Deck the Mean Streets with Boughs of Holly...
Christmas Eyes

"Ah, sweet Christmas!"

-- Luke Cage

"The next person that says Merry Christmas to me, I'll kill them"

-- Nora Charles (Myrna Loy) in the film The Thin Man.

"Christmas was coming... Brenda Lee had been rockin' round the Chritmas tree so long store cashiers were on suicide watch."

-- opening to Midnight Lullaby by James D.F. Hannah


SHORT STORIES

A feel-good story about a down-on-his-luck PI, a has-been thespian, a mobster, a mayor, a Christmas party at a Children's Shelter, and a gal called Gallagher.

Benny Cooperman, Jewish private eye deep in the waspland of southern Ontario, deals with Christmas and the mob.

Not a P.I. story, but you gotta give it up for this 87th Precinct tale that celebrates Christmas Eve with the usual unusual suspects, including a pregnant woman named Maria.

A DKA tale, wherein Dan Kearney himself encounters the Ghost of Ops Past in the form of the Continental Op in this Christmas/ghost story. What the Dickens?

  • "Mr. Big"
    by Woody Allen
    (1971, Getting Even; also 1982, Murder for Christmas, Volume II)

I'm not sure if this really qualifies as a Christmas story, although the editors of Murder for Christmas, Volume II certainly felt it did, due to the name of the winner of the fifth race at Aqueduct. Anyway, in this existentialist little romp, New Yawk private eye Kaiser Lupowitz is hired to track down God who, you may have heard, has connections with this Christmas thing. A hoot.

  • "Christmas Party"
    by Rex Stout
    (1956, And Four To Go; also 1982, Murder for Christmas, Volume II)

This Nero Wolfe tale finds Archie and the big man himself trying to solve a murder "at that most vicious of all holiday institutions, the office Christmas party."

  • "Silent Night"
    by Baynard Kendrick
    (December 1958, Sleuth Mystery Magazine; also 1982, Murder For Christmas, Volume 2)

Blind private eye Captain Duncan Maclain rushes to wrap up a kidnapping, while Bing Crosby plays and plays and plays....

PIs Nathan Phillips and Roy Cartley have a problem. Seems someone's left a dead safecracker in Roy's living room, "by the chimney with care." And the house is filled with Christmas-happy kids.

Bill Pronzini's occasionally-grumpy Nameless finally gets a name -- Santa Claus. Kerry, the love of his life, cons him into donning the uniform of the jolly old elf in the name of charity and "for the kids."
NOTE: You can still read this story for free at Mystery.Net.

Sharon McCone has to deal with an unwanted Christmas gift and a runaway nephew on Christmas Eve.
NOTE: You can read this story for free at Mystery.Net.

San Juan PI Carlos Bannon tries to track down a missing executive in the midst of a Puerto Rican Christmas.

Featuring Chip Harrison and Leo Haig. Leo leaves his home to investigate the theft of a handwritten manuscript from Otto Penzler's takes place at the Mysterious Bookstore in New York Great fun.

Rainy McGuinn, the P.I. with the rain phobia, is hired to do some department store security during the Christmas rush.

A novella that's a gene-splice of The Maltese Falcon and A Christmas Carol, combining fantasy elements with the P.I. story, featuring his Chicago eye Richard Stone.

A seasonal little tale by our ol' pal Hugh Lessig, featuring his intrepid newshawkm Picasso Smith, Jr., that we think will really get your chestnuts roasting.

Santa is murdered at a Christmas party and small town Iowa lawyer/private eye Sam McCain investigates.

Brewer's hapless, bumbling Albuquerque gumshoe Bubba Mabry looks into the murder of a department store Santa...

Medical fraud investigator Pauline Sokol checks out some shaky dealings in a dentist's office. The tooth will out.

Rookie Montreal P.I. (and ex-pat New Yorker) Lori Weaver spends her first Christmas en françcais in Trois Rivières. No spoilers, but the author assures me that "there's plenty of snow & tortière."

NOVELS

San Diego's Max Thursday spends the holidays with a fake count, a fortune hunter, a bunch of globe-trotting crooks, and a valuable music box, and wraps it up with a nice seasonal touch.

Private richard Peter Chambers celebrates Christmas the old-fashioned New York way--with murder!

Fans of Yuletide murders that take place in flea circuses could do far worse than checking out this Bart Hardin case.

Globe-trotting PI Chet Drum spends the Christmas holidays tracking the murderer of his partner in South America.

