Thursday 21 November 2013



In the underworld of San Francisco, a broken cop searches for his daughter
Seven years ago, Frank Hastings quit on his family. After a half-baked pro football career, he had fallen in love with the bottle and needed to go west. In San Francisco, he got sober, and now he’s one of the toughest police officers around, in a city whose counterculture does not make life easy for the men in blue. San Francisco in 1969 is an ugly place, torn apart by drugs and crime and indifference—and it’s about to destroy Hastings’s daughter.

Claudia comes to town following a boy, a hippie kid who has filled her head with dreams of psychedelic happiness in Haight-Ashbury—and she quickly vanishes into the district’s rainbow-colored underbelly. To find the daughter he abandoned, Hastings will push himself closer to the edge than he has in years. His first lead is a gruesome one—a young male flower child slaughtered in the Haight—but the bloody trail may lead to Claudia.

Until earlier this year, I was unaware of Sergeant Frank Hastings of the San Francisco Police Department and his creator, author Collin Wilcox. Wilcox penned 19 Frank Hastings books in total between 1969 and 1992, before his death in 1996. Hastings collaborated with Bill Pronzini on the book Twospot which features Hastings and Pronzini’s own PI – Nameless. This collaboration was an enjoyable book for me when I read it earlier this year.

The Lonely Hunter is the first in the series with Frank and as a short police procedural it was interesting enough without ever catching fire.  We discover a bit about Hastings’ back story as he goes about his work; his marital disintegration, the abandonment of his children, his issues with drink and his subsequent return to sobriety and his re-incarnation from pro-footballer to fully functioning police detective.  We view the world through his eyes and we get an understanding of his frustrations with his colleagues and their deficiencies as well as his own failings as a father and husband.

Pretty much what you would expect in a novel set in the late 60’s in San Francisco ........hippies, drugs, sex, long hair, youthful idealism, mystics, gurus and dodgy fashions. Introduce a few murders and the police; a straightforward investigation where you ask questions of enough people and eventually the answers, the lies and the evasions allow you to join the dots up and point you in the direction of your culprit.

Despite the build-up describing Hastings and the search for his missing daughter, this aspect of the book seemed more of a back-story than the raison d’être for the book. Diverting enough, but the crimes Frank investigated didn’t particularly concern his daughter, though some of the people we crossed paths with knew both. 

Interesting enough, but I’m not yet sold on the series. I think I would need to read the 2nd in the series before deciding whether I would like to read further on.

Mysterious Press/Open Road Media have made the series available as e-books, as well as offering other non-Hastings Wilcox books.

3 from 5  

I  accessed this one through Net Galley.


  1. Col - I always like it when publishers make books like this available to a new audience. I know what you mean about a book not exactly 'catching fire' with you, and I hope you'll like the next better. Still this one does sound like a solid look at the San Francisco of that time

    1. Margot, I agree with you on getting older books to a new audience. San Francisco of the late 60's, early 70's definitely sounds like an interesting place to have been!

  2. Well I'm unlikely to read this, but I did like the fact that his name was Hastings - I kept imagining Poirot's good friend Hastings in the role...

    1. Could you imagine Poirot in San Francisco at the start of the free love hippie thing? No, me neither.

  3. I was aware of this author (because of the Pronzini connection) but never read any of his books. Had not realized that the series has a policeman as the protagonist. Now you have gotten me interested. But I will look around for a used paperback edition I think... someday.

    1. Tracy, they might be worth a look - this was 140-odd pages, so the length is perfect!