-- Terry explains he ain't that kinda guy.
Carroll John Daly's THREE GUN TERRY is the very first hard-boiled private eye.
Of course, with any such statement, there are bound to be differences of opinion. A case could certainly be made for Octavius Roy Cohen's private eye Jim Hanvey, the slick hick gumshoe who was already detecting in The Saturday Evening Post at least a year earlier, although Cohen's style tended to run more to con men and their rich victims. Or John E. Bruce's Sadipe Okukenu, a black detective working for a large agency, who first appeared fifteen years earlier than that, in 1907! But the first "private eye," as we've come to understand the term, was indeed Three Gun Terry. There. I've said it. Deal with it!
Oh, sure, sometimes credit is given to Daly's much more popular Race Williams, but Terry actually made his eponymous debut in the seminal hardboiled pulp, Black Mask two whole weeks earlier than Race's "Knights of the Open Palm." Not that it matters much -- they're more or less the same guy (as is the unnamed protagonist in Daly's even earlier story "The False Burton Combs," which predates both Terry AND Race). But they were all cut from the same cloth: quick to fight, quick to shoot and quick to use some questionable logic to justify their actions.
And if you don't like it, the Hell with you!
William F. Nolan, in an intro to a reprint to the story in his essential 1985 anthology, The Black Mask Boys, had this to say:
Terry's turf, like Race's was the mean streets of New York City, and he adapted a similar cold, non-personal approach to his profession. "I aint interested unless I got to be." He charged fifty dollars a day, five hundred as a bonus when he "delivered the goods" and proudly stated that "for every man I croak--mind you, I ain't a killer, but sometimes a chap's got to turn a gun--I get two hundred dollars flat."
What could be fairer than that?
Sadly, he only appeared in two short stories, and one novel, The Man in the Shadows (1928) that yoyoed from from the present back to the Klondike gold rush,, with plewnty of action and mayhem along the way.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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