Next we will be reading books by G Gordon Liddy and Charles Colson. E Howard Hunt is best known as one of Dick Nixon's "plumbers," a secret team of operatives fixing leaks, which included breaking into Daniel Ellsberg's office and forging State Department cables designed to make JFK look bad. Hunt masterminded the first Watergate burglary and served nearly three years in prison for his role in the scandal.
In addition to being a criminal, Hunt served for twenty years as a CIA operative and even a station chief. He was highly involved in the Bay of Pigs fiasco and, as he died in 2007, hinted that LBJ had been involved in the JFK assassination.
Strangely enough, Hunt wrote many novels. Beginning in the early forties, he penned a number of spy novels under his own name and under various pen names. His spy novels were informed by his experience in the CIA and are considered quite intriguing for that reason. All told, Hunt may have published as many as 41 fictional novels and 4 nonfiction books over the course of fifty years.
House Dick was originally published in 1961 under the pen name Gordon Davis and published by Gold Medal. It is, quite unbelievably I might add, a terrific hardboiled book that I highly recommend. It has recently been republished by Hard Case.
It stands up quite well with other books of the era. It is a quick-reading story that I found hard to put down.
The protagonist, Peter Novack, is, as the title suggests, the House Detective, at a large 350-room Washington, D.C., hotel. He is grumpy, sour, and, although, on the surface a bit crooked and corrupt, a guy who ends up doing decent things. The tone throughout the book is dark.
The story is about a "a girl in a platinum mink coat walking toward the reception desk." "The girl was an ash blonde" and "walked with her head thrown back, her heels making subdued clicking sounds on the marble floor of the lobby." "[H]er eyes were as grey as the furs she wore." This is Ms. Paula Norton, who is the femme fatale of this story. She has a very wealthy sugar daddy. She also has a mean mobster she was once married to and who has found her again. And, Novack, tough as he is, falls for, hook, line, and sinker.
The story is about a wealthy couple who stays at the hotel and reports and then unreports missing jewels. Mrs. Boyd "was a tinted brunette in the mid-forties with bon-bon jowls and arms like rolls of biscuit dough. Her fleshly feet were jammed into pointed slippers two sizes too small and her face was heavily powdered to improve an uncertain complexion."
Hunt can write descriptive phrases like nobody's business. The dialogue, the scenery, the tone, all works and all feels like your typical hardboiled detective novel. You have your femme fatale, your gangsters, your police detectives, your murders, your kidnappings, your stolen jewels, and the story that flows quite well through all its twists and turns.
And, Hunt can write fight scenes quite well too: "The man gurgled and his eyes went wild. From the hips up his body started to shake. Novak slapped the other cheek. Harder and a little lower. A drop of blood appeared on the man's upper lip. His face was scarlet now, jaw muscles working like a skein of worms."
I never thought I would read a hardboiled detective novel by one of the Watergate burglars or that the novel would have been written, not while the burglar was cooling his heels in prison, but years before. Nor would I have thought that it would be just as compelling as many of the other Gold Medal or Fawcett books published at that time.
- Paperback: 206 pages
- Publisher: Hardcase Crime; Original edition (1 April 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0843961163
- ISBN-13: 978-0843961164
- Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 1.3 x 17.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 99.8 g
- Customer Reviews: 8 customer ratings