Re: RARA-AVIS: Joe Gores as Professional

From: DCG! (
Date: 20 Jan 2008

I'll 2nd that --- keep up the great work, Jimbo!

Karin Montin <> wrote:
          Thanks for the write-up, Jim. I love all this background info. I really like the DKA books I've managed to get hold of. Amazing cons, colourful characters that you can follow for years--great reads. Cases was okay, but I wasn't as keen about the one with the mountain climbing (about which miker said he liked, althoug he "thought he failed to work the climbing scenes effectively")--Come Morning, was it?


At 01:04 PM 16/01/2008 -0800, Jim Doherty wrote:

>Of course, Joe Gores is a professional writer. In
>fact, whether one admires his work or not (and I
>admire it quite a lot, as I sense most of you do), one
>has to be impressed by the sheer work ethic he brings
>to the craft of fiction.
>But here I'm talking about his past experiences as a
>professional private detective that so informs his
>When his first DKA story, "The Mayfield Case"
>(retitled "Find the Girl" in his STAKEOUT ON PAGE
>STREET collection), was first reprinted in a BEST
>DETECTIVE STORIES OF THE YEAR anthology, the editor of
>that series, Anthony Boucher, noted that Gores was one
>of the few actual private investigators to enter the
>mystery writing field since Hammett (the parallels
>between Gores and Hammett have already been
>It must have been a proud moment for Boucher when this
>story first appeared in the 12/67 issue of EQMM.
>Though he'd sold an average of two stories per year
>since 1957, while working as a PI, he had never,
>AFAIK, written a PI story. A member of the Bay Area
>chapter of MWA, Gores was asked by Boucher to give a
>talk on what it was like to work as a real-life PI,
>and specifically as a repo man, to a regular monthly
>meeting. Boucher was so impressed with the talk that
>he suggested Gores write a series based on his
>real-life experiences. The DKA stories and novels
>were the result of that suggestion.
>Regretfully, Boucher died soon after the first DKA
>story was published, so he never got to see how the
>series developed.
>But I'm going far afield here. The point is, Boucher
>was quite right about few PI's actually turning their
>real-life experiences into fiction between Hammett and
>Gores. Cleve F. Adams, the creator of Rex McBride and
>other hard-boiled PI's of the '30's and '40's, claimed
>on his dust-jacket bio that he'd once been a private
>detective (along with an insurance exec, a copper
>miner, and an art director for the movies), but that
>always had the smell of puffery. I never really
>believed it.
>The only two private eye writers I can find between
>Hammett and Gores, who were also for-sure private eyes
>in real life, were a pair of agency ops in Kansas
>City, MO, named John Roscoe and Mike Russo who, as
>"Mike Roscoe," collborated on a rather enjoyable
>series of Spillane-like novels featuring a KC shamus
>Johnny April, all of which appeared in the '50's. No
>one actually followed in the wake of Mike Roscoe,
>however. Indeed, as noted, the Roscoe team was
>following in Spillane's wake.
>But, just as Joseph Wambaugh's success, for all that
>there had been cop-writers before him, seemed to start
>a tsumani of cop-writers (including yours truly), Joe
>Gores's seems to have been the source for a similar
>wave, if perhaps not quite a tsunami, of professional
>PI's writing about their work.
>Following in Gores's footsteps, we've seen his fellow
>San Franciscans, Jerry Kenneally, Elizabeth Pincus,
>Lise. S. Baker all break into print, as well as
>Parnell Hall, Carolina Garcia-Aguilera, Michael Stone,
>Art Hardin, and Don Winslow from the rest of the
>country. And all of them, to at least a degree, and
>in contrast to the "Mike Roscoe" team, following
>Gores's lead in presenting some of the reality,
>instead of the Chandleresque fantasy, of private
>Gores has declared his stories and novels about DKA to
>be "the first private eye procedural series." He
>qualifies this by stating that Hammett's Op series was
>written before the term "procedural" had been coined,
>which I regard as not entirely logical. One might as
>well say that DRAGNET wasn't a police procedural
>because it debuted on radio seven years before Boucher
>coined the term "police procedural," or, for that
>matter, that Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"
>wasn't a mystery because the term hadn't yet been
>coined to described fiction dealing with the solution
>of crimes.
>Still, there's no denying that Gores was doing
>something that hadn't really been done before. Even
>Hammett, for all his experience, was presenting a
>fantasy about what it was like to to be a PI, a
>fantasy with a heavy dusting of informed realism to be
>sure, but a fantasy nonetheless. Hammett presented
>PI's routinely solving murders. Gores presented PI's
>doing skip traces, looking for debtors who'd defaulted
>on their obligations, repossessing cars, etc.
>Aside from Gores, the only real PI procedural I can
>think of, and it was a stand-alone not a series, was
>Stanley Ellin's heavily-researched Edgar-winner THE
>So, to perhaps a greater degree than any other PI
>writer since Hammett, Gores was a trend-setter.


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