Wilson (Hall)

Created by David C. Hall

“There was nothing to think about, it was just a matter of keeping on, and there was nowhere to go but straight. Eventually she would get tired. Everybody gets tired, everybody makes mistakes. Which was why, Wilson thought,  you didn’t have to be very smart to do his job.”

Return Trip Ticket is a private eye novel written in English by American writer David C. Hall, who was living in Spain at the time. Written in English, it was translated into Spanish and published there as Billete de vuelta in 1990, where it drew considerable praise. Still, it seems likely it never would have even made it to these shores save for one important fact: it drew high praise from celebrated mystery author Donald Westlake.

But Westlake din’t just blurb it—he wrote an introduction, which was subsequently reprinted in The Armchair Detective.

Westlake loved it, claiming it a worthy update   “honorably continues and extends” the traditions of the genre,  and drew heavy comparisons to the work of Raymond Chandler (Westalke tosses the word “tarnished” around a bit) and most particularly Dashiell Hammett.

Hall’s private detective WILSON is, like Hammett’s Continental Op, a fat, middle-aged man working for a large detective agency, in this case Chicago’s Ajax Detective Agency. He’s as world-weary as a doormat and hard-boiled to a fault, a modern (Kirkus called it postmodern) take on the Op, working yet another wandering daughter job.

On behalf of her wealthy father, he’s sent off to Spain (he happens to speak Spanish) to hunt down missing heiress and possible kidnap victim Elizabeth Dantry. She had been half-heartedly taking courses in Barcelona, before becoming tangled up with some dubious types: a lover who may not be all he seems,  an experimental theatre director a little too fond of orgies, and perhaps most troublesome, a gang of violent radicals calling themselves the Apocalypse. And now she seems to have disappeared.

Wilson doggedly pursues the elusive, troubled Elizabeth through Barcelona, through locations high and low, and eventually tracks her down, only to discover that his job has only just begun. Somebody wants her dead—or at least to ask her some troubling questions about a murder in which she may have been involved.

They take it on the lam, in between numerous flashbacks and digressions, all the way back to the States, where they hole up in a fleabag motel in the California desert. No longer her shadow, Wilson is now her protector.


David C. Hall grew up in the Midwest and bumped around the United States working odd jobs (the Forest Service in Oregon, flipping pancakes in Seattle) until he landed in Barcelona in 1974, where he taught English and worked as a translator, and became active in local politics. His first crime novel, written in English, was published in Spanish as Cuatro días (Four Days) in 1984. Billete de vuelta (1990) appeared in the United States in 1992 as Return Trip Ticket, while his latest mystery, Barcelona Skyline, featuring restauranteur and part-time private eye Elso Bari appeared in 2013.

  • “Don’t expect too many answers in this affectless tour de force.”
    — Kirkus
  • Return Trip Ticket honorably continues and extends (the traditions of the genre), remaining true to its finest antecedents while stretching its range to include the reality of today, those facts of our world which didn’t exist sixty years ago, when the predecessors of Hall’s private eye, were born…”
    — Donald Westlake in the introduction to Return Trip Ticket


  • Billete de vuelta (1990; aka Return Trip Ticket) | Buy this book


  • One and Done
    Some Notable Private Eyes Who’ve Appeared in Only One Novel
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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