Better known for his long list of westerns, Frank Roderus jumped into the mystery field in the mid-eighties with this series featuring Carl Heller “a great hero from the great outdoors” – so, a sort of white water rafting, rock climbing, horseback riding, rodeo-roping, off-roading Travis McGee.
These were lightweight, but enjoyable mysteries (told in the first person)with a cool main character with whom it was fun to spend time – sort of Spenser-light.
And therein lies the biggest problem with the series; Heller is not quite Travis McGee, not quite Spenser, and so not quite an original or strong enough character in his own right to be truly memorable.
HELLER #1: THE OIL RIG
MEET CARL HELLER – A maverick son of the new West, Heller’s a man you can turn to when your life’s in danger – if you can get him off his butt. Born in the Colorado high country, he’s a part-time rancher and a full-time drinker who savors a laid-back approach to living. But Heller’s also a law school dropout with a head for justice that’s as hard as the Rockies and a mile-wide stubborn streak. So, he hires out to the hopeless cases, hurtling into action when some big guy is putting the squeeze on a little guy – or gal. Whether he’s tracking down a murderer, out hustling a high-tech con man, biking in the wilderness or falling for a lady’s charms, Heller fights hard and plays harder. Wise-talking, quick-thinking, with a body that can absorb – a dish out – a lot of punishment: that’s the combination that’s kept Carl Heller alive. So far.
THE OIL RIG – It was just supposed to be a simple oil and mineral sting run by a bunch of sharp Easterners against some of the locals. But then the boys from the East goy ugly. One man lay dead, and several others were facing ruin, Until Heller stung back – with a vengeance.
The Heller series is actually a cut above many of it’s paperback original contemporaries, and worth seeking out for those days after you’ve read (and re-read) all your Travis McGees and Spensers. Plus, the uniform covers of the first five in the series a very cool . . .
THE HELLER SERIES
THE OIL RIG
THE RAIN RUSTLERS
THE VIDEO VANDAL
THE COYOTE CROSSING
THE TURN-OUT MAN
THE DEAD HEAT