Births, deaths, anniversaries, celebrations and dates of note.
- Novelist and screenwriter Ernest B. Tidyman, the creator of Shaft, the black private eye who dug like a private sex machine with all the chicks, born on this day in 1928.
- The Adventures of Sam Spade makes its debut on CBS radio in 1946, starring Howard Duff.
- British author Leopold Horace Ognall passed away on this date in 1979. He was better known by the pseudonym of Hartley Howard, who wrote forty books about Glenn Bowman, a hard-boiled New York City private eye.
- Mystery writers Oriana Papazoglou (Gregor Demarkian) and William L. DeAndrea (Matt Cobb) get hitched in Siuth Norwalk, Conneticutt on this day in 1984.
- Author Isaac Asimov born on this day in Petrovici, Russia. He wrote over 400 books, most of them science fiction, of course, but he also wrote a couple of darn good mysteries, as well as one of the first truly successful sci-fi/mystery hybrids, The Caves of Steel (1953), feauring the human/robot team of detectives, Lije Baley & R.D. Olivaw.
- Prolific mystery author, screenwriter and playwright Rufus King, born on this day in New York City in 1893, is most famous for his Lieutenant Valcour police procedurals, but also wrote Holiday Homicide (1940), a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Rex Stout and Archie Goodwin, featuring high-priced sleuth Cotton Moon and his secretary-assistant-narrator, Bert Stanley.
- Harlan Coben, creator of Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who insists on playing private eye, born on this day in 1962.
- Author and film noir champion Arthur Lyons, creator of one of the finest–and most unjustly forgotten–private eyes to come out of the seventies, Southern California’s Jacob Asch, born on this day in 1946 in–where else?–Los Angeles.
- Sherlock Holmes, arguably the world’s most famous private eye, born on this day in 1854, at Mycroft, North Riding, Yorkshire, according to the calculations of Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould, and is now celebrated by Sherlock fans around the world.
- Ed Lacy, creator of the first truly-credible black private eye, Toussaint Moore, and the winner of the Edgar for Best Novel for Room to Swing (1965), suffers a fatal heart attack in his Harlem home in 1968. That book, says Ed Gorman, is “the one that got him into heaven.”
- American noir novelist David Goodis, widely admired for his his output of short stories and novels, dies of a heart attack while shoveling snow in Philadelphia in 1967.
- Wilkie Collins, whose most popular works were The Woman in White (1860), and The Moonstone (1868), forerunner of the modern detective novel, born on this date in 1824.
- Dashiell Hammett‘s last — and most successful novel — The Thin Man, which introduced husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles to the world, published on this date in 1934.
- Actress, stripper, playwright, mystery author (maybe) and world class ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee born on this day in 1911 as Ellen June Hovick in Seattle, Washington.
- Mike Resnick, died this day in 2020 of lymphoma. Resnick was a prolific and much loved science fiction and fantasy author, nominated 27 times for Hugo Awards and winning five, but he also cranked out a couple of decent private eye series, one a P.I./fantasy hybrid series featuring John Justin Mallory, and a more down-to earth onestarring Cincinnati gumshoe Eli Paxton.
- Dashiell Hammett dies on this date in New York City in 1961.
- Writer and political activist Paco Ignacio Taibo II, the creator of Mexico City’s most politically outspoken private eye, Hector Belascoarán Shayne, born on this day in Gijon, Spain.
- Walter Mosley, creator of Easy Rawlins, Socrates Fortlow and Leonid McGill, among others, born on this date in 1952 in Los Angeles.
- California mystery and sci-fi writer and unabashed fan of comic books, pulp fiction and sci-fi, Ron Goulart born in 1933. Beside penning a slew of non-fiction books on his obsessions, he created numerous private eyes including John Easy, Jake and Hildy Pace, Ben Jolson, Jim Haley, Max Kearney and even Jake Cardigan, allegedly written by William “T. J. Hambone” Shatner.
- In 1938, LAPD Intelligence Squad Captain Earle Kynette blows up the car of former police chief and then-current private detective Harry Raymond. With Raymond inside it. Just in case anyone thought Los Angeles was ever the City of Angels. Fortunately Raymond survived to testify against the bastards.
- American film and theater actor Humphrey Bogart passed away this day in 1957 from from esophageal cancer. He became a cultural icon for his definitive tough guy roles in such classic films as High Sierra, The African Queen, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected him as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.
- National Hat Day. Time to break out your favorite fedora.
- Dennis Lynds (aka Michael Collins, William Arden, John Crowe, Robert Hart Davis, Carl Dekker, Maxwell Grant, Mark Sadler, Sheila Lynds, Sheila McErlean, John Douglas, Walter Dallas and house pseudonyms Nick Carter, Brett Halliday, Don Pendleton & Maxwell Grant), the creator of, among many others, Dan Fortune and Slot Machine Kelly, born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1924.
- Carroll John Daly, creator of Race Williams and whom William F. Nolan dubbed “the father of the hard-boiled private eye,” died on this day in 1958 in Los Angeles.
- Jakob Arjourni, writer of five acclaimed novels featuring Frankfurt private eye Kemal Kayankaya, passed away on this day in 2013 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer.
- Benjamin M. Schutz, expert in forensic psychology, one helluva nice guy and the author of five acclaimed novels featuring Washington DC private eye Leo Haggerty, passed awasy on this date in 2008. Too soon, too soon.
- Edgar Allan Poe, born on this date in Boston in 1809.
- The Queen of Darkness, Patricia Highsmith, born on this date (as Mary Patricia Plangman) in 1921 in Texas.
- Cop writer Joseph Wambaugh born in Pittsburg in 1937. He gave us at least one P.I. novel, Fugitive Nights, but made his mark with his police procedurals, both fiction and non-fiction.
- Beer in a can makes its debut on this day in 1935, and stakeouts become a lot more fun, if not more conscientious, thanks to the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Virginia.
- The great late singer/songwriter/hard-boiled excitable boy Warren Zevon was born on this day in 1947. Check out the cover and the dedication of his album Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School.
- NYC cartoonist and author Jules Feiffer born in 1929. His P.I. novel., Ackroyd (1977), is a real head-scratcher: an existential blowout that’s part-mind game and part-satire. But his Hannigan Family graphic novel trilogy is the real deal, a gritty, politically charged Valentine to hard-boiled pulp fiction and film noir.
- Novelist, journalist, scriptwriter and giant finger in the eye of all pretence, Mordecai Richler born in 1931 in Montreal. He shoulda/coulda written the Great Montreal P.I. Novel. Duddy Kravitz, Private Eye, anyone?
- Dora Amy Elles passes away on this date in 1961. She was better known as British crime writer Patricia Wentworth, who wrote 32 bestselling novels featuring spinster private eye Miss Silver.
- Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Raven” mades its print debut on this day in 1845 in The New York Evening Mirror. Evermore.
