A Body for McHugh

by Jay Flynn  © 1960  – Avon 1960 paperback original

This is the 32nd in my series of Friday Forgotten Books

This is the second of five McHugh books Flynn wrote. I picked this up for a song at the paperback collectors’ show a few years back and came across it recently on the shelf while looking for something else – isn’t that always the way? I decided it was time I read it and what better than to do it for Friday Forgotten Books? 

McHugh (if we’re given his first name I missed it) runs a bar  (he calls it a saloon) in the Mission Dictrict of San Francisco, which in 1960 wasn’t the trendy, expensive neighborhood it is today. It’s seedy and full of questionable characters, just the sort of place for operatives from U.S. and foreign agents to hang out, have a drink and a little contact with informants, which is why FBI agents like to hang around too. Except for the neighborhood, it’s a good place to hang out. McHugh, who runs the place as a cover for his own covert operations, pours a fair drink and there’s a singer, who is also his girlfriend Loris (shades of Peter Gunn, except this came first).

On a foggy night a young, timid young woman comes in, sits, waits. McHugh cards her, mostly out of curiosity about who she is. Then there’s a commotion at the door and when a customer tries to open it to leave. There’s a body blocking the steps outside, a dead body, knife in back. The FBI guys want to know what’s going on, McHugh is immediately suspected, because he’s always mixed up in something. He too wants to know what’s going on. The girl has suddenly gone missing, slipping out the back door. Her car is parked up the street and later when McHugh goes to check it out he’s clubbed behind the ear and wakes up in a cheap room with three hoods.  Things begin to unravel from there.

McHugh drinks hard and often, asks a lot of questions, is uncooperative with the local cops, stumbles into and out of bad situations, gets beat up several times, kills a few guys, baits a Mafia don in his “club”, makes a couple calls to his boss in the Pentagon and is hated by the cops because he always walks when they try to arrest him, and he’s not trusted by the FBI guys because he can bring pressure to bear and messes in their cases.

One of many things I liked about this book was the settings. A lot of the book takes place in Monterey and Carmel, places I know passingly well, so I could visualize the streets and landscape. There are also tires to Cuba and Miami in the plot. The story stretches credibility, of course, but it’s fast and fun.

For a more on Flynn and his writing, see the excellent piece Bill Pronzini did for Mystery*File’s Forgotten Writers series. HERE.  It’s great, a must read!

~  ~  ~  ~

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

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Friday Forgotten Book, mystery, reading, Review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A Body for McHugh

  1. Bill Crider says:

    Makes me want to peruse the Flynn titles on my shelves and see if I have all the books. I enjoyed reading a lot of them back in the long-ago.

  2. Richard says:

    Bill, did you read the Pronzini piece? A MUST!

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    Rick-you can time your piece to appear ahead of time if it’s already written. I don’t know how to do it on word press but on blogger it’s easy.

  4. The Westerns that Flynn wrote late in his career are pretty bad, but I’ve enjoyed all the hardboiled novels of his that I’ve read. I agree the Pronzini piece about him is great.

  5. Something about the title. or the character maybe, sounds familiar, but I can’t remember if I’ve read it or not(I didn’t always keep records).

  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Rick, thanks for the link to the Pronzini piece. It is indeed a great one.

  7. Richard says:

    Sorry, Patti, I’ll try to get it posted earlier in the day.

  8. Richard says:

    I gather from Bill Pronzini’s piece that the mcHugh books are the best of Flynn’s mystery output. This was certainly fun to read!

  9. Great Pronzini piece! I have some of Flynn’s books and your review is motivating me to read them!

  10. Evan Lewis says:

    Thanks Rick! Never heard of this guy a-tall, but I’ll be reading the Pronzini thing.

  11. Bob Randisi says:

    Bought the Flynn novels long aso on Pronzini’s say so. I think I’ve read one. Have to get to the rest. He also wrote a series about a cop, similar to the old Nelson Deville series (Ryker). One of them was Blood On Frisco Bay.



  12. Richard says:

    Bob – go ahed with the McHugh, the rest are questionable, in my and Bill’s opinion…

    Thanks fo stopping by!!

  13. Richard says:

    Evan, get right on McHugh, great fun.

  14. Carl V. says:

    Fast and fun with a little stretching of credibility can really make for a good story, and how can you go wrong with such a great cover?!?! I can see why it caught your eye again as you were going through your shelves.

  15. There’s good info here. I did a search on Google, Keep up the good work mate!

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