Fred Zackel

The American private-eye novel enjoyed a resurgence in the 1970s, and Fred Zackel’s “Cocaine and Blue Eyes” was a unique part of that literary blossoming. Set in the Bay Area of Northern California, this fast-moving 1978 novel speeds through an eventful Christmas and New Year’s season with all the energy of a classic genre bursting with new life. From page one, it’s clear the book’s author is a born storyteller, one who brings a personal vision to the templates of the past.

“Cocaine and Blue Eyes” – the tough tale of a semi-pro detective hunting high and low in San
Francisco society for a missing person who maybe isn’t missing, on behalf of a client who is
without a doubt dead – evokes some of the tone and terrain of Dashiell Hammett, some of the
seductive cadences of Raymond Chandler, and some of the poetic flashes of Ross Macdonald (who enthusiastically supported its publication). What seems most Zackel’s own is the sensibility of investigator-protagonist Michael Brennen: a man coming up through the underside, to find his own moral center.

Fred Zackel’s novel reads today with the same raw vigor as when it was written. If some of its slang, social-sexual attitudes, and pharmacological lore now ring out of date, such jarring notes only validate the book’s integrity as an honest time-machine: a beat-up-cab-ride back some 30 years to when parking-meters took pennies, cigarettes were smoked in restaurants, cocaine was thought to be neither addictive nor fatal; and when – then as now – “Only the lucky solve cases.”

Tom Nolan,author of
“Ross Macdonald: A Biography”


"A spectrum of sex, aging flower children, mafia money, houseboat life in Sausalito, booze, barbituates, bitterness, incest and greed ... as nerve-rattling as a full-throttle auto chase!"

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