John Talbot

Created by Joe R. Lansdale

and Lewis Shiner

A co-creation by two young, aspiring writers, private eye JOHN TALBOT was only showed up in two short stories penned in the late seventies, and those stories didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Except… the two young, aspiring writers were Joe R. Lansdale and Lewis Shiner, both of whom went on to bigger and better things. And, while neither story is what you’d call “essential,” they were damn good, and a whole lot of fun. By their own admission, neither Lansdale nor Shiner may have quite mastered their craft yet, but boy, their enthusiasm and energy was more than apparent, and the stories fairly zip along, full of shootouts, fistfights and enough over-heated similes to make even Chandler blush. Both the Talbot stories, plus six others by Lansdale and Lewis, were eventually rounded up in Private Eye Action As You Like It…, a 1998 collection.

Still, there are differences. While the other eyes created by Lansdale (Ray Slater) and Lewis (Dan Sloane) aren’t bad, there’s a little more depth to–or at least mileage–on Talbot. Like the other two, he’s a rough-and-tumble private eye scratching out a living in Texas, and not always succeeding. And like the other two, he regularly gets the shit kicked out of him, and tends to drive cars that need work (in John’s case, he has a deal with a local dealer that keeps him regularly supplied with clunkers).

But John’s also a little older than Ray or Dan (he’s in his early forties) and he’s definitely a little worse for wear, forced to walk with a cane after he “lost his kneeecap to a KKK bomb,” during his time as a Houston cop. When he first went private, he had an office, but times have been tough, and now he works out of his small house, relying on a post office box and an answering service. He occasionaly carries a Colt Python in a shoulder rig, but he seems to do more damage with his cane. And there’s no doubt that he has a few issues with authority–called on the carpet by the police chief in “Man Drowning,” he defiantly picks his nose “in a ruthless kind of way.”


Not exactly classic, although I did smile at that one. And I’m sure those two Texas knuckleheads had a big guffaw when they came up with that one.


  • “Black as the Night” (September 1979, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • “Man Drowning” (Fall 1983, Pulpsmith)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply