Clyde Umney

Created by Stephen King

Though obviously he’s best known for his horror and fantasy fiction, Stephen King has been known to dabble in other genres from time to time — including ours. He’s also sung the praises of various crime and mystery writers, with John D. MacDonald being a particular favourite, and he’s paid tribute to Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series, “borrowing” Detective Steve Carella for a bit part early on in his epic novel The Stand. The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013), both originally published by Hard Case Crime, and early short stories such as “The Fifth Quarter” (1972) have certainly broached the genre, while the Bill Hodges trilogy of novels (2014-16) pretty much makes itself at home.

But it’s King’s first foray into the shamus game, the memorable short story “Umney’s Last Case,” that’s the topic here. It first popped up in his third collection of short stories, Nightmares and Dreamscapes in 1993, and also as a stand-alone novella printed by Penguin).

CLYDE UMNEY is walks the streets of Los Angeles at around the same time as early Philip Marlowe (late 1930s). One morning, however, he wakes up to find that his world has been literally turned upside down and that nothing makes sense. Unknown to poor Clyde, his creator, Samuel D. Landry, is using a little supernatural sleight-of-hand to literally trade places with his creation.

King gets kudos for authentically recreating the classic hard-boiled private eye world (the man knows his Chandler — Clyde Umney was a Character in Chandler’s 1958 novel Playback) and using it to create the kind of story that doesn’t seem out of place in any of his anthologies. As the story ends, Clyde is stuck in the modern world, but is plotting to take revenge on his creator.

But that wasn’t the end for Steve’s man Clyde. He reappeared in a 2006 television adaptation, starring William H. Macy as both the hapless gumshoe and his creator. It aired as the third episode of TNT’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King. Macy as subsequently nominated for an Emmy for his performance.


  • “Umney’s Last Case” (1993, Nightmares and Dreamscapes)Buy this book


    (2006, TNT)
    Anthology series

    • “Umney’s Last Case” (July 19, 2006)
      Starring William H. Macy as Clyde Umney/Samuael D. Landry


Submitted, with a wicked gleam in his eye, by Brian D. Rubendall, with a little bit of help from Kevin Burton Smith.

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