Private Eye Action As You Like It… by Joe R. Lansdale & Lewis Shiner
I’m not even sure how I ended up with this, but I know I’m glad I did. I might have ordered it, dirt cheap, from AbeBooks or maybe Amazon.ca, after falling in love with Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard. Or it’s entirely possible it was foisted on me by that fast-talkin’ smoothie Keith Logan at Nebula, the funkiest bookstore in Montreal at the time–Keith was the guy who first turned me on to Lansdale with Savage Season. All I know for sure is that I bought it when I was still in Canada, so the book couldn’t have been more than a few years old by then.
I also know I didn’t pay some signed, limited edition, collector’s item puffed-up price for it–even though, ahem, that’s exactly what it is: a signed (by both authors!) limited edition (150/1000) collectors item. Make no mistake–despite my bookshelf lined office–I’m not a collector. I’m just a guy who likes to hold on to the books he loves.
And make no mistake–I love this book.
It’s a collection of tough, gritty private eye short stories by award-winning Texas authors Joe R. Lansdale and Lewis Shiner, representing some of their earliest work–including “The Full Count,” the first piece of fiction Joe R. Lansdale ever sold.
That story introduced Pasadena, Texas hard-boiled private detective Ray Slater, who returned in “Long Gone Forever” and “One Blonde, Well Dead,” all originally published in Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine and included here.
Also included are the Sloane stories by Lewis Shiner which include “Deep Without Pity,” “The Killing Season” and “Prodigal Son,” all which feature Austin P.I. Dan Sloane.
But the real treat in this collection for fans of both authors may be the final two stories, “Black As The Night” and “Man Drowning,” featuring private eye John Talbot, which were written by BOTH Lansdale and Shiner.
Most of the stories in this collection were written for (and were originally published in) MSMM, although a couple made their first appearance in this collection. They all feature suitably rough and tumble private eyes, and loads of downbeat settings, fistfights, gunplay and car chases–in other words, more than enough goings-on to justify that great title.
But wait! There’s more!
As fun as the stories are, what really seals the deal are the short introductions Shiner or Lansdale contribute to each section, where they reminisce about their early struggles as rookie writers trying to break into the biz, the development of their long-term friendship, their efforts on collaborating on the Talbot stories, and what it was like to write for Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine and the other digests of the era, which for a long time was the only publication flying the flag for hard-boiled fiction, and Sam Merwin, Jr., MSMM’s notorious editor.
As author James Reasoner (a fellow traveller who slogged it out in the same writing trenches as Lansdale and Shiner in MSMM says, “Man, I wouldn’t go back to those days…but I’m awfully glad I lived through them.”
* * * * *
- “It’s great. The stories are wonderfully entertaining, classic private eye yarns that were like nothing else being published at that time, and you can see the genesis of both writers in them. I can’t read them now without visualizing the covers of those issues of MSMM where they first appeared. I love ’em, simple as that. And Private Eye Action As You Like It… is one of the best time machines you’ll ever find. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and grab a copy right away.”
— James Reasoner
- TABLE OF CONTENTS (and where the stories originally appeared)
- “Introduction to the Slater Stories” by Joe Lansdale
- “The Full Count” (June 1978, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine; Ray Slater)
- “Long Gone, Forever” (December 1978, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine; Ray Slater)
- “The Short Unhappy Career of Lewis Shiner, Tough Guy Writer” by Lewis Shiner
- “One Blonde, Well Dead” (April 1979, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine; Ray Slater)
- “Deep Without Pity” (June 1980, MSMM; Dan Sloane)
- “The Killing Season” (1998, Private Eye Action As You Like It…; Dan Sloane)
- “Prodigal Son” (1998, Private Eye Action As You Like It…; Dan Sloane)
- “Can You run With It?” by Lewis Shiner
- “Black as the Night” (September 1979, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine; John Talbot)
- “Man Drowning” (Fall 1983, Pulpsmith; John Talbot)
- “Afterword to the Talbot Stories” by Joe R. Lansdale
- Forgotten Books: Private Eye Action As You Like It…
James Reasoner (who slogged it out at the same time as Lansdale and Shiner in MSMM), takes a peek. (August 2014)