Created by Stuart Kaminsky (1934-2009)
Max Allan Collins often touts his Nate Heller as the first historical private detective series but Stuart Kaminsky's 1940's Hollywood eye TOBY PETERS preceded him by six years or so, and Kaminsky continued to crank them out for the next quarter century. Collins' blood-soaked tales of gangsters, celebrities and conspiracies have certainly left their mark, but Kaminsky's generally lighter-hearted and unabashedly entertaining blend of nostalgia, Hollywood trivia and detective fiction goes down quite well.
Toby (né Pevsner) and his older brother Phil grew up in Glendale, California. They both worked in their pop's grocery store, and they both grew up to become cops. But somewhere along the line, their paths diverged.
Phil stayed with the cops, got married, got promoted, got kids, etc. Toby got into trouble. He got canned, got married, got divorced, got a job as security guard at Warner Brothers, got the boot by Jack Warner himself after Toby broke the arm of some cowboy star who "made the mistake of thinking he was as tough in person as on the screen." Down on his luck, running out of options, Toby set up shop as a private eye, not particularly fussy about the kind of cases he takes.
The books work well as good old-fashioned, b-movie entertainment. Not too heavy, straight-forward plots, full of colourful characters, who pop in and out of the series. You can just picture character actors playing these roles. Toby still carries a flame for Ann, his ex-wife; but has a thing for Carmen, a waitress. Meanwhile, his brother Phil is a Homicide dick out of the Wiltshire Police district whose favorite means of dealing with Toby is slapping him around. Then there's Mrs. Plaut, Toby's deaf landlady who calls him Mr. Peelers; Jeremy, the sensitive, muscle-bound poet/janitor and former professional wrestler; Gunther, the multi-lingual Swiss midget, and Toby's best friend; and Sheldon Minck, cigar-chomping, alcoholic, nearly-blind, incompetent, grubby dentist/oral surgeon who shares an office with Toby.
The whole series reeks of popcorn. If you love old movies, this series is a blast from the past!
Stuart Kaminsky comes by his love of old films honestly. As well as a fan, he's a professor of film, and has written screenplays, and books on film theory and criticism. Besides Toby's adventures, he alsowrites a series about a Soviet Police Inspector, two original Rockford Files novels, and is currently working out the details of a new character, Sarasota, Florida P.I. Lew Fonesca.
-- New York Times Book Review
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