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!
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