Created by John Gonzales
Pseudonym of Robert Terrall
Other pseudonyms include Robert Kyle, Brett Halliday
Robert Terrall‘s probably best “known” for his Mike Shayne books that he was under the house name of Brett Halliday, or maybe his Ben Gates books that he wrote as Robert Kyle, but he also wrote four (or was it five?) Gold Medal paperback originals about reporter HARRY HORNE. Under yet another pen name.
New York City may be where Harry’s based and where he keeps his Scotch, but in those five books, our roving reporter gets around and, as Jeff Pierce over at the Rap Sheet helpfully points out, he also possessed a “no less roving eye” for the ladies. Which makes me wonder exactly how we’re supposed to pronounce his last name.
This is typical P.I. stuff of the era, more Shell Scott than Mike Hammer or Lew Archer, with a lot of wink-wink and nudge-nudge going on. Lots of innuendo and euphemisms, but most of the sex happens off-page. Racy stuff back then, maybe; about as risqué as a PTA meeting now. But it’s all in good fun, and as Harry stumbles and bumbles from clue to clue (and bedroom to bedroom), getting hit on the head and hit on, he usually gets the job done, and nobody–except the bad guys–really gets hurt.
These are not lost classics, but Terrall was a pro who knew how to entertain. He produced a steady stream of quality work (including a pretty good standalone or two). So it’s gratifying to see our pals at Hard Case Crime take an interest in him, reprinting one of his Ben Gates books, Kill Now, Pay Later in 2007, nearly 40 years after 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 his 2016 film 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.
- “Plenty Sex, Plenty Money, Plenty Excitement!”
— Brooklyn Daily News on Out of the Frying Pan Into the Funeral
- “A blurb on the 1963 novel Follow That Hearse, the Horne series’ fifth installment, says that he’s ‘hot on the trail of a cool million stolen dollars while warming more beds along the way than Don Juan ever dreamed of.’ Tough guys, I guess, demand tender loving care.”
— J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet)
- Death for Mr. Big (1951) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- End of a J.D. (1960; aka “Out of the Frying Pan Into the Funeral”) | Kindle it!
- Someone’s Sleeping in My Bed (1963) | Buy this book
- Follow That Hearse! (1963) | 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)