- Richard Brautigan, much-beloved Beat poet and novelis who gave the world Trout Fishing in America (1967) born in 1935 in Washington, also gave us a P.I. novel, Dreaming of Babylon, which is much less beloved.
- One mystery’s most beloved and bestselling authors, Mary Higgins Clark, passed away on this day in 2020, at the age of 92. Although I don’t think she ever wrote a P.I. novel, her books of domestic suspense, starting with Where Are the Children? (1975), are among the best that genre ever produced (and in fact that book was an early favourite of mine, stoking my interest in the genre). A MWA Grand Master, she lent her name to the short-lived but sorely missed Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, and inspired many writers to follow her path, including her daughter Carol Higgins Clark and former daughter-in-law Mary Jane Clark.
- Laura Lippman, the author of some great standalones and the creator of Baltimore’s Tess Monaghan, one of the great private eyes of all time, born on this day in 1959, in Columbia, Maryland.
- National Gorilla Suit Day
Okay, you got me. MAD cartoonist Don Martin doesn’t have much to do with private eyes (except maybe for his stories about hard-boiled Lance Parkertip, Noted Public Notary), but fans celebrate the man and his work (including a running gag about “National Gorilla Suit Day” by wearing them on this day. No specific date for the event is given in the story, which appeared in the 1963 paperback book Don Martin Bounces Back.
- Allan J. Pinkerton signs this contract between the Illinois Central Railroad and the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, Pinkerton & Company, agreeing to establish a “Police Agency” in Chicago to assist the Railroad in the “prompt and efficient performance of their business,” on this date in 1855.
- On this day in 1929, Dashiell Hammett’s first novel, The Red Harvest, featuring the Continental Op, was published by Alfred A. Knopf, following a four-part run in Black Mask in 1927 and 1928.
- Frank Gruber, proud survivor of The Pulp Jungle, born in Elmer, Minnesota in 1904.
- Television producer, writer, and bestselling crime novelist, Stephen J. Cannell,creator of Jim Rockford, The A-Team, Shane Scully et al, born on this day in 1941 in Los Angeles.
- Basil Copper, an unlikely but appropriate name for a Brit who wrote 52 American-style hard-boiled pulp starring tough guy gumshoe Mike Faraday, born on this day in 1924.
- Margaret Millar born on this day in 1915 in Berlin, Ontario. Her early success at writing mysteries inspired her husband Ken to try his hand at it, but she wrote some damn good P.I. novels herself, most notably How Like an Angel (1962) and Ask for Me Tomorrow (1976)
- William S. Burroughs, the Big Daddy of the Beats, born on this day in 1914. Not only did he create private eye Clem Snide, but Burroughs worked, albeit very briefly, as a private eye himself. Some critics think Snide was creared as a surrogate for Burroughs.
- Stephen Marlowe, creator of the Chester Drum series, passed away on this date.
- Patricia Anne Soule “Pat” French passed away on this day in 2017. She was the wife of Jim French, creator of The Adventures of Harry Nile, and played the detective’s long-suffering assistant on that show for 35 years.
- Writer David Simon (Homicide: A Life on the Streets, The Wire, Treme, The Deuce, etc.), one of the all-time great TV crime writers,was born on this day in 1960 Washington, D.C. Bonus attraction: Married to Laura Lippman.
- In honour of St. Valentine’s Day, here’s Raymond Chandler commenting in a letter on his relationship with his wife, Cissy, who had recently passed away.
- Dick Francis, of natural causes on this day in 2010 at his Caribbean home in Grand Cayman, survived by both sons. A professional steeplechase jockey, he went on to win over 350 races, rode for the Queen, and wrote close to 40 much-loved mystery novels and thrillers, including four featuring one-handed jockey-turned-P.I. Sid Halley.
- Gahan Wilson, celebrated and much beloved American cartoonist, whose oddball magazine illustrations earned him such nicknames “the Michelangelo of the Macabre” and “the Wizard of Weird,” and whose Eddy Deco’s Last Caper is one of my all-time favourite P.I. lampoons, born on this day in 1930.
- Birthday (1941) of Jersey boy Stephen Dobyns, poet and novelist, who wrote several books about Saratoga milkman/private eye Charlie Bradshaw.
- Chandler fetishists might consider this a Day of Infamy, but filmmaker Robert Altman was born this day in Kansas City, MO, He gave us M*AS*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), Nashville (1975), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), and Gosford Park (2001), but around these parts he’s best remembered for giving us the still- hotly debated The Long Goodbye (1973), an audacious take on the Raymond Chandler novel starring Elliot Gould as Philip Marlowe which is either sublime or ridiciculous, depending on how tight your fedora is screwed on.
- The Thrilling Detective and The Girl Detective make it legal, 2003.
- Ed Hoch, serial short story writer, with over 700 stories to his credit, and creator of such series heroes as New York State cop Captain Leopold, master thief Nick Velvet, crime-solving gypsy Michael Vlado, 2000-year old Simon Ark and my favourite, private eye Al Darlan, born in Rochester, New York in 1930.
- Peter Cheyney, an Englishman who learned to speak American, and gave us hard-boiled private eye Slim Callaghan and hard-boiled spy Lemmy Caution, born in 1896.
- Philip Kerr, creator of the acclaimed series of historical thrillers which follow hapless Berlin private eye Bernie Gunther as he gets kicked around by history before, during and after World War II, born on this day in Edinburgh in 1956. A sly mix of Chandleresque prose and LeCarre reach, the series remain a high-water mark in the genre.
- Dashiell Hammett stands his ground, testifying before Supreme Court in 1955. “Communism for me is not a dirty word.”
- In memory of writer Michael Avallone (who passed away on this day in 1999) and his greatest creation, it’s suggested that everyone grab a nooner.
- Wisconsin writer August William Derleth, born on this day, 1909, creator of Solar Pons, arguably the world’s greatest Sherlock Homes pastiche.
- Hugh Wiley, creator of Chinese private eye James Lee Wong, born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1884 on this date. Don’t blame him for the movies.
- Walter Satterthewait, creator of the Santa Fe P.I. Joshua Croft novels, and the Phil Beaumont & Jane Tanner series, passed away on this day in 2020, after a battle with COPD and congestive heart failure.
- Dennis Farina, Chicago cop turned film and television actor, born on this day in 1944. Best known for his television roles in Crime Story, Law and Order and, of special interest to this group, Buddy Faro, a short-lived but fondly remembered 1998 show where he played a Rat Pack-era private eye stuck in modern day LA.
- American noir novelist David Goodis, widely admired for his his output of short stories and novels, born on this day in 1917 in Philadelphia. Not sure if he ever wrote any P.I. fiction but hey, good stuff is good stuff.
- The first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, begins on March 4th, according to Dr. Watson. The story actually appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in November 1887.
