Cheap Thrills
1999 in Review

Results from the January 2000 P.I. Poll


From January 2000:

This month, we're trying something a bit different. We're going to look back on 1999, and see what you think. Feel free to answer any or all the questions, or invent your own categories. In January, I'll tabulate the results, and present our first ever Cheap Thrills Awards, affectionately known for the last few minutes as "The Thrillies."

Vote now, and vote often! I know it's long, so feel free to skip stuff, or come back another day. But please, no ballot stuffing....

No need to be formal about it (it ain't that kinda site), but feel free to discuss your favorites and not-so favorites. And please feel free to disagree with other people's opinions. Just keep it clean, and no hitting below the belt.


You can vote for anything here, or nominate something else...

THE BEST P.I. BOOK AWARD
For Books First Published in 1999

  • LA Requiem by Robert Crais. If you listen closely, you can hear Crais kicking down the walls.
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
  • Five Shots and a Funeral by Dashiell Loveless. As much fun as a stack of old pulp mags. Even better, the fun is intentional.
  • Majic Man by Max Allan Collins. It out-X-Files The X-Files.
  • Nightmare Town by Dashiel Hammett. The stuff that P.I. dreams are made of.
  • California Fire and Life by Don Winslow. Hot, hot, hot. Olé, olé.
  • LA Requiem by Robert Crais
  • Cases by Joe Gores
  • L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais. This Crais guy is just too damned talented - and good-looking. You just got to hate him while you admire the way he deftly navigates a new, more challenging course for the Elvis Cole series.
  • Hard Time by Sara Paretsky. V.I. returns, with a vengeance. Clang, clang go the jail guitar doors.
  • Strawberry Sunday by Stephen Greenleaf.
  • Nightmare Town. Naturally.
  • L.A. Requiem
  • Go by Go by Jon A. Jackson (which may actually have been published in 1998, but I didn't see it on sale until '99, so that's what I'm going with).
  • Prayers For Rain by Dennis Lehane

THE OTHER BEST P.I. BOOK AWARD
For Books You Read Last Year, Regardless of When They Were First Published

  • The Innocents by Richard Barre
  • John Shannon's The Concrete River and The Cracked Earth took elements of Chandler, Ross Macdonald and Chinatown, and welded them to his own fierce vision.
  • Nick's Trip by George Pelecanos
  • Stalking the Angel by Robert Crais
  • Shooting At Midnight by Greg Rucka. Mark my words. This Rucka kid's going to be big.
  • Yeah, Greg Rucka's Shooting At Midnight. Pulp that kicks out the jams.
  • Cadillac Jukebox by James Lee Burke
  • This is the year I started reading Ross MacDonald, Janet Evanovich, and Harlan Coben. I'm not even going to try to pick one.
  • Pretty Ballerina by John Wessel
  • I'm thinking the same good vibes about Rucka's Shooting at Midnight.
  • The Shape Of Dread by Marcia Muller (1989); Dark Trail by Edward Gorman (1990)--a western quasi-PI; and Rumble Tumble by Joe Lansdale (1998).
  • Private Eye Action As You Like It, 1998 by Joe R. Lansdale and Lewis Shiner. This is a must read for fans of these two writers and for fans of the now-defunct Mike Shayne Mystery Mag. It is a collection of short stories by Lansdale and Shiner when they where starting out with dreams of having their own PI series. Most appeared in Shayne. The forewards alone are worth the price of the book.
  • The Maltese Falcon. You can't go wrong with this one.
  • Probably Lawrence Block's A Long Line of Dead Men. I also re-read Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me, Deadly, but, since I didn't read that for the first time in 1999, it probably doesn't count).
  • Smoker - Greg Rucka has gotten better and better with this series

THE BEST P.I. SHORT STORY AWARD
For Stories Published in 1999

  • "Kill Leader" by Mark Troy (Plots with Guns)
  • "Something Simple" by Rob Kantner (Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery, June 1999). It was the best *I* read this year, but then, I didn't read a lot of short stories in '99), and I was just happy to see Rob and Ben back in action.
  • Forgot the name, but it was about a caveman detective (AHMM).
  • "Chou's Gambit" by Jeremiah Healy (*EQMM* 11/99)

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
The Best First P.I. Novel Published in 1999

  • Big Easy Backroad by Martin Hegwood
  • Dashiell Loveless. So what if he doesn't really exist, or if By the Balls actually showed up late last year? As gags go, this is a great one. Pulp rules!
  • East of A by Russell Atwood
  • Go by Go, again. Although Jackson's written maybe a half-dozen or so books, this was his first private eye novel.

