Stanley Hastings

Created by Parnell Hall

“Not to disparage the work I do, but most of it requires no intelligence whatsoever.”
Stanley Hastings to a would-be client in Suspense.

…and now, for your consideration, your entertainment and your amusement, may we present… STANLEY HASTINGS, a P.I. as tough as his name! Our man Stan’s a hopelessly inept, slightly-cowardly, reluctant private-eye-in-name-only who works for Richard Rosenberg, an ambulance-chasing lawyer considered one of New York City’s top negligence lawyers (ie: ambulance chasers) in  in a series of humourous novels by Parnell Hall. Picture your average joe thrust into the role of Philip Marlowe and you’ve got it.

Fortyish, suffering from middle-age blahs, bad teeth and a lousy job, Stanley is, in fact, a lucky man. Lucky because he’s loved unconditionally by his wife, Alice, and their son, Tommie. A failed actor and a struggling freelance writer, theoretically Stanley’s only working for Richard temporarily, until he writes the Great American Novel. But until he writes it, let’s face it — with a college degree in liberal arts, and no real job skills, Stanley might be getting accident victims to sign retainers and photographing cracks in the sidewalk for a long, long time.

And, oh yes, stumbling into, onto and through murder cases with alarming frequency.

Ever the klutz, with most of his detecting skills picked up from television and old movies, riding down those mean streets in the rusty but more-or-less trusty family Toyota, Stanley’s never going to be mistaken for Mike Hammer. Thank God Alice is there to sort it all out for Stanley, and give him a prod when needed.

There’s even a deadpan spin on the old smart eye/dumb cop routine. In Stanley’s case, he’s usually pulled out of whatever jam he’s in by his long-suffering police contact, Sergeant McAuliff. He can also occasionally rely on the assistance of Leroy, a professional thief and art connoisseur who’s been known to lend Stanley a hand in gaining access to places he has no access to.

But that’s okay. The mysteries are fair, and more importantly, a load of fun, harkening back to — dare I say it? — the days of the pulps which were awash in oddball eyes and reluctant detectives. Some of Erle Stanley Gardner‘s more peculiar attorney come to mind…

Author Parnell Hall was himself a part-time private investigator, and admits to being a failed actor (somewhere out there there’s a clip of him in the alternative classic, Hercules in New York). He also claims to be the laziest writer around, basing Stanley on his own life experiences simply because using his imagination is just “too much work.” Awarded The Eye, the lifetime achievement award of the PWA, he also writes the Puzzle Lady mysteries and lately has been co-writing a series with Stuart Woods about former spy turned trpubleshooter Teddy Fay. Hall also plays a mean twelve-string, making loud noises wherever he goes. His 147 verse (and counting) Bouchercon theme song became a looked forward to/dreaded annual event at mystery convention dinners for several years, back when Bouchercons did that kind of thing.


Someone stop him! He’s tuning up! 


  • “Hilarious … Mr. Hall delights in applying the classic style of high comedy to base genre material, so he can get away with the wordplay, or any other game that takes his fancy.”
    — Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
  • “Hall is a born yarn spinner. Erle Stanley Gardner would be proud. And maybe just a tad jealous.”
    — Dick Lochte, L.A. Times




Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Gerald So and Jan Long for keeping me (relatively) honest.

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