Whenever long term mystery fans gather there is often talk of obscure private eye series still considered to be gems of the hardboiled genre, like Jack Lynch’s Bragg novels. These long out of print, usually paperback original series, are learned about by word of mouth from one mystery fan to another. This action often causes mini-tsunamis on Internet used book sites as the new fan seeks out the titles to which they have been referred. Tattered copies often change hands for ridiculously high prices for what are slim volumes with bad ‘70s cover art. However, it is the words between those tattered covers that keep readers rediscovering the series again and again.
Other series falling into this category include Ralph Dennis’ Hardman books, W. Glenn Duncan’s Rafferty books, Marvin Albert’s Stone Angel series, and Elliot Lewis’ Bennett tales. While not necessarily as powerful as Hammett, as erudite as Ross MacDonald, or as lyrical as Chandler, these series still deliver the action and character interaction craved by hardcore hardboiled readers.
Now, Brash Books is taking steps to remedy this situation, by bringing back Jack Lynch’s Bragg novels, featuring west coast private eye Peter Bragg, that are terrific tales that fell into obscurity due to the absence of hardcover publication along with poor packaging and distribution by the original publisher.
Virtually missing their target audience completely, the original publication of the Bragg books saw them dressed up in covers indicating the contents were closer to the wildly popular (at the time) Executioner books and other men’s action series. This was a common misleading sleight of hand pulled by publishers unsure of their market or trying to cash in on a current trend. This treatment often led to well written novels being dismissed by a wider more traditional mystery audience as not worthy of attention.
Private eye Peter Bragg was not a bloodthirsty vigilante. Instead, he is a no nonsense investigator, exceptionally skilled at interrogation, and handy enough with fists and guns to get the job done. A Korean vet, ex-reporter, with a bad marriage behind him, Bragg is working as a bartender in Sausalito when he takes some part time work for an old lawyer friend. Finding he has a knack and a taste for investigation, he takes out his P.I. license and opens a fifth floor office on Market in San Francisco in order to bringing order out of chaos.
In the first book in the series, The Dead Never Forget, Bragg’s P.I. instincts embroil him in a case leading to a gangland shootout, which is the highlight of the novel. The narration here is straightforward – tough and terse – and the action scenes sing, complimenting the character development.
Shamus nominated for the second book in the series, The Missing and the Dead, and Edgar nominated for the third book in the series, Pieces of Death, author Jack (John T.) Lynch – a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle – does a fantastic job weaving the history of the series Northern California setting into the plotlines.
Critically acclaimed, the Bragg novels received favorable and appropriate comparison to the works of Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald, yet did not get the wide distribution or support from their original publisher to breakout.
Not this time. Brash is making this terrific series widely available and is really getting behind the books. There is much here for hardboiled fans to enjoy — so don’t miss out!
Novelist, screenwriter, and television personality, Paul Bishop spent 35 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, where he was twice honored as Detective Of The Year. He continues to work privately as a deception expert and as a specialist in the investigation of sex crimes. His fourteen novels include five in his Fey Croaker L.A.P.D. series, two titles in the popular Fight Card series, and the forthcoming Lie Catchers and Gunhawks. On the web, you can find Paul and his work at www.bishsbeat.blogspot.com, www.fightcardbooks.com, Twitter @BishsBeat.