Jacob Asch
Created by Arthur Lyons (1946-2008)

JACOB ASCH was a glib, cynical, half-Jewish reporter for the L.A. Chronicle until he got sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source. He did six months on a contempt of court beef, and when he was sprung, the glamour of journalism, for some reason, had lost its appeal for him. So now he's a glib, cynical, half-Jewish LA private dick who gets involved in some very nasty murders, instead.

This is an improvement?

Gritty and harsh, yet Jake's basic decency prevents the novels from degenerating into the bleak, hate-filled doom world of so many contemporary PI novels, where the notion of hard-boiled seems to boil away any sense of hope, and substitute cynicism for character development. Like the Boss said, "Man, the dope is/That there's still hope."

In 1986, a made-for-cable adaptation of Castles Burning was filmed as Slow Burn, starring Eric Roberts (!) as Asch, with Johnny Depp (!!) in a small bit as the little boy lost. I dunno... Roberts just doesn't seem exactly right for the part. I picture Asch as older and grumpier, for some reason.

Still, I'm surprised this hasn't been released on DVD yet, what with Deppmania sweeping the land.

UNDER OATH

  • “Jacob Asch... borrowed cynicism from Philip Marlowe, compassion from Lew Archer, and exuberant youthful horniness from Mick Jagger ... and failed to return any of them. Lyons explored the monetary and cultural extremes of Palm Springs, but he also highlighted the darker edges of human behavior, as what began as a track-down case turns into one involving kidnapping, child abuse, and homicide.... Sadly, 14 years and six novels later, Jacob Asch disappeared -- as have so many once-popular series protagonists. Maybe Lyons’ books stopped selling as well as they had, and his publisher dumped him; maybe he just got tired of writing -- I don’t know. And I haven’t yet been able to find out, though I may someday. In any event, the fact that the Asch series ended prematurely probably burnishes my memories of each entry in that series. The one that glows the brightest, though, is Castles Burning, now long out of print.”
    -- J. Kingston Pierce, as part of
    The Rap Sheet One Book Project.

  • "Another underestimated writer, Lyons wrote several terrific novels that offer sharp insight into West Coast manners and mores. (Hard Trade) is particularly on target in its depiction of Southern California-style political corruption, prostitution and real estate manipulation.
    --Dick Lochte, The 14 Best Private Eye Novels of All Time (2012)

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • "Trouble in Paradise" (1985, The New Black Mask # 1)
  • "Missing in Miami" (1986, Mean Streets)
  • "Double Your Pleasure" (January 1989, AHMM)
  • "Dead Copy" (1988, An Eye For Justice)
  • "Twist Of Fate" (January 1990, AHMM)
  • "The Tongan Nude" (October 1997, AHMM)

FILMS

  • SLOW BURN... Buy this video... Buy this DVD
    (1986, MCA-TV)
    92 minutes
    Screenplay: Matthew Chapman
    Based on the novel Castles Burning by Arthur Lyons
    Director:
    Matthew Chapman
    Cinematography by Tim Suhrstedt
    Produced by Mark Levinson
    Executive Producers: Joel Schumacher, Stefanie Staffin Kowal
    Starring Eric Roberts as JACOB ASCH
    Also starring
    Beverly D'Angelo, Dennis Lipscomb, Raymond J. Barry, Anne Schedeen, Emily Longstreth, Johnny Depp, Henry Gibson, Dan Hedaya, Frank Schuller, Victoria Catlin, Edward Bunker

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Al Hubin for the nudge on this one


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