Created by Robert Kyle
Pseudonym of Robert Terrall
Other pseudonyms include John Gonzales, Brett Halliday
Apparently BEN GATES is “one of the few detectives in New York who can keep his mouth shut”, although “nobody claims he’s a saint.” He appeared in five affably amusing PBO’s printed by Dell in the late fifties/early sixties.
The usual period violence and smirky playboy private eye/man about town tropes abound, but there’s was also a lightness about them. Gates is no Shell Scott, but he does posess a glib, raffish charm and an appreciation for the finer things in life, most notably booze and attractive babes.
He’s also no loner — he’s surrounded by a rich supporting cast of kooks and oddballs, including his typewriter-fearing secretary and a hypochondriac Jewish buddy who’s built like a quarterback.
Even better, the Ben Gates novels had the stamp of approval by one of Dell’s biggest stars, Brett Halliday. According to Brett Halliday, creator of Mike Shayne, “”If I ever get on a case where I need help, I’ll call on Ben Gates first of all. The guy’s terrific.”
Hearty praise, indeed. Except that author Robert Kyle was actually Robert Terrall, who also wrote as John Gonzales. And as… Brett Halliday.
Yep. As Halliday, Terrall penned over two dozen of the Mike Shayne novels and several of the short stories in Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine, which may explain the blurb, which popped up on the paperback cover of the 1962 Gates novel Some Like It Cool.
Still, whatever the pen name, Terrall/Kyle/Halliday/Whatever was one of those guys who produced a steady stream of quality work (including a pretty good standalone or two), and another series about newshawk Harry Horne, another sleuth with an eye for the ladies, although he never quite cracked the big time. So it’s gratifying to see our pals at Hard Case Crime take an interest in him, reprinting Kill Now, Pay Later in 2007, nearly 40 years aftar it was last in print. And just as gratifying was seeing to see him get some love from filmmaker Shane Black in the credits to The Nice Guys.
Under his own name, even. If you look quickly, you can see for yourself, as “Acknowledgment to Blue Murder and the works of Brett Halliday, special thanks to Robert Terrall” flashes by in the credits.
- “Ben Gates proves himself a much better than average private eye…the telling is crisp and well paced.”
— The New York Times
- “Savagely funny.”
— Publishers Weekly
- Blackmail, Inc. (1958) | Buy this book
- Model for Murder (1959) | Buy this book
- Kill Now, Pay Later (1960) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Some Like It Cool (1962) | Buy this book
- Ben Gates Is Hot (1964) | Buy this book
- Rediscovering a Genre Star
J. Kingston Pierce’s great piece about Terrall shortly after the author’s death in 2009.
- How Shane Black’s Love Letter To 1970S Crime Fiction Put a Spotlight on Robert Terrall
Robert Terral’s son recalls his life and career, and a recent revival (March 2021, CrimeReads)