Peter Chambers
Created by Henry Kane (1918--; AKA Anthony McCall, Kenneth R. McKay & Mario J. Sagola)

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 impressed with Kane. The Chambers books may have been popular in their time, but I found them too glib, and even smarmy at times. 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.

UNDER OATH

  • "Henry Kane was a stylist, I just never could figure out what the style was."
    -- Gary Warren Niehbuhr on Dorothy L, August 30, 1998

NOVELS

  • A Halo For Nobody (1947)
  • Armchair In Hell (1948)
  • Hang By Your Neck (1949)
  • A Corpse For Christmas (1951)
  • Until You Are Dead (1951)
  • My Business Is Murder (1954)
  • Too French and Too Deadly (1955)
  • Who Killed Sweet Sue? (1956)
  • Fistful of Death (1958)
  • Death Is the Last Lover (1959)
  • Death of a Flack (1961)
  • Dead in Bed (1961)
  • Death of a Hooker (1961)
  • Kisses of Death (1962, also featuring Marla Trent, Kane's lady dick)
  • Death of a Dastard (1962)
  • Never Give a Millionaire an Even Break (1963)
  • Nobody Loves a Loser (1963)
  • Snatch an Eye (1963)
  • The Devil To Pay (1963)
  • Unholy Trio (1967)
  • Don't Call Me Madame (1969)
  • The Schack Job (1969)
  • The Bomb Job (1970)
  • Don't Go Away Dead (1970)
  • The Glow Job (1971)
  • The Tail Job (1971)
  • Come Kill with Me (1972)
  • The Escort Job (1972)
  • Kill For the Millions (1972)

SHORT STORIES

  • "A Matter of Motive" (March 1947, Esquire; 1948, Report For a Corpse)
  • "A Glass of Milk" (May 1947, Esquire; 1948, Report for a Corpse)
  • "Kudos For the Kid" (May 1947, Esquire; 1948; Report For a Corpse and The Name is Chambers)
  • "Report for a Corpse" (July 1947, Esquire; Report For a Corpse)
  • "Hang by Your Neck" (December 1948, Esquire)
  • "Armchair in Helll" (January 1948, Esquire)
  • "Suicide is Scandolous" (June 1948, Esquire; also 1947, Report For a Corpse)
  • "The Shoe Fits" (1948, Report For a Corpse; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • "A Corpse for Christmas" (December 1950, Esquire)
  • "One Little Bullet" (April 1953, Manhunt)
  • "The Wrong Touch" (1953; The Name is Chambers; January 1954, Manhunt)
  • "Far Cry" (June 1953, Manhunt; also 1954, Trinity in Violence)
  • "The Big Touch" (1954, My Business Is Murder)
  • "Loose End" (1954, My Business Is Murder)
  • "Candlestick" (1954, The Name is Chambers)
  • "Skip a Beat" (June 1954, Manhunt; 1954, The Name is Chambers and Trinity in Violence)
  • "Precise Moment" (December 25, 1954, Manhunt)
  • "Slaughter on Sunday" (1955, Trinity in Violence)
  • "The Candlestick" (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame)
  • "The Little Black Bag" (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame)
  • "Precise Moment" (1955, The Case of the Murdered Madame; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • "One Little Bullet" (1955, Trlogy in Jeopardy; also 1957, The Name is Chambers)
  • "Sweet Charlie" (March 1955, Manhunt; also 1960, Dames, Danger, Death)
  • "Candlestick" (1957; The Name Is Chambers)
  • "Watch the Jools" (1957; Death on the Double; also 1970, Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill!)
  • "Beautiful Day" (1957; Death on the Double)
  • "Watch the Jools" (1957, Death on the Double)
  • "The Wrong Touch" (1957, The Name Is Chambers)
  • "Ghost Story" (1960; AHMM; also 1976, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 16 Skeletons From My Closet)
  • "Death in Bed" (1960, Ed McBain's Mystery Book)
  • "The Memory Guy" (1965, Come Seven/Come Death)

COLLECTIONS

  • Report For a Corpse (1948)
  • Trilogy in Jeopardy (1955)
  • Trinity in Violence (1955)
  • The Case of the Murdered Madame (1955, aka "Triple Terror")
  • Death on the Double (1957)
  • The Name is Chambers (1957)
  • Kiss! Kiss! Kill! Kill! (1970)

RADIO

  • CRIME AND PETER CHAMBERS
    (1954, NBC)
    30-minute episodes
    Based on characters created by Henry Kane
    Written, directed and produced by Henry Kane
    Starring Dane Clark as PETER CHAMBERS
    and Bill Zuckert as Lieutenant Parker

*Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Radio info contributed by Jack French, with a special thanks going out to Claudio Di Gregorio for his sharp eye. And yes, we've been Hubinized!


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