RARA-AVIS: Re: RIP Joseph Hansen

From: Richard Moore ( moorich2@aol.com)
Date: 28 Nov 2004

I know of two books of Hack Bohannon stories: BOHANNON'S BOOK: FIVE MYSTERIES (1988) and BOHANNON'S COUNTRY (1993). I do not know if they are still in print. The one I have handy is a Penguin paperback of the second collection but I believe they also reprinted the first. They should not be hard to find a cheap used copy on-line.

BOHANNON'S COUNTRY has an introduction wherein Hansen explains the origin of the series. In it he pays tribute to the late Eleanor Sullivan of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Fred Dannay in 1973 turned down a Dave Bransetter story saying EQ readers "were not ready for homosexuality" in their stories. Nearly a decade later Sullivan said that was still true but she wanted to publish Hansen. They worked together on a non-series story, which Hansen said "gained me my first and only nomination for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America." I was thinking over the weekend that the MWA had neglected Hansen and this confirms that hunch (and it certainly had not gone unnoticed by Hansen). I am pleased that the Private Eye Writers of America gave him a lifetime achievement award.

In any event, Sullivan wanted more stories and Hansen remembered a character he had created for a potential novel series with Playboy Press. The character was Hack Bohannon, a modern-day sheriff along the rugged central coast of California. "It's colorful, dramatic country--the ocean to the west, in many places crashing against tall cliffs, the mountains to the east, slashed by rugged canyons. Cattle graze by the sea, horses along the ridges of the foothills. Sea lions roar and sea otters dive for abalone among the rugged offshore rocks, where cormorants and brown pelicans perch to dry their wings."

A native of North Dakota, Hansen says he had always been a fan of western writers like Luke Short, Will Henry and Ernest Haycock and had never lost "the hankering to write westerns." The Bohannon stories gave him that opportunity and they have a definite, and to me very enjoyable, western flavor.

After publishing two Bohannon stories in Ellery Queen, Sullivan became concerned about the 10,000 word length and passed the series over to sister magazine Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, where it flourished. I have to say that I've always believed the 10,000 to 15,000 word is a great length for a mystery/detective story--long enough for some character development and to establish a sense of place but too short to allow for the padding that ruins many a novel.

Oh yes, one of the stories in BOHANNON'S COUNTRY features a homosexual character and Hansen sent it to Sullivan at EQ to test the old barrier. She accepted it despite it being beyond EQ's normal length, which pleased Hansen "as it meant I'd broken down a literary barrier against me and my kind."

Richard Moore

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Susan Evans Shaw" <susan@n...> wrote:
> I too am saddened to read about the passing of Joseph Hansen. I
vividly remember the special atmosphere of each of his Brandstetter novels although I haven't gone back to them in many years. Hack Bohannon I never heard about. Are they still in print?
> Susan Evans Shaw
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Richard Moore
> To: rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com
> Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2004 10:04 PM
> Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: RIP Joseph Hansen
> Jim, I completely agree with your praise for Joseph Hansen's Dave
> Brandstetter novels. They were excellent PI novels, period.
> Brandstetter came across to me as a very human character as
> did such a good job with his personal life and the various
> who came went in the series. I also enjoyed his series featuring
> sheriff Hack Bohannon.
> Checking just now I see he was 81 in July. He wasn't, IIRC, a
> regular at mystery conventions although I met him once at one of
> California Bouchercons a decade or so ago. I am sorry to hear of
> death.
> Richard Moore
> RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
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> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 28 Nov 2004 EST