“Lies, thighs and private-eyes.”
Honey West is best known as the heroine of a mid-60’s TV show created by Aaron Spelling, starring Anne Francis. But her origins actually date back almost a decade further, to a series of pulp detective novels written by Forest Fickling, under the vaguely-pseudonymic name of G.G.Fickling – his wife was Gloria, which may explain the choice. The heroine is a private eye, who follows her father into the profession, after he was killed on the job. These adventures, judging by A Gun for Honey, are rather more hard-boiled, and occasionally risque, than the TV show, though even in the book, the characters never actually seem to do “it”.
This entry starts at a New Year’s Eve party given by rich, somewhat decadent film-maker, Rote Collier, in a coastal village where a number of women have already turned up, smothered to death. Honey is present to keep an eye on Collier’s family, but it isn’t long before his wife ends up a corpse. Honey has to fend her way through a maze of deceit, blackmail, smut-peddling and even more dead bodies, to find out who’s behind it all. There’s a standard pattern to the chapters: she suspects someone, sexual chemistry sizzles, never quite gets consumated, and she finds evidence implicating somebody else. Rinse. Repeat. It’s all done in a fairly boilerplate manner, and you never feel the characters, outside of Honey, are more than animated Clue cards.
Still, have to say, I didn’t spot the final twist, which probably counted as quite outrageous, fifty years ago. Though, if I’m grumbling, the gun mentioned in the title only ever comes into play during the final denouement. There, everything is unveiled at a ferocious gallop, and Honey rides off into the sunset. I imagine such a strong, independent heroine (even one who acts like a cat in heat most of this book) was extremely novel for the time; as such, I guess it deserves respect for that. As a work of literature, however, it’s pretty much forgettably competent. The first book was republished by Overlook Press in 2005 – otherwise, Ebay and used-book stores are your friends…
Publisher: Pyramid Books, 1958