One and Done

Some Notable Private Eyes Who’ve Appeared in Only One Novel

Although the success and popularity of the literary private eye seems to be built on series characters, there have been some memorable private eyes who’ve only appeared in one novel. We even once polled readers of this site back in 1998, although we’ve slowly added to the list over the tears.


  • Mr. Burton in The Dead Letter by Metta Victoria Fuller Victor (1866)
  • Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (1930)*
  • Ben Jardinn in Death in a Bowl by Raoul Whitfield (1931)
  • Karl Craven in Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer (1941)
  • John J. Shannon in The Private Eye by Cleve F. Adams (1942)
  • Ed Clive in No Good From a Corpse by Leigh Brackett (1944)
  • Walter James in Deadly Weapon by Wade Miller (1946)
  • Danny April in Portrait in Smoke by Bill S Ballinger (1950)
  • Steve Lawson in Hard and Fast by U.S. Andersen (1956)
  • Murray Kirk in The Eighth Circle by Stanley Ellin (1958)
  • Max Raven in Cain’s Woman by O.G. Benson (1960)
  • Mark Preston in Murder is for Keeps by Peter Chambers (1961)
  • Pat Colombo in Throw Back the Little Ones by Pat Colombo (1963)
  • Mark Foran in Murder in Las Vegas by W.T. Ballard (1967)
  • Joe Dunne in The Murderer’s Vine by Shepherd Rifkin (1971)
  • Frank “Lobo” Davies in Touch of Danger by James Jones (1973)
  • Neal Fargo in Interface by Joe Gores (1974)
  • Walter Brackett in Somebody’s Sister by Derek Marlowe (1974)
  • Michael Croft in The Cosgrove Report by G.J.A. O’Toole (1979)
  • The Eye in The Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm (1980)
  • Cody in Texas Wind by James Reasoner (1980)
  • Bernardo Thomas in Tropical Murder by Louis Williams (1981)
  • Jake Spanner in The Old Dick by L.A. Morse (1981)
  • Fritz Brown in Brown’s Requiem by James Ellroy (1981)
  • Steven Hooks in The Ceiling of Hell by Warren Murphy (1984)
  • Ralph Poteet in Peeper by Loren Estleman (1989)
  • Wilson in Return Trip Ticket by David C. Hall (1990)
  • Gar Sinclair in Thursday’s Child by Teri White (1991)
  • “Peekaboo” Frankie Fagan in Bohemian Heart by James Dalessandro (1993)
  • Michael and Jack Fitzroy in Brothers and Sisters by Rodman Philbrick (1993)
  • Ernest DeWalt in An Ocasional Hell by Randall Silvis (1993)
  • Reno Sloan in The Asylum by John Edward Ames (1994)
  • Lionel Essrog in Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem (1999)
  • George Webb in The Light of Day by Graham Swift (2003)


List respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with an assist by Steve Lewis of Mystery*File. Updated in 2023 thanks to the tireless efforts of the regulars in Mystery*File’s comments section.
* In 2009, Joe Gores published Spade and Archer, an official “prequel” to Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

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