What could be more murderous than a department store at Christmas? When the body of a employee at Amlett's department store is fished out of the Hudson River (frozen in a block of ice, no less) during the holiday season, Amlett's security chief, Don Cadee steps in to investigate, leaving his girfriend and underling, Sybil, to investigate a shoplifting yacht captain. But when Sybil disappears, all bets are off. Bruce Murphy praised this one for its breakneck pace and humour in his Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery.

Southern California eye Murdock finds murder at the mall, right in the middle of a Yuletide shopping frenzy. And you thought you hated shopping....

Poor Kinsey! Christmas finds her with an extra $5000 in her bank account, and no idea what it's doing there. Amidst the backdrop of the holiday season, she races to clear her name, when rumours surface that she's been paid off. One of the best in this popular series.

A special holiday novella, with everyone's favourite Joisey Goil, Stephanie Plum, getting into the "friggin' Spirit of Christmas," hunting down a bail jumper named Sandy Claws and the perfect tree.

In this whimsical tale, Texas P.I. Ace Edwards is hired by Jingle, the vice-president of Toy Distribution for Santa Claus in the Southwest, to recover some stolen toys. Ace, humbug that he is, is reluctant at first to take the case.

Ken Harmon’s cleverly titled comic novel, published just in time for Christmas, sports a pretty good premise: the shotgun wedding of the hard-boiled crime story and the holiday-inspired hokum that has become our Christmas culture. It relates the story of Gumdrop Coal, a disillusioned elf neither tarnished nort afraid, currently on the outs with Old Saint Nick (the “Fat Man” of the title, of course).

Stumble-bum P.I. Crag Banyon is approached by one of Santa's elves who who suspects foul play at the North Pole, but Banyon tells him -- and the stolen reindeer he came in on -- to take a hike. So when the elf is found murdered the next day, it's off to the Winter Wonderland to do what a man's gotta do.

Supposedly what Parker was working on the morning he passed away, and completed by his literary executor and long-time agent. Spenser's preparations for a Christmas feast are sidetracked when he and Hawk get involved in helping out an at-risk street kid.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (2014) features twelve interconnected stories leading up to Christmas 1934, featuring happy-go-lucky Chicago private eye Nick Verriet. The sequel, Nick Verriet's Christmas: Chicago 1935 (2015), delivers twelve more.

Master thief and reluctant troubleshooter Junior Bender is ordered by his mobster boss to protect a dying shopping mall from -- get this -- thieves. At Christmastime! Plus, Junior learns what Christmas is all about.

Dog lover and defense lawyer Andy Carpenter springs into action in hopes of saving a local dog shelter from being closed down. But who would want to hurt puppies... especially at Christmastime?
WARNING: The cover of this book contains a possibly lethal dose of cuteness.

COLLECTIONS


  • The Twelve Crimes of Christmas...Buy this book
    Edited by Carol-Lynn Rossel Waugh, Isaac Asimov & Martin Harry Greenberg
    (1981, Avon)

  • Murder for Christmas...Buy this book
    Murder for Christmas, Volume II
    ...Buy this book
    Edited by Thomas Godfrey
    (1982)

A masterpiece of its kind, and one of the first serious attempts at rounding up the large numbers of crimonious Christmas stories, these two books (sometimes combined into one honking big omnibus edition) seem to have been in an almost state of print since they first appeared back in 1982 or so. Edited by Godfrey, and quite often -- but not always -- sporting cover illustrations by Gahan Wilson, these two volumes together offer 26 Yuletide tales from the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Ngaio Marsh, Ellery Queen, John Dickson Carr, Thomas Hardy, Damon Runyon, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Woody Allen, Georgers Simenon, Stanley Ellin and more.

  • Mistletoe Mysteries: Tales of Yuletide Murder...Buy this book
    Edited by Charlotte MacLeod
    (1989)

  • Mystery for Christmas...Buy this book
    (1990)

A collection of Christmas mysteries by the likes of John D. MacDonald, Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Anthony Boucher and Patricia Moyers, pulled from the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Another collection of twelve holiday mysteries by Georges Simenon, Peter Lovesey, Margery Allingham and others pulled from the pages of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

  • Mysterious Press Christmas Card
    Edited by Otto Penzler.
    (1997)

  • Crooks, Crimes, and Christmas...Buy this book
    (2003, Worldwide Library)

Includes stories by Susan Slater, Ed Gorman, Irene Marcuse and Michael Jahn

  • Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop...Buy this book!
    Edited by Otto Penzler
    (
    2011, Vanguard Press)

For years, Mysterious Bookshop head honcho Penzler commissioned an original Christmas story by a leading suspense writer, which were then produced as limited pamphlet given out to customers of the bookstore as Christmas presents. This volume collected seventeen of them, so everyone could enjoy them. Contributors include Charles Ardai, George Baxt, Lawrence Block, Mary Higgins Clark, Thomas H. Cook, Ron Goulart, Jeremiah Healy, Edward D. Hoch, Rupert Holmes, Ed McBain, S. J. Rozan and Donald E. Westlake.

