RARA-AVIS: Re: Ellin and Eighth Circle

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 31 Dec 2008

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    Re your response to Jeff below:

    "I haven't read this, but Ellin was a strong short story writer. THE EIGHTH CIRCLE isn't a paperback original, though, it came out in hardback first, from Random. It's his only private eye novel, I think."

    THE EIGHTH CIRCLE was the Edgar winner in the Best Novel category for 1958, one of three PI novels to win the award in that category during the '50's (the others were Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE and Ed Lacy's ROOM TO SWING), but the last PI novel to win in that category until Parker's PROMISED LAND nearly two decades later. The lack of PI fiction winning Edgars, particularly in the best novel category, was part of what prompted Bob Randisi to found Private Eye Writers of America.

    Ellin did a lot of research at actual PI agencies prior to writing THE EIGHTH CIRCLE, and made a genuine effort to present the work of PI's authentically, so, in a way, he anticipated Joe Gores's "private eye procedural" approach by ten years. Murray Kirk, the protagonist, is not merely an employee of a large, successful agency; he's the rich and successful OWNER.

    It was not Ellin's only PI novel. Indeed, Ellin made something of a specialty of PI heroes who worked the high end of the boulevard rather than the mean streets. His other PI novels were THE BIND, featuring free-lance insurance investigator Jake Dekker, and STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT and THE DARK FANTASTIC, both featuring high-priced Manhattan op John Milano, Ellin's only series character.



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