Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest Reviewer

I'll be back in the blog saddle soon, but meanwhile, enjoy this review from my friend, Bronson. He's the first guest reviewer I've ever had at Naked Without Books. I hope that this visit is the beginning of an ongoing trend.

Pete Duel: A Biography, by Paul Green. Foreword by Pamela Deuel Johnson. Published by McFarland & Co., Inc., 2007. 219 pp.

Pete Duel. One in a long line of Hollywood tragedies. In December 1971, while at the height of his success with a starring role in the TV Western Alias Smith & Jones, Pete Duel shot himself, dead at the age of 31.

We have the Internet to thank for this book. Thanks to its fruition, Duel’s fans found an outlet where they could share information and rejoice in the glow of their favorite actor. It became all too apparent that Duel had a substantial fan base. That adulation, in turn, created a fervor that resulted in a 1999 episode of E!’s Mysteries & Scandals, which eventually paved the way for Paul Green to pursue this endeavor.

Green, who also authored A History of Television’s The Virginian, 1962-1971 (McFarland, 2006), does a fair job of relaying Duel’s story. His writing style is competent and informative, though not particularly spectacular. He relies on extended quotes to tell the story, occasionally working in his own prose to tie parts together, which makes for an easy and somewhat engaging read, though not a very exciting one.

Even so, through the remembrances of Duel’s family, friends and colleagues, Green does succeed in his purpose, painting a portrait of an artistic, yet disturbed, young man. Duel’s passions for acting, animals, politics and the environment are well-examined, as are his personal shortcomings, such as alcoholism, philandering and sporadic outbursts of violence. The reader manages to get a better grasp on Duel’s character, and even though he was obviously a flawed human being, he also comes across as a genuinely likeable one.

Green’s major ally in this project is Duel’s younger sister, Pamela Deuel Johnson, who provides the foreword. Thanks to her contribution, the reader receives a thorough history of Duel’s childhood, complete with stories of discovery, frivolity, and tragedy (including the death of Duel’s infant sister Jennifer in 1952). Green deserves kudos for making contact with many of Duel’s significant others: Jill Andre, Kim Darby, Beth Griswold and Dianne Ray (who was at Duel’s home when he died) among them. Likewise, many of Duel’s colleagues (e.g., Mike Farrell, James Drury, Juliet Mills, Glen A. Larson, and Jo Swerling, Jr.), as well as friends throughout various stages of his existence, provide valuable contributions. All of these people speak freely and openly about their respective relationships with the late actor, providing anecdotes and insight that bring his character to life. (This book also contains approximately sixty previously unpublished photographs, many provided by Duel’s family and friends.)

Although these recollections provide a fairly well-rounded portrait of this troubled young man, one can’t help but notice some suspicious absences, most notably Ben Murphy (Duel’s AS&J co-star), Roger Davis (Duel’s AS&J replacement) and Geoffrey Deuel (Duel’s younger brother, also an actor). The absences of Murphy and Davis are particularly suspicious because both were interviewed for the E! Mysteries & Scandals episode several years prior. Deuel, on the other hand, wasn’t associated with that project; even so, one can’t help but find it odd that he would not use this outlet to tell his side of things. Whatever the reasons for these gentlemen to not contribute, this biography is definitely worth a look-see for any of Pete Duel’s fans. Green brings to light a story that was kept in the dark for way too many years.


Care said...

I'll have to go look this guy up! I'm not sure I know who Pete Duel was. Very interesting, so tragic.

Anonymous said...

I haven't thought about Peter Duel in decades! I had a major crush on him when I was a girl (and when he was still alive). Thank you for bringing this book to our attention!

Carrie K said...

I loved that show. Weird that Ben Murphy is missing completely from the book.

jgodsey said...

I was a big fan of Pete Duel when i was a kid, when the news broke I was very sad, i never understood why someone on the crest of fame could do such a thing. it wasn't until i grew up that i understood.

Maree said...

Oh, I loved Alias Smith & Jones! I have to find this book now - thank you!!!

Paul Green said...

Hello Bronson: Thank you for reviewing my book. As the author I'd like to answer a few questions raised by your review.

I talked at length with Geoffrey Deuel but he preferred I didn't quote him directly. His input is in my book.

Ben Murphy and Roger Davis were approached but didn't respond. There is nothing suspicious. They simply didn't wish to contribute.
Other contributors talk about Pete Duel's relationships with Ben Murphy and Roger Davis, including Pamela Deuel Johnson, Harold Frizzell (Pete Duel's stand-in on AS&J) and Dianne Ray. But I must emphasize Murphy and Davis are not central to Pete Duel's story. His personal life, close friends and girlfriends are the best indicators to his often troubled personality.

When I began research on my book back in the 1990s I didn't have access to the internet and do not see it as the reason for my books existence. My initial research was in libraries. Pete Duel's fan base was apparent from the 1970s. The internet followed this trend and didn't create it. Fan clubs and their newsletters and fanzines had been in existence since 1972.
The printed fanzine "Deuel Memories" was a major source of initial research. Not the internet.

Personal interviews I conducted with people who knew Pete Duel in life were the prime source of information.

Thanks again for your review Bronson. For those interested further information can be found at


I didn't follow Pete Duel at all, but I do think we can't credit the I-net for somehow being instrumental in this book by Paul Green.

Based on the dates he said he did his research, few were even locked into the I-net as they are now.

As to using the word 'suspicious' - I'd say that's your point of reference; certainly not the one of the author's. I'd say you're editorialzing when you shouldn't be.


PS - If a tree falls in the forest, it will not be made into a book.

As a retired 'paper-maker', one knows that the better books are made up of 100% rag cotton fiber - only the less-expensive paper-backs ever are made with pulp that's harvested from wood. And, any trees that fall, aren't suitable for making books at all - they at best, go into toilet tissue and newsprint.

Do a little research about how paper is made, so your remarks can be more appropriate - sadly, you seem given to being truly superficial not only as you try to be clever with your remarks about trees and books, but in your reviews of authors; their motives for writing, and why they choose to assemble their words and text, as they do.

How many books have you written????