Created by Ronald Tierney (1944-2017)
DIETRICH "DEETS" SHANAHAN is a semi-retired Indianapolis gumshoe within spitting distance of seventy, with a penchant for J.W. Dant bourbon, the Chicago Cubs, Delaney's Bar and horticulture. He lives in a small house with a rude overgrown mutt named Casey and a cat called Einstein, and spends most of his time growing flowers drinking and bitching about the state of the world. He's well on his way to lonesome, a career army man (he rose to the rank of sergeant in Army Intelligance) who never really got the hang of civilian life, and is less than shy about expressing his opinions about the world.
He's estranged from his ex-wife (she split over thirty years ago) and his middle-aged son. He's supplementing his old age security and Army pension with a few odd detective jobs. But there's life in the old dog yet.
You could tell, right off, from the way Deets handled himself in The Stone Veil, which was a finalist in the St. Martin's Best First Private Eye Novel Contest for 1990, that he wasn't quite ready to go gentle into that good night. He may have been an old crank, but he could also be quite the charmer. He becomes involved with Maureen, twenty-five years younger, and working in a massage parlour.
Oh, Deets, you dog, you!
But actually, Maureen is nobody's bimbo, and definitely a big part of what has made the series so enjoyable over the years. The interplay between the two -- the gentle chiding, the easy-going comaraderie, the affectionate bickering and the comfortable domesticity of the two makes the books easy to slip into.
As Tierney himself has admitted "I look at (Deets and Maureen) as a kind of blue-collar Nick and Nora Charles. Some humor, some strange characters set against an Indianapolis backdrop. Not hard-boiled and maybe a bit less fluffy than Hammett's fun crime couple, my stories could get dark, but never ended by destroying all hope."
And even better is that, despite the the naysayers who claim nobody wants to read about "old" people, Tierney has continued the series, following Deets into his seventies. Deets faces assorted health problems along the way, but always in a down-to-earth fashion, and the books strike a nice blend of all the chops expected of hard-boiled fiction with a compassion and sensitivity for humanity's older members that's rare (or non-existent) in the genre. Recommended.
Tierney had recently started another series, featuring odd couple San Francisco gumshoes Carly Paladino & Noah Lang, and in the fall of 2015, Orca released The Blue Dragon, a novella featuring Chinese American private eye, a forensic accountant, Peter Strand as part of their Rapid Reads program. Tierney was the founding editor of NUVO Newsweekly, an Indianapolis alternative weekly, and the editor of a San Francisco monthly. He lived for twenty-five years in the Bay Area, before moving to Palm Springs in his later years., where he was still working on several writing projects, when he passed away in 2017.
A PERSONAL NOTE
I was fortunate to correspond with Ron several times over the last few years, at first just about books, but later about other things, including films, politics and writing, and while I'd never say we were "friend-friends," I always felt better seeing his name pop up in my inbox. It's probably fitting that his last two books, which featured Peter Strand, were part of Orca's Rapid Reads program, which publishes books for "adults who struggle with literacy." Ronald gave so much to folks; this was like a parting gift. The man was just a stand-up guy. I'm sorry he's gone.
A great blog, particularly when Tierney suggests weekly crime film double features, and the drinks to match.
Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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