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The Year 1999 in Review
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THE OBLIGATORY DECADE-ENDING QUESTION AWARD
The private eye who should be nominated into the 1990 Hall of Fame
(Must have made his/her debut in the nineties...)
- Myron Bolitar. If there's any P.I.who typifies the 90s Gen-X attitude, it's Yoo Hoo-drinking TV trivia buff Myron.
- Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro by Dennis Lehane (two-for-one)
- Elvis Cole (although I think he debuted in the late 80s). If not Cole, then Carroll Dorsey created by Thomas Lipinski.
- Ben Drake by Dashiell Loveless. Sure it's just kneejerk retro pulp, but I like it.
- It's really a shame that Crais published the first Elvis Cole novel in '87 -- 'cause that'd be my choice.
- S. J. Rozan's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith.
- Nick Stefanos by George Pelecanos. (Firing Offense was '91, right?).
- I agree. Nick Stefanos was the most refreshing new P.I. of the decade.
- Did John Lutz's Fred Carver debut in the 90s? (Nope.)
- Patrick Kenzie by Dennis Lehane
IF ONLY I'D KNOWN...
Stupid P.I. Tricks
- A dinosaur P.I.
- Signs of the Apocalypse: Which is worse, two different TV shows, both proposed for next year, each with an ex-members of Seinfeld cast as a private eye, or a big bucks movie version of Charlie's Angels? Let's just drop the big one, and get it over with...
- Letting your psycho sidekick cover up the plot holes and moral quandaries with dead bodies. Marlowe never called in Mike Hammer.
- Oh, yeah, that awful dino detective.
- Parker's Spenser and Vachss's Burke, particularly, being way too much like sexually-active Doc Savages for any credibility whatsoever.
- Being caught without a gun. If you're going to carry, carry. If you're not, don't. I'm sick of reading scenes that begin with, "I wasn't carrying because I didn't think I'd need a gun while
I was going to Mass," or something similar.
- Self-pitying heroes.
THE ENERGIZER AWARD
Eyes that take a licking, but keep on ticking...
- Spenser. Still faster than a speeding bullet (see Small Vices). I can't think of another P.I. with whom we so willingly suspend disbelief. Even Spenser-bashers grudgingly acknowledge his place in the genre. It's like watching Superman turn back time. First you think, "No way," then you think, "Hey, it's Superman." Hey, it's Spenser.
- Carroll Dorsey by Thomas Lipinski
- Dave Robicheaux
- Liz Cosin's cigar-smoking Zen Moses gets a bullet where her lung used to be, and sleeps it off in a day or two in Zen and the City of Angels.
- Fred Carver
- V.I. Warshawski
- Al Collins's Nate Heller actually passes through the decades doing something most PIs don't do. Age. And he still keeps on coming.
- Amos Walker by Loren Estleman.
THE ASHES, ASHES, WE ALL FALL DOWN AWARD
- Amos Walker's long, long return in the surprisingly artificial and overwritten Never Street. Shoulda been called Never-Ever-Ending Street. Should have been much tighter.
- Sunny Randall. While she isn't Supergirl, Sunny often sounds like Spenser, and--because she isn't supposed to *be* just like Spenser--that's a problem.
- Heartwood by James Lee Burke
- Healy's Cuddy. Too many duds in a row made this reader toss in the towel.
- Marcia Muller's A Walk Through The Fire. That series has been losing steam for a few years now, but this was really poorly done.
- The A&E Spenser movie.
- SPOILER IN THIS ONE! WATCH OUT!
Samantha Dolan's death in Robert Crais' L.A. Requiem. It probably made it a better book, but damn, she was a great character.
OKAY, SPOILER'S OVER...
- Snoops (even though I knew it to be a Kelley production); Homicide and Vengeance Unlimited's cancellation--there will, at least, be a Homicide televsion movie coming up soon. Some grim satisfaction in the fact that the "quirky" "romantic comedy-drama" Cold Feet slipped into Homicide's old slot soon proved much lower-rated than H ever had. Extremely deservedly.
- Snoops. A private eye show fueled by David Kelley's hard-on for controversial morality plays should have been a real contender. Instead, it was fueled by Kelley's hard-on for babes. What? Michelle isn't enough?
