Created by Octavus Roy Cohen (1891-1959)
Down these mean streets a man must waddle...
One of the earliest private eyes, Octavus Roy Cohen's JIM HANVEY was already appearing in The Saturday Evening Post a year before Three Gun Terry, although his style tended to run more to frighteningly folksy narratives about con men and scam artists and their gullible rich victims, not hard-boiled tales of urban knights out to set the world right, armed only with a gun and a personal code of honour.
Nonetheless, the Hanvey stories can be quite fun, if you have a high tolerance for corn pone. Jim's an intriguing combination of Jed Clampett and Sam Spade, part-conman, and full-time good ol' boy. He's fat, slow-moving, has fishy eyes, smokes nasty little black cigars, wears cheap, shabby clothes that always seem to be on the point of bursting and is constantly fiddling with a gold toothpick he carries on a chain around his neck, a gift from a criminal he helped convict. He not only looks like a cow and -- at first glance --apparently has the intelligence of one, too.
But he's actually more like a sort of backwoods Nero Wolfe, a shrewd, highly-regarded detective and the "terror of crooks from coast to coast," respected by both the law and often, the lawless, managing to maintain good relationships with more than one lawbreaker he's had tossed in the can. Indeed, one character complains that he has more friends on the wrong side of the law than in legitimate circles.
Hanvey made most of his early appearances in short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, where much of the author's other work was also published. He was also featured in one feature film, the aptly titled Jim Hanvey, Detective, in 1937.
Cohen created a few other detectives: David Carroll, and more significantly, Florian Slappey, one of the first black eyes. The Florian stories, unfortunately, while arguably even more popular in their day than those featuring Hanvey, are now more famous for their unflattering and offensive portrayal of African-Americans than their historical significance.
-- Jon Breen
What happens when corn pine meets ham bone.
Mystery critic and writer Jon Breen weighs in on the value of Cohen, in this short but fascinating article from Mysteryfile.com
Early Historical & Literary Influences on the P.I. Genre
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. The still is from the 1937 Republic release, Jim Hanvey, Detective, starring Guy Kibbee as Hanvey. Frightening, huh?
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