There are enough Christmas stories in this gigantic volume to last you until next Christmas! Editor Penzler makes like an elf on speed, rounding up sixty of his all-time favorite holiday crime stories, from everyone from Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson to Sara Paretsky, Ed McBain, Mary Higgins Clark, Max Allan Collins; Stanley Ellin, John D. MacDonald, Damon Runyon, Donald E. Westlake and John Mortimer.

  • Silent Night, Deadly Night.. Buy this book
    Edited by Otto Penzler.
    (2016, Mysterious Bookshop)

The Mysterious Bookshop presents "Classic Christmas Carols with a Taste of Crime," as served up by Rhys Bowen, Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Max Allan Collins, Thomas H. Cook, Jeffery Deaver, Harlan Ellison, Loren D. Estleman, Jane Haddam, Stuart M. Kaminsky, Andrew Klavan, Peter Lovesey, John Lutz, Katherine Hall Page, Ridley Pearson, Thomas Perry, Nancy Pickard, S.J. Rozan, Charles Todd, Joseph Wambaugh, and Donald E. Westlake, among many others.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I know. Hardly a comprehensive list of Christmas anthologies.But these are the best ones I know of. If you know of one thart should be here, please let me know...

FILMS

Not really a Christmas movie, although the Christmas scenes in Nick and Nora Charles' first film are true classics. Asta gets a fire hydrant, and Nick, full of Yuletide cheer, uses his brand-new pop gun to pick ornaments off the tree. A perfect Christmas afternoon flick.

Chandler's Philip (here for some reason spelled "Phillip") Marlowe is hired to track down the missing wife of a pulp magazine publisher. The entire film is seen through the eyes of Marlowe, (literally! The technique utilizes a "subjective camera.") so we rarely catch a glimpse of Robert Montgomery, who also directed. Probably just as well. This is the lamest Marlowe film of them all, even less entertaining than Mitchum's road trip to London in 1978's drowsy The Big Sleep remake. Kiss my lens, baby!

The first Mike Hammer movie (shot in 3-D, no less!) takes place at Christmas and has an ironic use of Christmas music and Christmas cards throughout. Biff Elliott is a wooden soldier as Hammer, but who could resist Elisha Cook Jr., that noir icon, in a Santa suit? Each major sequence begins with a Christmas card filling the screen as Hammer does his voiceover. The question is "How could they?" The answer, of course: "It was easy."

Starting with Lethal Weapon back in 1987, screenwriter Shane Black has carved a niche for himself as the "King of the Christmas Action Movie," as Dave Richards puts it. They're not really Christmas-Christmas movies, of course, but a good chunk of the action (gunplay, lots of explosions, cursing and laugh-your-ass-off wisecracks) takes place during the holidays. And isn't a gunfight at a crowded football stadium a bit more entertaining than watching Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life again, really? Hell, you could argue that the growing friendship between loser private eye Joe Hallenbeck and disgraced football star James Alexander Dix as they slowly put aside their prejudices is really what Christmas is all about.

More Christmas magic from Shane "Mr. Christmas" Black. Once again, he manages to unleash all sorts of mayhem for the holidays, as sweetie pie schoolteacher and mom Geena Davis slowly starts to recover from amnesia, and realizes she's some sort of assassin. Only cut-rate gumshoe Mitch Hennesey (Samuel Jackson) stands between Davis and possibly the worst Christmas ever. This one even has snow in it, during a crazed showdown at the U.S./Canada border.

Okay, once again it's not really a Christmas flick Christmas flick, but at least part of the action plays out during the Holidays. Plus, you've got at least two wise men (P.I. Gay Perry and writer/director Shane Black), an ass (Harry Lockhart as played by Robert Downey Jr.) and Michelle Monaghan in her little Santa suit. In other words, it's a pure blast of fun, shoot-em-ups and wisecracks. Pass the eggnog.

TELEVISION

Back to back Christmas-related episodes starring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin are sure to put even the most glum mystery fan into a better frame of mind for the season. Plus, nobody puts on a holiday spread like Fritz.

RELATED LINKS

Blogger Jake Hinkson is dreaming of a black Christmas.

Christmas Eyes on Old Time Radio

List compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Max Allan Collins, Jim Doherty and Dale Stoyer for their help.
Merry Christmas, guys. What have we missed?


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