Created by J.D. Carpenter
Was Gord MacDonald taken?
Did Doug Mackenzie have undesirable connotations?
Was Guy Tremblay just a little too French-sounding?
Because I ask you -- has there ever been a private eye with a more Canadian-sounding monicker than J.D. Carpenter's CAMPBELL YOUNG?
Okay, granted, Young started out, not as a private eye, but a homicide detective on the Toronto police force, appearing in two well-received police procedurals, The Devil in Me (2001) and Bright's Kill (2005).
But 74 Miles Away (2006),,his third appearance, marked a definite turning point in the series, with Campbell retiring from the force to focus on the more important things in life -- namely eating, drinking and playing the ponies.
Oh, he keeps his hand in the detective racket, even starting up his own agency, A-1 Investigative Consultants. But don't be fooled by the name -- Campbell's the only operative. As he ruefully admits, "A-1 Investigative consultant sounded stupid." His only other employee is his secretary, Stella, a single mother, who more or less comes and goes as she pleases.
Which is more-or-less fine with Campbell. The agency's mostly to keep himself busy, anyway.
Still, when a buddy comes asking for help, as Priam Harvey does in 74 Miles Away, Campbell may grumble a little but he ultimately comes through.
Nobody's going to mistake Campbell for Mike Hammer -- or even Spenser, for that matter -- but he is definitely an appealing character. His slow, methodical method of working a case (with plenty of breaks for meals and drinks) has its own pleasant rhythm, and Carpenter writes in a clean breezy style that brings it all home.
But the real charm of the series is Campbell himself. Easy-going and affable, he lives alone, pretty much set in his ways, his favourite pasttimes being true crime shows on television and spending the day at the races with a couple of pals. He's divorced, but he dotes on his grown daughter, Debi, a horse trainer, and her son, Jamal. He tries to visit his elderly Aunt Gladys, who's in a nursing home, as often as he can (he sneaks in beer for her and her roommate) and he tries to keep in touch with his old pals on the force. He even keeps a puppy. He's that true rarity in crime fiction -- a genuinely nice, down-to-earth guy.
But make no mistake -- he's no pushover. At one point in 74 Miles Away, a character describes him as "big as a fucking house" and this friendly giant certainly can rise to the occasion when he has to. But he'd really prefer not to.
Because not since TV's equally rotund Frank Cannon back in the seventies has a private eye enjoyed life -- particularly food and drink -- so unapologetically. Okay, Campell's tastes tend to be far more gourmand than gourmet. His diet tends to Grape-Nuts, Cheezies and TV dinners at home, and pub grub and bottles of Labatt Blue (ordered two at a time) when he's at McCully's, his local hangout, making him something of a hoser bon vivant; the kind of guy you wouldn't mind having a beer with. And he probably wouldn't mind having one with you either.
Report submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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