Hey, Don’t I Know You from Somewhere?

Great (or at least memorable) Openings in Private Eye Fiction & Films

No, they’re not all private eye stories, but they’re all good.

  • It was a wandering daughter job.
    — “Fly Paper” by Dashiell Hammett (The Continental Op)
  • It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved, and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
    — The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
  • The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse.
    — The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert B. Parker (Spenser)
  • Samuel Spade said: “My name is Ronald Ames.”
    “They Can Only Hang You Once” by Dashiell Hammett (Sam Spade)
  • I was standing on my head in the middle of my office when the door opened and the best looking woman I’d seen in three weeks walked in.
    Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole)
  • Guiterrez was leaning against the wall beside the front door of his restaurant with his tall chef’s hat pushed down over one eye and his hands folded under the bib of his apron. He looked disgusted. There was nothing unusual about that. He always did. He had his reasons, and one of them was getting out of a taxi in front of the restaurant now.
    “Hello, you crook,” said Guiterrez. “How are you, you chiseler? Have you burned down any orphan asylums or robbed any starving widows today?”
    “Not yet,” said Max Latin. “But the night is young.”
    “Don’t Give Your Right Name” by Norbert Davis (Max Latin)
  • From the way her buttocks looked under the black silk dress, I knew she’d be good in bed.
    Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer (Karl Craven)
  • My name is Kinsey Millhone. I’m a private investigator, licensed by the State of California. I’m thirty-two years old, twice divorced, no kids. The day before yesterday I killed someone and the fact weighs heavily on my mind.
    — “A” is for Alibi by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone)
  • I found Paddy the Mex in Jean Larruoy’s dive.
    — “The Big Knockover” by Dashiell Hammett (The Continental Op)
  • She yanked the door open with a crash and said, “Gran–” but then she stopped and stared at me. She was nude as a noodle.
    The Wailing Frail by Richard S. Prather (Shell Scott)
  • “No one stays forever. On the morning of her disappearance Lila woke early, and lay still for a moment in the bed. It was the last day of October. She slept naked.”
    — Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
  • The pebbled glass door panel is lettered in flaked black paint: “Phllip Marlowe…Investigations.” It is a reasonably shabby door at the end of a reasonably shabby corridor in the sort of building that was new about the year the all-tile bathroom became the basis of civilization.
    — The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
  • It was the kind of place where if you didn’t spit on the floor at home you could go down there and do it.
     “The Tomcat That Was Treetop Tall” by Jim Thompson
  • There is a bullet in my chest, less than a centimeter from my heart.  I don’t think about it much anymore.
    A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton (Alex McKnight)
  • The night of my mother’s funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband.
    — The Wrong Kind of Blood by Declan Hughes (Ed Loy)
  • There are some men who enter a woman’s life and screw it up forever.
    — One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (Stephanie Plum)
  • “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband’s necks. Anything can happen. you can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.”
    “Red Wind” by Raymond Chandler (John Dalmas)
  • It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.
    — City of Glass by Paul Auster (Daniel Quinn)
  • She was cleaning fish by the kitchen sink when I climbed through the window, my .45 in my hand. She wore a low-cut apron, shadowed where her full breasts bunched together near the frilly top. When she saw me, her eyes went wide, and her lips parted, moist and full. I walked to the sink, and I picked up the fish by the tail, and I batted her over the eye with it.
    “Darling,” she murmured.
    — “Kiss Me, Dudley” by Ed McBain (Dudley Sledge)
  • By the time I caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.
    The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley (C.W. Sughrue)
  • It can hardly be a coincidence that no language on earth has ever produced the expression ‘As pretty as an airport.’
    The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (Dirk Gently)
  • The first time I laid eyes on Terry Lennox he was drunk in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wrath outside the terrace of The Dancers.
    The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (Philip Marlowe)
  • She had a seventy-eight-inch bust, forty-six-inch waist, and seventy-two-inch hips–measurements that were exactly right, I thought, for her height of eleven feet, four inches.
    — Take a Murder, Darling by Richard S. Prather (Shell Scott)
  • They threw me off the hay truck about noon.
    The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  • If you leaned way back in the chair and cranked your neck hard over, you could see the sky from my office window, delft-blue and cloudless and so bright it looked solid.
    God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker (Spenser)
  • I picked her up on the Daylight. Or maybe she picked me up. With some of the nicest girls, you never know.
    — “The Beat-Up Sister” (aka “The Suicide”) by Ross Macdonald (Lew Archer)


List respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith, with contributions from Paul Bergin, Jimmy Alvarez, Nick Anez, Victoria Esposito and Steve.

One thought on “Hey, Don’t I Know You from Somewhere?

  1. Kevin;

    I don’t know if this qualifies because it is from a story, not a novel. But I like it.

    I picked her up on the Daylight. Or maybe she picked me up. With some of the nicest girls, you never know.

    This is the opening line from Ross MacDonald’s story “The Suicide.”


Leave a Reply