Karl Craven
Created by Jonathan Latimer
(1906-1983)

"From the way her buttocks looked under the black silk dress, I knew she’d be good in bed."
-- one of the great opening lines in detective fiction.

A true hardboiled classic, Jonathan Latimer's Solomon's Vineyard, featuring no-nonsense St. Louis private eye KARL CRAVEN (at least, that's what he claimed his name was) was first published in Britain in 1941, but was banned from publication in the United States until over forty years later.

Full of sex, violence, perversion and dirty little secrets, Latimer seems to have anticipated both Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer AND Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Not bad for a book that predates by several years the debut of either of them.

In the book, Karl is dispatched from the St. Louis office to the small town of Paulton to protect his wealthy client's daughter from a flaky religious cult, and soon finds himself involved with graverobbers, mobsters, hookers, assorted murderers and a femme fatale named Princess. But the nastiest of them all may be Karl himself.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the harsh, dark character of Solomon's Vineyard, author Latimer was best known for his series of humorous alcohol-driven screwball novels featuring New York gumshoe Bill Crane.

UNDER OATH

  • “For a book that was written back in the ’40s, (Solomon's Vineyard) still kicks major ass. It’s as if Latimer took the noir genre and ratcheted it up to 11... like the Coen Brothers took a shot at rewriting Red Harvest. It’s the basic story of a detective hired to protect a girl from a bizarre religious cult. But if it was just that it would seem like a typical noir book. Throw in a dead partner, a mob boss, kinky sex, and grave robbing ... and those are only a few highlights. Latimer characters seem like extreme versions of the noir archetypes. A detective that makes Mike Hammer look like a piker. A femme fatale that will make you pant. Then a shock of a surprise that will divide the readers. From the opening sentence I was hooked.... This book screams to be rediscovered and given better treatment--instead of the print-as-you go versions that it wallows in currently.”
    -- Bruce Grossman,
    as part of The Rap Sheet ONE BOOK PROJECT

  • "Jonathan Latimer is the best kept secret in noir fiction. One of the great unrecognized masters."
    --
    Max Allan Collins

NOVELS

RELATED LINKS

  • One Shot Eyes:
    Some great private eyes who've appearred in only one novel.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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