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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Friday, May 14

Matthew Hope

I was looking for something to kick-start my reading again, a series I could zip through chronologically. I love to find new writers and new lead characters—honest writing, interesting, unique main characters. Quite a few come to mind from the past: Spenser (Robert B. Parker), Harry Bosch (Michael Connelly), Travis McGee (John D. MacDonald), Elvis Cole (Robert Crais), and Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block). And then I remembered Matthew Hope, a Florida lawyer in thirteen novels by the late Evan Hunter writing under the pen name, Ed McBain. I’d read them all a decade or two ago, and the way time flies, I discovered he’d written the first of them nearly thirty years ago. So I went to my garage stash of books, found the McBains, still had eight of the thirteen (must have given some away to fellow fans), ordered copies of the missing five, and away I went.

I’d forgotten just how good this series was. All are fairly short compared to most novels these days—between 90,000 and 120,000 words—and all are fast reads similar to Parker’s Spensers. Matthew Hope, although not a criminal lawyer, gets involved in criminal cases against his partner Frank’s advice. Frank, a transplanted New Yorker, wants Matt to stick to what they do best, estate and divorce law, where the money is instead of what too often turns out to be pro bono. Nursery rhymes and fairy tales are the link between the first twelve novels—Goldilocks, Rumpelstiltskin, three blind mice, Snow White, Cinderella, etc. The last, the thirteenth written in 1998, is called The Last Best Hope. Fearing the worst, I wrote him a letter:

Dear Evan Hunter, July 15, 1998

Just a note to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your writing over the years. And I mean, a lot of years. And I mean, really enjoyed.
I’m now in the middle of your latest Matthew Hope novel, The Last Best Hope. Since all the previous in the series were based on nursery rhymes and this one isn’t, I’m hoping what that suggests isn’t true. This isn’t really the last and best Matthew Hope, is it? Please say no.
I remember years ago when I attended a teachers’ convention in California hearing the main speaker lead off with a joke: One evening as three staid English professors were strolling home after a meal together, they noticed several ladies of the evening leaning against a building across the street. The conversation during their meal had led them to a discussion of the many odd group terms, such as a "skulk" of foxes, a "charm" of hummingbirds, a "dampness" of babies, a "surplus" of lawyers, a "vanity" of writers. One suggested they have a contest to see who could best name the ladies nearby. They thought as they strolled, and one finally said, “Ah ha! I have it. They should be a jam of tarts.” The others agreed that was a good one. The second then said he believed he could top it. “They should,” he said triumphantly, “be called a flourish of strumpets.” The others quietly applauded his effort. The third then raised his hand and announced, “I believe I should win. They are, as are we three, an anthology of pros.” The other two conceded victory.

And now Evan Hunter gets in the act. “A snatch of hookers,” indeed. Why, that’s as bad as an Anthony of trollops.
Thanks again for the many enjoyable hours you’ve given me.
Jerry Travis
He responded:

The stories are clever, the characters are rich, the style is good with touches of humor mixed in with the tension. For example, Matthew on his early use of the words “I love you”:

I’m thirty-eight years old, and when I was growing up in Chicago, I had none of the sexual advantages today’s young people enjoy. I was seventeen when the sixties were just starting. I missed out on the permissiveness that followed. A goodly amount of my adolescent energy was spent feverishly scheming on how to plunder the treasures inside a laden blouse, each button the equivalent of a Vietcong division guarding the road to Hanoi, how to slide a wily and preferably unsuspected hand along the inside of a thigh and onto those cherished nylon panties beneath a fortress skirt, how to hide from the eyes of a shocked citizenry the erections that bulged the front of my trousers whenever any girl of reasonably modest good looks (and, quite frankly, even some very ugly ones) sashayed into view. I loved legs, I loved breasts, I loved thighs, I loved asses, I loved girls with a passion that was all-pervasive and overwhelming. And on that perilous road to hopeful consummation, I discovered that the words, I love you, sometimes worked wonders: “I love you, Harriet, I love you, Jean, I love you, Helene, I love you, Melissa,” my fingers frantically working those maliciously obstinate buttons and those diabolical brassiere clasps invented by a mad woman scientist, “I love you, Joyce, I love you, Louise, I love you, Alice, I love you, Roxanne!” Those were the days of garter belts and nylon stockings, soon to give way to panty hose (invented by that same madwoman in her boiling laboratory), and God, the delirium of actually touching those secret mysterious undergarments, the windows of my father’s Olds fogged with the exhalations of singular male intent and determined female resistance, “I love you, Angela, I love you, Shirley, I love you Ming Toy, I love you, Anybody!”
I used the words as cheap currency in a market without buyers.
* * * * * * * * * *

I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

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