Pete Shay

Created by Peter McCurtin
Pseudonyms include Jack Slade, Gene Curry

PETE SHAY is a New York City private eye who appeared in two 1979 gritty paperback originals from Belmont Tower—Minnesota Strip and Loanshark.

Given the publisher, it’s no surprise that Shay is cut from very familiar cloth. Divorced, an ex-cop (ex-MP in his case), working out of a seedy office in a seedy part of town, living in a seedy hotel. He is tough, cynical and bitter. His work brings him regularly into contact with hoods, thugs, pimps, hookers, bent cops, and the generally downtrodden of his city. The opening tag line on the back cover synopsis for Minnesota Strip sums things up pretty well by stating: “Shay was down on his luck—if he ever had any to begin with.”

Or how about this promotional  promise for Loanshark?

“He’d be up to his shoulder-holster in blood and bullets before this case was finished!”

Like I said, all of this is well-mined territory. But sometimes, in the right hands, familiarity can breed not contempt but rather contentment. And so it is here, at least for this reader. In the capable hands of a seasoned pro like McCurtin (he wrote the Assassin and Soldier of Fortune Mens’ Adventure series), the Shay novels are just plain entertaining reads for anybody who likes the basic hard-boiled genre. The writing is solid, and the pacing grabs you and takes smoothly from scene to scene.

Alas, the series never lasted long enough to garner numbers in the title, a sure sign of popularity in the Men’s Adventure line.

And it’s almost certain that’s what the author was aiming for.

One tradition that McCurtin does break is that Shay has no buddy contact on the police force, or crusading news reporter, or anyone of that nature. His closest friend, in an odd kind of way, seems to be his ex. She’s always bitching (ex-wives in these books seem to always bitch) at him for past due alimony and for not finding a better means of support than his scraping-by detective business; he’s always complaining about her nagging him. They bicker and call each other vile names whenever they speak. Yet any time they’re in the same room together they seem unable to keep from jumping each other’s bones and having rough, almost brutal sex. Then it’s immediately back to the bickering and name-calling. Go figure.

Shay is a bit of a racist, definitely a sexist, and mostly displays a don’t-give-a-damn attitude toward everybody he meets. Basically, he doesn’t seem to care much for anyone, including himself. Yet, while he’s not above squeezing an unwary client for every last dime, once he’s on the case he gives it his all. Even if it pits him against threatening thugs and big name hoods. Shay handles such confrontations with a trusty .38 which he alternately uses to bash in antagonists’ faces or simply blow them away.

It all adds up to hard-boiled fare, well told. Probably not for everybody, but those who cut their reading teeth on post-Spillane tough guys of the fifties and early sixties very likely will enjoy these books.


Born in Ireland in 1929, Peter J. McCurtin immigrated to America in his early twenties, and apparently found work as an editor in the publishing business, co-editing the short-lived (one issue) New York Review with William Atkins, and working on Calvacade and All-Man. By the early 1960s, he was co-owner of a bookstore in Maine, where he often spent his summers, and eventually he went to work for Midwood publisher Harry Shorten who put McCurtin to work editing books for his Tower, Belmont and Leisure lines.  McCurtin also wrote some of the books, both under his own name and house names, and occasionally hired other writers to create books under the byline “Peter McCurtin.” His first “real” (as opposed to porn) book, Mafioso (1970) was nominated for an Edgar Award, and was subsequently filmed in 1973 as The Boss. Sniffing success, he wrote several more books about the mob, wrote a slew of Men’s Adventure books, including the Assassin and Soldier of Fortune series, as well as several westerns.


  • “Deft storytelling at a sprightly pace… skillfully concocted.”
    — Publisher’s Weekly



Respectfully submitted by Wayne D. Dundee.

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