Johnny Amsterdam

Created by Michael Lawrence
Pseudonym of Lawrence Lariar

“Call Me Amsterdam… In fact, call me anything just so you call me for fun and games.”
Johnny Amsterdam, the “fun” private eye

The cover blurb of the 1960 PBO I Like It Cool describes JOHNNY AMSTERDAM as the “eye with a beard (who) squares off with the world of the beatniks.” He was also something of a dog — and made no bones about it.

He was a fun loving kind of gumshoe, a swinging dick from the Big Apple who — at least as depicted on his paperback covers — would fit right in with other such “fun” P.I. studs of the era such as Shell Scott, Johnny Liddell, Mike Shayne, Peter Gunn and Pete Chambers.

So what if the curtains didn’t match the drapes? This was an era when hard-boiled guys wore suits, ties and shoulder holsters, and dames dressed mostly in bikinis or negligees and high heels, waiting to be rescued or ravaged; an era when detective fiction seemed to be as influenced by Hugh Hefner as by Chandler or Hammett. And if the sexy romps on the paperback covers occasionally didn’t quite fit the stories inside, well, swing with it, baby.

According to J. Kingston Pierce, Amsterdam was:

“…a Korean War veteran, partnered with the smart but unremarkable-looking Dave Gross (he ‘could tail a man into his own living room without being noticed’)–enjoyed the carnal courtesies of many a well-rounded miss. He had a slick patter, a quick temper and a couple of solid fists, and what appears on the cover of I Like It Cool to be a handlebar mustache with a goatee. Amsterdam was no slouch in the snooping department, and he seemed to move comfortably through all echelons of New York society, from the ‘coolsville’ pads of Greenwich Village, to Manhattan boardrooms, to Park Avenue bedrooms. However, he may be best recalled for that gimmick of the ‘chin shrubbery,’ which Amsterdam seems not to have been wearing in Naked and Alone, but that left observers in this second adventure unsure of whether to treat him like a beatnik, a bum, or a bruiser.”

The author also wrote, under his real name of Lawrence Lariar, several mystery novels, including two about Homer Bull, an overweight comic strip writer and amateur sleuth, and his Watson-type assistant, Ham McAndrews,who also happens to be his cartoonist. As Adam Knight he wrote eight novels featuring private eye Steve Conacher and another starring female P.I. Sugar Shannon.


Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, based largely on J. Kingston Pierce’s Killer Cover piece. And a special thanks to Big Al for the heads-up…

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