Created by Whit Masterton
Pseudonym of Robert Wade
and Bill Miller
Other pseudonyms include Wade Miller, Dale Wilmer, & Will Daemer
“He didn’t look like a detective or much like anything else either, which was a great advantage to him.”
A cynical divorce detective, baking his ass off under the harsh sun of the endless Southern California desert, MORT HAGEN has been to war (he was in Army Intelligence, stationed in the South Pacific) and he was even briefly married (it didn’t end well), and he figures he’s pretty much seen it all. And finds it lacking. But hey, whaddya expect for fifty bucks a day, plus expenses?
The world-weariness just seems to drip from the pages of Whit Masterton’s 1955 wonderfully hard-boiled standalone, Dead, She Was Beautiful. It has a great opening that sees Mort, on his way to meet a potential client, casting a severely jaundiced eye on a freshly painted billboard that proudly proclaims would soon be “Oakmar: A Modern Community for Morden Living.” But it’s only a come-on, “an advertising promise, an unborn town,” and he gleefully notes that “on all sides of it the sagebrush stretched away unbroken.”
The client he’s calling on turns out to be Wayne Wishart, the successful real estate developer who’s behind Oakmar. It seems that Mr. Wayne Wishart suspects Mrs. Wayne Wishart of being “unfaithful,” and would like Mort to find out, one way or another.
Only problem is that three years earlier, Mort soon discovers, very much to his dismay, that Mrs. Wayne Wishart had been Mrs. Mort Hagen.
Coincidence? Or something else? The former Mrs. Hagen (née Hildy Christy) ain’t saying–mostly because shortly after her ex takes the job of tailing her, she turns up dead. And Mort is the prime suspect.
It’s all standard fifties private eye hijinks, but Whit Masterton (actually a joint pen name of Bob Miller and Robert Wade, who usually wrote as Wade Miller) was a genius at this stuff, cranking out tough, taut little nuggets like this with ease.
- “… the dialogue crackling with energy, the plot blazing along with grace and rapidity. This is a book moving with machine-like precision, with two authors writing at the top of their game. And while much of the prose is trimmed down to a stark, bare-bones core built for speed, it has moments of creative beauty standing out in sharp contrast.”
— Admiral Ironbones (November 2014, Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased)