Philip St. Ives

Created by Oliver Bleeck
Pseudonym of Ross Thomas
(1926-95)

The very urbane PHILIP ST. IVES isn’t your average private eye. Sure, he had the traditional P.I. virtues of brain and brawn, but there’s no rundown office, no bottle of rotgut in the desk drawer waiting for him at the end of a hard day slogging down the mean streets of some crime-ridden, corrupt city he can never seem to escape. Nope, St. Ives is a jetsetter whose beat seems to be the world. His cases take him to London, Yugoslavia, Rotterdam, Washington, and all points in between and along the way.

And there’s no sleazy divorce work for Phil either. He’s a former police reporter turned professional go-between, a sort of semi-legit middleman working to negotiate the return of everything from a tenth-century African brass shield to the “fat-headed U.S. Ambassador to Yugoslavia” from the bad guys, while trying to keep his hands relatively clean.

Above-average thrillers, with a dried and jaded sense of humour at work. And no wonder–Oliver Bleeck is the pseudonym of world-renowned thriller author Ross Thomas.

There was even a film made from the third novel in the series The Procane Chronicle (1972), starring none other than seventies superstar Charles Bronson. It certainly takes liberties with the source material, and the ending is uncharacteristically light-hearted, considering all that’s lead up to it. Still, while the film won’t make anyone forget The Maltese Falcon or Chinatown, it’s certainly one of the better things Bronson’s ever done, and the supporting cast is dynamite. Jacqueline Bissett is of course breathtakingly beautiful, if underused, and it’s great fun to see some of the supporting cast on their way to bigger and better roles. Or just hanging in, as when Elisha Cook Jr., apparently the hardest working man in hard-boiled crime films, pops up for a bit part.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in Oklahoma in 1926, Thomas spent the first four decades years of his life bouncing around the world, seeing combat in the Philippines during World War II, working as a reporter in Louisiana, a  public relations director for the Farmers Union in Oklahoma and later for the National Farmers Union in Denver, running a PR firm that handled political campaigns in Colorado, working as a correspondent for the Armed Forces Network in West Germany, managing political campaigns in Nigeria and Washington, D.C., where he settled down for a while and acted as a consultant to “various branches of the American government.” Bored and pushing forty, he sat down and cranked out his first novel, The Cold War Swap in just six weeks. It was snapped up by a publisher almost immediately, and won the 1967 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He spent the next thirty years writing thrillers; savagely cynical and clever works overflowing with betrayals, treachery, greed and violence (the St. Ives books are notably lighter in tone but if you’re expecting sunshine and fluff, keep looking). Among his many novels were Out on the Rim, Chinaman’s Chance, The Seersucker Whipsaw, The Fools in Town Are on Our Side and Briarpatch (which won the 1985 Edgar for Best Novel). In addition, Thomas worked in film and television. He was one of the many co-writers on Wim Wenders’s Hammett (1982), in which he played a small role as a crooked politician. He also wrote the original screenplays for Bad Company (1995) and Robert Evans’ Jimmy the Rumour (unproduced), but St. Ives was the only film based on one of his novels. He also wrote for such TV shows as Simon & Simon, Hardcastle and McCormick, Tales of the Unexpected and Tales from the Crypt. In 2018, Briarpatch was greenlit or a pilot by USA Network. He died of lung cancer in Santa Monica, California two months before his 70th birthday.

UNDER OATH

  • “In the film St. Ives, the character becomes Raymond St. Ives (instead of Philip). It’s based on the third book in the series, The Procane Chronicle. It was mildly enjoyable (does sport a, not at all graphic, sex scene in which Jacqueline Bisset asks to be hit; after some hesitation, a reluctant St. Ives complies), but I’m a caper film fan. More importantly, it led me to Ross Thomas.”
    — Mark Sullivan

AUTHOR MEET MOVIE, MOVIE MEET AUTHOR

  • “After five minutes of watching, I realized that nothing of mine was going to be used except the skeleton of the plot. When I had met Charles Bronson on the set, he had told me, ‘I haven’t read your book.’ That’s okay, I said, I didn’t see your last picture.”
    — Ross Thomas on St. Ives, the film based on The Procane Chronicle

NOVELS

  • The Brass Go-Between (1969)
  • Protocol for a Kidnapping (1971)
  • The Procane Chronicle (1972; aka “The Thief Who Painted Sunlight”)
  • The Highbinders (1974)
  • No Questions Asked (1976)

FILMS

  • ST.IVES | Buy this video Buy the DVD  Watch it now!
    (1976, Warner Brothers)
    94 minutes
    Written by Barry Beckerman
    Based on The Procane Chronicles by Oliver Bleeck
    Directed by J. Lee Thompson
    Produced by Pancho Kohner
    Starring Charles Bronson as RAYMOND ST. IVES (Philip in the book)
    Also starring Jacqueline Bisset, John Houseman, Maximilian Schell, Harry Guardino, Dana Elcar, Dick O’Neill, Elisha Cook Jr., Daniel J. Travanti, Michael Lerner, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Englund

RELATED LINKS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

 

One thought on “Philip St. Ives

  1. I have been watching and enjoying the TV miniseries Briarpatch based on the book by Ross Thomas which airs twice a week with new episodes.

    So for anyone like me who misses Hap and Leonard I highly recommend this TV Show.

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