Friday, June 01, 2012

FFB Review: "BLUE CHIPPER" (1993) by Geoffrey Norman (Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

It is Friday and that means it is time for Friday's Forgotten Books. Barry is back with another review that also serves to kick off the month of June nicely....
A good student as well as a spectacular basketball player, William Coleman is, in the words of sheriff's lieutenant Tom Pine to his friend Morgan Hunt, "a blue chipper" as far as college recruiters are concerned. When Hunt asks what he means, Pine says, "A solid bet. He's the kind of kid who, if you get him, won't steal cars, burn the library down, or flunk out of school. And if you give him four other players who aren't just warm bodies, then he'll win you a championship."

Morgan Hunt, a man with a past that includes prison time for killing a man, for which he received a governor's pardon obtained by attorney Nat Semmes, now works as a private investigator, usually on behalf of Semmes. As it turns out, Semmes has done some work for William Coleman's mother: getting probation for William's brother Jackson, a man with a history of trouble whom Semmes is certain is "doomed" and likely to end up in prison.   

It's not long before his prediction comes true. Jackson is jailed for the murder of another man in a drug deal gone haywire. The day after, as Hunt learns when Tom Pine takes him to meet William's and Jackson's mother, a man showed up at her door claiming to be a friend of Jackson's. He told her that he could get the prosecutor to charge Jackson with manslaughter or possibly even self-defense instead of first-degree murder, which could land him in the electric chair, if William would agree to play basketball for the state university.

It's not long after Hunt goes looking for the man that murder occurs and that his own life and the life of Jessie Beaudreaux, the woman he's involved with, are imperiled. While trying to track down the person who is behind the scheme, he encounters a radio sports reporter, a successful coach, hired thugs, some wealthy "boosters," and learns how extensive, extreme, callous and cutthroat boosterism can be.

Morgan Hunt's first-person narrative shows him to be an intelligent, sensitive, and literate man who is nevertheless street-savvy, street-crude, and tough when he has to be. Author Geoffrey Norman has an excellent sense of pace and character, and his prose sparkles with vivid descriptions and colorful turns of phrase. Several blurbs on the paperback edition I read imply comparisons between Morgan Hunt and John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee. Although I think Hunt is very much his own man and needn't be compared to anyone, if I had to choose someone he's reminiscent of, it would be James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux more than McGee.

Not for readers who dislike raw language or onstage violence, Blue Chipper is recommended to fans of top-shelf hardboiled detective fiction. 

Barry Ergang (c)2012
Blue Chipper is one of the many books Barry Ergang has available for purchase from his personal collection at He'll contribute 20% of the purchase price of the books to our fund, so please have a look at his lists, which have recently been added to. Some of his written work is available in e-book formats at ( and at Smashwords (


Richard R. said...

I liked this one when I read it several years ago. Nice review.

Kent Morgan said...

I enjoyed the Morgan Hunt series, but figured it really qualified for Forgotten.