When I was looking for a paperback to read, I found this book on my shelves and thought, “Is that the William Johnston?” Which pretty much ensures I’m the only one to ask that question in the last 25 years, or maybe ever.
This is a 1971 novel based on the television show The Mod Squad, which was about a trio of young detectives in LA. They were young and hip. Mod. You dig it? At any rate, wow, that show had a bad syndication deal or something. I’ve never actually seen it. I don’t remember it replaying later in the 1970s when I was a kid with naught but a television to entertain myself. So I went into the book without anything but precursory knowledge of the program.
Which is unlike the other too William Johnston television-show-turned-novels books I’ve read, and I think it comes out a little here. It’s probably the same problem you get when you drop into the middle of a series: the book knows the characters and assumes you know a bunch about the characters, too, so it doesn’t get too much into that. Instead, onto the adventure that is more complex than a half hour sitcom plot (in the case of the Happy Days and Welcome Back, Kotter books I read) or an hour-long cop drama.
The plot: Someone kills a well-liked cop, Al Quick, who might have been dirty, and it might have something to do with a safe place for drug-addicted youth called simply Home (you see where the title comes from, do you?). It also might have something to do with a gambler named Gino Paul (seriously). And the well-liked cop’s brother is an inspector who insists upon frequent briefings and seems very eager to close the case. It’s a pretty thin plot hung upon a number of discrete scenes, too many of which are the detectives chatting with each other and wondering how they could miss the obvious for a couple more minutes or pages.
It’s a short read, and it is what it is. Apparently, a collector’s item based on the price from Amazon.
You know, there are so many paperback writers from the 1960s and 1970s who plied the trade and put out a lot of books and made a living at it that are mostly forgotten today. I guess that’s William Johnston. The books touted at the end of the book include the early Executioner books, the first Death Merchant, the first Butcher, some science fiction by Don Pendleton (!), and whatnot. Interesting stuff. Well, for me anyway.
Books mentioned in this review: