Joseph Hansen was one of the prolific American authors, who was famous for writing books based on the mystery, gay & lesbian, and thriller genres. He was particularly popular for writing mysteries, especially the Dave Brandstetter mystery series. Born as the son of a shoemaker from South Dakota, Hansen moved to a citrus farm in California in 1936. During the early 1950s, author Hansen published poetry in the magazine called The New Yorker. Over the course of the next 10 years, he went on to become an editor of the gay magazines like Tangents and One. When he attempted to write full length novels, he started by using pen names such as James Calton and Rose Brock. Initially, he published 5 books and a short story collection under these pseudonyms. It was in the year 1970 that he finally decided to use his original name to publish his novel titled Fadeout. This was the first book that introduced the title character of Dave Brandstetter as an insurance investigator. Author Hansen described him as a street-smart, complex, and a gay hero. With the progress of the series, Dave Brandstetter also grows as a character. And when the series came to its final novel in the year 1991, Dave grew old and seemed ready to retire. Author Hansen received the Life Achievement Award from the PWA in the year 1992. He went on to publish a few more books in his writing career before dying in 2004. Hansen was born on July 19, 1923, in Aberdeen. He spent most of his growing years in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as well as in Altadena, California. Even though author Hansen wrote and published books around 40 books in a different types of genres, he is particularly remembered for writing the series of groundbreaking crime novels featuring Dave Brandstetter.
Hansen portrayed Dave as a tough insurance investigator who was openly gay. In spite of being a gay, Dave embodied the no nonsense personality of a typical hardboiled classic PI protagonist. After the success of Dave Brandstetter, author Hansen developed his second PI character called as Hack Bohannon. He described Hack as a retired deputy sheriff, who leaves the force after working for 14 long years. While working on a case, Hack Bohannon disapproves of a homicide inquiry that had already been whitewashed and this becomes the reason for his decision to quit the force. Following this, he goes on to run a horse farm. A book was published by author Hansen in 1988, which comprised of 5 novellas featuring Hack Bohannon. This was followed by a sequel book in 1993, also comprising of 5 novellas. Before starting his career as a novelist, author Hansen used to write poetry in various magazines. He was even involved in singing with a music-group, as well as worked for a few part time jobs in magazines and bookstores. Under the pen name of Rose Brock, he wrote a couple of Gothic novels. In addition to writing novels, author Hansen was also famous for writing, teaching workshops, poems, etc., and hosting a radio show in the 1960s called as Homosexuality Today. He even helped to lay the foundation of the first ever Pride Parade for Gays in Hollywood. Hansen hated the word gay and often described himself as a homosexual. One of his 1985 novels describes a married gay person who earns fame and then gives a divorce to his wife. Later, he enters into a series of relationships with other homosexuals. Author Hansen had married an artist named Jane Bancroft in the year 1943, who was a lesbian. They remained married until her death in the year 1994. They had a daughter. One of the closest friends of Hansen had once quoted that he had a couple of long term male partners. The death of author Hansen occurred on November 24, 2004, because of heart failure in his house located in California.
The Dave Brandstetter series written by Joseph Hansen is comprised of a total of 12 books, which were released over a period of 21 years from 1970 to 1991. One of the initial books written by author Hansen in this series is entitled ‘The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of’. It was released in 1978 by the Henry Holt and Co publication. The plot of this book features Dave Brandstetter and Ben Orton in the lead roles and is set in a small town called La Caleta. Dave is seen investigating the murder of an unpopular cop, which is Ben Orton. At the start of the book, Ben Orton is found dead with his head bludgeoned by a huge pot. When this news spreads in the town, people become very much stunned. They always wished for the police chief to get killed, by they did not think that someone would do it so soon. The people of the town thought of Ben Orton as a violent and bruising man, who was committed to bend the rules for his own benefits. Even though Ben has died, but the corruption that he spread in his police force still existed and Dave Brandstetter finds just the same thing when he begins his investigation. Later, he learns that an activist was already arrested before his arrival. But, when he goes through the evidences against the accused, he does not find them too much convincing. Dave Brandstetter seems certain that the young activist has been framed by someone. He tries to find the real murderer by questioning the people close to Ben Orton. However, the town’s people try to make things difficult for him by thwarting his investigation. He seems determined to catch the killer of Ben Orton and save the activist from getting wrongly convicted before time runs out.
Another interesting book written in the series by author Hansen is titled ‘Gravedigger’. It was published in 1982. The main characters depicted in this book other than Dave Brandstetter include Charles Westover and Serenity Westover. Charles is introduced into the plot as a lawyer, disbarred from his practice. He goes on to claim that his teenage daughter, who had run away with her lover, has been killed. Charles goes to the insurance company and files for insurance. As Dave Brandstetter begins to investigate the murder, he comes to know that Charles himself has disappeared. This makes the case even more puzzled. Dave wonders whether Serenity has been murdered by the same crazed guru of a bizarre sex cult, just like many other young women who became his victims in the past. As Dave continues to investigate, his quest takes him in the middle of ultimate horrors and mounting tensions. The vivid backgrounds of the expensive suburbs and the snowy mountains, wilderness canyons and desert towns of California make Dave crave for his compassion and shrewdness. He experiences a near death while investigating, but does not lose his focus in finding out what happened to Serenity Westover and her father. The critics appreciated the efforts of author Hansen in bringing out this intriguing novel and lauded him with praise. The novel went on to get nominated for the prestigious Shamus Award in the year 1983.
Books in order of publication:
Dave Brandstetter Books
|The Man Everybody Was Afraid Of||(1978)|
|Brandstetter and Others||(1984)|
|The Little Dog Laughed||(1986)|
|The Boy Who Was Buried This Morning||(1990)|
|A Country Of Old Men||(1991)|
Nathan Reed Books
|The Jack Of Hearts||(1995)|
|The Cutbank Path||(2002)|
|A Smile In His Lifetime||(1981)|
|Pretty Boy Dead||(1984)|
|Steps Going Down||(1985)|
|A Few Doors West Of Hope||(1998)|