Benjamin Drake
Created by Dashiell Loveless (pseud. of Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender)

"One false step and it's curtains for the floozy!"
--this ain't no foolin' around (
By the Balls)

He's a P.I. with "a passion for small cigars and Old Grand-Dad, and a weakness for women in trouble", the hot shot op for the Always Reddy Detective Agency located on the second floor of the William Kemmler Building in the business district of Testacy City, a "crime-filled desert city," about a hundred miles north of Vegas, where there are always some strange shenanigans going on, full of mysterious women, gangsters, murder and...um...bowling. He's BENJAMIN DRAKE, and he's the hero of By the Balls (1998), one of the funniest parodies/tributes I've seen in years.

Hell, I'd pretty much decided that before I had even read it, but my faith was not misplaced.

Turns out Ben's your typical chain-smoking, Old Grand Dad-slurping, Wittgenstein-reading, kick-'em-where-it-hurts kinda gumshoe, but where he really shines is when's he's spitting out the tough talk and cracking wise. Turns out Ben -- and everybody else in Testacy City -- graduated with flying colurs from the Chandler School of Wise-Crackery & Colourful Similes.

It's as much a tribute as a send-up to the genre, though: a hard-talking shamus who drinks a little too much, stray cats a little too much and gets beat up a little much. In fact, everything's just a little too much, but never so over the top that you aren't swept away by the story.

It was a joke, but one the reader was in on. Even the book's design played along. By the Balls mimicked all those great old Dell Mapbacks from the forties, right down to the size, the map on the back and those cryptic first pages that detail "The Persons This Mystery Is About..." and "What This Mystery Is About..." It also features illustrations throughout by Paul Pope. It's a blast of fresh air in a genre that's starting to take itself way too seriously. And I guess enough folks found Bo Diddley's warning, that "you can't judge a book by looking at the cover..." to be wrong, to make way for a sequel of sorts, 1999's Five Shots and a Funeral. It's a "collection" of five short story "crime capers," and also comes highly-recommended.

Ben's creators, Jim Pascoe and Tom Fassbender, besides being two of the sharpest-dressed dudes on the planet, and relating the adventures of Ben Drake, are the brains behind Uglytown, a small uppity press well worth checking out. There was even a serialized comic story, "A Punch in the Gut and a Bag Full of Oranges" which was serialized and featured in three subsequent issues of the free Dark Horse newsletter, "Dark Horse Extra." and drawn by Paul Lee.

And fans of the Always Reddy Detective City will be pleased to know that a short story, featuring Ben's fellow op and inter-office rival, Henry Goiler, appeared in the February/March 2001 issue of Blue Murder.

THE EVIDENCE

  • "There's nothing like a mourning widow ... and Suzi Biggs was nothing like a mourning widow. More like a morning window, and I could see right through her."
    -- from By the Balls

  • "Consider this an advance on a beating to come."
    -- from By the Balls

  • "He let out a wide-mouthed yawn, his tongue wiggling like a worm on a rainy day."
    -- from
    "Raspberry Jack"

NOVELS

COLLECTIONS

  • Five Shots and a Funeral: The Short Fiction of Dashiell Loveless (1999). .Buy this book
  • By the Balls: The Complete Collection (2013).. Buy this book
    A totally redesigned fifteenth anniversary edition, including the two original books, By the Balls and Five Shots and a Funeral, along with two brand-new short stories, a new introduction, and over a dozen short essays by industry big shots.

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Silent Ventriloquist" (1999, Five Shots and a Funeral; December 1999, Blue Murder)
  • "Death Plays a Foul Game" (1999, Five Shots and a Funeral)
  • "A Cold-Blooded Kidnapping" (1999, Five Shots and a Funeral)
  • "Midnight Train to Nowhere" (1999, Five Shots and a Funeral)
  • "Raspberry Jack" (1999, Five Shots and a Funeral)

COMICS

  • DARK HORSE EXTRA
    (2001, Dark Horse Comics)
    Issues 32-34
    Written by Tom Fassbender and Jim Pascoe
    Art by Paul Lee
    .
  • "A Punch in the Gut and a Bag Full of Oranges, Part 1" (February 7, 2001, Dark Horse Extra)
  • "A Punch in the Gut and a Bag Full of Oranges, Part 2" (March 7, 2001, Dark Horse Extra)
  • "A Punch in the Gut and a Bag Full of Oranges, Part 3" (April 4, 2001, Dark Horse Extra)

RELATED LINKS

  • Uglytown
    I think all hardboiled fans owe themselves a visit to Uglytown.

Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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