- Lack of PI movies and TV shows.
- The continuing trend in publishing to favor cozies over hard-boiled.
THE "MICROWAVED CAT" AWARD
Most Nauseating Cover Design
- Any on which the author's name is bigger than the title. I hate that.
- I agree. It's hard to pick the worst, when they all look the same. Whatever happened to illustration? And a tiny little clip art rendering of some private eye cliché (a gun! a cigarette! a drink!) separating the author and title doesn't count.
- Didn't see anything I really hated.
DOCTOR, THESE EYES
Private Eyes Most in Need of Therapy, a Good Talking To, or a Just a Good, Swift Kick
- Scudder, Spenser, Robicheaux
- All these weight-obsessed eyes huffing and puffing up and down the coast of California. If they hate it, imagine how the readers feel.
- Streeter. Definitely Streeter.
- It's still Mike Hammer after all these years.
- Kay Scarpetta isn't a private detective, so it would have to be Matt Scudder.
DON'T SLAM THE DOOR ON THE WAY OUT
Recurring Characters Whose Contracts Should Be Allowed to Lapse
- Susan Silverman
- Spenser. Please.
- Susan Silverman and Pearl
- Elvis Cole's girlfriend Lucy.
- Yes, yes, yes! At least Susan was an original, who grew annoying over the course of an entire series. Lucy was a pain in the ass from the very beginning. With or without child.
- All the psycho sidekicks (with exceptions of Mouse and Joe Pike).
- Leo Waterman's Rebecca. Buh-buh bye!
- Susan Silverman. Pearl. Quint. Belson. Even Hawk. Oh, hell, Spenser, too.
YOU'RE REALLY STARTING TO STEAM MY CLAMS
Most Annoying P.I. Trend in 1999
- Obsessive fitness. All that jogging is tiring me out...
- Dogs. Cats. Pets.
- Subplots designed to make the P.I. look more human, with no connection to the main plot.
- Faux literary self-reflection after using violence.
- Psycho sidekicks with stupid names, like Bobo and Bubba.
- I agree. I'm tired of all these runners, too. I'm tired of trying to keep up with them, plus it makes my beer foam up and overflow the bottle. I mean, keeping in shape is one thing, but enough is enough. Iconoclastic detectives (or at least those who claim to be) should be above this joyless cultural obsession with weight and health. I'm surprised the Fitness Fascists and the Lifestyle Police haven't demanded that the reprints be edited to have Nero Wolfe take up jogging. Man, it's almost enough to make you WANT to take up smoking...
- Men writing women P.I. novels and doing it badly.
- Extensive Vietnam flashbacks. Okay, so Vietnam was to this generation of PI's what WWII was to Hammer. I recognize this. I understand it. I don't even mind the occasional reference to service. But guys, if I wanted to read a friggin' war novel, I'd get a friggin' war novel.
- Psycho sidekicks (with exceptions of Mouse and Joe Pike)
BEST WEB SITE, E-ZINE, LIST-SERV or NEWSGROUP
Besides This One, Natch!
BEST MYSTERY MAG
Fiction or Non-Fiction
- Blue Murder
- There isn't really a good non-fiction mystery or hard-boiled fan magazine out there since the demise of The Armchair Detective. If somebody knows otherwise, please clue me in.
- CrimeTime. This British mag is more fun than TAD ever was, though it could use someone like William D'Andrea to light their fires.
- Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine
- Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Seriously. Even though most of the stories fall well out of the P.I. genre, let's give some credit where credit is due: these two often-slagged digests continue to deliver the goods, year in and year out. Private eye highlights just this year included original short stories by Joseph Hansen, Doug Allyn, Parnell Hall, Jeremiah Healy, Hayford Pierce, David Housewright, Loren Estleman, S.J. Rozan, G.M. Ford and Rob Kantner. And non-P.I. stuff from Lawrence Block and Bill Pronzini, among others.
- Blue Murder
- Fiction: EQMM (I haven't seen Hardboiled--or Pirate Writings or Over My Dead Body; runners-up: MHCMM, Cemetery Dance).
Non-fiction: Bare Bones, which is a good source for historical/bibliographic info on hardboiled work among other kinds. They alo have a web site.
- Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine for sheer longevity, continuous quality, and remembering that mystery includes cops, PIs, and other hard guys, as well as cozies.
BEST COMIC BOOK or GRAPHIC NOVEL P.I THIS YEAR
- Scene of the Crime One of the best P.I. comic books ever, this 4-issue mini-series by Vertigo had it all: great art, a smart script and an ending to break your heart.
- Scene Of The Crime from DC/Vertigo -- the kind of comic I wish I'd been involved with.
- The Max Faccione reprints. Why do the Europeans do this stuff so well?
- Greg Rucka's Batman work should count.
- Scene of the Crime absolutely killed what little competition there was. The Chinatown of comics.
- I'd say the special reprint of Steranko's Chandler with new material included, but it was delayed. Probably The Human Target mini-series.
- Scene of the Crime. 4 issue mini, plus a one-shot, was the Chinatown of comics.
Most Consistently-Enjoyable Current P.I. Series
- Easy Rawlins
- Lehane's Kenzie/Gennaro series
- Block's Matthew Scudder
- The Nameless Detective series by Bill Pronzini
- Fred Carver by John Lutz
- Pronzini's Nameless
- Greg Rucka's Kodiak series
- Marcia Muller's Sharon McCone books; Joe Lansdale's Hap and Leonard's; Kate Wilhelm's Barbara Halloway may be too legal to fit here...
- Nate Heller, Matt Scudder, John Cuddy, and Amos Walker.
- Patrick Kenzie by Dennis Lehane
WHERE'VE YOU BEEN, MY BLUE-EYED SON?
(P.I. Series too long missing in action)
- Kidd by John Sandford
- Alo Nudger by John Lutz
- Harry Stoner by Jonathan Valin
- Dan Fortune.
- Liza Cody's Anna Lee (the real one, not that TV twit...)
- Both of Crumley's guys (Milo Milodragovitch and C.W. Sughrue)
- Valin's Harry Stoner
- Nick Delvecchio by Robert J. Randisi
- Ben Perkins by Rob Kantner
- Yeah, Ben Perkins in a novel again!
- Leo Haggerty, Jake Lomax, and Delilah West. Especially Delilah West.
- More of those Goldsborough Nero Wolfe knock-offs would be nice.
- Ron Goulart's Max Kearney.
- Micahel Collins's Dan Fortune and Benjamin Schutz's Leo Haggerty.
- Ben Perkins (novel form)
WHERE'VE YOU BEEN, MY BLUE-EYED PAPERBACK SON?
(P.I. Series too long unavailable in paperback)
- Bill Pronzini's Nameless
- Dan Fortune by Michael Collins
- Miles Jacoby by Robert J. Randisi
- Fred Carver by John Lutz
- Cliff Hardy by Peter Corris (though maybe these are available in paperback...in friggin' Australia!)
- The Nameless Detective by Bill Pronzini -- I'd still buy the hardcovers, but I truly wish the paperbacks were out there.
- Everything relevant by "Vin Packer" (aka M E Kerr/Marijane Meeker).
- Stephen Marlowe's Chet Drum is long overdur for a series of reprints.
- Nameless (Pronzini)
BESIDES MY TWO FRONT TEETH
All I Want For Christmas Is...
(By the way, I've got my own list of suggestions I'm working on here...)
- Robert Crais' Indigo Slam (The Ballantine pb won't be out until late summer 2000)
- That Hubin's CD-ROM.
- A "Chicago" fedora from The Hat Shelf. Most of the stuff on site is Western crap, but check out the "Chicago" model on the lower right-hand corner. (The color, of course, sucks, but it comes in all the normal colors too.) I think the name alone is fantastic, but if I were to go out and get a winter fedora (to complement the summer one, of course), this is the one I'd pick. For all the Bogart wannabes in your life.
- A return of Homicide. Okay, I know they're not PIs, but if they bring P.I. Mike Kellerman as a regular my wish list will be complete.
- Winslow's California Fire and Life.
- More time, more money, higher frequency and consistent quality from our crime-fiction magazines, and getting my own damned stories written...
- The Hour of the Virgin by L.D. Estelman (which, in fact, I got).
HEY! YOU FORGOT TO ASK...
Make up your own damn questions!
- Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
- Not so much bending, as breaking. That dinosaur dick.