Created by Evan Hunter
Evan Hunter (a.k.a. Ed McBain) was a prolific genre author, but he didn’t create many private eyes, claiming that he found it “difficult to justify a private citizen investigating murders.” Consequently, the character of MILT DAVIS represents a relatively rare foray by this influential crime writer into the P.I. world.
Davis is a San Francisco based gumshoe whose stock-in-trade is, in his words, “trailing wayward husbands, or skip-tracing, or the occasional bodyguard stint.” He finds himself way over his head when he accepts a case that involves a commuter plane, a bomb and several million dollars in his only recorded case, the 1954 short story “Ticket to Death” (later reissued under Hunter’s preferred title of “Death Fight”).
Truth be told, the story is more-or-less apprentice level work for a writer of Hunter’s skill. While it’s totally professional and solid–Hunter was seemingly incapable of anything less–he was rather obviously still a few years away from creating the all-time classic 87th Precinct police procedural novels that made his name (or more accurately, McBain’s name).
McBainiacs will still want to check this story out, of course, along with his other PI’s: Matt Cordell/Curt Cannon, Ben Smoke and, arguably, Matthew Hope. But if you’re new to Hunter/McBain, you’ll want to head right over to the 87th Precinct novels and dive in. Because while he wrote tons of other good stuff too, hey, why not treat yourself to the best?
- “Ticket To Death” (September 1954, Argosy; aka “Death Flight”)