Private Eye-Related Books, Movies, TV Shows, Comics & Other Stuff
This is NOT a Best-of-the-Year list. No way.
That would infer that I’m in any kind of position to judge and I most certainly am not. I have not read, watched, inhaled, scratched or sniffed everything. So these are just twenty-three of my favourite private eye-related things that came out in 2022 that caught my eye, knocked on my door, flew over the transom or otherwise somehow crossed my path, plus a few comments, and they’re presented in more or less random order.
- Racing the Light by Robert Crais (novel)
Elvis Cole, Joe Pike and… yes, Lucy. His best since L.A. Requiem. An absolute ass-kicker.
- Bye Bye Baby by Ace Atkins (novel)
Ace’s 10th and final glorious and respectful stab at Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, and he goes all out, leaving nothing on the field.
- Hell and Gone by Sam Wiebe (novel)
Beautiful B.C., my ass! Vancouver P.I. Dave Wakeland standing at the crossroads between the right thing and the safe thing.
- Secrets Typed in Blood by Stephen Spotswood (novel)
The greatest (and slyest) update on the Wolfe/Goodwin model in years finds Great Detective Lillian Pentecost and her legwoman Will Parker tangling with a serial killer in 1947 New York.
- The Burglar Who Met Fredric Brown by Lawrence Block (novel)
The long-awaited and reality-twisting return of master thief and bookstore owner Bernie Rhodenbarr.
- One-Shot Harry by Gary Phillips (novel)
African-American photographer and part-time bail bondsman “One-Shot” Harry Ingram preps for MLK’s big visit to LA, and it ain’t that pretty at all.
- Knock Off the Hat by Richard Stevenson (novel)
Ex-cop and former MP Cliff Waterman is back Stateside from the Big One, dishonourably discharged following “an indecent act with a native” in Cairo,” trying to make it as a P.I. in the City of Brotherly Love, even as the cops clamp down on the gay community.
- Follow Me Down by Ed Brubkaer and Sean Phillips (graphic novel)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—other crime novelists should thank their lucky stars that Brubaker and partner-in-crime Phillips have stuck with comic books. Slacker, surfer and ex-FBI agent Ethan Reckless lets down his guard and heads to the crossroads in this bittersweet ode to pulp fiction, lost idealism and revenge.
- Overboard by Sara Paretsky (novel)
By now, it’s become clear that nothing much will stop Chicago’s V.I. Warshawski, though the Powers That Be foolishly keep trying.
- Secret Identity by Alex Segura (novel)
Okay, so… not a private eye novel per se, but it’s painfully clear where 1970s comic book writer Carmen Valdez is getting her inspiration when her writing partner is murdered and she decides to poke around a little.
- A Knives Out Film: Glass Onion (film)
The cast is completely different, and the tone is different, but Daniel Craig’s return as oddball Great Detective Benoit Blanc in this sequel to 2019’s delightful Knives Out is still a major hoot.
- The Wheel of Doll by Jonathan Ames (novel)
Quirky, dog-loving LA P.I. Happy Doll is back, taking a licking even as he keeps on ticking. Not as good as the first, but he’s shaping up to be one of my favourite new series eyes.
- The Big Bundle by Max Allan Collins (novel)
True detective Nate Heller is back, and HardCase has him! This time, Heller’s been called in when a millionaire’s son is kidnapped, a still unsolved real life crime that eventually drew in Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Hoffa.
- The Human Target by writer Tom King and artist Greg Smallwood (comic mini-series)
Christopher Chance, DC Comics’ The Human Target, is back, in a great 12-part series. As if bodyguarding Lex Luthor isn’t enough, now he has to solve a murder–his own! It’s a neat and clever spin on the old film noir classic, DOA.
- Newburn by Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips (comic)
An honest-to-goodness monthly comic book starring an honest-to-goodness hard-boiled private eye! And what an eye! Ex-cop Easton Newsom has some very special clients–he’s the official investigator for organized crime in NYC, cleaning up the messes and (hopefully) keeping the peace. Written by Chip Zdarsky, with amazing art by Jacob “Son of Sean” Phillips. And not a trace of Spandex!
- Ghost of the Hardy Boys: The Writer Behind the World’s Most Famous Boy Detectives by Leslie McFarlane (memoir)
It still feels like a kick in the pants to realize that that most American duo of crime-solving brothers, The Hardy Boys, was largely created and shaped by a Canadian. In this timely reissue, the real Franklin W, Dixon stands up.
- Confess, Fletch (film)
Nah, it’s not exactly faithful to the source (Gregory McDonald’s character is actually a bit of an S.O.B.), but it’s a marked improvement on the scenery-chewing Chevy Chase portrayal, with Jon Hamm obviously enjoying himself, dishing up Cary Grant-level charm as the glib, fast-talking journalist Fletch, out to get the scoop, find his Italian girlfriend’s fathers stolen paintings and solve a few murders. Absolutely delightful.
- Kill Me If You Can by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane (novel)
Spillane’s Mike Hammer was always a force of nature, but Collins cranks the storm up another notch in this one, unleashing hurricane-force destruction, as Hammer, never the most stable of dicks, goes completely off the rails in his search for the missing Velda.
- The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich
Big wheel Stephanie Plum keeps on churning, but Evanovich keeps on burning in this series debut featuring recovery agent and globetrotting adventurer Gabriela Rose. Yeah, this sudsy thriller recalls Raiders of the Lost Ark and Romancing the Stone at least as much as it does Travis McGee, but who cares when it’s this much fun?
- The Truman Gumshoes: The Postwar Detective Fiction of Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, Wade Miller & Bart Spicer by J.K. Van Dover (non-fiction)
Yep, it’s a weird concept, suggesting that the type of P.I. we get depends on who’s sitting in the Oval Office, but this deep dive into the hard-boiled detective fiction swamp of the late 1940s is pretty convincing. It was an era when a new breed of young writers who had survived the Depression, the New Deal, and WWII stripped the genre for parts and rebuilt it in their own image. The work of four major private eye series of the so-called “Truman” era are examined. offering the first real in-depth (and long overdue) analysis of the Max Thursday novels of Wade Miller (actually the pen name of Robert Wade and Bill Miller) and the Carney Wilde novels of Bart Spicer, and taking a fresh gander at Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer novels and, yes, Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Yeah, you could quibble over some of the arguments, and challenge the inclusion of Wade and Spicer over, say, Thomas B. Dewey, Robert Martin, William Ard or Richard S. Prather, but Van Dover certainly makes his case.
- The Wild Life by David Gordon
Strip club bouncer Joe Brody is “asked” by childhood friend (and big shot mobster) Gio Caprisi to look into the disappearance of some of NYC’s most in-demand hookers, but when the start to turn up dead, all hell breaks loose.
- One Night with Nora (beer)
This tasty brew from the pulp-minded folks at the appropriately named Paperback Brewing Company of Glendale, California, boasts what has to be one of the pulpiest beer labels ever, featuring a dead body (male) in a bathtub and a set of gams (female) to die for. It’s named, naturally for the 1953 Mike Shayne novel of the same name. Of course, doing this site requires a tremendous amount of dedication and research, but I’m pleased to report that this is an infinitely drinkable beer; an easy-going, blonde ale with a touch of honey malt that went down so nicely I had another. Purely for investigative purposes, of course…
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.