- One of the lost greats, Thomas B. Dewey, born on this day in Elkhart, Indianna, in 1915. His novels featuring world-weary Chicago eye Mac bridged the gap between Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, and laid the groundwork for such future compassionate, heart-on-their-sleeve eyes as Dan Fortune, Pronzini’s Nameless and John Shannon’s Jack Liffey.
- Versatile Japanese playwright and novelist Abe Kobo, born on this date in 1924; came up with one real headscratcher of a P.I. tale, The Ruined Map (1967).
- South African-born Peter Temple, best known for his novels featuring Australian P.I. Jack Irish, and for being the first Australian to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger (in 2007), passed away on this day in 2018.
- Mike Hammer creator and Miller Lite plugger Frank Morrison Spillane born on this date in 1918. Happy birthday, Mickey.
- Australian writer Peter Temple, best known for his novels featuring Australian P.I. Jack Irish, and for being the first Australian to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger (in 2007), born on this day in 1946 in South Africa.
- The party that was British sci-fi satirist Douglas Adams‘ life began on this day in1952. To celebrate, Dirk Gently will be serving tea. Bring your own towels.
- Fredric Brown, whose crazy-ass takes on sci-fi, fantasy and, of course, detective fiction, can still spin your head around, passed away on this date in 1972. His The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), which introduced P.I.s Ed and Am Hunter, is a must-read.
- On this day in 1959, pulp fiction writer Lester Dent died in La Plata, Missouri, at the age of 54. Yeah, yeah, yeah–he was best known for his Doc Savage series, buy he apparently always wanted to be a Black Mask Boy. And with his two stories about Oscar Sail, he made it.
- Bill S. Ballinger born in Chicago in 1912; wrote two novels about Chicago P.I. Barr Breed, as well as pulp classics such as Portrait in Smoke (1950).
- Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by reading a book featuring an Irish private eye. We even have a few suggestions. Best served with a pint of the black.
- Leigh Brackett passed away on this day in 1978 in Lancaster, California, only a mile or so from where I’m typing this. Known primarily for her sci-fi and fantasy fiction, she became known as “The Queen of Space Opera,” but she also penned the P.I. classic No Good from a Corpse, and co-wrote the screenplays for a couple of stone-cold private eye classic Chandler adaptations, The Big Sleep (1946) and The Long Goodbye (1973), as well as the best Star Wars flick of them all, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
- North Dakotan pulp writer Louis L’Amour born in 1908. He wrote several stories for the pulps featuring boxers turned LA private dicks Kip Morgan and Neil Shannon. The westerns ended up paying better.
- Popeyed actor Peter Lorre goes to that big silver screen in the sky on this date in 1964. He’s best remembered as the child killer in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and as the flamboyant Joel Cairo in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon.
- Philip Kerr, creator of the acclaimed series of historical thrillers which follow hapless Berlin private eye Bernie Gunther as he gets kicked around by history before, during and after World War II, passes away on this day in 2018.
- Donald Hamilton, best known for creating a respectably hard-boiled and realistic spy, Matt Helm (before Dino turned him into a laughing stock in four atrocious movies in the sixties), born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1916.
- Raymond Chandler, the man who brought poetry to the mean streets, dies on this day in 1959 in La Jolla’s Scripps Memorial Hospital, in San Diego, California.
- Dorothy Porter, Australian poet, born on this day in 1954. She gave us one of the best lesbian P.I. novels of all time, The Monkey’s Mask (1995). In verse form, no less. It was subsequently made into a pretty kick ass film, as well, starring Susie Poter and Kelly McGinnis.
- Margaret Millar passed away on this day in 1994 in Montecito, California. Her early success at writing mysteries inspired her husband Ken to try his hand at it, but she wrote some damn good P.I. novels herself, most notably How Like an Angel (1962) and Ask for Me Tomorrow (1976).
- “Backlash of the Hunter,” the two-hour television pilot which introduced James Garner as Jim Rockford, arguably TV’s most beloved private eye, first airs on NBC on this date in 1974.
- Some may quibble, but I consider Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak and released on this date in 1958, to be a private eye film.
- Max Brand (real name: Frederick Faust) born on this day in 1893 in Seattle, Washington. He wrote endless mystery and Western short stories for the pulps in the 1920s and 1930s.
- Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of beloved shyster Perry Mason (and about a thousand other characters) lets the defense finally rest on this day in 1970.
- Chicago author John Jakes born in 1932. Responsible for the American Bicentennial series, not to mention cocky, 5’1″ private eye Johnny Havoc, a different sort of American bastard.
- Poisson d’avril!!!
- The Thrilling Detective Web Site goes public on this day, appropriately enough, in 1998. My life heads for the ditch…
- National Poetry Month (U.S.) kicks off. The annual event was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April 1996 to remind the public that poets have an integral role to play in our culture and that poetry matters. Those of you with an appreciation for felonious free verse are urged to head to The 5-2 for some crime poetry. Tell ’em Kevin sent you.
- Howard Engel, a much-loved and major figure in Canadian crime fiction (and a personal inspiration), and the creator of Grantham, Onatario private eye Benny Cooperman, born on this day in 1931 in Toronto. He was a founding member of the Crime Writers of Canada, and a winner of their Grand Master Award in 2014. In February 2007, he was named a member of the Canadian Order and in 2013, Engel received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
- Jack Webb. Television writer, actor. Born 1920. Created and starred in Dragnet, but achieved his first real fame playing a detective on radio on three different shows: Pat Novak for Hire, Johnny Modero, Pier 23 and Jeff Regan, Investigator.
- British mystery writer Reginald Hill born in County Durham in 1936. Although best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe police procedurals, he’s also given us five delightfully soft-boiled novels about unassuming black private eye Joe Sixsmith. Shaft, he ain’t.
- Basil Copper, an unlikely but appropriate name for a Brit who wrote 52 American-style hard-boiled pulp starring tough guy gumshoe Mike Faraday, died on this day in 2013.
- Bruno Richard Hauptmann, charged with the Lindbergh kidnapping, sits down in the New Jersey State Prison electric chair, still maintaining his innocence, in 1936. Those interested are urged to read Max Allan Collins’ excellent 1991 novel Stolen Away, featuring private eye Nate Heller — an astounding and as moving a piece of historical detective fiction as has ever been written.
- It was on this day in 1882 that that “dirty little coward” shot Mr. Howard, and laid poor Jesse James in his grave.
- Lee Thayer born in Troy, Pennsylvania in 1874. One of the longest writing careers on record, her last book was published in 1966 when she was 92. She wrote 60 novels, all but one featuring the red-headed private detective Peter Clancy and his faithful valet, Wiggar.
- APRIL 7
- Beloved American actor James Garner, who once played Chandler’s iconic American private eye in the 1969 film Marlowe and then went on to create, along with Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell, his own iconic American P.I. on television’s The Rockford Files from 1974-80, born on this day in 1928 in Norman, Oklahoma.
