Pulp City

"Not Mike Shayne necessarily, but his place in Miami history certainly." Mack was not apologetic as he updated The Fixer. "I mean, Halliday doesn't give any bio on his character. What the hell am I s'posed to do, make it up?"

The Fixer looked up from his drink blandly. "This Shayne person was the principal protagonist in 50-some novels and you don't know his bloody background?" When angry, The Fixer often spoke alliteratively.

"Another double," Mack said testily to the blonde on bar duty. "Look, Fix, I didn't write the goddamn books, I just read them. In Dividend on Death, it says Shayne was a freckled Irish lad kneeling by his mother's side in a Catholic chapel. Okay? That's it. He's a widower, about 35, with red hair and gray eyes and lines in his face, and he's big enough to kick both our butts."

The Fixer removed a Bic Metal Point from his coat pocket and jotted a note on the napkin beside him. As Mack continued talking, The Fixer rolled the pen ominously between his palms.

"He drinks cognac and ice water - by the gallon. The guy's a freakin' boozehound. And he never sleeps. Or gets drunk. And he never misses breakfast, ever. He lived on the north side of the Miami River, across the river from where the Big Fish is now, I guess."

"What big fish?" The Fixer blurted hotly. He slammed the pen on the bar and lifted his bourbon abruptly, nearly splashing Mack. "The hell are you talking about?"

"It's a restaurant, Fix. You know the Knight Center, right? Okay, imagine walking west a few blocks, where all the dockyards are now. That's where he lived, as far as I know. He spent a lot of time on Flagler Street - back then everything was on Flagler. Like in A Redhead for Mike Shayne, he goes to see this upscale gunsmith. See, back then - this was about '63 or '64 I guess - back then gunsmiths were craftsmen who knew their business. They weren't sleazeballs selling Uzis under the table to felons in every strip mall."

"Get to the point." The Fixer was still playing with his pen.
"So he finishes with the gunsmith and has to see a lawyer, and the office is only a couple blocks away. On Flagler. See what I mean?"

The Fixer didn't, but he nodded anyway. "Okay, listen. Find this Brett Halliday and ask him. I want to know exactly who Shayne was before I start buying into his view of the history of Miami."

Having taken full advantage of the library's many resources, Mack had come up empty. Nothing on Halliday, nothing except one tidbit from a literary magazine in the InfoTrac system. No leads from the librarians. Little inspiration from the flowing fountains next to the ramp along the south side, where Mack sat atop a low wall, worrying a Marlboro Light. Suddenly Mack snuffed the cigarette and bolted back inside the library. The card catalogue! He hadn't even bothered to check there, stupidly thinking Halliday was too obscure. Five minutes later Mack found himself in the Humanities section.

Brett Halliday, it turned out, wasn't even the author's real name. Mack had suspected as much when he read that small item about Dividend on Death in the Wilson Library Bulletin's June 1982 issue. The novel was being reissued, the article said, and next to Halliday's name was another - Davis Dresser. In Humanities, Mack learned that Davis Dresser had been born in Chicago in 1904 and wrote prolifically under a dozen pseudonyms - Asa Baker, Matthew Blood, Jerome Shard, Christopher Shayne, even Kathryn Culver. But it was under the name Halliday that Davis Dresser had cut his widest literary swath.

Mack marvelled at the list. There was the Jerry Burke series in the late Thirties, and Shayne's run, which Mack now knew lasted from '39 to 1977. And the Morgan Wayne series, from 1952 to '54. Approximately 70 Shayne novels in all, 300 issues of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, dozens of other novels.... Halliday had churned out the stuff like a machine.

Halliday's 25th anniversary as a pulpster was celebrated by the publication of Michael Shayne's 50th Case in 1964. "Two a year," Mack whistled under his breath. He found the 50th Case to be unlike any other Shayne novel. For one thing, it wasn't set in Miami so much as it was set in the fictional towns of Sunray and Moonray, up the coast, around the West Palm area, Mack figured. But there was more to it than that.

In the typical Shayne story from the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties, the entire plot unfolded from private-eye Shayne's point of view. He would become involved in some intrigue or another, meet all the characters, play fast and loose with the rules that bind the cops, and solve the crime, usually in a flurry of violence. Though smart, logical, and even somewhat sensitive, Michael Shayne invariably found the sword mightier than the pen - deduction usually gave way to destruction. It was the nature of pulp, and for Shayne, it worked. But the 50th Case was different. Shayne didn't even appear until late in the book.

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