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Sam Holt Books In Order

Publication Order of Sam Holt Books

One of Us is Wrong (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
I Know a Trick Worth Two of That (1986) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
What I Tell You Three Times is False (1987) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
The Fourth Dimension is Death (1989) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

The name ‘Sam Holt’ refers to a series of mystery suspense novels written by Samuel Holt. The books follow the exploits of a successful actor who becomes a private investigator.

+The Story

The literary arena is chockfull of mystery novels about ordinary individuals who play detective in their spare time. Most such books are designed to emphasize the ingenuity it would take for the average person to use their average skills in a particular field to collect clues, put puzzles together and catch criminals.

The Sam Holt series falls into that category of the mystery genre because its premise hinges on the idea of an actor who becomes a private investigator. Though, the fact that these books were first published in the late 1980s suggests that Samuel Holt was treading relatively new ground at the time rather than following the path of an exhausted trope.

And it is worth noting that Sam Holt’s transition from actor to detective makes more sense than those other stories that feature librarians and gardeners who somehow find the mental strength to take on the murderers and criminals in their lives.

Sam was a police detective before he went into acting. When he is first introduced in ‘One of Us is Wrong’, the first book in the series, Sam is a big star. Having put his policing days behind him, Sam proceeded to garner a reputation as Packard, a professor that also moonlights as a private eye.

Sam should have been living the perfect life. Packard was not only a major hit amongst audiences but it also made Sam a lot of money. However, when Sam’s show is canceled, he comes to recognize the stigma he has been saddled with.

Sam played Packard for so long that the character is all people ever associate him with. As a result, when Sam’s show is canceled, he finds that he is pretty much incapable of getting work.

The actor’s troubles are only compounded by an attempt on his life. Fortunately for Sam, he might have put his policing days behind him but he never lost the skills. And he puts them to good use to find his attempted murderer.

Sam Holt’s first major outing as a detective, while successful, does not entice him back into policing. If anything, Sam is more determined than ever to restart his career and find new roles in the movie and television business.

However, no matter where Sam goes, trouble keeps finding him. And while he would rather focus solely on his acting, circumstances keep forcing the protagonist to dig into his skillset and utilize those abilities he thought were abandoned to right wrongs.

Sam keeps ending up in situations where he cannot quite trust the police to do their jobs.

The protagonist enjoys more perks than most other circumstantial detectives. He is rich. He has a massive house and his celebrity status tends to open many a door. However, for all those opportunities, Sam spends most of this series struggling to carve out a new path in the acting arena.

+The Author

Samuel Holt is a pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake. Donald was born in 1933. He died in 2008. By then, the author had written over a hundred books. He made his name in the crime fiction genre, though there were instances where he experimented with science fiction.

The author’s most popular creations include Parker and John Dortmunder. Both books are a stark contrast to the author’s Sam Holt books. Donald is primarily known for producing gritty, hardboiled crime fiction.

Even with the injection of Donald’s trademark wit and humor, there is a serious tone to the author’s crime fiction. As such, the Sam Holt series tends to surprise Donald’s fans because the books are little lighter in their tone.

It has been argued that the change in tone is intentional. After all, Donald wrote the Sam Holt series under the Samuel Holt pseudonym specifically because he did not want people to associate the series with his reputation as Donald E. Westlake.

Already a renowned author at the time, Donald wanted to see if he could succeed while writing under a new name. And it might be that Donald set out to make the Sam Holt books as different from the Parker and Dortmunder novels as he possibly could.

The ruse did not last long. Donald’s publishers saw fit to reveal the identity of Samuel Holt at the time of the first book’s release. Donald wasn’t amused. The plan had been to produce an estimated six books in the series.

However, Donald only ever wrote the four books he had been contacted to produce for the series before abandoning the concept.

The Sam Holt books have been commended for their interesting commentary on the movie and television business.

+One of Us Is Wrong

Actor Sam Holt thought he had finally made it when he began playing Packard, a Police Detective on a television show. And the show was successful. However, Sam Holt spent so many years playing Packard that, when the show is canceled and Holt tries to get work, he finds that people have come to so closely associate him with his detective role that no one will hire him to play anyone new.

Unfortunately for the actor, his acting problems are only the tip of the iceberg. Holt realizes he’s in trouble when Middle Eastern-looking men try to run him off the road. Holt doesn’t know why anyone would want to kill him.

But he knows that he cannot simply sit back and relax just because the police tell him they are on the case. And it isn’t like Holt is helpless. Before he went into acting, Sam Holt was a police detective. He decides to put his skills to good use by identifying his potential murderer.

+I Know A Trick Worth Two of That

Sam Holt spent many years playing a detective on television. But now he is done with that role. He wants to move on to bigger things. Holt things his life is tough. But he is forced to reconsider his assessment when a friend contacts him ranting about conspiracies.

Holt is forced to take the man seriously when he is poisoned and dies. Holt doesn’t want to leave it to the cops to solve his murder, though. For all his determination to steer clear of his television persona, Holt is driven to put his sleuthing hat on and unravel the conspiracy.

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