Thomas Kyd
Created by Timothy Harris (AKA Hyde Harris)

"You want to solve a crime, Granville? Why don't you go arrest your tailor?"
-- Kyd can crack wise with the best of 'em.

THOMAS KYD is a Los Angeles P.I. of "high principles and low assets" who appeared in two very good private eye novels in the seventies.

When we first meet him, in the aptly titled Kyd for Hire (1978), he's a haunted Vietnam vet and young widower, a fallen liberal, and a guy just trying to hold on, summing it all up in a fashion that may seem familiar to anyone who's ever read Chandler's The Long Goodbye:

"I'm thirty-three years old. My wife is dead and I have a private business that brings in enough to keep me in clean underwear. I live alone. I'm not tough but I'll kill a man if he tries to act like an animal to me, which is to say, if he tries to kill me. If I'm suspicious, I'm not suspicious enough, because people are always surprising me. I've seen little kids in Vietnam, seven- and eight-year olds, attack and kill old people for their clothes, so they could sell them. I've worked on a case where a man who'd lived fifty-three years with the same woman blew her brains out because he was tired of the way she fried eggs. I live alone because I want to and I drink because I'm weak and because I like to feel good enough though I'm not very good. And one way I make up for that is by being careful about my work, by forcing myself to question things that seem fine, or respectable, or lovely, like you. But the main thing is that I don't make speeches. Ever."

At one point, Harris, who never made any secret of his ambitions to follow in Chandler's footsteps, was being bandied about in the same breath as contemporaries like Greenleaf and Estleman. And damn if he didn't show plenty of promise.His second novel, Goodnight and Good-bye (1979), is especially recommended.

But he seems to have gotten lost somewhere down the line, and instead went into film. He also wrote novelizations of films such as Steelyard Blues , American Gigalo and Heat Wave. The latter's of particular interest, because it's a pretty decent P.I. story itself, although it doesn't really have a P.I. in it. The original screenplay was by Herschel Weingrod, who became a screenwriting collaborator with Harris.

Their joint efforts have produced Cheaper To Keep Her, a P.I. flick starring Mac Davis as Bill Dekker; Trading Places, the 1983 Eddie Murphy-Dan Ackrod comedy; Pure Luck, a 1991 American remake starring Martin Short and Danny Glover of a French screwball farce that starred Gerard Depardieu as a Parisian P.I., and Street of Dreams, a 1988 TV movie based on the two Kyd novels, starring Ben Masters as the battered gumshoe.

On his own, Harris has also written the screenplays Space Jam (1996), Kindergarten Cop (1990), My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), Twins (1988) and Brewster's Millions (1985).

And then, amazingly, in 2004, twenrty-five years after Goodnight and Goodbye, Thomas Kyd made his return in Unfaithful Servant. He's now a recovering alcoholic, but he's still the same old Kyd.


  • "At long last, someone has...hit the bull's-eye dead center...Tim Harris has succeeded in bringing Chandler's vision to bear upon a more frightening time than even Marlowe may have been able to stomach."
    New West Magazine



    (1988, Phoenix Entertainment Group)
    94 minutes
    Based on the novels Kyd For Hire and Goodnight and Goodbye by Timothy Harris
    Teleplay by Bill Stratton 
    Directed by William A. Graham
    Produced by Richard Ravin
    Co-executive producers: Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod
    Executive producer: Gerald W. Abrams
    Starring Ben Masters as THOMAS KYD
    Also starring
    Morgan Fairchild, Diane Salinger, Michael Cavanaugh, Alan Autry, Gerald Hiken, Wendell Wellman, Julie Philips, Danny Goldman, John Putch, Mike Moroff, Richard Green, David Marciano, John Hillerman


Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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