- Baynard H. Kendrick, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America, born in 1894. His greatest creation, blind private detective Captain Duncan Maclain, was based on World War I vets he had met. Maclain appeared in several novels and short stories and at least one film.
- Roman Polanski’s Chinatown is awarded the Best Picture Oscar on this date in 1975, beating out The Towering Inferno, The Godfather Part II, Lenny and The Conversation, another very worthwhile P.I. flick.
- The Day the Pulps Died? William Lampkin argues it happened on this date in 1949, when Street & Smith announced that it would stop publishing its line of pulp magazines. Read all about it on ThePulp.Net.
- The Old Captain Collier Library, the first American weekly magazine exclusively devoted to crime and detective stories, first published on this date in 1883.
- Liza Cody, creator of Anna Lee, one of the first truly credible female private eyes (and still one of the best), in London in 1944.
- S.S. Van Dine, creator of the living large, monocle-wearing Philo Vance, once America’s most popular detective, dies at the age of fifty in 1939, leaving less than $15,000 in his estate.
- Leo Rosten born in Poland in 1908, but grew up in the U.S., best known his bestsellers The Joys of Yiddish, Captain Newman, M.D. and The Education of Hyman Kaplan, but listed here for his two comic novels featuring New York private eye Silky Pincus, whose partner is a giant mutt who will only eat Kosher dog food.
- Peter O’Donnell, creator of sexy comic strip spy Modesty Blaise, born in 1920 in London. Although obstensibly a freelance operative, most of the time her client is the British government.
- Chicago writer Scott Turow whose legal thrillers are actually legal thrillers (ie: they revolve around the law and its myriad complications, and don’t just feature some lawyer being chased around by gangsters and psychotic killers for 400 pages) born on this day in 1949. Turow’s never written a private detective novel, per se, but the well-rendered and colorful investigators in supporting roles in his novels suggest he could certainly whack one out of the park if he chose to.
- Bill Pronzini, author, critic, anthologist, editor and pulp collector, born in Petaluma, California in 1943. Although he’s written everything from westerns to some of the creepiest, nastiest noir imaginable, his greatest creation by far is the long running San Francisco private eye who shall remain Nameless.
- Pulpster and screenwriter Horace McCoy born in Pegram, Tennessee in 1897. One of the earliest contributors towhat would become known as the Black Mask style, he’s best known today for such nasty, hard-boiled classic as They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, No Pockets in a Shroud and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. He was also allegedly an uncredited script assistant on King Kong.
- TV and film writer, editor and crime novelist Howard Browne born in 1908 in Omaha, Nebraska. As “John Evans” he gave us three excellent private eye novels featuring Chandleresque Chicago P.I. Paul Pine, starting with Halo in Blood in 1946. The fourth and final novel in the series, The Taste of Ashes (1957), was published under his own name, and is a stone-cold classic of the genre.
- The Titanic sinks on this day in 1912, taking with her mystery writer Jacques Futrelle, creator of “The Thinking Machine” (aka Professor S.F.X. Van Dusen). He survived long enough to get his wife May and their daughter onto a lifeboat.
- Basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar born on this day in 1947 in New New City. So, you may ask? So he also wrote same damn fine novels featuring Sherlock Holmes. So there.
- Norbert Davis, king of hard-boiled screwball, born on this day in 1909. Take someone you love to Guiterrez’ restaurant in Los Angeles to celebrate and see if Max is in. Watch your wallet, though, and don’t criticize the food.
- Ben Hecht, one of Hollywood & Broadway’s most celebrated writers, who had a hand (often uncredited) in the writing of about a zillion classic films, including one of my favourites, the screwball P.I. caper It’s a Wonderful World with Jimmy Stewart, dies on this day at the age of seventy-one, in 1964.
- Denmark becomes the first nation to officially recogize fingerprinting as the preferred method of criminal identification in 1902. Sales of surgical gloves skyrocket. (No, I just made that up).
- Celebrate 4/20 with this great page of paperbacks from the Reefer Madness years. Thank you, CrimeReads. And, uh, don’t Bogart that joint.
- What many consider “the first detective story,” Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” first appears in Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine on this day in 1841.
- He Who Must Be Celebrated: Barrister and writer John Mortimer, born on this day in Hampstead, London in 1923. Although far from hard-boiled, his greatest creation, Horace Rumpole, shares a rude wit and an unerring sense of morality — not to mention a poetic eye — that would not be out of place in Hammett or Chandler.
- World Book Day, chosen due to the anniversary of Cervantes’ death and Shakespeare’s birth. Chosen by UNESCO as the day to celebrate and to promote reading, publishing and copyright. First celebrated in 1995.
- World Book Night, chosen due to the anniversary of Cervantes, death, as well as Shakespeare’s birth. First celebrated in 2011.
- William Shakespeare. English writer, born on this date in 1564 (traditional accepted birth date, based on his April 26th baptism). To keep things neat, he also died on this day in 1616. Very considerate of him, really… But I still think Hamlet woulda made a great private eye story…. “When a man’s father is killed, he’s supposed to do something about it.”
- Director, screenwriter, illustrator, editor, and detective novelist Satyajit Ray, creator of the much beloved Feluda, one of the world’s most popular private eyes, passed away on this day in 1992.
- “B” is for Birthday. Sue Grafton, creator of immensely popular Santa Theresa private eye Kinsey Millhone, born on this day in 1940 in Louisville, Kentucky,
- Writer Richard Deming born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1935. A regular contributor to the crime digests and pulps of the fifties, and a writer-for-hire, cranking out TV tie-in novels by the score, his createst creation remains hard-boiled private eye Manville Moon who goes down those mean streets with an artificial leg — a memento of WWII.
- Actor George Sanders, famous for his roles as Leslie Charteris’ The Saint and The Falcon and co-writer, with Leigh Brackett and Craig Rice, of two mystery novels, dies on that day in 1972, by his own hand. His suicide note claims he was “bored.”
- John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln assassin, shot and killed by U.S. troops in a tobacco barn in Virginia in 1865. Even Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston called Booth’s act “a disgrace to the age.” Booth’s last words were “useless, useless.”
- George Alec Effinger, American sci-fi author, dies at the age of 55, leaving behind a slew of great novels, but is best remembered for his genre-rattling cyber-punk trilogy featuring private eye Marîd Audran who plies his trade in an unnamed Arab city in the not-so-distant future that is “so grim, stark and sleazy that… it makes Blade Runner‘s Los Angeles look like Sunnybrook Farm.”
- On this day in 1930, The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene, the first Nancy Drew mystery, was published by Grosset & Dunlap. You may have heard of her…
- Anthony Boucher (né William Anthony Parker White), editor, author and revered mystery critic, dies at the age of fifty-six. The Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, is named in his honour.
