Re your question below:
> What post-Continental Op characters worked for
> large agency? I can't
> think of any. Spade had a partner (for a while),
> Marlowe worked alone.
> They're the two classic characters. In the '20s,
> was BLACK MASK running
> other stories about agencies? Did that background
> just die out, or was
> the Op rare even then?
Prior to THE BIG SLEEP, which became the paradigm for PI
novels forever after, agency ops were not nearly as unusual
as they are now.
Post-Continental Op, just a few pulp-era big agency ops
include Frederic Nebel's Donahue of the Interstate Agency in
BLACK MASK and the near-clone of Donahue Nebel created for
DIME DETECTIVE, Jack Cardigan of the Cosmos Agency. Hugh B.
Cave's Peter Kane worked for a big agency in Boston, but I
can't recall the name off-hand.
Post-Marlowe, on the other hand, agency ops get a lot more
rare. Bart Spicer's Carney Wilde starts out as a faithful
follower of the Marlowe one-man agency paradigm, but, bitten
by the post-war get-ahead bug, works hard to make his
business successful, and by the time his series ends in EXIT
RUNNING, his agency has grown to employ more than a hundred
operatives and has security contracts all over Philly. Al
Collins's Nate Heller follows a similar pattern, starting out
as a one-man show during the Depression, and growing to a a
big, national agency in later years. But they are owners, not
Kin Platt's Max Roper works for a big, world-wide agency
denoted only by some mysterious initials. A TV show called
either SEARCH or PROBE showed the adventures of three
operatives (played, IIRC, by Hugh O'Brian, Tony Franciosa,
and Doug McClure) of a super-high-tech detective agency
called the World Security Organization. And there were two
PBOs, the names of which escape me, but maybe Kevin Smith or
Bill Crider will remember, about a guy, whose name also
escapes me, who the world thought was a famous non-fiction
writer, but who was actually an undercover agent for the
largest detective agency in the world. I recall 101 KNIGHTS
describing this character as the only fictional PI who
operates undercover at all times.
I don't usually plug my own stuff here, but my western PI
character, Mike Segretto, is a Pinkerton operative
(and come to think of it, there've been several historical PI novels featuring Pinkerton agents), and my contemporary PI character, Errol Pucinski, who'll make his debut in Michael Bracken's HARDBROILED, is a
"Senior Investigator" for Wilson/Farragut Security, a fictional agency loosely modeled on Wells Fargo Security.
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