These Eyes Keep Themselves in Trouble

Bad, Bad Eyes

Who says private eyes are always the good guys? Sam Spade may have once cautioned “Don’t be so sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be,” but these eyes are exactly as bad — if not worse — than they ultimately appear.

  • Karl Benson by L.S. Goldsmith, Whitman Chambers, et al (Manhandled)
  • Neal Fargo by Joe Gores
    Got drugs?
  • J.J. McGonigle by Whitman Chambers (The Come-On)
  • Loren Visser by Ethan Coen (Blood Simple)
  • Gus Slavin in Loophole (played by Charles McGraw)
    A circling shark. Just a nasty, unpleasant piece of work, determined to railroad a suspect.
  • John Swan by John Swan
  • Tom Horn
    One of the first–but certainly not the last–real-life “bad” eyes?


  • Ava Lee by Ian Hamilton
    Sure, it’s just fiction, and there are lots of “good” guys, from Spenser to Jack Reacher, who have stepped over the line, usually in the heat of action, but there’s something about “nice girl” Ava’s casual willingness to torture and mutilate a prisoner (whose crime was not violent)–not to mention the use of blackmail to force an innocent witness to divulge information on her lover–that leaves me cold.
  • Ashe Cayne by Dr. Ian K. Smith
    I thought Ava was bad, but Smith doesn’t even allow us the courage of his convictions. Torture is just wrong, and if you’re trying to say something about the law or justice or whatever the hell you think you’re doing, suck it up and put on your big boy pants. Don’t ring the doorbell and run.
List compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Additional suggestions welcome.

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