Chasing Eights

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Dan Fortune (born Fortunowski) lost his left arm while looting a docked ship in New York. Deciding to abandon the criminal life, Fortune traveled widely as a merchant seaman. Eventually, for reasons he has yet to articulate, Fortune became a private investigator in his native New York. When life in the Big Apple began to pale, he moved to Santa Barbara, California, to begin anew.

Fortune’s latest endeavor seems rather routine. Angela Price is married to a man who seems forever one step short of grabbing the golden ring. Angela could accept that fact when she and her children were younger, but now the time has come for the security and stability of a guaranteed income. Thus, when she suspects that her husband, Jack, is planning yet another campaign to become wealthy, she determines that he will not be allowed to jeopardize further the family finances.

Angela hires Dan Fortune to ferret out Jack’s latest scheme, hoping to control the inevitable damage before it gets completely out of hand. When people begin turning up dead, when shots are fired at Fortune, and Jack is obviously on the run, the job turns deadly serious. Moreover, no one seems to be what they appear, and, not surprisingly, the truth is a scarce commodity indeed.

In CHASING EIGHTS, the events of a single Friday night in Santa Barbara are viewed from the perspective of Fortune, Jack and Angela Price, and several other minor characters. Moreover, the narrative delves into the past life of various individuals who appear in the course of the night’s activities. Normally Michael Collins is adept at this technique, building suspense by calculated digressions from the main plot, but his disquisition in CHASING EIGHTS on the development of alternating as opposed to direct current electricity carries the technique over the edge into absurdity. This is not a traditional action adventure tale, nor is Fortune long on the ratiocination aspect of detection. He prefers to wait until the bodies stop falling and then let the survivors reveal all. Devotees of the series will probably be pleased; newcomers are best advised to return to Dan Fortune’s first appearance (ACT OF FEAR, 1967) and ease into the pool gently.