Shannon
Based on a book by by James B. Horan and Harold Danforth

The D.A.'s Man was a forgotten Jack Webb television production from back in the late fifties/early sixties, relating the adventures of SHANNON, a tough private eye (or possibly ex-private eye, according to some other sources, or even not a private eye at all-see below), hired as an undercover investigator , and occasional bodyguard, by the New York City District Attorney's Office. Shannon's target was the New York underworld, and his contact was First Assistant D.A. Al Bonacorsi.

Seeking a way to differentiate itself from all the other P.I. shows of the time, the producers tossed in a little court room action, and a whole lot fighting and shooting. "It's larded with pointless violence and timeworn dialogue," pointed out TV Guide.

As reader Jim Doherty points out, it may not have even been a P.I. show, after all. "I never saw the show, so I can't comment on it. However, the book on which it was based, The DA's Man by Danforth and Horan, was not a novel. It was non-fiction; specifically the autobiographical reminiscences of Harold "Dan" Danforth, who, for 16 years, was an investigator, first for the New York City Special Rackets Prosecutor, then with the Manhattan DA's Office. It won the Edgar award for Best Fact Crime Book. Shannon was, presumably, a fictionalized version of Danforth. In real life, Danforth was not a PI (or if he was, it was after the book was written); he was a professional law enofrcement officer, which would automatically remove him from the ranks of PI-dom given your definitions (which, by the way, I largely agree with). If Shannon was, somehow, both a PI and a DA's Investigator on the show, then I suspect, not having seen any episodes, that the PI bit was just part of his "cover," which means that, for practical purposes, he was really an official cop, and not a PI at all."

And Jim followed up even more recently (October 1998) with this: "You might remember I wrote you about a The DA's Man, questioning whether or not its protagonist, Shannon, should be on a list of PI characters. I hadn't seen any episodes at that time, but I'd read the book that the series was based on, and knew that the real-life figure on whom Shannon was based, Manhattan DA's Investigator Harold Danforth, wasn't a PI but a career cop. At the recent Bouchercon in Philly, I was able to pick up a casette that had four episodes of the series on it. None of them make any mention of Shannon's being a PI. Maybe there was some mention in the pilot episode (which wasn't included on the casette I bought), but in the episodes I have, Shannon is strictly an undercover agent for the District Attorney's Office. The show was kind of a primitive version of Wiseguy, with Shannon. Each episode has Shannon playing the part of a criminal, injecting himself into a criminal organization, and bringing it down from the inside. Danforth got a credit as the technical advisor."

As I mentioned to Jim, I have a couple of reference books which claim Shannon was, indeed, a private eye, and was hired by the DA specifically because he was an outsider. However, it's entirely possible that these sources are wrong, since terms like "private eye", "P.I." and the like are routinely bandied about, particularly when it comes to television. I've heard such disparate sleuths as Jessica Fletcher, Charlie Chan and Columbo all referred to as private eyes. So, if anyone out there can set us straight on this one, we'd appreciate it.

BOOKS

TELEVISION

Thanks to Jim Doherty for his input on this one.


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