Get 'em While They're Young: Kiddie Pulp

Henry Coffin
Created by Eve Bunting

HENRY COFFIN is the twelve-year old son of James Coffin, who represents one half of the wonderfully named Coffin and Pale Detective Agency. Young Henry is itching to be old enough to be a full partner, with or without his dad's current partner, George Pale.

You see, Henry has watched The Maltese Falcon a lot with his dad, and idolizes Sam Spade (as does his father). Henry's mom took off a long time ago, so it's just the two of them and Mrs. Sypes the housekeeper. Henry describes his outlook like this:

I have two fantasies. The first is that someday Mom will come knocking at the door and say, "I'm back. I lost my memory for twelve years, so I couldn't come sooner, but I found it again and here I am." My second fantasy is that a real gorgeous babe will come to the office and ask us to take her case. That's what always happens to Sam Spade and other detectives in old movies and books. In new ones too.

Of course, a variation of the second fantasy is what soon happens. High school beauty Lily Larson (une jeune femme fatale?) comes to the office and tries to hire the agency to find her missing mother. It is the fourth time Lily has lost her mother, but this time is different. When the elder Coffin quotes Rule Number Five in the detective's handbook ("Most things have a logical explanation"), Henry response is subdued:

I nodded. But I wasn't that sure, and I didn't know how he could be. We know of one mom who never did come back.

Henry's dad turns down the case since he has to go down to San Diego to help his partner on another case, but Lily soon calls Henry and enlists his help. Stolen artifacts, threatening kidnappers and a missing mileage book soon take Henry and Lily on a wild adventure.

Eve Bunting was nominated for an Edgar in 1989 for Is Anybody There? And actually won the 1993 Edgar for Coffin on a Case. She is the winner of the 1976 Golden Kite Award and received the 1977 Best Work of Fiction Award from the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People. Since 1958, she has lived in southern California with her husband and three children and worked as a lecturer when not writing. That can't be much of the time since she has published over 100 books.



Report respectfully submitted by Dale Stoyer.

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