Neal Fargo

Created by Joe Gores

NEAL FARGO‘s a hard-nosed San Francisco private eye, and non-practising attorney. He’s also as cold and ruthless as they come, very much in the Hammett mold. He’s also well-dressed, well-built, and, well, shady. As he puts it, “Clients pay me, but I work for myself.”

Before making a living as a P.I., Neal was a pro football player and an officer in the Special Forces. A real sharpie, although he occasionally claims that maybe he’s not quite as crooked as he makes out to be.

Hey! Isn’t there some sort of precedent for that among San Francisco P.I.s?

And sorta like another famous San Francisco dick, Fargo has a secretary who is totally loyal, above and beyond the call of duty–Pamela Gardner takes a licking on behalf of her boss, and keeps on ticking.

What makes her fidelity so surprising is that her boss seems so undeserving of it–when we meet Fargo, he’s got a lucrative sideline dealing heroin, and spends much of his only novel-length appearance in Interface (1974)–despite the fact he’s been hired to find a wealthy man’s missing daughter–tracking down his partner who’s ripped off a considerable amount of the drugs and money from him.

Interface is a bleak, vicious, chilling novel which Gores and a lot of other people consider his most accomplished novel. It’s certainly one of the great standalone novels of the Shamus Game. It took Neal another seventeen years to make another appearance, in a short story in The Armchair Detective in 1991.


Joe Gores is a three-time Edgar winner, having nabbed awards for Best First Novel, Best Short Story and Best One-Hour Teleplay. A former private detective, he wrote the novel (and possibly contributed to the screenplay) for Wim Wenders film Hammett, a fictional account of his hero’s life, and continued to write for television for many years, having contributed to Columbo, B.L. Stryker, Kojak, Magnum, P.I., Mike Hammer and Remington Steele. He’s also resonsible for creating private eyes Danny Durant and Bonecrack Krajewski, but he’s best known for his highly-acclaimed DKA series.


  • “The dead Mexican lay on his back and stared at the ceiling.”
    — the opening line in Interface. And it gets better…


  • Interface is, IMHO, one of the finest P.I. novels ever written, with the best surprise ending since Sam Spade refused to play the sap for Brigid O’Shaugnessy. The style, a totally objective third-person narrative (what one writing teacher of mine called “camera/tape recorder”) is, like the socko surprise finish, reminiscent of The Maltese Falcon.”
    Jim Doherty
  • Interface (is) a miracle of style and point of view–and the equal of [Dashiell] Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. With both books, what you see is what you literally get. At no point does Gores dip into the minds of the characters; instead, characterization is delivered by action, description, and dialogue. Few writers attempt this literary highwire act, and with good reason: most of us would end up splattered on the sidewalk. But Gores isn’t just showing off. This technique allows him to hide a series of shocks and surprise you have to read to believe… the toughest, leanest and most innovative private-eye novel I’ve ever read.”
    — Duane Swierczynski, as part of The Rap Sheet’s One Book Project



  • “Dance of the Dead” (Spring 1991, The Armchair Detective)


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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