Hard Case Crime 4/09: House Dick by E. Howard Hunt (#54)


“This fellow Hunt…he knows too damn much.”

Before he became one of the most controversial figures in modern American history, before he went to prison for his involvement in the Watergate conspiracy, E. Howard Hunt was an award-winning novelist, recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship (beating out Truman Capote and Gore Vidal for the honor) and the author of numerous popular political thrillers and crime stories.

HOUSE DICK is one of Hunt’s very best, a classic hardboiled story of a detective in a Washington D.C. hotel (no, not that hotel) investigating a twisty tale of burglary and murder, of skullduggery under cover of darkness, of deception and shifting loyalties–and of the price you pay when you trust the wrong people…

I had problems reading House Dick that had nothing to do with the novel. Due to life keeping me very busy, it took me close to a month to get through it. That’s no way to read a 206-page book, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest assessment of it as a result–I kept having to go back and review chapters to recall just what was going on when I left off or some plot twist I couldn’t quite remember.

I can say this–based on the evidence presented in House Dick, E. Howard Hunt was great at sketching memorable characters quickly and efficiently. By the end of the first chapter (ten pages), Hunt has already given us a good sense of who title character Pete Novak is and launched the story to boot.

I don’t know if Novak was a series character or not. If not, he should have been, as his job at a swank hotel provides endless story possibilities and he’s a fascinating character that could have developed in any number of ways over the arc of a series.

Somewhere down the line I hope to give House Dick a proper read, and to dig up some of Mr. Hunt’s other novels.