PETER CHAMBERS is a swingin' kinda guy, who started life referring to himself as a "private richard" and ended his career in a handful of soft porn novels. What a dick!
Originally, Pete was a man with a passion for the fashion, a man-about-Manhattan, and very much the eligible bachelor, with an eye for the ladies and a nose for danger, in a long-running series of books and short stories that may have actually inspired Peter Gunn. In fact, when the success of Blake Edwards' Ivy League P.I. warranted the publication of a paperback tie-in, the book was penned by Kane himself.
Of course, like any dashing playboy private eye, be it Peter Gunn, Pete Chambers, Magnum P.I., or Dan Tanna, where would a guy be without his pals? Pete's no exception. Number one on his list is the ever-loyal and long-suffering "secretary, amanuensis and wet-nurse" Miss Amanda Foxworth, "built like an old-fashioned icebox, but colder." Then there's Lieutenant Louis Parker, a Homicide bull for New York's finest. And for some lowdown on the underworld, Pete can always rely on Alger Shaw, hot dog vendor by day, and underworld denizen by night, who also comes in handy for the occasional odd job.
The series must have been popular, since it spawned over thirty books. There was even a radio series. In 1954, Crime and Peter Chambers made its debut on NBC, written, directed, and produced by Henry Kane. This 30-minute show was only on network radio for five months, from April to September 1954, but over twenty episodes have survived and are in trading currency.
Kane got Dane Clark to play the lead. Clark had a fairly successful career in Hollywood starting in 1942, usually playing tough guys for Warners, and he made a fairly convincing detective. Bill Zuckert was the voice of Lt. Parker in this series. Despite its strengths, the series showed signs of being put together in a hurry and its glib dialogue and weak plots failed to attract many listeners.*
Yet the books continued. Quite racy for its day, they're really pretty innocent as far as sex goes. Then, in the late sixties, in an attempt to jump start the series, the books, most of them titled The (Such-and-Such) Job, pumped up the smirky sex, plopped a few bimbos on the cover, and tried to pass them off as X-rated mysteries. But it was too little, and ultimately too late. Good ol' Pete hasn't been heard from since.
I tried, but I was never too unimpressed with Kane. The Chambers books may have been popular in their time, but they never really did that much for me, or at least the ones I've read. Far better were some of his contemporaries, almost-forgotten private eye writers, such as William Campbell Gault, Robert Martin, Delores Hitchens, Thomas Dewey and even Richard Prather (Prather at least knew his books were parody).
Author Henry Kane was a lawyer who seemed to prefer writing. In his career, wrote over 60 novels, including about 30 featuring Peter Chambers. Other short-lived series characters were PIs Marla Trent and retired NYPD detective inspector turned P.I. McGregor. He also wrote the movie adaptations for Ed McBain's 87th Precinct's Cop Hater and The Mugger. And, in light of his experience with Chambers, Kane was the perfect choice to pen an original novel starring television's Peter Gunn.
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