THE BEST P.I. FILM AWARD
For Films First Released in 1999

  • Um, there was 8MM and um, um, um...
  • A&E's Small Vices. Actually this is the only new P.I. flick I watched this year, so it ties for worst, too. Decent script, B-movie budget, locations, and actors.
  • Were there any P.I. movies in 99?
  • To the best of my knowledge 8MM was the only PI movie released in 1999. Good, bad, or indifferent, it must be the best by default.
  • Does video count? The DVD release of Chinatown shows once again that it's still the best private eye film ever made.
  • How about Where's Marlowe? I sorta got a kick out of it.
  • If there was one, it didn't play in the sticks.

WHAT WE'RE THEY THINKING?
The Worst P.I. Film Released in 1999

  • 8MM wasn't really that bad, but it was disppointing. The trailer and ad campaign had more style and grit than the entire film, which was actually just so-so.
  • 8MM. I'm never paying to see a Joel Schumaker movie ever again.
  • If we can lump Psychic Investigators in with Private ones, The Haunting remake takes the cake. If not, then the Psycho remake, despite William Macy doing a fine job as Arbogast.
  • If it's the only film, 8MM has to be simultaneously the worst and best by default.
  • 8 MM. It's should be playing continuously, along with Turbulence and Speed 2 at the Hell Triplex...

THE BEST P.I. TV SHOW AWARD
For Shows First Televised in 1999

  • Were there even any worth watching?
  • Well, shoot me, but I've found Angel that be a neat mix of P.I. and woo-woo vampire stuff. I'd like to see him take on more "straight" cases, in fact.
  • Vengeance Unlimited, for sure. It actually made it into 1999, didn't it? I mean before the boneheads at ABC hung it up to dry?
  • Can't remember if this aired in Fall 1998 or Spring 1999, but Homicide had two episodes with former disgraced homicide detective Mike Kellerman returning as a P.I. Terrific episodes. Terrific line: "There's more cheating in Baltimore than there is Kodak film."
  • Yeah, Vengeance Unlimited. I forgot about that one. Is it true the creators are thinking of writing a novel with Michael Madsen's character, Mr. Chapel?
  • Small Vices certainly marked an improvement over the Spenser tv series and the Parker novels I've read, even if Joe Mantegna is an even less likely target of young blueblood lust than Robert Urich used to be.
  • Vengeance Unlimited hit the airwaves in '98, so would be disqualified as a series; Angel, despite managing to fall into a rut (lets rescue the helpless woman...again!) before airing ten episodes, still retains promise and often delivers.
  • For the record, seven episodes of Vengeance Unlimited originally aired in 1999, so I guess that qualifies. And it takes the cake, if you ask me. If there is a book coming out, I'll buy one.
  • If we're limited to series, I'd have to reluctantly say The Strip from a very limited field. If special presentations count, then I'd have to say the Homicide two-parter featuring the return of Kellerman.
  • The Kellerman two-parter on Homicide. Little competition.

THE DELLAVENTURA AWARD
For Worst P.I. TV S
how First Televised in 1999

  • How much did Snoops suck? Let me count the ways...it made Charlie's Angels look like Masterpiece Theatre.
  • Does Dash and Lilly count? Granted, a truer to life version might be painful to watch, but this bland farce wasted far too much talent doing far too little.
  • Snoops. Heard plenty of buzz, but never actually watched the show.
  • P.D. James' Cordelia Gray in the recent An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Although never one of my favorites, what this slop did to the character is tantamount to butchery. James reportedly was so taken aback she says she'll never write another book with the character, in case these cretins get a hand on it. That's no way to treat a Lady. Or a Dame.
  • Dellaventura?
  • That A&E Spenser thing. It didn't work.
  • Snoops -- despite the presence of the incredibly shagadelic Gina Gershon.
  • The made for TV Spenser movie with Joe Montegna as Spenser. Any made for TV Spenser movie.
  • Snoops.
  • The Spenser movie on A&E.
  • In 1999, yeah, Snoops, now cancelled, is actually on many days the least obnoxious David Kelley production--meaning it's just annoyingly bad. Let's hire Gina Gershon and Paula Marshall, then put them in the least flattering haircuts, makeup, and wardrobe imaginable (to get our irony quota in), and then bring on the gadgets!
  • I never saw Snoops, but everyone I talked to who did hated it. Who am I to argue with popular consensus?
  • Snoops was bad enough to cause brain damage.

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