dr_hermes (dr_hermes) wrote,
dr_hermes
dr_hermes

THIS GIRL FOR HIRE

 

From 1957, this was the first of the Honey West books and, while it has dated pretty badly, it's still readable. There were another ten books in this series (the last one being published in 1971), all written by the husband and wife team of Gloria and Forest E. Fickling (as "G.G. Fickling").

The essential hook of the series, a woman private eye, has lost almost all of its novelty by now. The last twenty years or so has seen such a barrage of TV shows and movies starring tough, violent women beating people up that the image has become pretty commonplace. So the Honey West books now have to stand on their merits as mysteries. While they're competently written and plotted, they're nothing special. THIS GIRL FOR HIRE is a jumbled avalanche of characters who all hate each other and all seem ready to commit homicide. Of course, they DO work in early television....

Honey herself is at her best in physical confrontations, using roughouse judo effectively. At one point, she throws three beefy goons overboard in a row. Her investigative technique seems to be a simple, unorganized series of obvious questions. She also seems easily distracted-- when her .32 revolver is stolen, Honey doesn't make any effort to track it down or report it to the police in case someone would be trying to frame her, and she only recovers it by accident. And THEN she casually leaves it in her cabin and later finds a bullet missing from its chamber. (I'm more careful than that with my car keys.) On the other hand, she does have the private eye wisecracking lingo down (when asked why she's off Catalina, Honey replies she's 'investigating the buffalo'.)

While no actual sex ever quite takes place, there's a ton of innuendoes and Honey ends up either topless or completely naked several times (one cop throws a blanket on her and says, "Miss West, for God's sake, don't you ever wear clothes?") And there's an unsettling scene where a young punk yanks her into his cabin for an attempted rape, she throws him across the room and shrugs it off ("You saw me through the window, liked what you saw and decided to have some.") Worse than that, she immediately takes the kid on as a sidekick. What were the Ficklings thinking?

Her father had been a detective and Honey mentions growing up learning in the business. Six years before the events of this book, West was found murdered and Honey hired herself to find the killer. She hasn't but she's still determined to track him down someday. (Hey, this origin worked for Batman.) As I understand it, though, you can't just rent an office and call yourself a private investigator. To be licensed, you need years of experience working for the police detective squad or for a licensed agency. Maybe Honey was on her father's staff but she doesn't say so.

Much more than the books, Honey's place in the pantheon of pop mythology is due to her one-season 1965 TV show, still very fondly remembered. Anne Francis (good casting!) played Honey as sort of an American version of Emma Peel, but relying heavily on an assortment of trick spy gadgets. Most fans of the show have a soft spot in their memories for Bruce, her pet ocelot. Just re-reading THIS GIRL FOR HIRE has triggered the old brain cells holding the episode of BURKE'S LAW where Anne first appeared as Honey West and (if I recall correctly) outsmarted the smug Amos Burke himself....
Tags: detectives
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