- D.O.A., the film noir classic starring Edmund O’Brien as a hapless sap who’s been slipped a lethal dose of a slow-acting poison, makes its debut in 1949. It’s got one of the all-time great noir openings, with O’Brien staggering into a police station to report a murder. “Whose?” he’s asked. “Mine,” he replies.
- Secretary Appreciation Day
Celebrate these hard-working professionals on the Wednesday of the last full week in April of each year, and check out “You’re a good man, sister,” our tribute to some of the stand-up secretaries of the genre, and the eyes lucky enough to have them.
- Director, screenwriter, illustrator, editor, and detective novelist Satyajit Ray, creator of the much beloved Feluda, one of the world’s most popular private eyes, born on this day in Kolkata, India in 1921.
- The Postman Always Rings Twice, the classic film adaptation of James M. Cain’s noir masterpiece, was released on this day in 1946.
- Frederick Nebel, one of the most hard-boiled of the hard-boiled detective writers, passed away on this day in 1903. In his long career, he racked up over 300 stories and novels, but is best known for his pulp fiction, most notably private eyes “Tough Dick” Donahue and Cardigan and the Kennedy and McBride series, about a newsman and his police detective nemesis.
- Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw, legendary editor of Black Mask (1926-36), who championed Dashiell Hammett and discovered Raymond Chandler, born on this day in in 1874 in Gorham, Maine.
- Peter Corris, Australian academic, historian, journalist and a novelist of historical and crime fiction, often referred to as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing,” born on this day in 1942.” His long-running series about Sydney private eye Cliff Hardy is one of the truly great detective series to come out of the 1980s.
- Eugène François Vidocq, the famed convicted felon who became the world’s first private detective, as we generally understand the term, died on this day in 1857, in Paris.
- World Cocktail Day. The perfect day to toast Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora!
- May 15, 1923 is the date on the issue of The Black Mask in which Carroll John Daly‘s Three Gun Terry–the very first hard-boiled private eye (as we’ve come to understand the term) first appeared. Of course, given the vagaries of publishing, I’m guessing the actual issue would have actually appeared on the newsstands weeks earlier. But that’s as good a date as any.
- Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place, one of the all-time great noirs, starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame and based on the equally great–but much different–novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, is released on this day in 1950.
- Raymond Burr, the man who is Perry Mason for generations of television viewers, is born on this day in 1917 in New Westminster, British Columbia.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the world’s greatest consulting detective, and arguably the first “private eye,” born on this day in 1859 in Edinburgh, Scotland.
- Court is adjourned. On this day in 1966, the 271st and final episode of television’s Perry Mason series is broadcast, appropriately enough entitled “The Final Fadeout.”
May 24, 1941
- Bob Dylan, Private Eye? America’s premier song-and-dance man, born on this day in 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota. Granted, he’s not a crime writer or a private eye, but…
- Samuel Dashiell Hammett born on this day in 1894 in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. You may have heard of him…
- Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic Vertigo is released on this day in 1958, starring Jimmy Stewart as Scotty Ferguson, an ex-cop hired to follow a friend’s wife (played by Kim Novak), who just happens to be a dead ringer for Scotty’s dead wife.
- George Sims, better known as pulp writer Paul Cain, the author of a ton of short stories for Black Mask and one novel, Fast One, a stone-cold triumph of the hard-boiled school, born on this day in 1902.
- English actor Edward Woodward, OBE, born on this date in 1930, best known to North American audiences for his portrayal of British ex-secret agent and vigilante-for-hire Robert McCall in the American TV show The Equalizer.
- Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer makes his debut “Find the Woman” in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, which went on sale today in 1946, except… Macdonald was writing then as Ken Millar, and Archer was called Joe Rogers. Go figure…
- George C. Chesbro, creator of the Mongo series about a dwarf private eye whose cases frequently wander into the occult, born on this day in 1940.
- Steel-jawed Dick Tracy makes an honest girl of Tess Truheart in 1949, after an eighteen-year engagement.
- Cheers to Georgiana Ann Randolph, aka “Craig Rice,” creator of hard-boiled, screwball attorney sleith John J. Malone, born in Chicago on this day in 1908.
- Ray Bradbury, beloved storyteller, died on this day in 2012, leaving a slew of sci-fi and fantasy novels and short stories, as well as memorable trilogy of crime novels, beginning with Death is a Lonely Business (1985), inspired by Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald, et al, featuring detective Elmo Crumley and the unnamed narrator, a struggling young pulp writer (essentially Bradbury himself) trying to make a go of it in the tattered, shabby seaside town of Venice Beach in the early fifties.
- Jack Lynch, former journalist and creator of the acclaimed Peter Bragg private eye novels, died on this day in 2008.
- Sara Paretsky , creator of fiercely independent Chicago P.I. V.I. Warshawski and the the “founding mother” of Sisters in Crime, was born in Ames, Iowa, on this day in 1947.
- Rex Burns, best known for the Gabe Wager series about a Colorado cop, born on this day in 1935, but also managed to crank out three fine novels about a Denver private eye, Devlin Kirk.
- Patricia Anne Soule “Pat” French born on this day in 1950. She was the wife of Jim French, creator of The Adventures of Harry Nile, and played the detective’s long-suffering assistant on that show for 35 years.
- Roman Polanski’s acclaimed P.I. classic, Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, is released on this date in 1974. It went on to win the Best Picture Oscar on this date in 1974, beating out The Towering Inferno, The Godfather Part II, Lenny and The Conversation, another very worthwhile P.I. flick. Says Eddie “The Czar of Noir” Muller, “Chinatown is my favorite movie of all time…. when that movie ended, I was a different person.”
- British author Leopold Horace Ognall born in Montreal on this day in 1908. Perhaps best known for the almost forty Glenn Bowman books about a hard-boiled New York City private eye that he wrote as Hartley Howard, he was tremendously popular.
- Walk this way. MWA Grand Master Lawrence Block, creator of Matt Scudder, Bernie Rhodenbarr and others, born on this day in 1938 in Buffalo, New York. Starts telling lies for fun and profit soon after…
- Ridley Scott’s neo-noir/cyber-punk sci-fi hard-boiled detective story, Bladerunner, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, premieres in 1982, with Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter charged with hunting down rebel androids.
- Actor Peter Lorre born on this date in Rosenburg, Hungary in 1904 as Lazlo Lowenstein. He’s best remembered as the child killer in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and as the flamboyant and nice-smelling Joel Cairo in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon.
- Spy novelist, thriller write and screenwriter Eric Ambler born on this day in 1909 in London to a family of puppeteers. Along the way, he created the fondly remembered TV show Checkmate (1960-62) about a high-tech San Francisco detective agency whose aim is “to thwart crime and checkmate death (by) stopping the slide downhill to tragedy.” It starred Anthony George, Doug McClure and Sebastian Cabot.
