As Naughty As We Wanna Be...
Christmas 2003 Gift Suggestions
For the P.I. Fan Who Has Everything

These are just a few suggestions that I thought had particular merit, but of course, you can always check out Word on the Street: What's New! for what else is out there.

And if you have a particular suggestion, or want to see what other folks would like to find under their tree, head on over to the 2003 Cheap Thrill Awards...

By the way, the prices are in American dollars and represent the going rate, as far as I can tell. Most (but not all) of the "Buy this" links are to, with whom I have a sponsorship deal, which helps to pay for this site. But if you'd prefer to buy them elsewhere, go ahead.

Like your mama done told ya, ya better shop around...





| Books | Comics | Radio/Audio Drama | Film/Television |
Magazines | Other Suggestions | The Ultimate Gift |


  • Fedora II: More Private Eyes and Tough Guys...Buy this book
    Edited by Michael Bracken
    Betancourt & Company
    The perfect item for the P.I. fan on your list. This is the second solid collection in the accalimed series, featuring rock-hard stories from Ann Aptaker, Michael Bracken, Gary R. Bush, Brian Evankovich, Justin Gustainis, Robert D. Hughes, O'Neil De Noux, Percy Spurlark Parker, Anthony Neil Smith, Dan Sontup, Dan A. Sproul, James Stevens-Arce, Tom Sweeney and Simon Wood. Some great new gumshoes make their debut here, and a couple of favourites return.

  • Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon: A Documentary Volume ..Buy this book
    Edited by Richard Layman
    The Gale Group
    For the egghead in your family, or the stone-cold Hammett fan (and if you're not a stone-cold fan, you just might be on the wrong site) here's an eminently respectable and oh-so-scholarly companion volume to one of the classics of mystery fiction -- and arguably the single greatest private eye novels of all time. Edited by Hammett scholar Layman and featuring a ton of illustrations, the book is like a rumble through the closet of hard-boiled history. Along with many very serious and earnest critical analyses of the book and Hammett's life, we are treated to a steady onslaught of letters, reviews, contracts, photographs, cover art, advertisements, a fragment of Hammett's last, unpublished novel and behind-the-scenes info on the various radio and film adaptations (including John Huston's classic noir adaptation). For Hammett buffs and trivia wonks, this is primo stuff indeed, enlightening and intelligent. Though for the price they're asking, maybe it should come wrapped in San Francisco newspapers, and be delivered by a dying sea captain.

  • Tailing Philip Marlowe ..Buy this book
    by Brian & Bonnie Olson

    This handy-dandy trade paperback features three single-day ours of Los Angeles, visiting over forty locations referred to by Raymond Chandler in his novels: Marlowe's Hollywood, Marlowe's Downtown, and Marlowe's Drive. Includes b&w photo illustrations, color maps, local colour and more historical trivia than you can shake a gimlet at. For a new Los Angeleno like myself, or just someone contemplating killing a few days in the City of Angels, this is one righteous gift. Santa, are you listening?

  • The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Boxed Set ..Buy this book
    by Alexander McCall Smith
    Includes No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe, and Morality for Beautiful Girls
    Unlike most collections of novels, this is a class act, with packaging that's actually tied in with the cover artwork of the books themselves. The three books here are the first three in the wildly popular series featuring Precious Ramotswe, the clever owner and head op of the No. 1 (and only) ladies' detective agency in Botswana. A perfect introduction to one of the most unique private eyes in recent years.

  • The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories, Fourth Edition .. Buy this book
    Edited by Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg
    The Best American Mystery Stories 2003
    ..Buy this book
    Edited by Otto Penzler and Michael Connelly (Editor)
    Mariner Books, $13.00
    The annual tag-team slugfest continues, with Penzler and this year's hired gun, crimewriter Michael Connelly, taking on Gorman and Greenberg for the title of "Greatest Annual Short Crime Fiction Collection."
    Both books pack a punch and are solid collections, available in paperback and hardcover, but Gorman and Greenberg gets the slight nod for its reach, adapting a more ambitious global perspective, even offering short essays on the mystery scene in Canada, Great Britain and Germany, as well as Stateside, while The Best American Mystery Stories 2003 takes a more insular (ie: American) tack. My solution? Be a diplomat, and get 'em both. They're sure to please any crime fiction fan. This fan in particular is heartened to see only one duplication, and that story, Mike Doogan's amusing "War Can Be Murder," featuring Hammett himself as a detective, is worth reading twice (or three times -- it's already been collected once in Jon L. Breen's Mystery: The Best of 2002).

