Julian Symons' The Gigantic Shadow, originally published in 1958, is an example of a crime novel which began with a single idea. As he explained many years later (in Jack Walsdorf's excellent bibliography of his work), his imagination was seized by a particular vision: that of a ruthless TV inquisitor having the tables turned on him by an interviewee, in a dramatic way that ruins the life he has known.
It's a good idea, and in the book, Bill Hunter is a feared TV 'special investigator', who is conducting a no-holds-barred interview, live, with Nicholas Mekles, a feared gangster and playboy. When Hunter asks one question too many, Mekles - who has done his homework rather better than Hunter - retailiates by revealing on air that Hunter is living a lie. His real name is O'Brien, and he has served time in prison for murder.
This revelation destroys Hunter's career and his relationship with Anna. He has to start all over again. In so doing, he begins a relationship with rich and glamorous Anthea Moorhouse. Encouraged by her, Hunter finds himself drawn into a criminal conspiracy that is destined to have fatal consequences. The story is, as Symons accepted, more of a thriller rather than a detective novel. With hindsight, he regretted having launched into the book without a clearly worked out storyline to follow the dramatic opening.
Symons was a harsh judge of his own work, but I'm afraid that in this instance he was right to regard the book as a misfire. I read it thirty years ago, but I'd completely forgotten the story. This says something about my memory, but it really is a pretty forgettable mystery. The trouble is that I simply didn't believe in Bill Hunter, either as an ex-IRA man or a TV presenter, and I didn't believe in his rather clueless exploits, either. As ever with Symons, it's a very readable story, but it's definitely one of his weakest efforts.