Friday Forgotten Book – Diamond Head

by Charles Knief, St. Martin’s Press, 1996, St. Martin’s Dead Letter paperback 1998 paperback (shown)

This book was the winner of the 7th St. Martin’s/PWA contest for Best First Private Eye novel and is Charles Knief’s first John Caine novel, with Sand Dollars following.Diamond Head cvr sml

Caine is a P.I. in Hawaii. In the tradition of Travis McGee, Caine lives on a boat – this time a sailboat on the shore of Oahu. He pays the bills by doing “favors” for friends, usually pretty simple tasks like tracking down someone or something, lost property or persons, or by running the occasional high risk errand.

This time it’s a friend asking a favor, a big one: “Find my daughter’s killer.” The father is Vice Admiral Winston MacGruder III, the daughter may have been involved with some pretty nasty underworld types, but the biggest problem is potential scandal. The Vice Admiral has political ambitions, and the daughter may have not just been bad, but been bad on film, participating in hard core porn and possibly becoming the victim in a snuff film racket.

That’s pretty grim stuff, but Knief handles it with care, there isn’t a lot of nastiness on the pages, just enough to let us know how bad things are for the victim, and how serious the people involved are to escape arrest.

I thought this one was pretty good, and enjoyed the second book as well. Though the novel suffers a few first novel problems, with awkward dialogue in a couple of places and a convenient friend, it has a strong ending and memorable characters.

This is my 12th entry in a series of Friday Forgotten Books.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more FFB reviews at her own blog, along with a complete list of today’s participating blogs.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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11 Responses to Friday Forgotten Book – Diamond Head

  1. I’m intrigued by this Travis McGee clone, Rick. I’ll have to track down a copy.

  2. Evan Lewis says:

    Hadn’t heard of this, but it sounds pretty good. The word “Vice-Admiral” rings a bell, though. Wasn’t there a novel by some old hardboiled writer with that in the title?

  3. Bill Crider says:

    Great choice. I’ve read those books, and it brings up this question: Whatever happened to Charles Knief?

  4. Richard says:

    Bill – and the answer…I have no idea. My guess is he did a third book and then no more contract, but it’s only a guess.

  5. Richard says:

    George – Not a McGee clone, George, just the similarity of boat and working doing “favors” which of course McGee called Salvage Consultant work. This character isn’t as tough nor does he come across as nearly the self-confident man-of-the-world that McGee is is, but he’s an interesting character, as is the Hawaiian cop who handles the case. I wish there had been more of this series.

  6. Richard says:

    Evan – Boy, that’s not ringing a bell. I do recall a Detection Club book, THE FLOATING ADMIRAL, co-written by Christie, Chesterson, Sayers, Ronald A. Knox and others. But a hard-boiled? Hmmm, not that I recall.

  7. Sounds interesting. I love PI stories so I’ll be looking this one up.

  8. J Storm says:

    1. An interview at crimepays ( says that Charles Knief is married to Ildiko Knief.
    2. Ildiko Knief was photographed at the 2005 Edgar awards (
    3. A search at shows that Ildiko Knief is related to a Charles L. Knief (age 63) and a Charles G. Knief (age 28).
    3. At Yahoo’s images search, there are several pictures of Charles Knief. One is labeled “Bob Levinson with Stephen J. Cannell.”
    3. If you click on the Bob Levinson picture, it will take you to Men of Mystery event in Irvine California on October 27th, 2010. Also pictured is CHARLES KNIEF (bet you thought I forgot what I was doing!).
    4. The caption for that picture says “Chuck’s popular series of novels set in Hawaii was recently optioned as a potential TV series.”

    As to why Charles Knief quit writing, who knows? The interview cited above said he had several books he was working on.

  9. Marci says:

    I just read Diamond Head (given to me during the Thanksgiving holiday by my in laws) and I loved it. Can’t wait to get the rest of the series but I am a little disappointed that there were only four.

  10. Richard says:

    They are not easy to find, I still haven’t read the 3rd or 4th.

  11. J Storm says:

    All four of his books are available (used) on both Ebay and Amazon.

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