Brett Halliday Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Some seventy Mike Shayne novels, more than three hundred issues of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine (always with a lead Shayne novella), and three annuals have appeared, all using the Brett Halliday pseudonym. It is impossible to determine how many of these stories Davis Dresser actually wrote, though it is believed that most books that appeared under the Halliday name after 1958 are the work of either Robert Terrall or Ryerson Johnson.

Brett Halliday broke from the hard-boiled cliché of the heavy-drinking, two-fisted, womanizing private investigator. Although Shayne consumes his share of cognac (usually Martell) and is not beyond violence (he “resolves” an early case by pushing the villain in front of a speeding car), the Miami-based private investigator more often than not uses his brainpower to solve the complicated, though fair-play plots that his creator fashioned. Moreover, Shayne becomes a family man (though his wife dies in childbirth). Halliday is better known for his popularity (some sixty-five million to seventy-five million copies of his novels alone have been sold) than his style, which is basically straightforward, “nuts-and-bolts prose.” Although the creator of one of the most recognizable and longest-running detectives, Halliday was never accorded the honors of some of his peers. He was, however, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America.

Brett Halliday Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. A Catalogue of Crime. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1989. List, with commentary, of the authors’ choices for the best or most influential examples of crime fiction. Halliday’s work is included and evaluated.

Breu, Christopher. Hard-Boiled Masculinities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005. Study of the representation of masculinity in hard-boiled detective fiction; sheds light on Halliday’s work.

“Davis Dresser (Brett Halliday).” In American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers, edited by George Parker Anderson and Julie B. Anderson. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. Compares Halliday to other hard-boiled detective writers. Bibliographic references and index.

Halliday, Brett. “Mike Shayne.” In The Great Detectives, edited by Otto Penzler. Boston: Little, Brown, 1978. Halliday provides his own description of his most famous character in this book listing the greatest fictional detectives of all time.

Ruehlmann, William. Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye. New York: New York University Press, 1974. Scholarly study of American detective fiction in which private investigators are forced to break the law to achieve justice. Provides perspective on Halliday’s character.