Johnny Lane

Created by Dave Zeltserman
Pseudonyms include Jacob Stone

Seemingly just another down-and-out P.I., Denver’s JOHNNY LANE displays some surprisingly dark depths (Gary Lovisi calls them “Jim Thompson-dark,” although I remain unconvinced) in the well-received self-published debut, In His Shadow (2002).

In a more original twist, Johnny also writes a monthly column, “Fast Lane,” about his cases and other criminal matters for The Denver Examiner, which brings him a little local renown, and a pretty steady stream of clients. Enough, in fact, to allow him to farm out a lot of work to a string of freelance ops. So things are going along rather swimmingly, when he goes to work for a college babe who wants him to find her birth parents. Then things take a pretty nasty turn…

Even though there was considerable fuss made in some hard-boiled discussion lists upon its initial publication, it turns out that the author now says he himself wasn’t completely happy with it. According to the author, a “new and severely edited version of In His Shadow was… released (in September 2004) by Point Blank Press, and re-titled Fast Lane. This new version is about 30 pages lighter, with most of the clunkiness and silliness removed… as were a few other silly plot threads.”

But from those humble beginnings, Zeltserman has gone on to bigger and better things, winning acclaim and numerous awards for his “Man Out of Prison” trilogy and his Julius Katz short stories, a quite clever and entertaining high-tech spin on Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. His crime novel Small Crimes has been made into a Netflix film, and he also writes the Morris Brick series under the pseudonym of Jacob Stone.


  • “Johnny Lane — the protagonist from hell –to know him is not to love him. He’s that rare blend of greed, gluttony, lust, anger, and psychopathic rationalization that in real life would make you want to shoot first and never bother to ask questions. With tremendous skill, Zeltserman lures you to a wild ride on the shoulders of a grizzly. You can’t let go.”
    — Vicki Hendricks, on the original edition
  • “A writer who can produce bad Jim Thompson with such fluency deserves to be read.”
    — Mario Taboada, Thrilling Detective Web Site, on the original edition
  • “...In His Shadow descends into craziness and violence, with a bit of incest thrown in, just to keep things lively. If these shocking events had been better presaged and were more believably presented, in less of a landslide manner, the book might have retained my interest. I have no problem with bloodshed… Zeltserman deserves some credit for good intentions. He’s trying to turn our preconceptions of private-eye fiction on their heads, offering up a gumshoe with way more deep-seated problems than most of the people who hire him. But he needed an editor to tell him when enough was enough.”
    J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet, on the original edition




Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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