Re: RARA-AVIS: Mike Shayne Month!

From: James Reasoner (
Date: 05 Dec 2000

----- Original Message ----- From: "William Denton" <> To: "RARA-AVIS" <> Sent: Tuesday, December 05, 2000 7:39 PM Subject: RARA-AVIS: Mike Shayne Month!

> Well, this is Mike Shayne month. A list of all the Mike Shayne books is
> up on the web site, so have a look and read any you've got sitting
> around. I'm sure we all have a few, probably those Dell paperbacks with
> cocky-looking Mike in a circle at the top. I've had to do a lot of
> reading on something else, so haven't done any, but will start one in day
> or two. Has anyone else been in the spirit of the month? (Mike Shayne,
> not Christmas.) Any comments? There's no particular title assigned, just
> read what you feel like and we'll probably end up covering a lot of
> ground.
> Mr. Reasoner on the list actually *was* Brett Halliday for a while.
> Perhaps you could tell us about how you came to write for the Mike Shayne
> Mystery magazine, and what it was like? Are there any other Brett
> Hallidays on the list?

I haven't had a chance to read any Shaynes lately, either, but I hope to soon. I got started writing them for the magazine because I was selling short stories on a pretty regular basis to Sam Merwin, Jr., the editor of MSMM at the time. He asked me to if I wanted to try my hand at one, and I said sure. He said the pay was "a flat, lousy three hundred bucks" for 20,000 words, but that didn't sound too bad to me at the time. Sam sent me a copy of the Mike Shayne "bible", which went into a lot of detail about the characters and the settings, especially Shayne's office and apartment. I don't know who actually wrote this. I probably still have it somewhere, but I don't have any idea where. Sam told me not to worry too much about the details, just to get the story down and he could always make it sound more like Shayne. But when my first story came out in the magazine, I read it and saw that he had changed only about three words in the whole thing. (I remember one of them -- he changed "hotel" to "caravanserai". Don't ask me why.)

When Merwin left the magazine, Chuck Fritch took over as editor (actually Larry Shaw was the editor for one issue between Merwin and Fritch, but I never had any contact with him). Chuck had been Sam's assistant and already knew me. He asked me to write all of the Shayne stories. I was able to keep that up for a couple of years but got burned out on the slow pay and also started selling other stuff so I didn't have as much time. Hard to believe those days were almost twenty years ago. What I remember most about writing Shayne stories was how much fun it was. Fritch gave me a free hand, didn't want to see outlines, just told me to write the stories and send them in. I wouldn't want to go back to those days, but they were nice while they lasted.

Best, James

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