- HAPPY CANADA DAY!
- Allan J. Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency, dies in Chicago, Illinois, in 1884.
- Oakley Hall, who as Jason Manor, wrote three mysteries featuring California private eye Steve Summers, born in San Diego on this date in 1920.
- James M. Cain was born in Annapolis, Maryland on this day in 1892.
- Patrick Raynal, the French crime writer, editor, biker, ex-con, Commie and Lord knows what else, born on this day in Paris in 1946. Among the private eyes he’s created or co-created are Corbucci, Philippe Clerc and Le poulpe.
- Dashiell Hammett cited the Fifth Amendment rather than answer questions by HUAC abou the Civil Rights Congress’ bail fund he managed. He was found in contempt of court and sentenced to federal prison, on this day in 1951.
- Douglas Enefer, British pulpster who created several private eyes, including Dale Shand, Dale Bogard and Mike Power, but found his greatest fame writing TV tie-ins, most notably for American television’s Cannon, born on this day in 1906.
- Richard Roundtree, who is most famous for his kick-ass portrayal of Black private eye John Shaft, is born on this day in 1942 in in New Rochelle. Can you dig it?
- Canadian/American crime writer and Lew Archer daddy, Ross Macdonald passed away on this day in Santa Barbara, California, in 1983. He was survived by his wife, fellow crime writer (and Canadian) Margaret Millar.
- Donald J. Sobol, creator of beloved boy detective Encyclopedia Brown (who solved mysteries for nearly 50 years and never charged more than a quarter) passed away on this date in 2012.
- Crime writer Donald E. Westlake, who authored the Parker novels under the pen name Richard Stark and the Dortmunder series under his own, as well as a myriad of other great books, was born on this day in 1933
- Woody Guthrie, singer-songwriter and folk icon, whose tales of pen-totin’ thieves, sympathy for the “workin’ folks” and talent for reinvention suggest he would have made a killer P.I. writer, born on this day in 1912 in Oklahoma.
- Novelist and screenwriter Ernest B. Tidyman, the creator of Shaft, the black private eye who dug like a private sex machine with all the chicks, passed away on this day in 1984.
- Howard Engel, a major figure in Canadian crime fiction (and a personal inspiration) and the creator of Grantham, Onatario private eye Benny Cooperman, died on this day in 2019 in Toronto, of pneumonia following a stroke. He was just a cool guy.
- In 1980, Kristen Bell of Veronica Mars born on this day in 1980, in Huntington Woods, Michigan.
- Beloved American actor James Garner, who once played Chandler’s iconic American private eye in the 1969 film Marlowe and then went on to create, along with Roy Huggins and Stephen J. Cannell, his own iconic American P.I. on television’s The Rockford Files from 1974-80, passed away on this day in 2014 in Brentwood, California. So long, Jimbo, you’ll be missed.
- Dennis Farina, Chicago cop turned film and television actor, passed away on this day in 2013. His biggest claims to fame were his television roles in Crime Story, Law and Order and, of special interest to this group, Buddy Faro, where he played a Rat Pack kinda eye stuck in modern day LA.
- Raymond Chandler, the man who brought poetry to the mean streets, born on this day in 1888. If Ray were alive today, he’d be really really old. And probably still a bit of an asshole.
- Eugène François Vidocq, the famed convicted felon who became the world’s first private detective, as we generally understand the term, born on this day in 1775, in Arras, France.
- John D. MacDonald, creator of Travis McGee and about a zillion short stories and novels, mostly crime fiction, born on this day in 1916 in Sharon, Pennsylvania.
- According to Sara Paretsky (who ought to know), this is Chicago private eye V.I. Warshawski‘s personal birthdate (year deliberately left vague).
- National Paperback Book Day. Fawcett Gold Medal, Hard Case Crime, Dell Mapback… name your poison.
- Joseph T. “Cap” Shaw, legendary editor of Black Mask (1926-36), who championed Dashiell Hammett and discovered Raymond Chandler, died on this day in 1952 of a coronary thrombosis in New York City.
- Carter Brown, who cranked out hundreds of trashy paperbacks featuring such randy P.I.s as Mavis Seidlitz, Rick Holman and Danny Boyd, born on this date as Alan Geoffrey Yates in London in 1923.
- Beloved film actor Myrna Loy born in Helena, Montana, 1905; played Nora to William Powell’s Nick in the fim series based on Hammett’s The Thin Man.
- On this day in 1920, Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL was born in Oxford, England. She was better known, perhaps, as English crimewriter P.D. James, best known for her series featuring poetry-loving policeman Adam Dagliesh and ground-breaking female private eye Cordelia Gray,
In 1920, Phyllis Dorothy James was born in Oxford.
- Stephen Marlowe (pseud. of Milton Lesser) born in New York City, 1928.; creator of Chester Drum.
- First issue of The Nick Carter Library published on this day in 1891 by Street & Smith.
- National Book Lovers Day
- On this date in 1969, the members Charles Manson’s “family” visited Sharon Tate in Los Angeles, in the notorious series of killings that would come to be known as the Tate-Labianca Murders.
- Alfred Hitchcock born 1899.
- On this day in 1914, Raymond Chandler enlists in the 50th Gordon Highlanders Regiment of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Victoria, British Columbia.
- Robert Finnegan dies at 41, 1947; creator of hard-boiled newsie Dan Banion.
- In 1954, journalist and author Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium Trilogy which unleashed Lisbeth Salander upon an unsuspecting world published posthumously), was born in Skelleftehamn, Västerbottens län, Sweden.
- Dennis Lynds, who under various pseudonyms, including Michael Collins, William Arden, John Crowe, Robert Hart Davis, Carl Dekker, Maxwell Grant, Mark Sadler, Sheila Lynds, Sheila McErlean, John Douglas, Walter Dallas and house pseudonyms such as Nick Carter, Brett Halliday, Don Pendleton and Maxwell Grant, wrote everything from Charlie Chan and The Three Investigators to Edgar-winning, one-armed Dan Fortune, died on this day in 2005.
- Mystery critic, author and editor Anthony Boucher (né William Anthony Parker White) was born in this day in 1911. The Bouchercon, the annual world mystery convention, is named in his honour.
- Elmore Leonard, American novelist and screenwriter, one of the most acclaimed crime novelists of the hard-boiled school, praised for his gritty realism, strong dialogue and quirky sense of black humour, died in his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on this date in 2013 of complications from a stroke. He was 87 years old. Stephen King has called him “the great American writer.”
- Although he was mostly known as a fantasy/sci-fi writer, Ray Bradbury also published a much-loved crime/noir trilogy, inspired by Hammett, Chandler, Macdonald, et al, beginning with Death is a Lonely Business (1985), featuring detective Elmo Crumley and the unnamed narrator, a struggling young pulp writer (essentially Bradbury himself) trying to make a go of it in the tattered, shabby seaside town of Venice Beach in the early fifties.
