Created by Richard Stevenson
Pseudonym of Richard Lipez
Richard Stevenson, the creator of the acclaimed Don Strachey mysteries has started a new P.I. series with the publication of Knock Off the Hat in 2022, which introduced CLIFFORD WATERMAN, a gay private eye trying to keep it together in post-war Philadelphia.
It’s an awesome read–an in-your-face portrait of an era of rampant, officially sanctioned homophobia and civic corruption, as the cops clamp down on the gay community.
And whether he wants to or not, Clifford, an ex-cop and a former MP in his forties struggling to make it as a private detective, is dragged into it when he agrees to help out a young guy caught up in a gay bar raid who’s being squeezed by a local judge for $500 to make the morals charge “go away.”
But it gets worse, far worse, when the bodies of homosexuals start popping up in the Delaware River.
Suffice it to say the cops aren’t happy to have some local shamus poking into their business–never mind a former MP who was dishonourably kicked out of the Army following “an indecent act with a native” in Cairo.”
As Clifford puts it, he was “enjoying the company of a nice man named Idriss, who normally cleaned the latrines. On this particular occasion, this pleasant chappie was cleaning my latrine.”
But in a display of fuck-you defiance even Marlowe would approve of, Clifford has his dishonorable discharge framed, so he can hang it in his office.
As one does…
Those expecting the breeziness of Stevenson’s Strachey series–or the battened-down tautness of Joseph Hansen’s Dave Brandstetter series, for that matter–may be disappointed, but fans of classic hard-boiled private eyes will find much to love.
It’s all here: the snappy patter, the mean streets, the alcohol (Jim Beam in this case), jazz murmuring in the background, and a lone private dick, neither tarnished nor afraid, willing to plow through the various strata of the “City of Brotherly Love” circa 1946, a town teeming with bigotry, corruption and greed, to see that justice of some sort is done.
The bad news?
Richard Stevenson died in January 2022, before Knock Off the Hat even came out.
- “Gripping, evocative and turn-of-the-screw suspenseful, Knock Off The Hat is a brilliantly paced and startlingly immersive barnstormer. With firecracker prose, Stevenson brings the jungle hot streets of post-war Philly to life and deftly reminds us that nothing is stronger than a community besieged.”
— P.J. Vernon
- Dick Lipez, Who Wrote Pioneering Gay Mysteries As Richard Stevenson
Michael Nava remembers (April 2022, CrimeReads).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.