Today is the 108th birthday of the creator of everybody's favorite red-head private eye. "Brett Halliday" was the best known pseudonym of Davis Dresser and the creator of Michael Shayne, the hero of more than 60 mystery novels. Dresser had a life as adventurous as that of his hero. At age fourteen, he joined the U. S. Army Cavalry, and soon found himself riding with Blackjack Pershing on a hunt for Pancho Villa. His first wife was the legendary mystery author Helen McCloy. He received an Edgar award for mystery criticism in 1953. He and McCloy founded the Torquil Publishing Company, as well as the Halliday and McCloy Literary Agency. They divorced after fifteen years of marriage. His second wife was his some-time coauthor Kathleen Rollins; his third wife was the writer Mary Savage. He died in 1977.
His character Michael Shayne began his literary life in 1939 with Dividend on Death, and soon became on of the most popular private eyes in mystery literature. Dresser stopped writing in 1958, but the Michael Shayne character continued on under the "Brett Halliday" by-line with ghost writers. 1956 saw the introduction of Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, which featured a new Michael Shayne story every month. Twelve Michael Shayne movies have been made, the first seven starring Lloyd Nolan, the remaining five, Hugh Beaumont. Shayne was also featured in a weekly radio show, a comic book, and a 1960-1961 television series.
The television series starred Richard Denning as Shayne, Patricia Donahue (and later, Margie Regan) as Lucy Hamilton, Shayne's loyal secretary, Herbert Rudley played Miami Police Lieutenant Will Gentry, and Jerry Paris played young reporter Tim Rourke. The series lasted one season (thirty-two episodes). Episode six, Shoot the Works, first aired on November 11, 1960. It was directed by Gerald Mayer (who directed three other episodes in the series, as well as numerous episode in over sixty other television series). Scripting duties fell to William Link and Richard Levinson (they would write four additional episodes in the series and go on to create and/or develop such classic series as Ellery Queen, Mannix, Murder, She Wrote, and Columbo), from the novel.
Davis, of course, did not limit himself to mysteries. He wrote romance, adventure, and western novels under such pen names as Anthony Scott, Kathryn Culver, Anderson Wayne, Don Davis, Matthew Blood, Hal Debrett, and Asa Baker. He also edited six mystery anthologie under the Halliday names.
For those who are interested, the author himself explains the origins of Michael Shayne here:
Happy birthday to a favorite author!
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