Archy McNally

Created by Lawrence Sanders

The one-man publishing industry that was Lawrence Sanders (No, really! in the 70s and 80s, he was everywhere!), created more than one interesting private eye.

Laidback bon vivant ARCHIBALD “ARCHY” MCNALLY was the last, but he was also probably the most fun.

Droll, detached upper class twit Archy works as a private investigator for his stern, august Palm Beach attorney father whose clientele consists of the wealthiest (and twisted) denizens of that exclusive Florida community.

Yes, it’s yet another one of Sanders’ detectives catering to the rich and powerful, but in this series, the humour is played up. Way up.

Archy is a bumbling but charming buffoon; a mild-mannered Shell Scott-type with Woosteresque tendencies, he dresses nice and knows which type of fork to use, while his cases usually involve cocktails, chit-chat and more than a few bizarre murders.

Kinky and slinky, this series may be fluff, but dammit! It was fun fluff!

Readers are advised to also check out Sanders’ other decidedly less foppish gumshoes, including Samuel Todd, Joshua Bigg, Dora Conti, Timothy Cone or, if you’re in the mood for something a bit pulpier, try out some of his pre-Anderson Tapes stuff with Wolf Lannihan.

* * * * *

Lawrence Sanders wrote his first novel, The Anderson Tapes, in 1970 at the age of 50 and promptly won the Edgar for best first novel, and went on to become a fixture on bookshelves and spinner racks around the world, selling over fifty million copies of his thrillers.

After Sanders’ death in 1998, I asked, half-jokingly, if Sanders had actually written the McNally books, given that they were so much breezier than his usual heavy-handed potboilers.

And then the first McNally published post-humously, McNally’s Dilemma (1999), appeared with Sanders’ name, as usual, sprawled across the cover, only to discover–on the copyright page of the first edition in tiny print—that it had been written by Vincent Lardo, a writer with a few gay-themed novels under his belt. Apparently he had been chosen by the family to continue the series. A class-action suits against the publisher was launched by fans who felt they’d been cheated, and settlements and concessions were made. Every subsequent edition and the five subsequent McNally books that Lardo wrote (all of which made the New York Times bestseller lists) listed Lardo’s name right on the cover—albeit in much small sized text than Sanders.

Then again, as one reader pointed out, tongue slightly in cheek: “Lardo has either captured the style perfectly, or he wrote the earlier books, too.”

In 2013, Lardo returned to the gay genre with The Jockstrap Murders. It was to be his last novel.


  • “I just finished reading my first Sanders book–McNally’s Caper–it was atrocious. I am stunned that he is so lionized. He was verbose, trite and annoying. At least there won’t be more….”

    • “If Sanders is indeed “lionized,” it’s more for his pre-McNally books. The McNally books were, as I said, pure fluff. On the other hand, the Timothy Cone books, the Deadly Sin and Commandment series, and several of his stand-alones are big trashy reads that were also often surprisingly smart, and nowhere as dumb as they could have been. And as for the series coming to an end, well, it looks like the fat lady was just practising. She hasn’t sung yet…”
      (the editor; 1999)
  • “I feel ripped off after buying the last book put out by whoever is writing or trying to write for Sanders. It took 250 pages before anything exciting happen in that book. I don’t need 250 pages of what Archy is wearing or eating. What a sad disappointment after so many great ones.”
    — Jim Callahan





  • May 2, 2023
    The Bottom Line: A bumbling but charming buffoon, he dresses nice & knows which type of fork to use, while his cases usually involve cocktails, chit-chat & more than a few bizarre murders.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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