RARA-AVIS: Re: Hard-Boiled Series Characters...Looking for Recommendations

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 19 Feb 2007

I'll add my voice to those recommending Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer. Macdonald, often described as the "Holy Ghost" of private eye writers to Hammett's
"Father" and Chandler's "Son," was, frankly, not as good as either of them at their best, but he was much more productive and much more consistent. Maybe he never quite produced as superlative a masterpiece as THE MALTESE FALCON or THE LONG GOODBYE, but he also never wrote a THIN MAN or a PLAYBACK (neither of which is bad, but neither if which is at all up to the Masters' best). There were, I think, 16 Archer novels and one short story collection, and not a dud in the bunch.

That short story collection, titled THE NAME IS ARCHER in paperback, and reprinted in hardcover with new stories added as LEW ARCHER - PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR, is one of the best PI short story collections ever.

A few other '50's era private eye characters you might want to check out: Thomas B. Dewey's Mac, Howard Browne's Paul Pine, Bart Spicer's terribly underrated Carney Wilde, William Campbell Gault's Brock Callahan
(a former NFL linebacker if anyone's still keeping track or sports noir) in hardback and Joe Puma in paperback, Ed Lacy's Toussaint Moore (the first credible black hard-boiled PI, introduced in the Edgar-winning ROOM TO SWING), and Stephen Marlowe's globe-trotting gumshoe Chet Drum.

PI's from later decades that haven't been mentioned yet, Joe Gores's Dan Kearney and his Associates, Max Allan Collins's Nate Heller, William (Dennis Lynds) Arden's Kane Jackson (my favorite Lynds PI outside of Dan Fortune), Loren D. Estleman's Amos Walker, and Jonathan Valin's Harry Stoner.

And that's just PI's. If you're interested, I can do whole separate posts on cops, secret agents, and criminal protagonists.


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