Brock Devlin
Created by Scott Mitchell (pseudonym of Lionel Robert Holcombe Godfrey; 1932-- )

"I had long ago decided there had to be some difference between one side of the law and the other. So I would do it the hard way... you chump, I told myself. you poor deluded private cop. Brock Devlin -- the last flower of chivalry on our continent."
-- Devlin makes like Marlowe in
The Lonely Shroud

Tough LA dick BROCK DEVLIN (love the name!) is yet another British author's attempt to ape the American-style hard-boiled detective, but he was more successful than most, both artistically and commercially, having a solid run of fifteen or so books.

Brock's a big enough guy, 6'2" at least, "creeping upon forty" but he admits at one point that "a fair number of women were supposed to find me reasonably attractive." He carries a .38 Police Positive in a shoulder holster, smokes Chesterfields, and carries a flask, usually full of Four Roses bourbon. He drives an Olds that features a secret spring-loaded compartment hidden in the dashboard which conceals a small automatic.

Several characters comment that he looks tough, and he cops to a "facetious streak" and a tendency to crack wise, which is tempered by old-fashioned politeness. He lives alone in a small apartment, likes jazz, and blames an old flame for "addicting" him to Mozart. He also likes to read, and can quote from the classics when the spirit moves him. Cyrano de Bergerac is a particular favourite.

Brock operates a small Los Angeles detective agency ("Brody and Devlin, Investigations. No divorce work; trouble a speciality; success striven for but not guaranteed.") with his gum-chewing partner, Al Brody, who's been known to shave off a corner now and then. They sometimes work together, but usually they work separate cases.

There's the usual and expected nods to Chandler (and The Lonely Shroud boasts a particularly nice Big Sleep-style meditation of aging, responsibilities and the detective's lot), but the private eye Brock most reminds me of is William Campbell Gault's Brock Callahan. And it's not just the name. Like Gault's creation, Mitchell's eye is a big lug with hidden depths, a reasonable amount of compassion, a workmanlike approach to his work and a jaundiced eye.

Oh, and a steady love interest. Like many an eye before him, Brock has a thing going with his secretary, the spunky and intelligent Kay Stillman, an aspiring and successful novelist who nonetheless chooses to remain at Brody and Devlin. Brock figures one day they're bound to tangle, and sure enough they finally connect in The Lonely Shroud.

TRIVIA AND TRIVIER...

  • I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but Scott Mitchell was the name U.K. author John Harvey used for his own American-style private eye. After all, the prolific Harvey has a habit of playing fast and loose with the names of characters and pen names, and his private eye series started up about the time that the Brock Devlin series was winding down. Plus, could anyone have really saddled their kid with a monicker like "Lionel Robert Holcombe Godfrey"? And, as I said, the Devlin books were definitely a cut above the usual hard-boiled Americana as interpreted by British writers. Hmmmm.....

THE EVIDENCE

  • "Doesn't money impress you guys? That's un-American."
    -- The Lonely Shroud

  • "I specialize in urban decay."
    -- The Lonely Shroud

NOVELS

  • Sables Spell Trouble (1963)...Buy this book
  • Some Dames Play Rough (1963)
  • Deadly Persuasion (1964)
  • The Lonely Shroud (1964) ...Buy this book
  • Come, Sweet Death (1967)
  • Double Bluff (1968)
  • A Knife-Edged Thing (1969)
  • A Haven for the Damned (1971)
  • Rage in Babylon (1972)
  • You’ll Never Get to Heaven (1972)
  • The Girl in the Wet-Look Bikini (1973)
  • Dead on Arrival (1974)
  • Nice Guys Don’t Win (1974)
  • Over My Dead Body (1974)
  • Death’s Busy Crossroads (1975)
  • Obsession (1976)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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