Friday, May 06, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Kiss-off -- Douglas Heyes

If you do a quick Internet search for "Douglas Heyes," you can find out about his movie and TV careers. He was a prolific writer in both media, he developed TV series (North and South), he directed (Kitten with a Whip), and he even had a bit part or two. But you can find nothing about his fiction writing, and that's too bad. Heyes doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

The Kiss-off was Heyes' first novel, and Signet no doubt hoped the book would appeal to Mickey Spillane's audience. There's a half-page ad for Spillane's books on the final page of the novel, and the book begins with the description of a brutal double murder that's about as graphic as anything you'd find back in 1951. Then it switches to the first-person narration of Steve Mallory, who has his own p.i. agency, with a partner and several operatives. Mallory is hired by an attorney to find his missing wife. Naturally, complications ensue.

There's some great hardboiled dialogue in this one, and Mallory proves to be one tough cookie when facing up to a gangster or being almost burned alive. I could almost hear Bogart speaking some of the lines. I think the book was influenced as much by Chandler as by Spillane, but it doesn't really matter. It clocks in at 144 pages, just about the ideal length for a book like this, and it grabbed me from the start. If you ever run across a book by Heyes, pick it up. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


6 comments:

Todd Mason said...

From those credits, I think I'd probably prefer his work as a novelist. How many writers did Signet/NAL particularly try to shoehorn into Spillane-ness? The vaguely Spillanesque cover for 1984 from the early '50s a particularly amusing attempt.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Heyes only wrote three novels, and I've read two of them: The 12th of Never (1963) and The Kill (1985). I can definitely recommend the latter, which--coincidentally--I just wrote a column about for Kirkus Reviews (to appear on the site next week). I've not yet read The Kiss-Off, but will have to keep my eyes open for that one in the future.

Cheers,
Jeff

Bill Crider said...

Wow. Who'd think that there'd be two reviews of Douglas Heyes books in two weeks? I love the Internet. I read THE KILL back in '85, and while I don't remember much about it, I remember that I liked it quite a bit.

Richard R. said...

looking... looking... looking...

J. Kingston Pierce said...

I just ordered a copy of The Kiss-Off to complete my Heyes collection. He definitely ought to have tried his hand more often at novel-writing! But then, he had numerous other responsibilities ...

Cheers,
Jeff

Ted the Younger said...

Heyes wrote and directed several episodes of MAVERICK as well as episodes of THRILLER, CHECKMATE, THE BOLD ONES and other series from 1950s through the 1970s. He had a long association with Roy Huggins, including THE LONELY PROFESSION, which I remember as a very good PI movie, circa 1970, with Harry Guardino that I believe was credited an adaptation of THE TWELFTH OF NEVER. His work was always good and always entertaining.