Ray Ripley

Created by Douglas Heyes
Pseudonyms include Matthew Howard

“Looking back, I can see how quitting a corrupt police force to go straight as a private cop was like a two-dollar whore coming out of a cathouse to set up shop as a virgin”

Douglas Heyes could have been a truly great P.I. novelist, but he had other things to do.

He drew comic strips. He worked as a cartoonist for Disney. He served in the army. And he wrote, directed and produced a shitload of TV and film stuff, often in association with Roy Huggins. And much of it featured private eyes of one sort or another.

Like RAY RIPLEY, who appeared in Heyes’ final novel, The Kill (1985), one of only a handful he managed to crank out (his first novel, The Kiss-Off, had originally appeared back in 1951, three books and thirty-five years earlier).

But like I said, he had other stuff to do.

The Kill is a period piece, set in the Los Angeles of the 1930s, possibly inspired by his work on City of Angels, the brilliant-but-cancelled 1976 TV series created by Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell. There certainly are some similarities.

Both feature former cops struggling to make a go of it in Hollywood as private eyes, although Ray is certainly a little smoother and better educated than City of Angels‘ corner-cutting Jake Axminster. He also tends to be a little less prone to scams and trickery, though it didn’t help Ray on the kidnapping case that ended badly, and lead to his resignation from the notoriously corrupt LAPD.

It’s the summer of 1938, and Ray’s not exactly setting the world on fire (he’s down to re-using his coffee grounds), so he reluctantly takes on a job from Fritz, a former buddy and well-off banker, who wants Ray to keep an eye on his girlfriend, an up-and-coming starlet named Gloria Savage. The problem is that Fritz married Ray’s ex, Dinah (whom, naturally, he still has feelings for) and now Fritz is cheating on her.

But the past isn’t finished pouring salt into Ray’s woulds. Gloria soon turns up dead, and Ray’s former LAPD partner–nobody’s idea of a good cop–may be involved.

Like Heyes’ other crime two novels, it’s a quick, fast read, and plenty of fun. Nominated for a Shamus, it may not break any new ground but, as J. Kingston Pierce points out in a 2011 retro review in Kirkus, it might even be an unused City of Angels script, cannibalized years later, and turned into  a novel.

As he gleefully points out, “There’s a reference here to one of the city’s old telephone exchanges—AXminster—and a key scene occurs in what is obviously the landmark, 1893 Bradbury Building, where (Jake) kept his office… one can easily imagine The Kill having been conceived as an episode of City of Angels.”


Initially a private in the 618th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, a cartoonist for Disney, a comic strip artist and a greeting card art director, Heyes has been involved in all sorts of P.I. things over the years, from books to radio, film and television, writing, directing, acting and Lord knows what else. He wrote novels about private eyes Steve Mallory and Lee Gordon, and was involved in directing and/or writing some other great P.I. (and P.I.-adjacent) tales on television and film, including the 1974 pilot The Underground Man, for a proposed series based on Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer, plus episodes of Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, City of AngelsThriller, Magnum P.I., Checkmate, Bearcats! and other series from 1950s through the 1970s, and enjoyed a long working association with Roy Huggins. His work was always good and always entertaining.


  • The Kill reads—in the best way—like Heyes’ ode to the pulp period of American detective fiction.”
    – J. Kingston Pierce
  • “For a long-time fan of hard-boiled noir fiction, The Kill is a treat.”
    — Bill Crider


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply