Wednesday 26 August 2020



"James Hazell, private investigator, is engaged by a widow to prove that her late husband was a murder victim and not a suicide. Hazell discovers that they key to the problem lies with a gang of small-time con men who work the Three-Card Trick... The result is a satisfying comedy thriller you will be sorry to finish"  - Manchester Evening News

"A cunning plot and full-blooded characters" - Police

"Good, wry humour and ripe Cockney dialogue" - Oxford Times

"A bit of orl right" - Liverpool Echo

A warm fuzzy glow of nostalgia washed over me as I read this one, remembering fondly the TV drama featuring Nicholas Ball as PI James Hazell. As a shy, spotty, ill-at-ease-in-my-own-skin teenager, Nicholas Ball was everything I wasn't....... smooth, cocky, charming, confident and attractive to the opposite sex. I suppose I should have hated him really.

Here, Hazell is setting up as his own man and scrambling for jobs and cash. A small case to help a bereaved widow claim her late husband's life insurance leads to Hazell being led a merry dance around London by an aging conman. One with more faces than a town clock ....... the hen-pecked husband, the down at heel card sharp, the one-room lodger, the successful car salesman, businessman and gigolo....

Great dialogue, great characters, London 70s setting, full of charm, nostalgia, rough edges, seediness, villains including a Mr Big and the rumours surrounding his plundered safety deposit box, irate cops, good time girls, a cruise ship, hustlers, heavies, solicitors and more. There's a fair few twists along the way as Hazell strives to stay in step with the geriatric conman and his buxom companion. 

There were three Hazell series books in total and I'm looking forward to reading the others at some point. This soft-hearted and not so cynical PI is great company.

An interesting side note to the books concerns the author(s). P.B. Yuill is a pseudonym for Gordon Williams (author of The Siege of Trencher's Farm aka Straw Dogs) and Terry Venables, better known as a successful footballer and manager - England, Tottenham, Barcelona and others.

I'm forever curious about author collaborations... who did what, how big a role did x play versus y. Here we have a professional writer and a sportsman. Did Venables write or did he just throw a few anecdotes and jokes at Williams? I don't suppose I'll ever know.

4 from 5

Read - August, 2020
Published - 1975
Page count - 208
Source- owned copy
Format - paperback


  1. I think this might one of those 'books for both of us,' Col. I'll admit I didn't see the TV show, but I like the premise. And you make a good point about writing collaborations. It's always interesting to see how they're done. I know the times I've collaborated (in my academic writing), it's been a good experience. Challenging in ways, but positive. Oh, and I think we're all awkward as teens (well, anyway, I was...)

    1. Margot, I'd be curious to see what you might make of this one, if you ever get to it. Teenage awkwardness... not just me then! :-)

  2. Good question about collaborations. In a post about Wade Miller, the pen name of two writers, they said one writes the nouns, the other the verbs.

    1. Elgin, I've read a few in my time and always wonder at how it's done. BTW I've not crossed paths with Wade Miller, but the books I have seen do look interesting.

  3. I remember Hazel on the telly, and I also remember looking at this author partnership before - I think we discussed it when I did one of Williams' 'literary' books on the blog.. He was obviously a very surprising man.

    1. Ha, I've even looked up the DVDs for the series, but they are quite pricey. Williams was quite versatile then. Not sure I'll seek out anything else by him though.