I've been a fan of fictional private eyes since I first saw Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. The affinity led me to take charge of two lists on Robert B. Parker's poetic gourmet gumshoe Spenser and one on the state and future of the genre (DetecToday). When I took on the latter list, I knew the characters we discussed wouldn't always fit the image of Spade and Marlowe. I think, above all else, the P.I.'s most enduring quality--even if she doesn't call herself a P.I.--is the ability to tackle a problem from a relatively neutral position and, because of this, stand the bast chance of resolving the problem.

Each month, the members of DetecToday select a book featuring a P.I./salvage expert/troubleshooter to debut from 1980 through the present, and the author's body of work is discussed. Because the characters come in many different shapes and sizes, and are described in so many ways, it can be difficult to find the books.

So for my first discussion on Crimespace, which characters would you say fit the archetype I've described, the outsider coming in? What is the private eye to you? What current books and authors can you recommend?

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Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer is a good example. Tess Monaghan is another. But those are both obvious choices.

I have to say that the most influencial P.I. on my own fiction is a friend of mine who also writes. She's really taught me what the P.I.'s life is really like.
I would love to see DT do a feature on Gar Anthony Haywood's Aaron Gunner seires, if you haven't already.

I miss these classic PI novels, and truly hope they find a home again. Gunner is a great example of the archetype.

Gar's writing is as good as any one working today, and the Gunner
series had all the elements we love about the genre, with unique,
contemporary spins to the stories and characters. It reminded me of a
grittier, more real Peter Gunn.

I felt like the series could have sustained many more books.
We featured Haywood in October 2003 with FEAR OF THE DARK. There's a two-year wait before an author can be featured again, so his work is eligible. I don't know how easy the Gunner books are to find, but we could do one of his pseudonymous Ray Shannon books if it were similar enough to private eye.
Are you a fan of the Gunner series?

I wish I'd been around in '03.
I've only read FEAR OF THE DARK, but I liked it.
I've always enjoyed the private eye stories that skew things just enough to make it interesting. I enjoy Crais' Elvis Cole, but he feels almost stereotypical to me. Eric Garcia's Vincent Rubio from the Anonymous Rex books is fun. He's an outsider in a group of outsiders.

The most recent one I've read that I think fits the bill, and I can't recommend the book highly enough, is Cal Innes from Ray Banks' Saturday's Child. He's just a guy pretending to be a PI. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing. He has no resources. He doesn't use a gun to settle his problems, he uses a cricket bat. He starts off as an outsider and stays an outsider throughout.
The last PI novels I read were (ready for a big shocker here?) Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro books. I don't typically read PI novels. I have no idea why.

Did you see PubLunch today? The book advertised looks like a PI/chick lit crossover. I don't know what to think about that. Link here:
Hmm... I don't know what to think of that, either. Bryon? :)

I sometimes find the P.I. genre very limiting, which is why I'm glad to see writers with fresh takes.
Since I even dedicated an entire blog to the PI I of course had to give my opinion..

To me the PI is the man riding into town to right the wrongs. Often the PI has been compa
compared to the cowboy and in many ways I think that comparison fits.
He (or she) is the one you go to when you're in trouble and there's no one
that can help you because they're bound by the law, their fears, their weaknesses.
Throughout the years many PI's have gotten different labels, like 'fixer' or in my
own case / character Noah Milano a security specialist but the main trademarks
are still there.

Take a look at Harry Bosch or Dave Robicheaux... Both cops but the badge just
masks they're PI's in every way. Righting wrongs, eternal outsiders...
With that in mind, we can see superheroes like the alien Superman as a PI
archetype as well. Not that strange since he was inspired by the pulps
and didn't the PI start in the pulps as well?

But if you're looking for an original PI to read that might be lesser known a good
choice is UK PI Nick Sharman from the Mark Timlin novels. Very violent, fast-paced
I too became obsessed with the PI in fiction, to the point of taking a PI course, the same one all PIs in my state need to do to get a license. Dropped out half way through boredom, though, but I was only there for research.

My favourite PI would be fellow Australian Peter Corris' Cliff Hardy. I think the 30th novel in the series just came out. Cliff strikes a great balance between hard-boiled and vulnerable, very rarely using a gun. There's something honest and real about Corris' writing, and for the first time in my life, I find reading about locations I know an enjoyable exercise.

One other Aussie PI I'm planning on reading soon is Leigh Redhead's Simone Kirsch. Her three book series has just gone into reprints and I've noticed an interesting marketing change. The first books played up the ex-stripper angle of both the author and the character, the reprints don't mention this at all in the blurb or bio.


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