Pete Chambers

Created by Henry Kane
Pseudonyms include Anthony McCall, Kenneth R. McKay & Mario J. Sagola
(1918-88)

PETER CHAMBERS is a swingin’ kinda guy, who started life referring to himself as a “private richard” and ended up the head gumshoe in a handful of soft porn novels. What a dick!

Originally, Pete was a man with a passion for the fashion, a man-about-Manhattan, and very much the eligible bachelor–so much so that his first short stories were published, not in some tawdry pulp but in the pages of Esquire. With an eye for the ladies and a nose for danger, he appeared in a long-running series of books and short stories that many suspect actually inspired Blake Edwards’ Peter Gunn. In fact, when the success of Blake Edwards’ Ivy League P.I. warranted the publication of a paperback tie-in, the book was penned by Kane himself.

Of course, like any dashing playboy private eye, be it Peter Gunn, Magnum P.I., or Dan Tanna, where would a guy be without his “gang”? Pete’s no exception. Number one on his list is the ever-loyal and long-suffering “secretary, amanuensis and wet-nurse” Miss Amanda Foxworth, “built like an old-fashioned icebox, but colder.” Then there’s Lieutenant Louis Parker, a Homicide bull for New York’s finest. And for some lowdown on the underworld, Pete can always rely on Alger Shaw, hot dog vendor by day and underworld denizen by night, who also comes in handy for the occasional odd job.

The series kicked off in 1947 in A Halo for Nobody, and must have been popular, spawning over thirty books, and even a short-lived radio series, Crime and Peter Chambers, in 1954.

Considered hot stuff at the time, the books were actually pretty innocent as far as sex goes, more smirk than smut. Well, until the late sixties and seventies when, in an attempt to jump start the series, the books, most of them titled The (Such-and-Such) Job, pumped up the sex, plopped a few bimbos on the photo covers, and tried to pass them off as X-rated mysteries. But it was too little, and ultimately too late. Good ol’ Pete hasn’t been heard from since.

Some folks really loved the series, and judging by the number of titles still floating around in used bookstores, they must have sold in the skedillions.  Me? I tried, but I was never too impressed. The Chambers books may have been popular in their time, but I found them too glib–and even smarmy–at times. And his prose style was full of weird syntax and tongue-in-cheek, mood-killing asides, like he was trying too hard. Far better were some of his contemporaries, almost-forgotten private eye writers, such as William Campbell Gault, Robert Martin, Delores Hitchens, Thomas Dewey and even Richard Prather (who took his not being serious seriously).

RADIO

As I mentioned, there was a radio show.  Crime and Peter Chambers made its debut on NBC, and it was pretty much Kane’s show, with him writing, directing, and producing. The 30-minute show only lasted on network radio for five months, from April to September 1954, but over over twenty episodes have survived and are in trading currency.

Dane Clark, who had had a fairly successful career in Hollywood starting in 1942, usually playing tough guys for Warners,  made a fairly convincing Chambers, while Bill Zuckert was the voice of Lt. Louis Parker. Despite its strengths, the series showed signs of being put together in a hurry (it was) and its glib dialogue and weak plots failed to attract many listeners.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author Henry Kane was a lawyer who seemed to prefer writing. In his career, wrote over 60 novels, including about 30 featuring Pete Chambers. Other short-lived series characters were PIs Marla Trent and retired NYPD detective inspector turned P.I. McGregor. He also wrote the movie adaptations for Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct‘s Cop Hater and The Mugger. And, in light of his experience with Chambers, Kane was the perfect choice to pen an original novel starring television’s Peter Gunn.

HALO?

  • Howard Browne’s Halo in Blood was published in 1946, one year before Kane’s A Halo for Nobody.

UNDER OATH

  • “Henry Kane was a stylist, I just never could figure out what the style was.”
    Gary Warren Niehbuhr (August 1998, Dorothy L.)
  • “The Chambers stories tend to be pretty routine private-eye capers, but Kane’s handling of this stock material is quite unusual. The characters deliver their lines in a peculiarly arch fashion, which veteran PI fans are equally likely to find either refreshingly novel or plain silly… The Chambers books can provide enjoyable light entertainment if the reader finds Kane’s quirky, playful approach palatable.”
    — Art Scott in 1001 Midnights
  • “The rough routine as Pete Chambers, private eye, is called in on a case which involves the simultaneous murders of his client’s wife and blackmailer- which lead up to two more. A bookie, a queerie, a glamour queen of the jewel business, and assorted others to complicate a fairly fancy- and fairly foolproof- jewel racket. Sluggermugger.”
    Kirkus Reviews on A Halo for Nobody (complete review)

NOVELS

  • A Halo For Nobody (1947; aka “Martinis and Murder”) Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Armchair In Hell (1948)
  • Hang By Your Neck (1949 Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • A Corpse For Christmas (1951; aka “Deadly Doll,” “Homicide at Yuletide”)
  • Until You Are Dead (1951)
  • My Business Is Murder (1954) Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Too French and Too Deadly (1955; aka “The Narrowing Lust”)
  • Who Killed Sweet Sue? (1956)
  • Fistful of Death (1958) Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Death Is the Last Lover (1959)
  • Death of a Flack (1961)
  • Dead in Bed (1961)
  • Death of a Hooker (1961)
  • Kisses of Death (1962) Buy this book | Kindle it!
    Also featuring Marla Trent, Kane’s lady dick.
  • Death of a Dastard (1962)  Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Never Give a Millionaire an Even Break (1963)
  • Nobody Loves a Loser (1963)
  • Snatch an Eye (1963)
  • The Devil To Pay (1963)
  • Unholy Trio (1967)
  • Don’t Call Me Madame (1969)
  • The Schack Job (1969)
  • The Bomb Job (1970)
  • Don’t Go Away Dead (1970)
  • The Glow Job (1971)
  • The Tail Job (1971)
  • Come Kill with Me (1972)
  • The Escort Job (1972)
  • Kill For the Millions (1972)

