Created by Joseph Hansen
Pseudonyms include include Rose Brock & James Colton
Tall, lean, with a “shock of Indian-black hair,” usually clad in jeans, cowboy boots and a plaid shirt, HACK BOHANNON looks more like a cowboy than a private detective. And, if he had his druthers, that’s probably the way he’d prefer it.
Just living his life, riding horses and working his boarding stable and ranch in Rodd Canyon (Ho-ho! Good one, Joe!) out near Madrone, on California’s rugged central coast. Truth to tell, Hack loves animals, especially horses—it’s people he’s not too sure of.
Several years ago, his wife, Linda, was brutally attacked and raped, and has been in a coma in a mental institution ever since. Hack left the sheriff’s department, feeling the sheriff himself was partly to blame for what happened.
So fuck ’em.
Now he works his ranch, with the aid of Stubbs, a cranky old cuss of an ex-rodeo rider, who works as Hack’s cook and all-round handyman, and Rivera, a slender, dark youth studying for the priesthood, who works part-time. It’s a man’s man’s world, all right, where men are men, and women tend to bring trouble. A sub-theme right out of Hemingway– men without women.
But after fourteen years in the sheriff’s department, some people still come to him when they need help. So he keeps his P.I. license up to date–just in case, taking on a case every now and then.
Reluctantly or not, though, he goes about his business in a very efficient, yet dry and detached fashion and with a hardened pragmatism that would make Gary Cooper proud. Even his increasing sense of mortality, and his growing dissillusionment with himself and the world he lives in, can’t diminish that.
The Hack Bohannon short stories appeared more or less regularly for several years in the pages of Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen, where Hansen’s work always stood out. Of course, Hansen is best known for creating homosexual freelance insurance investigatort Dave Brandstetter, not just one of the most important private eye series, for introducing a realistic gay P.I. into the world of detective fiction, but also, and this is usually overlooked, simply one of the best. Hansen was some kind of writer, possessing a succinctness with words that even Hammett would have admired.
- “The Tango Bear” (December 1984, EQMM)
- “Snipe Hunt” (February 1985, EQMM)
- “Witch’s Broom” (December 1986, AHMM)
- “Merely Players” (February 1987, AHMM)
- “Death of an Otter” (October 1987, AHMM)
- “The Olcott Nostrum” (December 1987, AHMM)
- “The Owl in the Oak” (March 1988, AHMM)
- “An Excuse for Shooting Earl” (September 1992, AHMM)
- “A Woman’s Voice” (September 1993, AHMM)
- “Survival” (October 1998, AHMM; also 1999, The Best American Mystery Stories)
- “Confessional” (Fall 1998, MHCMM)
- “Home is the Place” (January 2000, EQMM)
- “Widower’s Walk” (January 2000, AHMM)
- “Widdershins” (Summer 2000, MHCMM)
- Brandstetter and Others (1984; includes “The Tango Bear”)
- Bohannon’s Book (1988) | Buy this book
- Bohannon’s Country (1993) | Buy this book
- Blood, Snow, and Classic Cars: Mystery Stories (2000) | Buy this book
- Bohannon’s Women (2002) | Buy this book
THE DICK OF THE DAY
- September 7, 2023
The Bottom Line: Tough as old leather and dry as desert scrub, this ex-sheriff turned rancher and sometime-P.I. prefers horses to people, in a series of vividly rendered stories by one of the genre’s masters. You prefer Hammett to Chandler? Read some Hansen.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.