Created by Andrew Bergman (1945--)
"Private dicks aren't known for being great abstract thinkers, Miss Lane, but we can get around town without a map"
-- Jack tries to reassure a client, in The Big Kiss-Off of 1944
One of the first, and still one of the very best retro eyes, alongside Nate Heller and Toby Peters, was Andrew Bergman's 1940's New York P.I. JACK LeVINE, who appeared in two very well-received books back in the seventies.
When we first meet him, in The Big Kiss-Off of 1944 (1974), he's thirty-eight, a big guy with a big nose, bald and sweaty. "I don't look half-bad when I keep my hat on," he says in his defense. He's divorced, and his ex has remarried. He blames the break-up of the six-year marriage on his job and its hours. He smokes Luckys, drinks beer, preferably Blatz, and reads Dick Tracy everyday. He enjoys a good poker game, and listening to baseball and the fights on the radio.
He has an office (complete with stuffed moosehead) in Manhattan, and commutes from his apartment in Queens on the Flushing L. He considers himself a "basic model 1944 prole," and has few illusions about his job. "People hire a dick to do the dirty work, like they pay a colored girl to clean up the john...we do a job and disappear."
Yet, for such a simple man, he seems to run with some pretty fast company: Thomas Dewey, Richard Nixon, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and various celebrities, including Ava Gardner, John Garfield , Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart, who gives Jack -- literally -- the shirt off his back, in Jack's trip out west in the second in the series, Hollywood and LeVine (1975). Indeed, that's part of the charm of the series --this small-time shamus tromping through the corruption and chicanery of Cold War-era American politics, this no-name gumshoe rubbing up against the movers and shakers of the era.
And then, a quarter of a century later, Jack returned, in 2001's Tender is LeVine, which finds Jack back in 1950 Manhattan, hired by a second violin for the NBC Symphony, who's worried about his boss, renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini. The case eventually takes Jack through the corridors of power of NBC, the mob and even Cuba, ticking off everyone he meets along the way. Same old Jack.
In those missing twenty-five years, Bergman has concentrated mostly on his film career, and has in fact created quite a name for himself as a screenwriter and director. His screen credits include Blazing Saddles (co-written with Mel Brooks), The In-Laws, Soapdish, The Freshman, Fletch, Striptease and Honeymoon in Vegas. Not too shabby a sideline for a damn good P.I. writer.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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