Thursday, June 11, 2009

House Dick by E. Howard Hunt (Hard Case Crime)

In 1972, E. Howard Hunt was arrested for his part in the Watergate Hotel break-in, but in 1961, Hunt was still working for the CIA's anti-Castro operations (specifically the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion) and writing crime novels under pseudonyms — novels like House Dick, which was first published under the name "Gordon Davis." (The fact that the Watergate is name-dropped on page 18 is just a coincidence, right?)

Pete Novak is the house detective at the Tilden Hotel in Washington, D.C. Mostly his job consists of boring activities like the one he's confronted with this morning: Julia Boyd insists her jewelry has been stolen and wants Novak to find it. But things get a little more interesting when Julia's husband, Chalmers Boyd, suggests to Novak that his wife "suffers frequent delusions" and to not bother doing anything about it.

Novak is going to find things even more intriguing when other connections pop up with a young blonde also staying in the hotel, her mobster husband, and a private physician with unconventional prescriptions. Somebody's going to end up very dead, and this dick will stick his nose where it doesn't belong.

Author Hunt offers, at the very least, a seemingly original conceit in his protagonist's occupation. However, this does not save House Dick from its ultimate fate of being highly forgettable. Novak stays on the move for most of the novel, offering the pretense of action, but mostly seeming not to do much at all until near the end. The solution is no surprise. There's little here that hasn't been done better elsewhere. It would be safe to say that I was bored. I don't usually like to make such harsh pronouncements, but there you have it.

Nitpicker's Note: Maybe note paper needs to remain "stationary" when you use it, but you still have to buy it in the "stationery" department. Also, a hotel should offer some peace, but rooms should not be "quiet easy to find."


David Cranmer said...

E. Howard Hunt remains a fascinating figure in our country's history but I don't believe I will be jumping at this novel to read. But I will at some point, its just that there's so many other Hard Case crimes to purchase first. I'm finishing Plunder of the Sun right now and I have Fright waiting in the wings. Good review, thanks.

Frank Loose said...

I enjoyed House Dick. Every book has to stand or fall on its own merits, but when i read a crime book from the 40s - 60s, i cut it a bit of slack in regards to conventions of the genre that today are considered cliche. Back when one of these books was written, the plot turns and character types that we consider retreads today were rather fresh. I have read a handful of Hunt books and found them all decent reads. Not great fiction, but entertaining enough.

Related Posts with Thumbnails