Rick Shaw #1: “Hang Me In Hong Kong” by Earl Norman (Norman Thompson). Private-eye, Rick Shaw, Asia’s answer to a combination of James Bond and Mike Hammer, that is, if these two gentlemen also knew kung fu. Rick is Oxford educated, and his actual name is Richard Shaw II (I’m not sure where the II comes from, his father’s name was James). He is the scion of a wealthy family, and provided he behaves himself, his mama gives him a cool million every birthday. Rick doesn’t need the money from his private eyeing, he does it as a hobby, and only if there’s a woman involved in the case. A young man of basic non-violence, Rick solves his cases as he delivers death and destruction with Oriental finesse and smooth action.
Richard Shaw is the offspring of an English father, James Muir Shaw of Scotland Yard (now dead) and a Chinese mother, Li Kung-yah, daughter of merchant and opium distributor, who is autocratic and filthy rich. Richard quickly becomes Rick Shaw (a play on rickshaw) – playboy, lover, man-about-town and collector of erotica and beautiful women.
The case begins when a nightclub stripper, Rococo Baroque, comes to his apartment for help, and then drugs him before he can seduce her. Police Superintendent, Claude Bawls shows up to warn Rick to stay off the case, but we know he won’t. In the meantime, billionaire mother is trying to find a girl to settle Rick down – in marriage. Mama knows best.
At one point Rick Shaw mentions a previous case, “Dash Me In Bangla”, but this is the only novel in the series ever published. I’m sure the author planned others, however. The plot is evasive. The first half of the book is dedicated to Shaw’s extensive sexual escapades, which he finds colorful metaphors to describe, like baseball games, etc.
The plot is a merry-go-round that doesn’t make any sense until the end. Rick Shaw comes across as a sexual predator more than a detective of any note. Nor do we see any kung fu or martial arts of any sort until the final chapters. But it does work in the end, and everything comes together nicely. Unfortunately, this is no Burns Bannion, and no rousing karate fights with the bad guys, but given time I think Norman could have improved on the character.
The plot was two-fold, a blackmailer and a Chinese communist rebel escaping from China. It was the mysterious goings-on that brought Rick into the case in the beginning, and his mother, the Moon Princess who brings the case to a close. But Rick winds up with the girl, and I won’t reveal which one, as even I had my doubts with this one. A fun read, only lacking in the martial arts from his previous series. Norman Thompson was a black belt in karate, and his “Kill Me In …” series was filled with fight scenes. “Hang Me In Hong Kong” was not.