Created by Richard Helms
Pat’s a charming, but troubled-plagued jack-of-all trades — a big bruiser who plays jazz cornet at nights at Holliday’s, a local dive, in the heart of the French Quarter, accompanying a nonagenarian piano player called Sockeye Sam. But he also finds time for other things, like acting as an unlicensed private eye, and as a sometime-leg breaker for Justin Leduc, a local loan shark. It seems somewhere in his past, besides the stints as a seminary student, forensic psychologist and college professor, he had a little gambling addiction problem which left him into Leduc for twenty large. Since Pat’s a big chunk of a guy, suitably fearsome-looking, Leduc agrees to allow him to work off his debt by shaking down other gamblers with delinquent accounts. That’s when Pat decides to go into the business of doing “favors for friends, and friends of friends,” as a way of salving his conscience. Those favours include “finding lost objects and people when it was too embarrassing or compromising for the friends to go to a real detective.”
Joker Poker, originally published by print-on-demand big shots iUniverse (remember them?), was an engaging and more-than-promising debut. It suffered from the typical first novel-kitchen sink approach, perhaps a bit too energetic in its piling on of back-story, but don’t let that discourage you. The author can spin a tale, and he’s created some truly intriguing supporting characters here, well worth a return visit. He also makes good use of the Big Easy’s colourful setting, and subsequently, each book has jumped from strength to strength. And Pat? Much like his creator, he just kinda grows on ya…
Helms has over a dozen novels in print now, and has been nominated three times for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award, and half a dozen times for the Short Mystery Fiction Society Derringer Award (he remains the only author ever to win that award in two different categories in the same year (2008, for “Paper Walls/Glass Houses,” published in The Back Alley Webzine; and for “The Gospel According to Gordon Black,” published in The Thrilling Detective Web Site [Hey! That’s us!]). In 2011, he won the 2011 ITW Thriller Award for Best Short Story, for “The Gods for Vengeance Cry“, a Pat Gallegher story that appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2010.
But Pat Gallegher isn’t the only private eye character that Helms has written. In 2004, he started another series, featuring San Francisco gumshoe Eamon Gold. Like Gallegher, Helms has been an actor, a racing car driver, college professor and is currently a forensic psychologist in North Carolina. An expert on sex crimes, he’s served as president of the North Carolina Association for Management and Treatment of Sex Offenders. He retired in 2002 to take a position with a small college near his home, where he worked as a Student Counselor and taught the occasional psychology course. And in 2013, he launched a new P.I. series, featuring 1950s Miami eye Cormac Loame who journeys into Havana on a wandering daughter job, just as Castro and Che are making their move. He’s also created a few interesting P.I.s who, so far, have only appeared in short stories, including Tommy Crane and Vicar Brekonridge.
- Joker Poker (2000) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Voodoo That You Do (2001) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Juicy Watusi (2002) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Wet Debt (2003) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Paid in Spades (2019) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- “The Gods for Vengeance Cry” (November 2010, EQMM)
- “The Man With Two Grins” (September/October 2018, EQMM)
- Murders in the Vieux-Carre (2011) | Kindle it!
Collects all four novels.
- Richard Helms
The official site.