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Best Mystery Books - Double Dead, Set in the American South of 1961

Updated on January 1, 2012

Double Dead

A Steve Harlan Mystery

Terry Hoover

Five Star TM, an imprint of Thomson Gale

This is the first in the series of Steve Harlan Mysteries written by Terry Hoover, and I enjoyed it completely. The book is published by a division of Thomson Gale, the publishers of quite a lot of encyclopedic materials.

This is an entertaining and engaging first offering in a soon to be popular mystery series set in the Deep South. It is different form many other series as well, because the PI on the case is a family man with a wife Susie and two young children that he adores. His wife helps him think through some of the aspects of his cases and she can take care of herself in an intelligent way when trouble approaches.

Reading this book, I mentally went back to the summer of 1961 and could taste the hot air and humidity of my early youth. I turned on a fan. Everyone was learning to use Yo-Yos in 1961, just as in the book; madras was the big fashion item at Kresge and Woolworth stores, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was in the White House.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961 - 1963)
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1961 - 1963) | Source

Down South

Down in one of my favorite cities, Charlotte, North Carolina, this novel sits in the wringing heat while the residents building bomb shelters.Kids are practicing "duck and cover" at school under their desks.It probably won't help in a nuclear attack, but it gives them something to do.

John Lattimore is the wealthy town banker that nobody really likes. He's a bully. He oddly lives next door to his estranged wife -- I always said that some couples should live in separate homes. John's mistress is Delores Green, but she dies by homicide, so John is arrested and booked on a murder charge.

Lattimore is condemned by public opinion, but attorney George Warren decides to hire brings investigator Steve Harlan. This PI is directed to find evidence to prove that Lattimore is not a murderer. Mr. Harlan is in th emiddle - he cannot decide whether Lattimore is guilty or not, but he must pursue every avenue of inquiry as if he believes John is innocent. All the while, the weather and public opinion are getting hotter.

Who is PI Steve Harlan? He was formerly a first-rate newspaperman and a stand-up, morally straight guy. But as often happens, he exposed scandals at the management level of the paper and quit. Marked a whistle blower, he doesn't discuss the matter and does not make enough to support his family as a PI most weeks, but he continues in a job he thinks is useful and clean. But, just in case, he maintains contacts in the news business, even in his old office, and the share-and-share-alike philosophy pays off.

Charlotte NC


An Engaging Story To the Very End

Alcohol and drugs haunt the Green murder, but Lattimore tires to cover that by bullying Delores's 13-year-old son Greg into providing his alibi. He says that Delores drank herself to death in bed. So, why does the body have 200 bruises from blunt trauma? Delores had disappeared for a night, two days before she died - Why?

Service stations of 1961, poker games, and auto mechanics lead Steve Harlan around North Carolina on a meandering trail of clues. Meanwhile, somebody threatens to hurt Steve's family if he continues the case. Mrs. Steve - Susie - handles that on her own as Steve tracks down new evidence and suspects.

This first book of a series by Terry Hoover was a finalist in the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Contest for Best First Traditional Mystery. Malice Domestic itself publishes an annual collection of mystery stories by famous authors. One of my favorites, Carole Nelson Douglas's Parris Green, an Irene Adler Story with Adler as an investigator in the second collection is brilliant. Terry Hoover is an unforgettable mystery writer and I hope we are allowed to visit her North Carolina again soon.

1961 Ford Gyron
1961 Ford Gyron

BACK IN 1961 - Gasoline almost free for one weekend!


  • Federal spending: $97.72 billion
  • National debt: $292.6 billion
  • Inflation Rate: 1.9%
  • Consumer Price Index: 29.9
  • Unemployment: 5.5%
  • New home: $17,200.00
  • First-class stamp: $0.04
  • Cost of a gallon of regular gas: $0.31 -- In Columbus OH during the GAS WARS competition, gasoline went down to 10.9 cents per gallon one Saturday. There were 4 stations at every major intersection. Girls in bikinis pumped gas and the days of the gasoline station giveaways began - free glasses, free plates, free silverware. Gas was almost free as well!
  • One gallon of milk: $0.49

1961 Chevy
1961 Chevy | Source

Time Travel - Events of 1961

  • John F. Kennedy inaugurated President
  • Fidel Castro announces Cuba Communist Bay of Pigs snafu
  • President John F. Kennedy advises American families to build bomb shelters
  • The Peace Corps is established by JFK
  • President Kennedy asks Congress for $531 million to put a man on the moon
  • Race Riots throughout the US, but segregation on passenger trains in the south ends
  • Construction of the Berlin Wall begins and East Germany closes Berlin to outsiders
  • Worlds Population is 4 billion
  • Yuri Gagarin is the first person in space.
  • First inflight movie is shown on TWA
  • Alan Shepard makes first US Space Flight
  • On television, Perry Mason was in the middle of its tenure (1957 - 1966)
  • Hydroelectric power output begins in Niagra Falls

Hit Records of 1961

The Top 10 Songs on the Billboard Hot 100 ( for 1961 were:

1. Tossin' And Turnin ' by Bobby Lewis
2. I Fall To Pieces - Patsy Cline - (Country )
3. Michael - The Highwaymen
4. Crying - Roy Orbison
5. Runawa y - Del Shannon - (I remember this one from the oldies stations! )
6. My True Story - The Jive Five - (Who? )
7. Pony Time - Chubby Checker
8. Wheels - String-a-longs
9. Raindrops - Dee Clark
10. Wooden Heart - Joe Dowell

Other song delights from the Hot 100:

  • #11 - Lawrence Welk and His Orchestra with Calcutta - (A Big Band Era number)
  • #14 - The Shirelles with Dedicated To the One I Love
  • #19 - Ray Charles with Hit the Road, Jack
  • #39 - Elvis Presley and Little Sister
  • #71 - Elvis again with Marie's the Name, His New Flame
  • #96 - Elvis once more - Are You Lonely Tonight

Rewind - Some Movies of 1961

  1. A Raisin in the Sun
  2. Babes in Toyland
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's
  4. Cartouche
  5. Flower Drum Song
  6. Hatari!
  7. Judgement at Nuremburg
  8. Night Tide
  9. One Hundred and One Dalmations
  10. Splendor in the Grass
  11. The Explosive Generation (William Shatner)
  12. The Great Alakazam
  13. The Guns of Navarone
  14. The Innocents
  15. The Intruder (William Shatner)
  16. The Music Man
  17. The Stranger (William Shatner)
  18. The Young Savages
  19. Two-Way Strech
  20. 20,000 Eyes


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