Jack Liffey

Created by John Shannon

First Los Angeleno JACK LIFFEY lost his job as a technical writer. Then he lost his wife and, for a while, his daughter, to divorce. Now all he has left is the unerring ability to track down missing children, which keeps him busy, and for the most part away from booze, drugs, Raymond Chandler novels and other dangerous addictions.

Sounds like yet another loser eye, but John Shannon infuses this series with a passionate vision all his own. There's a lot of the usual L.A. gloom and doom and angst, and a lot of sly winks at the P.I. tradition, but Shannon gets away with it all, because he's a very good writer. The Greek chorus of homies in the early books whose drug-dealing turf includes Jack's apartment building, the slow disintegration of the city through forces of nature and man (that obsession with nature is almost Canadian!), the surreal crime and traffic incidents, the little in-jokes, the tip of the fedoras to Ivan Monk and The Bradbury Building and even an elderly Philip Marlowe make this one of the best and most entertaining new P.I. series I've come across in years.

But Shannon's not content with just showing just the usual mean streets of the City of Angels, he's after the whole enchilada: the crumbling infrastructure, the cultural, intellectual and moral decay, the man-made and even the natural catastrophes that seem to plague the place, as if God's got a hard-on for the whole damn city. Things fall apart; the centre doesn't hold. And damn if Shannon doesn't want to probe the wounds.

But somehow Jack Liffey endures...

Author Shannon grew up in San Pedro, California, "amidst the sons of radical longshoremen, shipyard workers and fishermen. They still called themselves Yugoslavs then, rather than Croats or Serbs. My friends were proud of the tale -- probably apocryphal -- that their fathers had once hidden in wait for the LAPD "Red Squad," and beat the shit out of them." He has worked as a journalist, technical writer, video producer, a school teacher in Africa and a political activist. Besides the Jack Liffey books, he has published four other novels, including The Orphan, Courage and The Taking of the Waters, a multi-generational saga of the American Left.

When I first read The Concrete River, I stated that I felt that Shannon was one guy to watch, and that fans of Ross Macdonald and Stephen Greenleaf should particularly take note. I'm glad to say that subsequent books in the series have proven me right, time and time again. Shannon is simply one of the very best private eye writers out there these days, a sharp-eyed social critic whose fierce anger and passionate intelligence never stand in the way of his muscular storytelling and all-too-human characters; a writer who casts his fiery, unflinching gaze not just upon his villains but his heroes as well.

The result? Some of the bravest, most outspoken and unapologetically political novels to come out of the private eye genre; easily on a peer with folks like Pelecanos and Mosley.

No truth that his next Liffey book is The Big Pothole, but whatever he decides to call it, I'll be lining up to buy it.


  • "You can read the first few words of any newspaper article or editorial in any paper in America and guess all of the rest. This is one of the few places on the face of the earth where ignorance is considered a legitimate point of view."

--John Shannon, in I Love L.A.: The January Magazine Interview


  • "The landscape of Los Angeles, both actually and metaphorically, has been deconstructed by writers from the West from Chandler to Didion, but never quite as artfully as John Shannon does it in The Cracked Earth... A fine, interesting read."

-- James Crumley

  • "In The Orange Curtain, Shannon has written an intelligent, surprising book, found the heart of his working class characters, and delivered a first-rate thriller in the bargain."

-- George Pelecanos

  • "With his sixth Jack Liffey book, Shannon's series is still on an upward trajectory. Liffey is a terrific character--smart, funny, sad, and a keen observer of social strata and the world at large. His journey after the truth is realistically messy, and we're with him every step of the way. If only all mystery novels were this good."

-- Keir Graff from Booklist on City of Strangers




The official site is up and running. John thinks of it as "the DVD version of the books, with extra inside information, L.A. lore, bios, pix, L.A. tours, etc."

Kevin Burton Smith's 2003 interview with Shannon for January Magazine.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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