The Defective Detectives
"I lost my left arm. I'm right-handed. There is some good in everything, if you look at it correctly."
-- Dan Fortune
What is it about handicapped heroes? (Oops! I mean physically-challenged, I guess).
Originally springing from the pages of the weird menace pulps of the thirties, such as Strange Detective Mysteries, Detective Mystery Magazine and especially Dime Mystery Magazine, this bizarre sub-sub-genre has had a long, if not always glorious tradition.
You can read all about it in the highly-recommended (if you can find it) The Defective Detective in the Pulps, a 1983 anthology edited by Ray Browne and Gary Hoppenstand, and its 1985 sequel, More Tales of the Defective Detective in the Pulps.
Although the intentional shock value of the "defective" eye has been virtually vanquished ("Look, ma! Freaks!"), physically-challenged eyes continue to this day, including such noteworthy specimans as Michael Collins' outstanding Dan Fortune series, Dick Francis' Sid Halley and Jonathan Lethem's Lionel Essrog, which replace cheap gimmicks with compassion and understanding, and shock with empathy.
Though we're not out of the woods yet. There was something about playing TV's Monk's obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) for increasingly cheap laughs -- especially as the shows piled up -- that just bothered me...
But I digress...
Here are some of the best "defective" detectives, from the pulp era and beyond...
FROM THE PULP ERA
This Florida P.I. has to walk with a cane, thanks to the hold-up man's bullet that ended his police career and left him with a permanently-stiff left leg.
During the course of their comic book adventures, Ms. Tree's young op loses a hand.
Wilson's series eye Neil Carey is the protege of detective Joe Graham, who is mising an arm.
If you want to cross genres, Niven's sci-fi eye Gil Hamilton is also missing an arm, although he manages to find a use for the incorporeal arm occasionally.
I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse (although Disciple himself is pretty clear on how he feels about it), but this Newark P.I. can't forget anything. Literally.
And, of course, don't forget those eyes who are, shall we say, Reality-Challenged?
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