Kane, Henry: Peter Gunn
Suave, sophisticated, jazz lover, connoisseur of fine art, Peter Gunn is a different kind of PI. While the typical shamus lived in a rundown office, with a cheap bottle of scotch or bourbon in the drawer of a desk that was long past its use-before-date, barely made a living because he was too honest, and was a loner to the end, Gunn, wearing his designer suits, shirts and shoes, hung out at Mother's, an upscale jazz club. His girlfriend, singer Edie Hart, performed at Mother’s – and at Gunn’s or her apartment, or even her dressing room. “I [Gunn] feel the need too. Like where?” “Well, singers have dressing rooms.” “A prurient suggestion, but apt. Lead on Miss Hart” Miss Hart led. Mr. Gunn followed. Fade out.
Author: Kane, Henry
Artist: Craig Stevens from the TV show on the cover
Publisher: Dell Publishing Co. Inc.
Published: Dell B155: February 1960
Edition: First Dell printing 1960
Other: Based on the TV series of the same name.
Young love, in the shape of guitarist Sam Lockwood, has hit on Alice Bain. Unfortunately daddy, Steve Bain, who didn’t get to the top of the Truckers Union, Local 809 by being Mr. Nice Guy, is not at all enamored of Sam who, when he is in New York also goes by the name of Stan Lacey. Bain wants Gunn to dig up all he can on Sam/Stan, preferably all bad – this in the deluded hope that if his daughter knows all the negatives about her lover she will leave him. Gunn, persuaded by a check for $5,000 (around $40,000 in 2018) agrees to investigate.
Complications set in as soon as Gunn starts asking questions. Lockwood/Lacey has a lit stick of dynamite for a temper and intends to have it out with Steve Bain. Flat-footed, Sam Lockwood, pale and rigid, stood over him [Steve Bain]. His left hand hung in a tightly clenched fist. His right hand was also clenched – about the butt of a blue-black gleaming revolver.
Suspects other than Lockwood include Mike York, number two at the union, but with a flaming desire to be number one, and briefly…”a chick named Alexis McDuff.” York pays Gunn $5,000 to find Bain’s killer. Mix in gambling club owner Tony Valero, his muscle Willie Koko hooker Effie Vernon and Gunn, predictably, ends up tied up, beat up and almost weighted down and thrown overboard from Valero’s yacht. Fortunately for Gunn, Koko isn’t solid concrete between the ears; he wants to buy a garage and get married to Effie. He’s willing to listen to Gunn’s spiel about Bain, York and Effie – especially about dead Effie. “Effie’s dead,” said Gunn. “You’re a liar!” “You’d be dead too, only you were sleeping all day and he [York] didn’t know where to get to you.” Koko calls a confederate; “Frankie, I been outa the box all day. Somebody told me something about Effie. You know anything?” He listened, his mouth grew tight, a pallor brought a yellow hue to his jaw.
York almost gets away with Bain’s murder but a clock showing 12 o’clock blows his alibi of having been at his beach house at the time of the murder.
This is the only Peter Gunn novel as it was commissioned as a tie-in to the very successful TV series (140 episodes over 3 years). Kane’s main series character is PI Peter Chambers, who makes a brief appearance to help Gunn get information on Sam/Stan.