Steve Silk

Created by James Brendan O’Sullivan

STEVE SILK is a former prizefighter turned un-licensed P.I., working out of what appears to be New York City, in a string of novels that ran for almost two decades, starting in 1945 with Death Came Late.

Quick with a wisecrack and quicker with his fists, he dresses well and chases women with vigor. According to the back cover blurb of one paperback, Steve is a very private eye with “only three weak points: blondes, brunettes and red heads.”

Yeah, it’s that kind of book.

Fortunately, Steve’s a big-hearted guy, but then,  there’s plenty of room for an over-sized pumper in his chest since he only has one lung.

No, seriously…

Seems Steve lost it in a car crash, which pretty much ended his boxing career. Which makes him one of the first post-pulp “defective detectives,” although the lack-of-a-lung gimmick doesn’t play much of a role in the few books I’ve managed to track down.

Despite the lung shortage, Steve found the time (and the breath) to appear in sixteen adventures. The dialogue is a little hokey at times, but the plots are actually pretty good, with some pretty clever twists and enough variation between books to hook readers.

Like I Die Possessed (1953), certainly one of the few private eye novels to be narrated by the corpse. Or the rather cozyish Someone Walked Over My Grave (1954), which finds Steve in Ireland competing with the local cops to solve a murder.

In fact, several of the books took our man to Ireland, not exactly the setting of choice for American tough guy P.I. novels at the time.

But it makes sense, since author James Brendan O’Sullivan had, in fact, been born in Dublin. He did work for several years in the U.S. as a crime reporter, disc jockey, copy writer, dramatist and scriptwriter but he moved back home in the fifties. Which may also explain why the series proved quite popular in the U.K. and, apparently, Canada (part of the Commonwealth), while only a couple of them actually ended up being published in the States. Meanwhile, back across the pond, I Die Possessed (the one with the stiff for a narrator) was being touted as “An Outstanding American-Humoured Novel.”


  • Death Came Late (1945)
  • The Death Card (1945)
  • Casket of Death (1946)
  • Death on Ice (1946)
  • Death Stalks the Stadium (1946)
  • I Die Possessed (1953) Buy this book
  • Nerve Beat (1953)
  • Don’t Hang Me Too High (1954)
  • Someone Walked Over My Grave (1954)
  • The Stuffed Man (1955)
  • The Long Spoon (1956)
  • Choke Chain (1958)
  • Raid (1958)
  • Gate Fever (1959)
  • Backlash (1960)
  • Make My Coffin Big (1964)



Respectfully submitted by Dale Stoyer.

Leave a Reply