- Bill Miller (one half of the pseudonym Wade Miller) dies at age 41, 1961; creator of San Diego gumshoe Max Thursday.
- Writer Nelson DeMille was born on this day in 1943. Although mostly known for his thrillers (The Gold Coast, The General’s Daughter, etc.), he did give us almost-P.I. in John Corey.
- Robert J. Randisi born in Brooklyn on this day in 1951. Creator of Miles Jacoby, Henry Po and others, also founder of the PWA and co-founder, with Ed Gorman, of Mystery Scene Magazine.
- Ed Lacy, creator of the first truly-credible black private eye, Toussaint Moore, and the winner of the Edgar for Best Novel for Room to Swing (1965), born Leonard “Len” S. Zinberg on this date in 1911.
- Allan J. Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1819.
- Peter Corris, Australian academic, historian, journalist and a novelist of historical and crime fiction, often referred to as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing,” passed away on this day in 2018, at his home in Sydney, Australia..” His long-running series about Sydney private eye Cliff Hardy is one of the truly great series to come out of the 1980s.
- Martin Kane, the first TV private eye, makes his debut (1949) on NBC.
- According to legend, Lee Child starts writing his new Jack Reacher novel today, to mark the anniversary of the day he went out, suddenly unemployed, and bought a notepad to write the first Jack Reacher novel, which became The Killing Floor.
- James Crumley passed away on this day in 2008 of complications from kidney and pulmonary diseases after many years of health problems. One of the most critically acclaimed writers of the last part of the 20th century, he’s best known for The Last Good Kiss (1978), a stone-cold P.I. classic if there ever was one, which introduced C.W. Sughrue, a substance-abusing Meriweather, Montana private eye, and another series, featuring another Meriweather gumshoe, Milo Milodragovitch.
- Stephen King, horrormeister supreme, born on this day in 1947 in Portland, Maine. So what? So, he also created private eyes Clyde Umney, Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney, and continues to threaten more. So there!
- Jim French, creator of The Adventures of Harry Nile, the longest running private detective audio series in the history of American broadcasting, born on this day in 1928.
- Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine publishes its first issue in 1941.
In 1941, John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, based on the equally classic novel by Dashiell Hammett, premiered in New York City.
- Catherine Louise Pirkis, who created the character Miss Loveday Brooke, arguably the first lady detective, passed away on this day in 1910 in London, two days short of her 71st birthday. She’s buried in Kensal Green Cemetery in London.
- Catherine Louise Pirkis, who created the character Miss Loveday Brooke, not only one of the first of the lady detectives, but the first created by a female author, was born on this day in 1839 in London.
- Elmore Leonard was born in New Orleans, Louisianna in 1925.
- On this day in 1959, pulp fiction writer Lester Dent was born in La Plata, Missouri. Yeah, yeah, yeah–he was best known for his Doc Savage series, buy he apparently always wanted to be a Black Mask Boy. And with his two stories about Oscar Sail, he made it. He also generously gave us The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot.
- In 1939, James Crumley was born on this day in Three Rivers, TX.
- One of the most critically acclaimed writers of the last part of the 20th century, he’s best known for The Last Good Kiss (1978), a stone-cold P.I. classic if there ever was one, which introduced C.W. Sughrue, a substance-abusing Meriweather, Montana private eye, and another series, featuring another Meriweather gumshoe, Milo Milodragovitch.
- Andrew Vachss, American crime fiction author, child protection consultant, and attorney exclusively devoted to representing children and youths, and creator of the New York man-for-hire Burke, a man almost as relentless as his creator in his pursuit of those who would abuses others, born on this day in 1942.
- Crime novelist and scriptwriter Helen Nielsen was born on this day in Roseville, Illinois in 1918. Her nasty little stories make me wish she’d done a few private eye tales as well, but anyone who thinks women couldn’t write noir before the “woke” era (unless their name was Highsmith) ought to check her out.
- On this day in 1958 Raymond Chandler began his last novel, Poodle Springs, in which he marries off Marlowe. Chandler gave up after a few chapters; Marlowe probably would have too. But Robert B. Parker had a whack at completing it in 1989, which some folks never forgave him for.
- Jonathan Latimer, creator of Bill “I’ll Drink to That!” Crane, one of the first great hard-boiled eyes to appear in a series of novels, born on this day in 1906. He also wrote the noir classic Solomon’s Vineyard (1941), a standalone that somehow hit the sweet spot between Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer AND Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, years before anyone had heard of either of them.
- The mojo of authorand martial arts instructor Joe R. Lansdale began working on this day in Gladewater, Texas. Sure, he’s written everything from shitkicker horror to Tarzan (and some genres which may not have been invented yet), but we love him for Hap and Leonard, Jim Bob Luke and for delivering plenty of, as he calls it, “private eye action… as we like it.”
- Author Fredric Brown was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. His crazy-ass takes on sci-fi, fantasy and, of course, detective fiction, can still spin your head around. His The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), which introduced P.I.s Ed and Am Hunter, is a must-read.
- Lee Child, the creator of Tarzan-in-a-T-shirt Jack Reacher, born on this day in 1954 in Coventry, England and raised in nearby Birmingham.
- Dick Francis born on this day in 1920 in Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK. A professional steeplechase jockey, he went on to win over 350 races, rode for the Queen, and wrote close to 40 mystery novels and thrillers, including four featuring one-handed jockey-turned-P.I. Sid Halley.
- All Hallow’s Eve Go down those mean streets, but be very afraid…
- All Saints Day Also known around here as Simon Templar Appreciation Day.
- Arthur Morrison born in this day in 1863 in London. A dramatist and short story writer, he created not one but two of the more interesting rivals to Sherlock Holmes: private detectives Martin Hewitt and “cheerfully unrepentant sociopath” Horace Dorrington. Morrison was very keen on social reform, and wasn’t shy about it–his vividly drawn depictions of the London slums of the Victorian era were proof enough of that.
- All Souls Day A day for the rest of us.
- To celebrate my birthday, the Beta version of The Thrilling Detective Web Site goes live, 1997, at the urging of my good friend Peter from Liverpool. Only Rara-Avians knew of its existence, but somehow the word leaked out…
- Frederick Nebel, one of the most hard-boiled of the hard-boiled detective writers, born this day in 1903. In his long career, he racked up over 300 stories and novels, but is best known for his pulp fiction, most notably tough guy private dicks “Tough Dick” Donahue and Cardigan and the Kennedy and McBride series, about a newsman and his police detective nemesis.
- In 2004, journalist and author Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium Trilogy, dies of a heart attack, Sweden. The first book in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was published several months later, and quickly became a global phenomenon.
- Robert A. Arthur, Jr., best known (at least to me) for creating the popular Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators series of YA mysteries, born in Corregidor in the Philippines in 1909.
