Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Travis by M.E. Knerr - The Lost P.I. Series

I often go on little jaunts down blind book-alleys. I'll buy a book by a new (to me) author and think that it looks mighty fine. But in my book hunting I'll see the other books in the author's library and in a blind-book-buying-rage I'll end up with those too. To top if it by the time they show up in my mailbox, I'm distracted by other lovely books or nose deep in a novel already. That's how piles of books end up by my wayside. Haunting The Thrilling Detective Website, I stumbled onto Mike Travis and then a little more snooping on Mysteryfile here and blam-o I had four novels by M.E. Knerr coming to me from across the globe. AND to address the Elephant in the room, it's not possible for "Travis" to be a Travis McGee knock-off. "The Deep-Blue Goodbye" came out in 1964 a couple years after Knerr's Travis.

The simply titled "Travis" is often (well a couple of times on
the internet) marked as the one and only Men's Adventure/Sleaze/Private Eye Mike Travis mystery. Well with my manic book buying I discovered Mike Travis, that solider of fortune/boat bum appeared in at least one other book "Port of Passion." Well, down the rabbit hole I went. M.E. Knerr (sometimes Michel E. Knerr) didn't write a lot of books, but a lot of them were were for pretty low-rent publishers with short print runs so they're scarce and a little pricey. Not that I imagine people (other then me) are scrambling to buy these old paperbacks. Knerr published two novels in 1961 one with Pike Books "Brazen Broad" and "Naked Nymph," with Epic Books, the later being a Mike Travis adventure according on-line images of the back cover. It's a 50/50 on if "Brazen Broad" is a Travis tale. So, if you have anymore information let me know! Then in 1965 with Imperial Books Travis returned in "Port of Passion," something I didn't know until I cracked the book open to flip through it and my quest got started. Its seems Travis floated around publishers or maybe it was the same publisher working under different names/imprints. Knerr wrote some other books mostly about boats, space-sex, murder, dames and adventure. Also one about Sasquatch.

So, now that you and me know all that, how's the book? Was it worth all that info?  Well, yes and no. I personally had a great time with "Travis," but my tasters burned out years ago for this kind of thing. It's the literary equivalent of  Ray Dennis Steckler or Al Adamson B-movie, flashes of greatness bogged in the mire of working too fast and needing cash. M.E. Knerr certainly could write there's great lines of tough guy dialog that ranks up there with the best of the Gold Medal writers. Overall it doesn't rank with say a Crest, Lion or Gold Medal book, but it's certainly as good as a half of a Ace Double. The plot makes reasonable "paperback sense" i.e. it hangs together for reading and not for deep thought. Basically Travis is a tough guy for hire who gets hired by a buddy to find his missing drug-addict son and smash all the dope-selling in L.A. (HA!) To do this the rich and powerful guy pulls strings and sets up Travis with a P.I. ticket and a gun permit. Travis isn't a detective and it's fairly obvious that he's making it all up as he goes. I got vibes echoing one of my favorite 50's private eye series the Japan-set Burns Bannion books by Earl Norman. Like Burns, Travis is in over his head, sure he's a bad ass who can get pistol-whipped and bed the ladies with the best of them but tackling an actual mystery, eh, that's a bit much. Instead he makes fast friends with a local cop and then just goes and whomps on people and breaks into places until it's obvious who the villain is.

It's a whoot. It's a super-slim book that moves and moves and moves and then is over. It will not change your life but it's has just enough of the good stuff for me to enjoy the hell out of it. It got me to get more familiar with the Pike Books line and order more novels, which seems to happen most every time I finish a book. Knerr was a good writer and I'm anxious to dip into the rest of his library. It'll be interesting to know if Travis keeps up a the private eying or if it was a passing fancy and he continues his soldier of fortune-business. I'd like to know more about Knerr and his work, so if you got any more information drop me a line.
Other Fine Pike Books

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