Harold “Shill” Shillman (One Shoe Makes It Murder)

Created by Eric Bercovici

Some P.I.’s are thick-headed, and some are pretty down on their luck, but alcoholic, divorced, impotent sad sack ex-cop HAROLD “SHILL” SHILLMAN may take the cake. In his only appearance in print, So Little Cause For Caroline (1980), he not only tries to take his own life with a gun, but the bullet bounces off his head.

The suicidal shamus is then lured out of semi-retirement to find the wandering wife of casino owner (and crimeboss) Carl Charnock, and stumbles into the usual deceit and intrigue. Maybe nothing new, but Kirkus praised it for being “so lean, fast, and under-written that neither Shilling’s familiarity nor the thinness of the plot is much of a problem.”

The action bounces around Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and Los Angeles as Shill works the case, a bedraggled part-time hooker, Fay, in his wake. She sees something in the old cuss I couldn’t figure out.

Author Eric Bercovici is known mostly for his writing for television (Shogun!), so maybe it was no surprise that the book was soon turned into a made-for-TV movie. The results were so-so, even if it did mark Robert Mitchum’s television debut. His sleepy-eyed performance as a burned-out, dead-tired private eye who just didn’t give a damn anymore was dead-on, but was it acting?

He ploughs through the film like he’s looking for something, anything to give a damn about–or maybe Mitchum was just bone-tired of playing hard-boiled dicks at that point–in the last half-dozen or so years, he’d played Philip Marlowe twice and pseudo-shamus Harry Kilmer in The Yakuza). As he snaps at Angie Dickinson, who plays Fay, when she tries to provoke him into a reaction, “Lady, I don’t feel anything.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bercovici has written for Hawaii Five-O, I-Spy, McClain’s Law, Mission: Impossible, Police Story and other shows across his career, and penned a handful of stand alone novels. He even wrote and produced James Clavell’s Shogun for TV.

UNDER OATH

  • “…a tight, fast moving book that took me right to the last page.”
    Arthur Lyons
  • Topnotch repartee, so-so mystery, scratchily ingratiating characters: a cool, smart, painless one-sitting read from a savvy, promising writer.”
    — Kirkus Reviews

NOVELS

TELEVISION

  • ONE SHOE MAKES IT MURDER | Buy this DVD Watch it now!
    (1982, CBS)
    Based on the novel So Little Cause For Caroline by Eric Bercovici
    Screenplay by Felix Culver
    Directed by William Hale II
    Produced by Mel Ferrer
    Supervising producer: Malcolm Stuart
    Executive producers: Arthur Fellows, Terry Keegan
    Starring Robert Mitchum as HAROLD SHILLMAN
    With Angie Dickinson as Fay
    Also starring Mel Ferrer, Jose Perez II, John Harkins, Howard Hesseman, Asher Brauner, Bill Henderson, Catherine Shirriff, William G. Schilling, Andy Martin, Grainger Hines

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • September 6, 2021
    THE BOTTOM LINE: “Lady, I don’t feel anything!” Robert Mitchum, making his first TV appearance, sleepwalks his way through this drowsy flick as a burnt out, suicidal private eye, alongside Angie Dickinson.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith and Dale Stoyer (July 2003).

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