Who has seen Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang? Probably, for my money within the top 5 movies released in 2005. In the movie, two characters are fans of a pulp fiction novelist and the detective who features in the novels. These novels, and Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang itself, are loosely based on Bodies Are Where You Find Them by Brett Halliday. However, that particular book is out of print and it took me a long time to track down a copy for P, who had been wanting to read it since seeing the film. When I eventually did, I gave it to him for Christmas, he read it, and then I read it as well.
I feel like the grand old tradition of hard-boiled, pulp fiction detective novels is overdue for a resurgence. Perhaps I read the wrong genres, but I feel like there isn’t an obvious modern day equivalent to someone like Brett Halliday or Ray Bradbury and I think that’s kind of a shame.
Bodies Are Where You Find Them is a fine example of that grand old tradition. I’m not sure it technically counts as a “good” book generally, but if you’re looking for a hard-boiled mystery it’s a great book for that. You have your detective Mike Shayne, a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, tough guy who works endless hours, gets beaten up a lot, beats people up a lot and has been set straight by his perfect, understanding wife.
Incidentally, his wife is not present for most of this novel, giving him permission to be on less than his best behaviour for the adventure. During which time, in spite of a cunning plan by The Baddies, he manages to eventually Save The Day, mostly by being a tough guy who can stay smart whilst drinking too much bourbon. Honestly, it’s a delight.
So, if you can find a copy without paying the terrifying costs of books that are out of print, I do recommend it. If you can’t, worry not, I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before someone buys up the rights to the Mike Shayne novels and re-publishes the lot.