Phil Beaumont & Jane Turner

Created by Walter Satterthwait

Now, here’s a truly historic private eye series. PHIL BEAUMONT is an op for the Pinkerton Agency (shades of Hammett!), who often works with attractive rookie detective JANE TURNER. British-born Jane, in fact, partially narrates the stories in a series of chatty, revealing, and amusing letters to an old school chum back in England, alternating with Beaumont (named in homage to the Hammett hero, Ned Beaumont of The Glass Key), who handles the narration chores in his chapters in a terse, dry style that Hammett fans will recognize.

Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini drop by in the first book, Escapade (1995), and Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas, not to mention Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford pop up in Masquerade, set in 1920’s Paris.

At first glance, these may seem like rather light-flavored entertainment in a romantic/historial/mystery vein, but readers beware: there’s something dark and unsettling moving under the surface of these novels that has surprisingly sharp teeth, and that’s nowhere more apparent than in the third book in the series, 2005’s Calvacade, which finds the two working the mean streets of pre-WWII Germany, investigating an assassination attempt on… Adolf Hitler. Highly recommended.

Philadelphia-born Walter Satterthwait has lived in New York and Portland, Oregon, as well as Africa, Thailand, Greece, the Netherlands, England, and France, and claimed to have worked at everything from “restaurant manager and bartender to encyclopedia salesman.” The author of numerous acclaimed works of fiction, he wrote a series featuring another pair of sleuths, contemporary San Diego sleuth Joshua Croft and his boss, Rita Mondragon, a couple of historical whodunits about Lizzie Borden (Miss Lizzie and New York Nocturne), and–of particular interest to fans of this site– Dead Horse (2006), a novel which speculated on the strange case of the suicide (or possible murder) of pulp writer Raoul Whitfield‘s wife, socialite Emily Davies Vanderbilt Thayer Whitfield, who was found dead of a gunshot wound in 1935.

At the time of his death in 2020, Satterthwait was working on Blood Imperative, a novel about vampires of all things.

I didn’t know know him, but I liked Walter.  He was a pretty cool guy, a shaggy-haired, easy-going dude who definitely marched to his own drum. We met (briefly) at a convention or a book signing or something), but we shared a few friends, and did the email thing, discussing Raoul Whitfield, Dashiell Hammett, and Montreal smoked meat, among other topics.  I’ve always felt that it was a pity that we never actually sat down and had a beer.


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Big Al Hubin for the heads-up on this one.

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