Jacob Asch

Created by Arthur Lyons

 JACOB ASCH was a glib, cynical, half-Jewish reporter for the L.A. Chronicle until he got sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source. He did six months on a contempt of court beef, and when he was sprung, the glamour of journalism, for some reason, had lost its appeal for him. So now he’s a glib, cynical, half-Jewish Los Angeles private dick who gets involved in some very nasty murders, instead.

This is an improvement?

Gritty and harsh, yet Jake’s basic decency prevents the novels from degenerating into the bleak, hate-filled doom world of so many then-contemporary P.I. novels, where the notion of hard-boiled seemed to boil away any sense of hope, and substitute cynicism for character development. Like the Boss said, “Man, the dope is/That there’s still hope.”

In 1986, a pretty much forgotten straight-to-cable adaptation of Castles Burning (1979) was filmed as Slow Burn, starring Eric Roberts (!) as Asch, with Johnny Depp (!!) in a small bit as the little boy lost, and even an appearance from ex-con author ne plus ultra Eddie Bunker. I dunno… Roberts just didn’t seem exactly right for the part. I picture Asch as older and grumpier, for some reason. Still, I’m surprised this wasn’t re-released domestically on DVD or to stream, once Deppmania swept the land.

Arthur Lyons also wrote several non-fiction books, including Unnatural Causes (1988), Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D., the Los Angeles coroner, The Second Coming: Satanism in America (1970),  Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America (1971), The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime (1991; with Marcello Truzzi), and a favourite of mine, Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir (2000).


  • “Jacob Asch… borrowed cynicism from Philip Marlowe, compassion from Lew Archer, and exuberant youthful horniness from Mick Jagger … and failed to return any of them. Lyons explored the monetary and cultural extremes of Palm Springs, but he also highlighted the darker edges of human behavior, as what began as a track-down case turns into one involving kidnapping, child abuse, and homicide…. Sadly, 14 years and six novels later, Jacob Asch disappeared — as have so many once-popular series protagonists. Maybe Lyons’ books stopped selling as well as they had, and his publisher dumped him; maybe he just got tired of writing — I don’t know. And I haven’t yet been able to find out, though I may someday. In any event, the fact that the Asch series ended prematurely probably burnishes my memories of each entry in that series. The one that glows the brightest, though, is Castles Burning, now long out of print.”
    J. Kingston Pierce, as part of The Rap Sheet One Book Project
  • “Another underestimated writer, Lyons wrote several terrific novels that offer sharp insight into West Coast manners and mores. (Hard Trade) is particularly on target in its depiction of Southern California-style political corruption, prostitution and real estate manipulation.
    Dick Lochtefrom The 14 Best Private Eye Novels of All Time(2012)



  • “Trouble in Paradise” (1985, The New Black Mask # 1)
  • “Missing in Miami” (1986, Mean Streets)
  • “Double Your Pleasure” (January 1989, AHMM)
  • “Dead Copy” (1988, An Eye For Justice)
  • “Twist Of Fate” (January 1990, AHMM)
  • “The Tongan Nude” (October 1997, AHMM)


  • SLOW BURN | Buy this video
    (1986, MCA-TV)
    92 minutes
    Screenplay by Matthew Chapman
    Based on the novel Castles Burning by Arthur Lyons
    Director: Matthew Chapman
    Cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt
    Produced by Mark Levinson
    Executive Producers: Joel Schumacher, Stefanie Staffin Kowal
    Starring Eric Roberts as JACOB ASCH
    Also starring Beverly D’Angelo, Dennis Lipscomb, Raymond J. Barry, Anne Schedeen, Emily Longstreth, Johnny Depp, Henry Gibson, Dan Hedaya, Frank Schuller, Victoria Catlin, Edward Bunker
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Al Hubin for the nudge on this one.

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk

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