Created by W. Glenn Duncan
"Smiting the wicked sounds biblical, but mostly it's good clean fun."
-- Rafferty's Rule #39.
At first sniff, it may smell a like Spenser with a cowboy hat, but take a good whiff: W. Glenn Duncan's Dallas, Texas private eye RAFFERTY was actually a blast of fresh air in what was rapidly becoming a glut of sensitive, soul-searching, overly politically-correct cookie cutter P.I.s in the late eighties. Of course, it helped that Dallas ain't Boston.
Still, Rafferty was a real throwback to an earlier era -- a rough, tough ex-cop turned private eye and self-professed thug who's just plain fun to read about. Yeah, he screws up sometimes, he drinks too much, he shoots off his gun (and his mouth) too much at the wrong times, and brawn always seems to win over brains, but damn, he's entertaining. Because sometimes you just want to see someone shoot a gun without moralizing about it, you know?
Somehow it seems very appropriate that his six adventuires were all paperback originals published by Fawcett, because Rafferty was definitely a working class, paperback kinda guy, with a taste for beer, Johnny Walker Red and an occasional pipe; a man who believes in the hands-on approach. And at 6'2", and 220 pounds, he's well prepared to take that approach. Granted, he also carries a .38 in a shoulder holster, with a .45 Colt military automatic as his backup "car gun." His bag of tricks also includes a sawed-off Ithaca shotgun, a Winchester 12-guage pump, a blackjack, an ankle holter, and a box of garage door openers he carries in the trunk of his battered old Mustang.
Not that Rafferty was a complete throwback. In true eighties tradition, he had the almost-obigatory significant other, Hilda Gardener, an antiques store owner, who was every bit as smart and clever as Susan Silverman, and a whole helluva lot less neurotic. And of course, there was a Hawk-like figure as well. Cowboy, whom Rafferty calls "the most dangerous man alive" is supposedly a dead ringer for James Coburn, a gunshop owner who believes in taking the merchandise out for frequent test drives. But there's also a little spin -- Cowboy is usually accompanied by his wife, Mimi, who's "shorter than short" and every bit as violent as her husband. Or Rafferty, for that matter.
Rafferty tends to play dirty, boasting at one point that he "hasn't fought fair in twenty years." No brainiac, his chief M.O. seems to be to stir things up, and then see what happens. And he tends to be pretty stubborn, as well. "I often ignore what people tell me to do," he says. Like, no kidding. And that's part of the fun.
Not that Rafferty's completely without integrity, mind you. He lives by a seemingly endless set of rules and "aw, shucks" maxims he's dubbed "Rafferty's Rules" (also the title of the first book in the series). He's not beyond reciting them to his readers, either; favouring them with choice bits of hard-boiled, folksy wisdom every now and then. The joke is that "Rafferty's rules" is an Australian football term for "no rules at all." The last book in the series, Rafferty: Fatal Sisters won a 1991 Shamus for Best Paperback Original. All in all, an entertaining, and very highly recommended series.
W. Glenn Duncan was a former journalist and pilot who lived in Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Texas and California, before settling in Australia with his wife and three children. His son Bill has recently taken up the mantle and plans to release a new Rafferty novel sometime in 2017.
-- Cliff Fausset (Spring 2007)
As compiled from the six books.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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