John Kenneth Galbraith Jantarro

Created by Simon Ritchie
Pseudonym of Simon Fodden

”And then I saw, nursing at her breast, the Magnum. Squat and ugly…it offered its black mouth to her, hungry beyond all possibility of feeding.”
— Yikes! (The Hollow Woman)

Toronto insurance investigator JOHN KENNETH GALBRATH JANTARRO (now there’s a world-class monicker!) lost a hand and part of his left arm thanks to a pair of sadistic prison guards, and an incompetent prison doctor.

Upon his release from the slammer, he sued “everyone and everything,” that moved, and won a lot of money, so much that “I didn’t have to work again unless I wanted to.” He makes no bones about it, and still employs a lawyer almost full-time to make sure he gets all he’s entitled to.

Fortunately for us, despite all that loot, he’d rather work for a living. And he does, as a self-employed private investigator with a surprisingly good reputation.

Of course, this being the mid-eighties, a spritz of Spenser isn’t entirely unexpected–in Jantarro’s case, it means a soft spot for classical piano music, and a smart, sexy girlfriend, Glenda, a talented and respected lawyer with a thriving practice.

“We saw each other when we could,” Jantarro explains, “We were at the stage of asking whether there was more to it.”

He’s no smug Superman, though, and there’s no Hawk in sight–Jantarro does his own hewavy lifting. He’s certainly got his flaws, and he’s refreshingly vulnerable (suffering through the effects of a blow to the head throughout much of his 1986 debut, The Hollow Woman). But in his fierce determination and harsh pride not to be held back, he’s reminiscent of Michael Collins’ Dan Fortune and Dick Francis’ Sid Halley, and he’s certainly one of the more appealing private eyes to come out of Toronto.

The plots are a little shaky at times, but Jantarro comes across as a credible and intriguing investigator, flawed but relatable, and the author knows how put words together, and how to deliver the action stuff.

In fact, I still have fond memories of the second novel, Work for a Dead Man (1989), in particular. It boasts a great confrontation between Jantarro and (get this!) a Komodo dragon.

Which makes it a true bummer that Jantarro only appeared in the two books, written by Simon Ritchie, the pen name for a Toronto law professor Simon Fodden. Although, curiously enough, Simon Ritchie was the real name of doomed Sex Pistol Sid Vicious.

What’s the story on that, prof?


  • “Hitchcock would have loved (the ending). Mr. Ritchie… can write, often turning an image to startling effect.”
    — Newgate Callendar (March 1987, The New York Times Book Review)




Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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