Wherein I talk a little about what’s up in the P.I. world, for better or worse, and point toward a few recent links I thought may warrant further investigation. Feel free to comment below, or follow me on Twitter.
- Sam Spade to be played by Clive Owen?
Just announced! Coming in 2024 from AMC+ will a six-part series, with British actor Clive Owen playing Dashiell Hammett’s iconic San Francisco hard-boiled gumshoe Sam Spade. The limited series will be written and executive produced by Scott Frank, and Tom Fontana, both surprisingly well-suited for the project—a rarity of late. And Owens might make for a very convincing Spade (he was once going to play Marlowe). But the proposed series is called Monsieur Spade? That’s when the first alarms went off.
Turns out the premise, borrowing heavily (ie: ripped off?) from Lawrence Osborne’s surprisingly enjoyable 2018 Philip Marlowe novel Only to Sleep, features Spade also quietly enjoying retirement as an ex-pat. But whereas Osborne had an aging Marlowe credibly living out his last years in a sleepy Mexican fishing village—what the hell was Spade’s connection to the South of France? (Turns out one of the many producers was France’s Canal +). And so Spade’s sipping cocktails in the blue, red and gray, when six nuns are savagely murdered at the local convent. Spade begins to suspect the murders are somehow connected to not only his own past but also to a child who may—or may not–possess magical powers… wait… what?… WHAT? Oh, fuck!
“Nobody cares about that Sam Spade anymore,” says Owens in the trailer—presumably the credo of everyone involved. Except, this nobody does, and I can’t help but be disappointed. There have been a string of miscast depictions of some of my favourite gumshoes recently (Perry Mason, Spenser, Marlowe in both film and print) and this seems like just another entry on that list. Is brand recognition all they care about now? I hope I’m wrong, but man, this take on Spade seems so boneheaded, I wonder. (September 2023)
- Denise Mina Takes On Philip Marlowe and Chandler’s Los Angeles
An interview with the author of The Second Murder, an impressive and well-researched take on Chandler’s Marlowe thatgoes soul-deep, feeling both fresh and respectful. (August 2023, CrimeReads)
- Looking for Something P.I. to Read?
Contributor Pekka Mackoin has recently unleashed his own GoodReads shelf/list of private eye mysteries. He compiled the list of currently easily available books by working his way through various online sources (Stop, Your Killing Me, Crime Writers of Color, The Private Eye Writers of America and of course this site). He’s up to over 400 entries (so far), and urges anyone interested to “feel free to suggest or not to suggest more books.”
- Back Issue #141
Fearless longtime contributor Chris Gumprich wants to draw your attention to the latest issue of Back Issue, the behind-the-scenes magazine about all things comic book. Their February 2023 issue (#141) spotlights “Spies and PIs,” and includes features on some of our favorite comics gumshoes, including Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty chatting about Ms Tree, Mike Mauser, Encyclopedia Brown, and even a nifty little piece on DC’s Tim Trench. Naturally, I’d hoped they’d dug a little deeper, but this’ll do for now.
Sleuth of Baker Street Will Be Closing
Sad news for mystery fans everywhere, but especially for Canadians. Toronto’s mighty Sleuth Of Baker Street, one of the world’s great mystery bookstores, is closing. Not yet, but still too soon.
They were a gateway for many of us mystery readers, always ready with suggestions, and I have a few small personal memories of both Mr. Singh and Marian going above and beyond, that neither of them will probably remember.
In the eighties and nineties and even after I moved south, I used to make Sleuth a stopping point every time I went to Toronto, and Mr. Singh seemed to remember me every time, once even asking where my “buddies” were (I had once dropped in with a couple of non-reading friends who were immediately bored). And Marian found and kept a couple of photos of my daughter that had fallen out of my wallet onto their counter, waiting for me to realize what had happened and return.
I even ran into a few mystery friends there occasionally, like John McFetridge and Mary Jane Maffini (who for a while ran Prime Crime in Ottawa, another hugely influential store for me).
They also took the show on the road, traveling to Bouchercon and other mystery conventions all over North America, where they weren’t shy about offering books from Canada, the U.K. and other places that American readers had never seen before.
Mr. Singh and Marian were both simply world class, in the true meaning of the phrase.
- Big Shakeups in ParkerTown!
For fans of the late, great Robert B. Parker (and the never-ending continuation of his various series by various other authors), there’s plenty of news to chew on (and debate). Ace Atkins, who did such a masterful job continuing the Spenser series for ten novels so respectful and honourable to the originals they ought to be considered canon, is stepping down after the publication of Bye Bye Baby in January. Stepping in to take over the Spenser books is Mike Lupica, who’s been putting Parker’s female eye, Sunny Randall, and small town cop Jesse Stone, through their paces lately. And so what becomes of Sunny? This is the coolest part. Alison Gaylin, creator of memory whiz P.I. Brenna Spector, is taking over the Sunny books, the first time a woman has taken over a Parker series. Not to be too sexist or anything, but I’m surprised it took the estate so long to figure out what should have been a no-brainer. As a consolation prize, Lupica will be taking over Spenser, completing the Parker Trifecta.
- Paste Magazine‘s The 100 Best Film Noirs of All Time
Lists like this pop up constantly, but this one, from the online pop culture mavens (Movies! TV! Comics! Craft Beer!), often coolurs outside the lines. Some of the choices are surprising, and some are puzzling, but the capsule reviews make them all interesting and worthy of consideration–like, I woulda ranked Murder, My Sweet and Night Moves much higher, and dropped Kiss Me Deadly a few notches–but that’s me. Complied by Amanda Schurr, Andy Crump, Mark Rozeman and the rest of the Paste staff.
- B is for Backstabbing
The Rap Sheet headline, “Sue Grafton Sold Out,” pretty much sums it up. Despite the late author’s oft-repeated claims that she would never let her popular private eye character be sold to film or television, it didn’t take her heirs very long (less than four years) to put Kinsey on the auction block. When I interviewed her for Mystery Scene only a few years before she died, arguably at the height of the “New Golden Age of Television” (of which she was very much aware), her opinion remained pretty much the same, something along the lines of “I’ve worked in film and television. I won’t ever let those idiots near Kinsey.” It was a long and rambling conversation and often quite frank–she may have used a stronger word than “idiots.” A&E were the highest bidders.
- The Private Eye Writers Bulletin Board
What’s the buzz, cuz? My latest hare-brained scheme to drive traffic to this site is The Private Eye Writers Bulletin Board. If you’re a private eye writer, and you’ve got something coming out in the next little while (a book, a short story, a movie deal, whatever, please let me know via email (or DM me, for you youngsters) and I’ll post the news on this page. Feedback so far seems positive, but we’ll see.
AND DON’T FORGET
The P.I. Calendar The latest P.I. happenings around the world… and maybe your hometown.
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Hammett photo is © The Hammett Estate.