this is the 139th in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books
Dead Skip by Joe Gores, Ballantine Books – 1974 paperback (hardcover first published in 1972), private eye – 1st DKA
“The 1969 Plymouth turned onto Seventh Avenue, away from Fulton, away from Golden Gate Park. It was a quiet residential neighborhood in San Francisco’s Richmond District – white turning black with a sprinkling of Chinese.”
Thus begins one of the best procedural private eye novels you’ll ever read. From the beginning the process of Daniel Kearney Associates (DKA) doing business makes this book a standout. Joe Gores knows the PI trade from personal experience and his repertory cast go about their business: taking care of all the paperwork, scheduling and routine it requires.
DKA deals primarily with skip tracing, collections and auto repossessions. In this novel Bart Heslip has recovered a Mercury and returned to the DKA offices. He leaves again but only gets as far as the sidewalk before he is hit across the back of the head so hard it sends him to the hospital, in a coma, hovering between life and death. Dan Kearney is not amused and he devotes all the personnel he can muster to track back and try to discover who did it.
The novel follows the trail, winding and twisting, to the end and every step makes perfect sense, every move logical without always being predictable, the story pushing the reader to keep turning the pages. The plotting here is tight and flows smoothly from peak to peak, but the moments when the characters slow to take a breath, and there aren’t many, reveal the character through a thought, a casual act, a brief conversational exchange. I had read this book before but it had been quite a while and I didn’t remember how it all came out. It’s a tribute to Gores, or else a sad comment on my memory, that I was still puzzling almost until the conclusion. Gores is skillful at introducing and developing his characters, and at weaving them into the plot. I like his writing, the tone of it, the way the action is paced.
Gores wrote as well as any PI writer of the time and these books still are potent. He’s one of the few writers whose books I bought and read as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. This first DKA novel is the place to start when (not if!) you start reading his books. Highly Recommended
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can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase