Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Canadian P.I. Mike Garfin Has Trouble with Blondes--and with Virtually Everyone Else, for that Matter

This novel, first published in 1950, is an interesting example of the hard-boiled pulp genre in that it's set in Montreal, rather than in the U.S. The protagonist, Mike Garfin, is a hard-drinking P.I. who can take a beating, over and over and over again, and keep on ticking.

The story opens, as so many of these novels do, when a stunningly beautiful blonde walks into Garfin's office and complains that a man is following her. She wants Garfin to figure out who the guy is and what he wants. She can't go to the police for reasons that will become clear a short while later. Garfin accepts the case, figuring that it should pose no real problem. At the same time, he has taken another seemingly easy assignment for that evening, which involves guarding the presents at a high-toned birthday party in a ritzy section of town.

Naturally, things will go to hell in a handbasket in pretty short order. At the party, Garfin observes an old coot manhandling an attractive young girl who obviously wants to get away. Garfin helps her escape the house but only a few hours later, the poor girl winds up dead and Garfin gets the first of the many beatings that he will have to endure through the course of this novel.

It turns out that, oddly, both of these cases get Garfin mixed up with a bunch of very dangerous people who are running a high-class prostitution ring in Montreal and who are willing to go to any lengths to protect it. It will all get pretty confusing, both for Garfin and for the reader, but watching the poor guy try to muddle through this predicament is pretty entertaining.

Ricochet Books in Montreal has now released a new edition of this book with a great new cover and with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts. I'm assuming that there are any number of people who might raise their eyebrows at the notion of a Council for the Arts supporting the rerelease of a trashy pulp novel like this one that focuses on such artsy activities as hooking, beating people up, blackmailing them and in some cases shooting them, but I'm glad they did. It's a fun read that will appeal to people who enjoy classic hard-boiled crime novels.

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