Created by Gary Phillips
“Who’s the man with the donut shop and the sense of responsibility? –Monk! –Daaamn right!”
-sub-title of interview with Phillips on Troutworks
One of the more politically charged of the post-Easy Rawlins nineties mini-boom of black eyes was battle-weary, middle-class, fortyish IVAN MONK, the star of of four ambitious, highly-acclaimed and much-beloved private eye novels and numerous short stories set in contemporary Los Angeles.
But Ivan wasn’t just some outside lone wolf P.I. spouting some vague party line, ranting at “The Man.” He walked it like he talked it — he was a business man, diversified and everything — he not only ran a one-man detective agency, but he also owned a donut shop. Right in the “hood.”
Because, as he liked to say, hell, everyone likes doughnuts.
It may sound like a joke at first, but it was a master stroke on Phillips’ part. It showed Monk had real roots in his community, allowing him to interact with people as a private detective, as a businessman, as the guy behind the counter at the doughnut shop and just as the guy from the neighbourhood hanging out at the Abyssinia Barber Shop.
And Ivan’s community comprised everyone, reflecting the reality of modern day Los Angeles: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians. Hell, he was even dating a Japanese-American judge.
A great, feisty mixture of action, characters and political ideas (and ideals) made this series one one of the most ambitious and insightful ones of the nineties, a series that Phillips keeps threatening to bring back. C’mon, Gary!
Apparently, one of Phillips’ books was optioned by HBO, whose idea it was to have Laurence Fishburne star as Monk. A script was commissioned, but as Phillips put it, “they messed it up and so now HBO ain’t gonna do it.” Too bad.
Gary Phillips has also written a stand-alone thriller featuring disgraced football player Zelmont Raines, and has started another series featuring Martha Chainey, an ex-showgirl now working as a courier for the mob. He’s also a comics fiend, banging out numerous crime comics for various publishers, including Bicycle Cop Dave, a web comic that patrols the “underbelly of gentrification,” Midnight Mover, a four-part crime story from Oni set against the multi-millon dollar porn business, and Angeltown, a comic book series about black LA eye Nate Hollis.
Author Phillips’ has also been an L.A.-based activist and community organizer for over two decades, dealing with various community empowerment issues ranging from affordable housing to the narco-industrial complex. His political and pop culture pieces have run in the L.A. Times, the L.A. Watts Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Black Scholar Journal and Rap Pages Magazine, and he’s made numerous television and radio appearances.
- “Ivan Monk takes on a corrupt world. He’s ready to go down fighting, and he makes us feel that the war he’s waging is for our own salvation.”
— Walter Mosley
- “Gary Phillips is my kind of crime writer and Ivan Monk my kind of detective… an unbeatable combination.”
— Sara Paretsky
- Violent Spring (1994) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Perdition, U.S.A. (1995) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Bad Night Is Falling (1998) | Buy this book
- Only the Wicked (2000) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- “Dead Man’s Shadow” (1995, Spooks, Spies and Private Eyes)
- “Boom, Boom” (Summer 1998, New Mystery)
- “Stone Cold Killah” (1998, Blue Lightning)
- “The Desecrator” (1999, The Desecrator*)
- “53 Buick” (1999, Murder on Route 66)
- “Lowball” (Summer 2000, The Mississippi Review)
- “The Sleeping Detective” (2000, The Shamus Game)
- “Wild Thang” (2002, After Hours)
- “The Raiders” (2003, Flesh and Blood III)
- “Bring Me the Head of Osama Bin Laden” (2004, Show Business is Murder)
- “Through the Fog Softly” (2004, Monkology)
- “To Live Only to Die” (2004, Monkology)
- “The King Alfred Plan” (2004, Monkology)
- Monkology: 13 Stories from the World of Private Eye Ivan Monk (2004) | Buy this book
ALSO OF INTEREST
- “The Cool, the Square and the Tough: The Archetypes of Black Male Characters in Mystery and Crime Fiction” (The Black Scholar; also 1999, The Desecrator)
The Desecrator was a special, limited edition book was published by ASAP in 1999, and contained an Introduction by Richard Barre, which included the short story of the same name, an essay by Gary Phillips, a bibliography of both Phillips and Barre, and illustrations by Phil Parks. Only 150 limited copies, 26 10-piece collectors copies were printed.