Tony Costaine & Bert McCall

Created by Neil MacNeil
Pseudonym of W.T. Ballard (Willis Todhunter Ballard)

Other pseudonyms include P. D. Ballard, Harrison Hunt,  John Shepherd

TONY COSTAINE and BERT McCALL were these two high-flying, happy-go-lucky high-priced eyes who made like a couple of swinging dicks in the Rat Pack era of the late fifties/early sixties. But never let it be said that these very swinging, very cool and cocky bruisers ever let their pursuit of all things female ever (well, hardly ever) interfere with their very successful and profitable business. In fact, the Costaine and McCall Investigative Agency, which specialized in solving business problems, was so successful that they routinely asked for (and got) $20,000 as a typical starting fee. And that’s in 1950s bucks!

Of course, for that much moolah, their clients got two of the most efficient and qualified investigators in the biz, with well-deserved reputations for their smarts and toughness. They’re both former agents for the FBI and OSS. Tony, educated at Dartmouth and the Columbia Law School, is a big strapping fellow, with movie star looks, who dresses sharp, and acts as the brains of the outfit. Not that Bert’s some dummy, but the Great Scot’s expertise tends to the more physical part of the job. He’s a rugged six-foot five and three-quarters of an inch tall and weighs in at a well-built two hundred and fifty pounds, drinks Scotch by the case, and–perhaps most terrifying of all–plays the bagpipes.

Tony and Bert appeared in several enjoyable books, all reportedly witty and well-written, not to mention fun and frothy, and filled with lucious, well-endowed and willing babes.

Their clients tended to be from the corporate world, and often involved the shenanigans and misfortunes of various exectives, corporate-level fraud, industrial sabotage, and the like, but often took a wacky turn. In Hot Dam (1960), for example, the blurb promises an unfinished dam, a whisky mine, “murderers, salacious Scots, and kidnappers in kilts,” and in their final outing, The Spy Catchers (1966), published smack dab in the middle of the sixties spy craze, they’re out to stop a revolutionary weapon, a cosmic death ray gun, from falling into the wrong hands.

Neil MacNeil was actually W.T. Ballard, one of the more prolific and talented of the pulpsters, who just kept on trucking long after the pulp market dried up, writing crime fiction and Westerns for the burgeoning paperback market. His most famous creation, however, was Hollywood trouble shooter Bill Lennox, who appeared in the pages of Black Mask. Other P.I.s include Sam Boyd and Mark Foran, and he even did a TV tie-in Novel for Bearcats!


  • “To be fair, Ballard could do this kind of book in his sleep, but thankfully he doesn’t. The boys are cool and smart, McCall just dumb enough to get them in trouble and Costaine just smart enough to get them out.”
    — David L. Vineyard (June 2009, Mystery*File)


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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