Created by Lewis Shiner
DAN SLOANE was a private eye hero created way back in the late seventies by author Lewis Shiner, best known for his award-winning work in the science fiction and cyber-punk fields.
A true product of his times, Dan was a disillusioned Vietnam vet, a Marine who came home after the war, angry and bitter, looking for something but never quite sure what. He went to Berkeley on the GI Bill, while working for the Pinkerton agency. After graduation, he kept working for the Pinks, putting in the time until he could apply for his own P.I. ticket.
Eventually he does strike out on his own, opening a small agency, but “it was 1971 and the magic that was Berkeley was dead, along with the magic of everything else.”
He moves back to his hometown of Austin, where “the work wasn’t much better,” but has decided to make do. He’s looking his age, he admits, but he’s reached the age “where that was no bargain any more.” He drives an ancient Mustang, owns a gun but dislikes using it, and ruefully admits his business has been struggling for years.
It’s good stuff, and anyone partial to hard-boiled detective fiction from te seventies ought to check them out. My favourite is “Prodigal Son,” a surprisingly touching little story about a long-lost child, a rich man and a gang of carnies (including a nifty shout-out to William “Nightmare Alley” Gresham), but they’re all good.
Unfortunately, the Sloane stories never quite had the chance to set the world on fire. Only one was ever published (in Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine), although that had more to do with bad timing and bad luck than the quality of the writing. They represent some of Shiner’s earliest works, and if they’re a little rough and ragged, they also deliver plenty of–as the title of the book that finally rounded up all the Sloane stories put it–Private Eye Action As You Like It…
The1998 collection also boasted early detective fiction by Shiner’s buddy, Joe R. Lansdale, creator of Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, featuring his early private eye hero, Ray Slater, as well as two stories featuring yet another private eye, John Talbot, co-created by both Lansdale and Shiner. It’s a fascinating look at some of the earliest work of these two Texas authors, and a pretty damn good example of the shamus game, circa 1978 or so.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
On one of Shiner’s web sites, the Fiction Liberation Front, he’s giving away the store–or at least a substantial chunk of his writing, including all three Dan Sloane stories, plus two tales of interest to readers of this site. “Dirty Work” follows an ex-football player who investigates a rape case, and “The Long Denouement,” a previously unpublished little gem which Shiner describes as “a Raymond Chandler spoof” full of “hard-boiled scribes and editors.”
- “Deep Without Pity” (June 1980, MSMM)
- “The Killing Season” (1998, Private Eye Action As You Like It…)
- “Prodigal Son” (1998, Private Eye Action As You Like It…)
ALSO OF INTEREST
- “Dirty Work” (March 1992, Dark At Heart)
- “The Long Denouement” (2009, The Fiction Liberation Front)