Created by Gary Phillips
Who's the man with the donut shop and the sense of responsibility? --Monk! --Daaamn right!
-Sub-title of interview on Troutworks
One of the more politically charged of the post-Easy Rawlins black eyes. Battle-weary, middle-class, fortyish IVAN MONK was the star of of four ambitious, highly-acclaimed private eye novels and numerous short stories set in contemporary Los Angeles.
But Ivan wasn't just some outside lonewolf P.I. spouting some vague party line, ranting at "the Man." He walked it like he talked it -- he was a business man, diversified and everything -- he not only ran a one-man detective agency, but he also owned a donut shop. Right in the "hood."
Because, hell, everyone likes doughnuts.
It may sound like a joke at first, but it was a master stroke on Phillips' part. It showed Monk had real roots in his community, allowing him to interact with people as a P.I. as a businessman, as the guy behind the counter at the doughnut shop and just as the guy from the neighbourhood hanging out at the Abyssinia Barber Shop.
And Ivan's community comprised everyone, reflecting the reality of modern day Los Angeles: blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians. Hell, he was even dating a Japanese-American judge.
A great, feisty mixture of action, characters and political ideas (and ideals) made this series one one of the most ambitious and insightful ones of the nineties, a series that Phillips keeps threatening to bring back. C'mon, Gary.
Apparently, one of Phillips' books was optioned by HBO, whose idea it was to have Laurence Fishburne star as Monk. A script was commissioned, but as Phillips put it, "they messed it up and so now HBO ain't gonna do it." Too bad.
Gary Phillips has also written a stand-alone thriller featuring disgraced football player Zelmont Raines, and has started another series featuring Martha Chainey, an ex-showgirl now working as a courier for the mob. He's also a comics fiend, banging out numerous crime comics for various publishers, including Bicycle Cop Dave, a web comic that patrols the "underbelly of gentrification," Midnight Mover, a four-part crime story from Oni set against the multi-millon dollar porn business, and Angeltown, about black LA eye Nate Hollis.
Author Phillips' has also been an L.A.-based activist and community organizer for over two decades, dealing with various community empowerment issues ranging from affordable housing to the narco-industrial complex. His political and pop culture pieces have run in the L.A. Times, the L.A. Watts Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Black Scholar Journal and Rap Pages magazine, and he's made numerous television and radio appearances.
-- Walter Mosley
-- Sara Paretsky
ALSO OF INTEREST
* The Desecrator was a special, limited edition book was published by ASAP in 1999, and contained an Introduction by Richard Barre, "The Desecrator" short story, an essay by Gary Phillips, a bibliography of both Phillips and Barre, and illustrations by Phil Parks. There weare 150 limited copies, 26 collectors copies, and 10 pc collectors copies.
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