s some speculation that the final Rook short story “The Stripteaser and the Private Eye,” was actually written (or possibly completed) by fellow crime writer Fletcher Flora after Palmer’s unexpected death in February 1968. Flora had already been commissioned to complete Palmer’s unfinished novel Hildegarde Withers Makes the Scene, and the manuscript for the short story was also found in Flora’s papers (now held at the University of Kansas). Also found in Flora’s papers were a couple of other Hildegarde Withers short stories, both eventually published in EQ. Unfortunately, Flora died the same year as well, so we may never know.
- Unhappy Hooligan (1956) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Rook Takes Knight (1968) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- “The Murder Mask” (June 1955, The American Magazine)
- “Rook’s Gambit” (May 1964, Chase)
Later expanded into the novel Rook Takes Knight.
- “The Stripteaser and the Private Eye” (November 1968, EQMM)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.