Neal Carey

Created by Don Winslow

NEAL CAREY is a New York street kid turned bookworm and reluctant sometime-P.I. Living on his own after the death of his mother, Neal wasn’t exactly raised by wolves, but it was close. The young street rat was apprehended by one Joe Graham when he tried to pick Joe’s pocket. Joe decided to to take Neal off the streets and raise him.

Imagine Dicken’s Fagin as a one-armed sourpuss private eye and you’d have Joe Graham. He decided to recreate Neal in his own image, more or less, and bring him into the family business, as it were. From that day on, Neal was a trainee gumshoe for a special department of a very private bank simply called “The Friends of the Family.” The bank offers its very select (and very wealthy) clients absolute privacy and complete discretion, not to mention a little discreet help on the side “with those little problems of life that couldn’t be settled with just plain cash,” such as finding a missing daughter, or a second set of books, or a runaway wife or whatever. In other words, when the going gets tough for the very rich and powerful, the very rich and powerful can count on the aid of Joe and Neal. All vaguely reminiscent of the late Lawrence sanders, if you ask me, except for one thing. If Neal had his druthers, he’d be buried deep in his beloved books, studying 18th century literature, working hard for his Masters. In a show of gratitude for past services rendered, the “Bank’ has been sponsoring Neal’s studies, but something always seems to pop up that requires Neal’s talents, and our idealistic, slightly wimpish young Galahad is dragged kicking and screaming back to work. Like they say, it’s always something.

Set in the 1970’s, and ranging all over the world (San Francisco, Yorkshire, New York, China, London), there’s a lot of hopping around in this series. Neal’s a likeable, if unlikely, detective and an amiable traveling companion, while the father/son riff between Joe and Neal is a breath of fresh air. Bookish, a bit naive, usually in over his head, Neal currenly lives in a sleepy little Yorkshire village in England, where he’s working away on his Masters, but trouble never seems to be more than a phone call away.

Unfortunately, a planned film version of the first novel, A Cool Breeze on the Underground (1990), to be directed by Eric Bress and starring Nick Stahl as Neal, never panned out. But Winslow has gone on to even bigger and better things. He’s a New York Times bestselling author of numerous crime and mystery novels, including Savages, The Death and Life of Bobby Z and The Cartel, as well as short stories and film screenplays. A Cool Breeze on the Underground, his first novel, was nominated for an Edgar Award. Before becoming a fulltime writer, Winslow worked as a private detective in New York and California, an experience that served him well when he wrote P.I. books as California Fire and Life and The Dawn Patrol.

As for Neal, well, I thought he was gone for good, but in 2020, when Neal resurfaced briefly in Broken, the author’s collection of six novellas.



    (2008, New Line Cinema)
    Based on the novel by Don Winslow (novel)
    Screenplay by J. Mackye Gruber
    Directed by Eric Bress
    Starring Nick Stahl as NEAL CAREY
    Never released.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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