Gentlemen, Name Your Poison

Dabblers, Inhalers & Other Substance-Abusing Eyes

“Most of the time, sleuthing is not the most rewarding work. However, being a drug addict has its charms.”
— New York eye Dick Shamus muses on his life

Of course, substance abuse, particularly of the illegal variety, is nothing new for private detectives who, after all, came of age during Prohibition.

Think of the seven-percent solution coursing through the veins of the godfather of all private eyes, Sherlock Holmes right through to the perenially drug and booze-addled eyes of the king of substance abuse, James Crumley. Obviously, this is just a preliminary list (boozers have their own page–coming soon), but any help here would be greatly appreciated….

DON’T BOGART THAT JOINT, MY FRIEND (POT SMOKERS)

Given its wide availability and popularity, it’s actually a wonder more P.I.’s don’t smoke dope. Just statistically, it would seem to me that more of them would. And some of them definitely should. Tightly wound eyes like Mike Hammer and V.I. Warshawski could all benefit from something to take the edge off, if you ask me. Sure, there have been a few notable partakers of the demon weed, but pot and hash smokers seem almost criminally under-represented in P.I. fiction. And now, with it being legalized in most sane jurisdictions, the lack of inhalers is particularly noticeable. Maybe it’s time we got the affirmative action people to work on this glaringly-obvious case of discrimination, before a class-action suit is launched that could cost the publishing industry millions.

  • Moses Wine by Roger L. Simon
    Smokin’ pot, playin Clue spo-dee-do… was he the first to inhale?
  • Jake Spanner by L.A. Morse
    “Kids today think they invented this stuff?” Coincidentally, Jake was played in a TV movie by Robert Mitchum, who once went to jail for inhaling.
  • Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue by James Crumley
  • Leo Waterman by G.M. Ford
  • Matt Jacob by Zachary Klein
    Besides smoking pounds of dope, Matt pops mountains of pills, snorts yards of cocaine, drinks like a fish, and generally spends most of his time under the influence. But dope seems to be his poison of choice.
  • Kinky Friedman by Kinky Friedman
  • Dan Kruger by Michael Cormany
    Dan, although he’s more partial to pills, has been known to partake, and even shares a joint with a young runaway he was hired to find in one instance.
  • John Denson by Richard Hoyt
  • Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski by Joel & Ethan Coen
    He abides…
  • Nick Stefanos by George Pelecanos
    “What is it? I’ll take it!”
  • Claire Dewitt by Sara Gran
  • Burke by Andrew Vaachs
    Known to reminisce, upon occasion, while smoking some “throat-searing marijuana.”
  • Don Strachey by Richard Stevenson
    Strachey lights up now and then–it ain’t no thang — it just seems part of the whole 70s culture that these books were created in…
  • Fred Crockett by Brad Lang
  • Derek Strange & Terry Quinn by George Pelecanos
    In Right as Rain (2001) the investigative team and their respective “twists” top off a double-date with a shared joint.
  • Doc Sportello (Inherent Vice) by Thomas Pynchon
  • Jonathan Ames (Bored to Death) by Jonathan Ames
    For potheads, by potheads.

THE BIG H (HEROIN)

COKE ADDS LIFE (COCAINE)

SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE (TOBACCO)

At one point, it seemed every private jasper on the planet smoked like a chimney

  • Nameless by Bill Pronzini (at least, until a cancer scare)

CIGAR SMOKERS (TOBACCO)

PIPE SMOKERS(TOBACCO)

  • Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
    The Great One even measured the difficulty of a case by how many pipes would need to be smoked before arriving at its solution.
  • Philip Marlowe by Raymond Chandler

WAIT! WHERE’S THE METH GUYS?

EQUAL-OPPORTUNITY ABUSERS (“WHAT IS IT? OOOH, I’LL TAKE IT”)

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Ron DeSourdis, Bill Lucas and Roger Allen for their help with this one. Next round’s on me…

3 thoughts on “Gentlemen, Name Your Poison

  1. Sherlock Holmes may have been a substance abuser, but his cocaine was completely legal. It wasn’t until the 1920 Dangerous Drugs Act that it was made a criminal offence to possess or take it.
    I must say, I’ve always thought James Crumley’s books would make more sense if his readers have consumed assorted forbidden substances.

  2. Burke would flashback on his teen gang war days and “smoke the throat searing marijuana.”

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