Pete McGrath

Created by Michael Brett (1921 -- 2000)

He's a big, handsome lug of a guy with black hair and blue eyes. He's appropriately cynical and has a habit of talking to himself. He likes Scotch, good cigars and Samantha Conners, a tour guide at the UN. He tools around town in a three year old Chevy and has been known to use a bug or two. But he's also been known to take a slightly more hands-on approach to cracking a case, so don't mess with him.

His name's PETE McGRATH, and he's a New York City eye who appeared in ten tight, hard and unjustly forgotten paperback originals from the sixties. But if you were expecting these to be some sort of patchouli-scented peace-and-love swinging sixties books, you might be disappointed -- just check out some of the titles... I mean, really, Death of a Hippie?

Lie a Little, Die a Little?

Slit My Throat Gently?

Michael Brett wrote ten McGrath novels in all, as well as a few standalone novels like Diamond Kill and Jungle. He also wrote short stories, appearing in such digests of the time as Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, Manhunt, Double-Action Detective, Mystery Stories and Guilty Detective Story Magazine, and co-wrote Toma, with police detective David Toma, a novelization of the fictionalized TV show about his career.

Brett is often confused with the British author, Miles Barton Tripp, who used "Michael Brett" as pseudonym, but these were entirely different men. A recent message I received from a Rory Brett settles the issue once and for all. Pete McGrath's creator "is not British -- he was born in Patterson, NJ and lived his entire life in NY. I ought to know -- I'm his son."

Rory also cleared up another matter: Michael Brett is also the Mike Brett who wrote two amusing novels featuring a private eye named Sam Dekkers, although Hubin's lists the Mike Brett name as a pseudonym of Leslie Frederick Brett. But again, according to Rory:

"My dad wrote the Sam Dakkers books when I was growing up on an old Underwood electric typewriter that weighed about a ton in our back bedroom, and my mother retyped it on the dining room table on a Smith Corona typewriter... He smoked cigars while he wrote, and the smoke would be billowing out from under the door. I even remember the dozen books that he got from the publisher when it was released. I don't know who Leslie Frederick Brett is, but he definitely wasn't a relative."

Rory continues:

"My dad actually started wrting on a bet. Scott Meredith, a friend of my father who was a literary agent recommended a book for him to read. My dad said this is terrible, I could write better than this. Scott said if you do I will try and get it published. So my dad wrote a short story and it was published in a magazine, I think it was called "Battle Cry." The rest, as they say, was history."

AND THEN SOME WEIRD STUFF HAPPENED...

Jake Masters

Created by Michael Brett

The 1968 Pete McGrath book, Lie a Little, Die a Little, featuring Brett was actually used as the basis for a trippy, trashy soft-core film entitled Cry Uncle! Allen Garfield, the star of such other soft-core classics as Orgy Girls and Roommates, plays private eye JAKE MASTERS (in the book McGrath) hired to track down a porn actress. Supposedly a cut above most films of its ilk, it boasts a few good yucks, a totally tasteless necrophilia scene, a little hardcore (including one scene involving a 65-year-old man) and Paul Sorvino in a small role as "The Coughing Cop." Oh, and the director, John G. Avildsen, went on to make Rocky and The Karate Kid.

Weird, huh?

NOVELS

  • Kill Him Quickly, It's Raining (1966)
  • An Ear For Murder (1967)
  • The Flight of the Stiff (1967)
  • Turn Blue, You Murderers (1967)
  • We, the Killers (1967)
  • Dead Upstairs in the Tub (1967)
  • Slit My Throat Gently (1968)
  • Lie a Little, Die a Little (1968; AKA Cry Uncle)
  • Another Day, Another Stiff (1968)
  • Death of a Hippie (1968)

FILMS

  • CRY UNCLE! ...Buy this video...Buy this DVD
    (AKA "American Oddballs," "Super Dick")
    (1971, Cambist)
    87 minutes
    Based on the novel Lie a Little, Die a Little by Michael Brett
    Screenplay by David Odell
    Additional dialogue by Allen Garfield and John G. Avildsen
    Directed by John G. Avildsen
    Produced by David Jay Disick
    Associate producer: Frank Vitale
    Starring Allen Garfield as JAKE MASTERS
    Also starring Madeleine Le Roux, Devin Goldenberg, David Kirk, Sean Walsh, Melvin Stuart, Debbi Morgan, Pamela Gruen, Maureen Byrnes, Bruce Pecheur, Nancy Salmon, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Reuben Schafer, Chuck Pfeiffer and Paul Sorvino as "The Coughing Cop."

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. A special thank you to Rory Brett for his patience and understanding.


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