Gil Vine

Created by Stewart Sterling
Pseudonym of Prentice Winchell

GIL VINE‘s a real smoothie, a real charmer, a sophisticate with an eye for the finer things in life, but he’s not afraid to put the boot in if he has to. He’s the fast-moving hotel security chief at New York’s swanky Plaza Royale on Fifth Avenue, a troubleshooter in a snazzy suit. He’s tough, shrewd, and conscientious as he has to be, actually living at the hotel so he can always be on call, to keep the peace and—more importantly–protect the hotel’s good name.

For years, I had assumed that the 1947 novel Dead Wrong was Vine’s debut, with him already firmly established at the Plaza Royale, but it turns out he had a whole other life before then, appearing in several popular stories in the pulps as a standard-issue private eye, all clenched jaw and a gun in hand, if we’re to judge by the covers. In the earliest stories, at least, there’s plenty of intriguing settings (An ice rink! A carnival!) but no mention of the Plaza–Vine has has been running his own one-man agency since he split from the FBI five years earlier. He’s pretty much your classic tough-guy gumshoe, and unlike the novels, it’s told in third person, not first. Vine’s not exactly a dese-and-dose kinda guy, but he’s a far cry from the sophisticated bon vivant we would meet in the novels and the later short stories.

The hotel background seems authentic enough, and in fact, Sterling went on to co-author (with Dev Collans) I Was a House Detective, a 1954 scoop on “Lawbreakers and c-girls, walk-in men and walk-up ladies–a startling expose of big city hotels.”

Gil shares his dedication to his job with Sterling’s other series sorta-P.I.s as department store dick Don Cadee and Fire Marshal Pedley.


  • “Coffin Candidate” (October 1939, Thrilling Detective)
  • “Killer’s Carnival” (July 1940, Thrilling Detective)
  • “The Glass Guillotine” (November 1940,  Thrilling Detective)
  • “The Secret of Madam Zenobia” (January 1944, Dime Mystery Magazine)
  • “Dead Certain” (January 1949, Popular Detective)
  • “Dead Giveaway” (February 1950, Thrilling Detective)
  • “Murder by Television” (July 1950, Popular Detective)
  • “The Smell of Fear” (January 1951, Popular Detective)
  • “The Corpse in 1214” (Fall 1953, Popular Detective)
  • “The Screaming Blonde” (Fall 1953, Triple Detective)
  • “Dead Right” (February 1956, Mercury Mystery Book-Magazine)
  • “Murder Comes to the Plaza Royal” (August 1957, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine)
  • “A Grave Matter” (1960, Dead Certain)



  • Dead Certain (1960)
    Includes the novelettes “Dead Certain”and “A Grave Matter”



  • July 2, 2023
    The Bottom Line: Thinking of raising a ruckus at NYC’s swanky Plaza Royale? Better check with two-fisted house dick Vine first… he’ll be checking you out while you’re checking in.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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