A month after crime novelist Robert Terrall died in April 2009 at age 94, I posted a substantial feature about him in The Rap Sheet. At the time, I’d read considerably more about Terrall than I had read of his actual fiction. Since then, however, I have managed to collect all five of the novels he wrote (under the pseudonym Robert Kyle) about New York City private eye Ben Gates. It was just recently, in fact, that I finally tracked down a first-edition copy of Model for Murder, Terrall/Kyle’s third Gates outing, which featured the Robert McGinnis artwork I showcased recently in my Killer Covers blog.
After enjoying Model for Murder, I decided the prolific Terrall needed a bit more attention, since most of today’s younger readers aren’t familiar with his work. So I have devoted my brand-new Kirkus Reviews column to the
creator of Ben Gates.
I know there are readers who don’t like the two dozen Michael Shayne novels Terrall ghost-wrote (starting with 1958’s Fit to Kill and continuing through 1976’s Win Some, Lose Some) after the creator of that redheaded Miami shamus, Brett Halliday (aka Davis Dresser), was clobbered by writer’s block. (The change in storytelling style might have had something to do with the fact that Terrall thought “the character of Shayne had no redeeming characteristics,” according to his son). But let’s put that argument aside for the moment, and concentrate on the Ben Gates novels, which--as I remark in my Kirkus column--“boast intricate plots made easier to digest by the gumshoe’s sardonic humor, as well as by the author’s taste for quirky but credible supporting players and his linear, first-person storytelling style.” I think they’re well worth tracking down in used-book stores or online. So does novelist Ed Gorman, who once called Terrall a “really fine craftsman” who was “especially good with dialogue,” and whose “sex scenes are really sexy and they’re good clean fun as well.”
You can read my latest Kirkus column here.