Created by A. Boyd Correll
So, I get letters like this sometimes:
Dear Mr. Smith,
Weirdly enough, this morning I discovered a PI not on your list – and probably not worth adding! His name’s Jimmy Adams, and he appeared in a novelette titled “An Item of Murder” in Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, July 1945. The author is A. Boyd Correll. I Googled the name and found a few references, including this novel on Amazon (great cover!):
I also found a list of Correll’s magazine appearances and finally, I discovered a PDF version of one of the stories on that list, “The Corpse That Played Dead”, from the Winter 1944 issue of Thrilling Mystery, which features another PI with the first name of Jimmy, but I don’t think his surname is ever given.
He says at one point, though, “Everybody calls me Jimmy Lee”. Both stories appear to be set in Hollywood – like many of Correll’s stories. It’s possible there’s a series character involved here – or Correll just liked the name Jimmy and used it in both stories without really thinking about it. (I’ve only skimmed through the two stories – they look like fun, written in a light and breezy style, but not as slang-heavy as Bellem’s Dan Turner yarns.)
I love a challenge, but this was a toughie. Initially I couldn’t even confirm what Paul had sent me. But I kept plugging. I search the internet by author, by novel, by short story, by “Jimmy Adams” All I found were references to a couple of novels the author had co-written with Philip MacDonald, and Murder with Art, with the cover that Paul liked.
All I could find out about the author was that he’d been born in South Carolina, and died in Los Angeles, and in between he’d written for newspapers and Walt Disney, author of magazine short stories, as well as selling a couple of dozen short stories and novelettes to the hard-boiled crime pulps in the forties and fifties, including a few to Black Mask and Dime Detective, but mostly to Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine. In the sixties, he seems to have moved on to writing for television.
Maybe, as Paul seems to suggest, Jimmy Lee is actually Jimmy Lee Adams, but it’s just as likely he isn’t. Correll liked certain names and kept recycling them. A central character in “A Book is Lost” in the July 1944 issue of Detective Story Magazine is Timothy Adams, but he’s no hard-boiled gumshoe — he’s a “mild little man” in charge of a movie studio library. and women called Jane (or sometimes Janie) show up in his stories frequently. It seems clear that Correll was, as Paul suggested in our back-and-forth, “lazy about names.”
So, let’s break ’em down.
The two Jimmies are so generic, it’s difficult to figure out of they’re the same guy or not. The first person narration, the workmanlike prose, the settings (Hollywood and the film industry) and the crimes (blackmail, scandal, murder, etc.) are interchangeable.
According to “The Corpse That Played Dead,” the only story featuring him I could find, JIMMY LEE is a Hollywood dick on the call list of Panamint Studios “to take care of disagreeable things like blackmail, inside petty thefts, and other unpleasantries that by rights should go to the police, but would be bad publicity for Panamint.” His cop buddy is stylish clothes horse Detective-Lieutenant Tom Callahan.
Meanwhile, JIMMY ADAMS is also a Hollywood dick, but his cop buddy in “An Item of Murder” is Detective-Lieutenant Tom Carney, a “big oaf of a guy” who had “worked Hollywood since it was an orange grove,” and in “Murder Rehearsal” he has to deal with Detective-Lieutenant Al Cahill. Panamint Studios pops up again in “Murder Rehearsal,” published (and presumably written) two years after “The Corpse That Played Dead,” and Jimmy is mystified as to Panamint would call him, a a “fairly obscure private eye.”
So that about settles it, if you’re looking for some kind of continuity to tie the two Jimmies together. There isn’t any.
But this is the pulps, where, under the crushing pressure of deadlines and territorial editors and publishers, characters regularly shape shifted from one story to another (and from one magazine to another) all the time. And that’s part of the Jimmies’ charm. They may not be the same guy, but they’re so endearingly generic — and the stories so pleasantly familiar — they might as well be. They’re the pulp equivalent of comfort food. Dig in!
- JIMMY LEE
- “The Corpse That Played Dead” (Winter 1944, Thrilling Mystery)
- JIMMY ADAMS
- “Death Invites an Audience” (July 1945, Detective Story Magazine)
- “An Item of Murder” (July 1945, Detective Story Magazine)
- “Murder Rehearsal” (October 1946, Detective Story Magazine)