Created by Edward D. Hoch
Pseudonymsinclude Stephen Dentinger, Ellery Queen, R.L. Stevens, Anthony Circus, R. E. Porter and Pat McMahon
AL DARLAN is the legendary short story writer Edward D. Hoch‘s contribution to private eyedom. Al’s a California eye with a good rep, who has been in the biz a long time, appearing in fourteen or so stories since way back in 1957 (in such diverse–and in many cases, long-forgotten) publications as Crime & Justice, Off Beat Detective, Manhunt, Killers, Fast-Action Detective, Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine, the literary quarterly Antaeus, The Saint Magazine and even The New Black Mask, as well as a few anthologies).
Al has aged in more-or-less real time. In his 1986 short story, “The Other Eye,” the middle-aged Al takes on a younger partner, Mike Trapper. By 1998’s “An Eye for Scandal,” Al is in his sixties, and not getting any younger.
And by then it’s also clear he’s not setting the world on fire either. He’s no slick superstar eye–he’s a working class meat-and-potatoes kinda gumshoe, reminiscent at times of Pronzini’s early Nameless stories, approaching his decidedly low-key cases with a workingman’s pragmatism and conscientiousness. He even lives in a mid-sized, unnamed city. But make no mistake: the Darlan stories may not be gourmet concoctions, but they sure hit the spot. Think of them as private eye comfort food.
According to Ed in a 2004 Mystery*File interview, “My private eye character Al Darlan has appeared in sixteen stories since 1957. He started life as Al Diamond, but his last name was changed by an editor who feared confusion with Richard Diamond, a popular radio and TV private eye of the 1950s. The series helped win me The Eye, a life-time achievement award from the Private Eye Writers of America, to go along with similar lifetime awards from MWA and Bouchercon. I almost killed off Darlan once in a Manhunt story, but he kept popping up. One story, “The Other Eye,” was runner-up in a short story contest at the 1981 International Crime Writers Congress in Stockholm.”
The scarily-prolific Hoch wrote over 700 short stories in his lifetime, and was the only writer in the mystery genre since the death of the pulps that I know of who was able to support himself as a full-time freelance writer of mystery short stories. Wanna catch the latest story by Hoch? Just pick up an issue of Alfred Hitchcock or Ellery Queen–he left such a backlog that it felt like they’d be running his stories for years. Among his many creations were upper New York State cop Captain Leopold, master thief Nick Velvet, crime-solving gypsy Michael Vlado and 2000-year old Coptic priest Simon Ark. He also wrote one P.I. novel, a standalone featuring private eye turned mystery writer Barney Hamet. In 2000, Hoch received The Eye, the Private Eye Writers of America‘s award for lifetime achievement.
- “Jealous Lover” (March 1957, Crime and Punishment)
Also featured the debut of Hoch’s popular cop, Captain Leopold.
- “The Naked Corpse” (March 1957, Killers Mystery Story Magazine)
- “Darkness for Dawn Stevens” (February 1958, Fast Action Mystery and Detective Stories)
- “Layout for Murder” (July 1962, Off-Beat Detective Stories)
- “Where There’s Smoke” (March 1964, Manhunt)
- “Verdict of One” (October 1970, AHMM)
- “Twist of the Knife” (December 1970, MSMM)
- “Climax Alley” (May 1971, AHMM)
- “Lady with a Cat” (November 1971, AHMM)
- “Money on the Skull” (Spring/Summer 1977, Antaeus)
- “The Other Eye” (1981, Crime Wave; also 1986, The New Black Mask, #4)
- “The Sunken Car” (June 1982, MSMM)
- “The Rented Scar” (1984, The Eyes Have It)
- “An Eye For Scandal” (1998, Private Eyes)
- “It Could Get Worse” (2000, The Shamus Game)
- “Saratoga Steal” (July 2001, EQMM)
- “The Pulp Artist’s Wife” (August 2006, EQMM)
- “The Girl Next Door” (March/April 2007, EQMM)
- “A Wandering-Daughter Job” (June 2008, AHMM)