Created by Thomas B. Dewey
Pseudonyms include Tom Brandt and Cord Wainer
“It may be that the recent white Anglo-Saxon Christian struggle to canonize the informer will be lost in the rivers and back streets of America, where ‘rat’ is still spelled with three letters and the only way to save your life is to lose it. The thing about a code, whether you go for its objectives or not, is that it works. When it stops working, it stops being a code.”
— You’ve Got Him Cold
The missing link between Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, Thomas B. Dewey‘s “MAC” ROBINSON (usually just referred to as “Mac”) was the original compassionate eye, setting the stage for Archer, Dan Fortune, Bill Pronzini’s Nameless, et al — and one of the most must-read private eyes you’ve never heard of.
But don’t read the Mac books for their historical significance. Read ’em because they’re great, displaying a rare sensitivity for their time. Mac’s turf was Chicago, and he went down those mean streets (the actual title of one of his novels) toting a sensitivity and empathy, particularly for young people, that stood in stark contrast to the popular P.I. psycho-dramas of that post-war era. He was obviously inspired by Chandler, but the sharpness of Marlowe’s vision was replaced by a gentler irony, and although he certainly could could handle himself when push came to shove, he also displayed a vulnerability and quiet intelligence that was surprising for the genre–then and now.
He was no Mike Hammer, out to set the world ablaze–that’s for sure. As he puts it in Draw the Curtain Close (1947), the first novel in the series: “Call me Mac… I’m just a guy. I go around and get in jams and then try to figure a way out of them. I work hard. I don’t make very much money and most people insult me one way or another. I’m thirty-eight years old, a fairly good shot with small arms, slow-thinking but thorough and very dirty in a clinch.”
There were seventeen books in all in the series, a snapshot of America that took Mac from the raw, rough post-war era all the way through to the beginning of the seventies, and yet his basic decency and compassion rarely wavered.
Dewey also created a series featuring Pete and Jeannie Schofield, which followed a private eye who solved his cases with the aid of his wife, and another series featuring hotel owner and wannabe private dick Singer Batts.
- “I haven’t found a Mac novel that I didn’t enjoy.”
— J. Kingston Pierce
- Draw the Curtain Close (1947) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Every Bet’s a Sure Thing (1953) | Kindle it!
- Prey for Me (1954; aka “The Case of the Murdered Model”) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Mean Streets (1954) | Kindle it!
- The Brave, Bad Girls (1956) | Kindle it!
- You’ve Got Him Cold (1958) | Kindle it!
- The Case of the Chased and the Chaste (1959) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Girl Who Wasn’t There (1960; aka “The Girl Who Never Was”) | Kindle it!
- How Hard to Kill (1962)
- A Sad Song Singing (1963) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Don’t Cry for Long (1964) | Kindle it!
- Portrait of a Dead Heiress (1965) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Deadline (1966) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Death and Taxes (1967) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The King Killers (1968) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Love-Death Thing (1969)
- The Taurus Trap (1970) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- “The Big Job” (1965, The Saint’s Mystery Magazine)
- Thomas B. Dewey
A brief bio, taken from Brian Ritt’s Paperback Confidential (2013).
- Dewey Does It: Hailing One of Crime Fiction’s Underrated Stars
J. Kingston Pierce’s telling June 2014 take on Dewey, from Kirkus.
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- October 24, 2021
THE BOTTOM LINE: Tougher than Archer, less cartoony than Hammer, one of the great unsung post-war eyes. A definite Hall of Famer.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.