Re: RARA-AVIS: PI etnicity

From: mherridge@HTCOMP.NET
Date: 12 Oct 2004

----- Original Message ----- From: "JIM DOHERTY" <>

> In fact, Irish PI's (and I'll stick to PI's
> exclusively for this post) go back to the sub-genre's
> beginnings. Frederic Nebel's "Tough-Dick" Donahue was
> a regular feature of BLACK MASK, and his very similar
> Jack Cardigan held essentially the same position at
> DIME DETECTIVE. Mike Shayne, proudly Irish, was
> intorduced in DIVIDEND ON DEATH in 1939, the same year
> Marlowe made his debut (at least his book-length
> debut) in THE BIG SLEEP. The first hard-boiled PI of
> them all, Daly's Terry Mack is clearly either Irish or
> Scottish.

Daly had a series detective named Twist Sullivan in Detective Fiction Weekly 1933-34. There were plenty of Irish private detectives and police detectives in that magazine. T. T. Flynn's detective duo, Mike Harris & Trixie Meehan, also appeared in DFW, and they seem to be of Irish descent.

> In a recent issue of the PWA newsletter, REFLECTIONS
> IN A PRIVATE EYE, Gary Phillips reported on a private
> eye character who predated Hammett, Chandler, Daly,
> et. al., in a novel called, IIRC, THE BLACK SLEUTH.
> THE BLACK SLEUTH notwithstanding, it's generally
> agreed that the first black PI in the
> Hammett-Chandler-Macdonald tradition was Ed Lacy's
> Toussaint Moore who first appeared in the
> Edgar-winning ROOM TO SWING in 1957 and made it into
> one sequel, MOMENT OF UNTRUTH a 1964 PBO.

There were two black private detectives (King & Moxie by Clement Wood) in a few stories in Flynn's 1924-25, but they are about impossible to read now; they are offensive to modern readers.

> There are also comparatively early examples of Italian
> eyes (William Campbell Gault's Joe Puma), Hispanic
> eyes (Cleve F. Adams Nevada Alvarado, who is also one
> of the first female eyes), and Asian, or at least
> Pacific Rim, eyes (Raoul Whitfield's Filipino PI Jo
> Gar).
> It may seem a little more prevalent now, but ethnic
> PI's are not anything new by any means.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 12 Oct 2004 EDT