Benjamin Smoke

Created by Ed McBain
Né Salvatore Lombino
Other pseudonyms include Evan Hunter, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Richard Marsten, Ezra Hannon,John
(1926 -2005)

Retired cop BENJAMIN SMOKE has one regret–he’s never met a case he couldn’t crack. In fact, that’s why he retired — out of pure boredom. But upon becoming a private dick, he finally (almost) has his wish come true in Where There’s Smoke (1975), his one and only appearance.

His creator, Ed McBain, had some fun with this one, letting his old pulp flag fly. It’s a crackerjack of a case, featuring bodysnatchers, a kinky dame who thinks she’s Cleopatra, and some whackadoo cult going all out on ancient Egyptian rites. It all plays out in an unnamed city that might as well have been New York. Or Isola.

I’m not sure if this was intended as a series debut or not (the cover of the hard back hints at it), but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and it certainly didn’t impress Newgate Callendar who slammed it on a New York Times review, proclaiming”Where There’s Smoke (even the title is a gimmick) is competent, but there is not a shred of originality in its plotting or characterization, much less its writing.”

McBain, of course, is the famed creator of the 87th Precinct series, although along the way he did manage to write the occasional P.I. story or novel. Perhaps his best P.I. creation was disgraced former private investigator turned Bowery Street bum, Matt Cordell (aka Curt Cannon).


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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