- Dora Amy Elles born on this date in 1878 in India. She grew up to become British crime writer Patricia Wentworth, who wrote 32 bestselling novels featuring spinster private eye Miss Maud Silver, a detective so unworried about appearing “cozy” that she actually knits.
- Robert Louis Stevenson born on this day in Edinburgh 1850. Mr. Hyde says he’s feelin’ alright, but Dr. Jekyll says he’s not feelin’ too good himself.
- Author and book designer Lee Thayer (born Emma Redington Lee) dies on this day in 1973, a few months short of her 100th birthday, leaving behind 60 mystery novels, all but one featuring the red-headed private detective Peter Clancy and his faithful valet, Wiggar.
- George C. Chesbro, creator of the popular Mongo novels, about a dwarf private eye whose cases frequently wander into the occult, dies on this date in 2008.
- Gahan Wilson, celebrated and much beloved American cartoonist, whose oddball magazine illustrations earned him such nicknames “the Michelangelo of the Macabre” and “the Wizard of Weird,” and whose Eddy Deco’s Last Caper is one of my all-time favourite P.I. lampoons, passed away at the age of 89 on this day in 2019.
- Out of the Past, what many consider the ultimate film noir, is released on this day in 1947. Based on a novel by Geoffrey Homes, it stars Robert Mitchum as private eye Jeff Bailey, along with Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas
- On this day in 1920, P.D. James, the creator of Adam Dagliesh and private eye Cordelia Gray and often referred to as “The Queen of Crime,” passed away at her home in Oxford, aged 94.
- Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye was published on this day in 1953.
- “The Simple Art of Murder,” Raymond Chandler’s much-quoted and debated critical essay on detective fiction, appears in The Atlantic Monthly.
- Agatha Christie (you may have heard of her) disappeared from her home on this day in 1926, and England got its knickers all in a twist. Thousands of cops and fans scoured the country for her, and Arthur Conan Doyle even hired a medium to help locate her–all to no avail. And then she reappeared, safe and sound, eleven days later, offering no explanation. To this day, nobody knows exactly why she took a powder. Maybe somebody should have hired The Continental Op or someone? This sounds like a dynamite premise for a book. Max?
- Crime writer Cornell Woolrich was born on this day in 1903.
- Leigh Brackett, beloved writer of space operas and crime novels, but best known for her Hollywood screenplays, most notably The Big Sleep (1945), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), born in 1915. Her P.I. novel, No Good From a Corpse (1944), is a gotta-read classic.
- Gravel-voiced, noir-leaning troubadour and ace performer Tom Waits, a man who can turn out phrases worthy of Chandler himself, is born in Pomona, California, in 1949. Anyone who can toss out something like “The eggs chased the bacon/’Round the frying pan” ought to be included here.
- Leigh Brackett was born on this day in 1915 in Los Angeles. Known primarily for her sci-fi and fantasy fiction, she became known as “The Queen of Space Opera,” but she also penned the P.I. classic No Good from a Corpse, and co-wrote the screenplays for a couple of stone-cold private eye classic Chandler adaptations, The Big Sleep (1946) and The Long Goodbye (1973), as well as the best Star Wars flick of them all, The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
- Hillary Waugh passed away on this day in 2008, in Conneticut, the setting for many of his mysteries. He was best known for his police procedurals, perhaps, but all of his work, including those featuring private eyes such as Philip Macadam, Sheridan Wesley and Simon Kaye, drew praise for the way they used real police techniques to solve crimes.
- Hanns Gustav Adolf Gross, often considered the “Father of Modern criminology,” passed away on this day in Graz, Austria, in 1915.
- Dorothy Porter, Australian poet, passed away on this day in 2008 of breast cancer. She gave us one of the best lesbian P.I. novels of all time, The Monkey’s Mask (1995). In verse form, no less. It was subsequently made into a pretty good P.I. film as well, starring Susie Poter and Kelly McGinnis.
- Damon Runyon died, 1946.
- Hanns Gustav Adolf Gross, often considered the “Father of Modern criminology,” born on this day in Graz, Austria, in 1847. A fictionalized version of Gross appeared in a series of detective novels by J. Sydney Jones, starting with The Empty Mirror in 2009.
- Don Pendleton, creator of Mack Bolan, aka “The Executioner,” star of about a zillion action/adventure paperbacks, born on this day in 1927 in Little Rock, Arkansas. After revolutionizing the publishing industry, he created several other series characters, including private eyes Joe Copp and Ashton Ford.
- Canadian/American crime writer and Lew Archer daddy, Ross Macdonald born on this day in 1915 in Los Gatos, California, as Kenneth Millar. Although born in the States, he grew up in Kitchener, Ontario. He and his wife, fellow crime writer Margaret Millar, eventually settled in Santa Barbara, California, better known to his zillions of fans as “Santa Theresa.”
- Shane Black, the writer-director behind such rock ‘em sock ‘em P.I. flicks as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout and The Nice Guys, was born on this day in 1961. He also did some stuff like Lethal Weapon and Iron Man 3, but don’t hold that against him.
- Jim French, creator of The Adventures of Harry Nile, the longest running private detective audio series in the history of American broadcasting (it’s still running!), passed away on this day in 2017.
- One mystery’s most beloved and bestselling authors, Mary Higgins Clark, was born on this day in 1927, at the age of 92. Although I don’t think she ever wrote a P.I. novel, her books of domestic suspense, starting with Where Are the Children? (1975), are among the best that genre ever produced (and in fact that book was a fondly remembered early favourite of mine, stoking my interest in the genre). A MWA Grand Master, she lent her name to the short-lived but sorely missed Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, and inspired many writers to follow her path, including her daughter Carol Higgins Clark and former daughter-in-law Mary Jane Clark.
- American film and theater actor Humphrey Bogart born on this day in 1899. He became a cultural icon for his definitive tough guy roles in such classic films as High Sierra, Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. In 1999, the American Film Institute selected him as the greatest male star of classic American cinema.
- Character actor Elisha Cook, Jr. born on this date in 1903. He made a career out of playing cowardly villains and mousy headcases in dozens of crime films and is probably best known for his portrayal of the “gunsel” Wilmer in John Huston’s 1941 adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.
- Andrew Vachss, American crime fiction author, child protection consultant, and attorney devoted to representing children and youths, and creator of the New York man-for-hire Burke, a man almost as relentless as his creator in his pursuit of those who would abuses others, passed away on this day in 2021.
- Stan Lee born on this day in 1922. ’nuff said!
- The Deep-Blue Goodbye? Travis McGee creator John D. MacDonald dies on this day in 1986, in a hospital in Milwaukee, from complications from an earlier heart bypass operation.
Compiled by Kevin Burton Smith, with suggestions from Stephen Blackmoore, Ed Kurtz and Duke Seabrook. Missing something? Let me know.