Jim Hanvey
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 author Octavus Roy Cohen'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 one of the first black eyes, Florian Slappey, although the Florian stories, although arguably even more popular than those featuring Hanvey, are more famous now for their unflattering and offensive portrayal of blacks than their historical significance.

UNDER OATH

  • "(Octavus Roy Cohen) is remembered if at all for egregious comic stereotypes of African Americans, as in the series about sometime-detective Florian Slappey.  However benignly this Negro dialect humor may have been intended, let’s just say it is not likely to be reprinted any time soon."
    -- Jon Breen 

SHORT STORIES

  • "Fish Eyes" (May 6, 1922, The Saturday Evening Post; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "Homespun Silk" (June 17 1922, The Saturday Evening Post; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "Common Stock" (July 22, 1922, The Saturday Evening Post; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective and June 1998, AHMM)
  • "Helen of Troy, N.Y." (October 7, 1922, TThe Saturday Evening Post; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "Pink Bait" (July 7, 1923, Colliers; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "The Knight's Gambit" (July 8, 1923, The Chicago Tribune; also 1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "Caveat Emptor" (1923, Jim Hanvey, Detective)
  • "Buyer’s Risk" (May 9, 1924, The Detective Magazine)
  • "Detective Hanvey Pays a Midnight Call" (May 1926, The American Magazine)
  • "Free and Easy" (April 1926, Red Book Magazine; also 1927, Detours)
  • "The Frame-up" (June 1928, The American Magazine)
  • "As the Twig Is Bent" (November 1928, The American Magazine)
  • "Jim Hanvey Intervenes" (February 1930, The American Magazine)
  • "A Gentleman for a Night" (October 1931, The American Magazine)
  • "A Diamond Setting" (January 1932, The American Magazine)
  • "Cold Cash" (March 1932, The American Magazine)
  • "High Seize" (February 1934, The American Magazine)
  • "Double Jeopardy" (December 1957, The Saint)

COLLECTIONS

  • Jim Hanvey, Detective (1923)
  • Detours (1927)
  • Scrambled Yeggs (1934)

NOVELS

  • The May Day Mystery (1929)
  • The Backstage Mystery (1930)
  • Star of Earth (1932)

FILM

  • JIM HANVEY, DETECTIVE...Buy the DVD
    (1937, Republic)
    71 minutes
    Based on a story by Octavus Roy Cohen
    Adaptation by Cortland Fitzsimmons and Eric Taylor
    Screenplay by Olive Cooper and Joseph Krumgold
    Directed by Phil Rosen
    Starring Guy Kibbee as JIM HANVEY
    Also starring Tom Brown, Lucie Kaye, Edward  Brophy, Catherine Doucet, Edward Gargan, Helen Jerome, Theodore von Eltz, Kenneth Thomson, Howard C. Hickman, Oscar Apfel, Wade Boteler, Robert Emmett Keane, Robert Homans, Harry Tyler, Frank Darien, Charles Williams

RELATED LINKS

  • A Note on Octavus Roy Cohen
    Mystery critic and writer Jon Breen weighs in on the value of Cohen, in this short but fascinating article from Mysteryfile.com   

  • In the Beginning
    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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