SHORT STORIES

  • “A Matter of Motive” (March 1947, Esquire; 1948, Report For a Corpse)
  • “A Glass of Milk” (May 1947, Esquire; 1948, Report For a Corpse)
  • “Kudos For the Kid” (May 1947, Esquire; 1948; Report For a Corpse and The Name is Chambers)
  • “Report For a Corpse” (July 1947, Esquire; Report For a Corpse)
  • “Hang by Your Neck” (December 1948, Esquire)
  • “Armchair in Helll” (January 1948, Esquire)
  • “Suicide is Scandolous” (June 1948, Esquire; also 1947, Report For a Corpse)
  • “The Shoe Fits” (1948, Report For a Corpse; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • “A Corpse for Christmas” (December 1950, Esquire)
  • “One Little Bullet” (April 1953, Manhunt)
  • “Circle of Jeopardy” (1953)
  • “The Wrong Touch” (1953; The Name is Chambers; January 1954, Manhunt)
  • “Far Cry” (June 1953, Manhunt; also 1954, Trinity in Violence)
  • “The Big Touch” (November 1953, My Business Is Murder)
  • “The Wrong Touch” (January 1954, Manhunt)
  • “Loose End” (1954, My Business Is Murder)
  • “Candlestick” (1954, The Name is Chambers)
  • “Skip a Beat” (June 1954, Manhunt; 1954, The Name is Chambers and Trinity in Violence)
  • “Precise Moment” (December 25, 1954, Manhunt)
  • “Slaughter on Sunday” (1955, Trinity in Violence)
  • “The Candlestick” (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame)
  • “The Little Black Bag” (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame)
  • “Precise Moment” (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • “One Little Bullet” (1955, Trilogy in Jeopardy; also 1957, The Name is Chambers)
  • “Sweet Charlie” (March 1955, Manhunt; also 1960, Dames, Danger, Death)
  • “Candlestick” (1957; The Name is Chambers)
  • “Watch the Jools” (1957; Death on the Double; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • “Beautiful Day” (1957; Death on the Double)
  • “Watch the Jools” (1957, Death on the Double)
  • “The Wrong Touch” (1957, The Name is Chambers)
  • “Ghost Story” (1960; AHMM; also 1976, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 16 Skeletons From My Closet)
  • “Death in Bed” (1960, Ed McBain’s Mystery Book)
  • “The Memory Guy” (1965, Come Seven/Come Death)

COLLECTIONS

  • Report For a Corpse (1948)
  • Trilogy in Jeopardy (1955)
  • Trinity in Violence (1955)
  • The Case of the Murdered Madame (1955, aka “Triple Terror”)  Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Death on the Double (1957)
  • The Name is Chambers (1957) Buy this book | Kindle it!
  • Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill! (1970)

RADIO

  • CRIME AND PETER CHAMBERS
    (aka “The Affairs of Peter Chambers,” Peter Chambers”)

    (1954, NBC)
    24 30-minute episodes
    Based on characters created by Henry Kane
    Writers: Henry Kane
    Directors: Henry Kane, Fred Weihe
    Produced by Henry Kane
    Announcer: Fred Collins
    Starring Dane Clark as PETER CHAMBERS
    and Bill Zuckert as Lieutenant Parker
    and Henry Kane as Lt. Louis Parker
    Also starring Elaine Rost, Everett Sloane, Leon Janney, Patricia Wheel, Roger De Koven, William Griffis, Donald Buka, Joe de Santis, Bryna Raeburn, Ralph Bell, Guy Repp, Lawson Zerbe, Nelson Olmsted

    • “The Burke Murder Frame” (April 6, 1954)
    • “The Alan Lewis Murder” (April 13, 1954)
    • “The Sandra Mantel Murder” (April 20 1954)
    • “The Rooming House Murder” (April 27, 1954)
    • “Peter Chambers, Murder Suspect” (May 4, 1954)
    • “The Regina Kent Murder” (May 11, 1954)
    • “Title Unknown” (May 18, 1954)
    • “The Dentist and the Extortion Murder” (May 25, 1954)
    • “The Missing Earring Murder” (June 1, 1954)
    • “Title Unknown” (June 8, 1954)
    • “The Contessa la Fresno Murder” (June 15, 1954)
    • “Bubbles Greco and the Greek Private Eye” (June 22, 1954)
    • “Murder at the Café Tropicale” (June 29, 1954)
    • “The Double Indemnity Murder” (July 6, 1954)
    • “Murder at the Masquerade Party” (July 13, 1954)
    • “The Bank Teller Murder” (July 20, 1954)
    • “The Miss Universe Contest Murder” (July 27, 1954)
    • “Murder at the Track” (August 3, 1954)
    • “The Utopia Ballroom Murder” (August 10, 1954)
    • “The School Teacher and the Professor” (August 17, 1954)
    • “The Stockbroker’s Daughter” (August 24, 1954)
    • “Murder at the Hot Spot” (August 31, 1954)
    • “Max Daly–Suicide or Murder?” (September 9, 1954)
    • “Title Unknown” (September 14, 1954)
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Radio info contributed by Jack French, with a special thanks going out to Claudio Di Gregorio for his sharp eye, and the Digital Deli Too for program listings. And yes, we’ve been Hubinized!the

2 thoughts on “Pete Chambers

  1. The books are almost impossible to trace. Try searching Harry Kane Peter Chambers and you end up with a lot of bumph about the current England Football Captain, and the second book about some obscure teen wizard.

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