Harry Dickinson

Created by David Black

There have been plenty of attempts over the years to recast Don Quixote as a private eye. Possibly because the eye is such an easy target, there has been no shortage of gentle lampoons of the genre featuring mentally scrambled yeggs who have somehow come to believe they are actually hard-boiled private dicks, and set about proving it by kicking down doors and taking down names, roscoes spatting ka-chow. Much to the dismay of almost everyone around them.

Edgar finalist Black has now given us another such lovable loser. But while most of these beautiful dreamers have been played for laughs, Black has aimed for something a little more serious, giving us a snip of Cervantes for an epigraph, and an overly long afterword, just in case we thought he was just, you know, goofing around or something.

Independently wealthy thanks to a convenient inheritance, and aided and abetted by his devoted gal Friday (whose real name is Linda), his loving but worried sister Carol and a long-suffering cop friend, HARRY DICKINSON works as a virtually client-free private eye in the slowly dying Massachusetts town of Springdale. The big joke, though, is that for all the delusions, Harry is actually a pretty savvy detective, an affable and genuinely sweet guy with a knack for making people feel better about themselves.

Then harsh reality comes a-knocking. Harry's sourpuss brother-in-law Phil decides this foolishness has gone on long enough, and Harry needs to be committed. Or put on some sort of meds.

Or something.

The fact that Phil and Carol live in the family home that Harry inherited has nothing to do with it, of course.

Or that one of Phil's first moves is to get some power-of-attorney papers signed.

Alas, what should be a quick, entertaining read too often turns po-faced -- the good stuff padded out by long-winded digressions, nostalgia-pandering rants, name-dropping and enough product placement to make Ian Fleming blush, plus some questionable design and typographical choices that do little but call attention to themselves. And frankly, talk of asylums, mental stability hearings, drugs and lobotomies aren't quite the giggle pie I was expecting.

Like, echoes of It's a Wonderful Life and Harvey weren't enough? We also need One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest?

I would have been happy just tailing the daft bugger around Springdale, watching him and Friday (she's just wild about Harry, of course) stumble in and out of assorted comic misadventures, reading between the lines.

Sometimes the windmills win, I guess.

The author is an award-winning journalist, novelist, television writer, and producer who's been nominated for a couple of Edgars.



Looney Tunes & Other Reality-Challenged Eyes

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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