PETE SHAY is a New York City private eye who appeared in two 1979 paperback originals from Belmont TowerMinnesota Strip and Loanshark.
Shay is a PI cut from very familiar cloth. Divorced, an ex-cop (ex-MP in his case), working out of a seedy office in a seedy part of town, living in a seedy hotel. He is tough, cynical, bitter. His work brings him regularly into contact with hoods, thugs, pimps, hookers, bent cops, and the generally downtrodden of his city. The opening tag line on the back cover synopsis for Minnesota Strip sums things up pretty well by stating: "Shay was down on his luckif he ever had any to begin with."
Like I said, all of this is well-mined territory. But sometimes, in the right hands, familiarity can breed not contempt but rather contentment. And so it is here, at least for this reader. In the capable hands of a seasoned pro like McCurtin (he wrote the Assassin and Soldier of Fortune mens' adventure series), the Shay novels are just plain entertaining reads for anybody who likes the basic hard-boiled genre. The writing is solid, and the pacing grabs you and takes smoothly from scene to scene.
One tradition that McCurtin does break is that Shay has no buddy contact on the police force, or crusading news reporter, or anyone of that nature. His closest friend, in an odd kind of way, seems to be his ex. She's always bitching at him for past due alimony and for not finding a better means of support than his scraping-by detective business; he's always complaining about her nagging him. They bicker and call each other vile names whenever they speak. Yet any time they're in the same room together they seem unable to keep from jumping each other's bones and having rough, almost brutal sex. Then it's immediately back to the bickering and name-calling. Go figure.
Shay is a bit of a racist, definitely a sexist, and mostly displays a don't-give-a-damn attitude toward everybody he meets. Basically, he doesn't seem to care much for anyone, including himself. Yet, while he's not above squeezing an unwary client for every last dime, once he's on the case he gives it his all. Even if it pits him against threatening thugs and big name hoods. Shay handles such confrontations with a trusty .38 which he alternately uses to bash in antagonists' faces or simply blow them away.
It all adds up to hard-boiled fare, well told. Probably not for everybody, but those who cut their reading teeth on post-Spillane tough guys of the fifties and early sixties very likely will enjoy these books.
Respectfully submitted by Wayne D. Dundee.
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