  • A Taste of Murder: Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers.. Buy this book
    Compiled by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezahl
    Poisoned Pen Press
    A Second Helping of Murder: More Diabolically Delicious Recipes from Contemporary Mystery Writers
    .. Buy this book
    Compiled by Jo Grossman and Robert Weibezahl
    Poisoned Pen Press

    Of course, all that reading can give one a healthy appetite, and eventually even turkey leftovers run out (around July or so in our house), so here's an idea: How about whipping up something yummy but simple like "Kinsey Millhone's Famous Peanut Butter And Pickle Sandwich," courtesy of Sue Grafton? Or maybe you'd like to boil water the Susan Silverman way? We've got Robert B. Parker to thank for that one. Want something a bit more, uh, adventurous? There are plenty of recipes in these two light-hearted (but frequently artery-clogging) volumes, with recipes and commentary from everyone from Edgar Allan Poe, Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie right up to today's top writers, including Tony Hillerman, George Pelecanos, Anne Perry and Lillian Jackson Braun (or their characters). Highlights include Liza Cody's "Bacon Buttie,' Donald E. Westlake's "May's Mother's Tuna Casserole," Richard North Patterson's Sea Bass in Orange Sauce and Harlan Coben's "Myron's Potato Latkes." And you sure don't want to miss Alexander McCall Smith's Boiled Pumpkin and Botswana Ostrich. My only gripe is that Hannibal Lechter's recipes for "Shepherd's Pie and Baked Alaskan" have not been included. Probably some complaint from some fussy, overzealous PC types about the ingredients or something...
  • Crime Fiction: A Comprehensive Bibliography 1749-2000, Vol. 4.. Buy this CD-ROM
    by Allan J. Hubin
    Print: George A. Vanderburgh, $400
    CD-ROM: Locus Press, $49.95
    Okay, the CD-ROM is not a book, but it's got all those others in it, almost. If your mystery-loving honey can't decide what they would like to read next, this is guaranteed to make it worse. Far, far worse. It's Al Hubin's latest, greatest (and he says, final) edition of what has become the English-speaking mystery genre's bibliographic bible. Completely revised and updated right up to the year 2000, Volume 4 is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to bibliographic research by the noted critic, anthologist and founder/editor of The Armchair Detective. All the authors, are here from Patrick Aalben (who?) to C.C. Zwick (who?), with more than 109,000 individual novels and over 7000 collections listed, not just by author, but by series character, setting, publisher, title, film adaptations, etc., etc. If it ain't in here, chances are it never existed. The printed edition is a whopper (and whopper-priced as well), weighing only slightly less than Nero Wolfe himself. But if you're game, you can order it from The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box via fax at (519) 925-3482 or e-mail at Fortunately, for the plugged-in Scrooges in our midst (or just those who don't own a forklift), there's another solution. The CD-ROM edition (for Mac and PC) can be ordered on-line from Locus Press. Hyperlinks make the CD really rock.

  • Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty ..Buy this book
    by Scott Turow
    Farrar Straus & Giroux

    Death And Justice: An Expose of Oklahoma's Death Row Machine ..Buy this book
    by Mark Fuhrman
    William Morrow

    Okay, it's not exactly holiday fare, but if you thought Hubin's book was heavy, check out these two. Nothing's as heavy – or as devisive -- as the death penalty debate, or more worthy of serious discussion. Maybe they're not even really private eye connected, but anyone who enjoys P.I. fiction probably has given a lot of thought as to what constitutes justice. And these two books deliver the goods. Scott Turow, one of America's most talented lawyers and thriller writers (his Presumed Innocent which kicked off the legal thriller craze still ranks as a stone cold classic) and Mark Fuhrman, one of America's most controversial police detectives (Did he really say the "n word? Did it matter?) each weigh in on the controversy, coming at the issue from entirely different perspectives and places. But both offer honest and hard looks at the issue. Their conclusions may bother or shock or even offend you, but they'll definitely keep the home fires of debate blazing well into the New Year.


  • Raymond Chandler's Marlowe: The Authorized Philip Marlowe Graphic Novel...Buy this book
    Adapted by Jerome Charyn, David Lloyd; Ryan Hughes et al.
    Who says comics are for kids? Trust me, the hard-boiled shamus lover in your joint will get a real bang out of these never-before-published (and not for kids) versions of three classic Chandler short stories, adapted by some of the brightest talents around (including award-winning mystery novelist Charyn, who adapts Chandler's final Marlowe story, "The Pencil.") Also included are adaptations of "Goldfish" and the aptly titled "Trouble Is My Business."
  • Something To Build Upon: A David DiAngelo/Odd Jobs Mystery...Buy this book
    by Tim Broderick
    Modern Tales

    At last! The second Odd Jobs story arc is available for the chronically impatient to read in its entirety and all its black and white glory in an attractive graphic novel, instead of pieced out one furbuschlinger page at a time (speaking of which, the latest story arc, "Cash & Carry" is now running right here on this site). Those of you who aren't asleep at the wheel know by now that Odd Jobs regularly appears here in our Web Comics section and at Modern Tales, but reading this arc right through without all that clicking makes me appreciate Tim's genius all the more. Comics, schmomics! The cat can write!!!
  • Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective: The The Long Ever After...Buy this book
    by Frank Cammuso
    Nite Owl Comix

    Everyone's favourite Fairy Tale Detective, Max Hamm, is back, putting the P.I. back in "PIG." with another case that takes him down the mean streets of Storybookland. This time he's trying to help an aging film queen track down her missing neice. But it doesn't take The Magic Mirror to tell Max he's working for a bad apple.


  • The Adventures of Sam Spade ...Buy this set
    Radio Sprits
    9 CD set

    Dashiell Hammett 's Sam Spade only appeared in one novel , The Maltese Falcon, and three short stories, but as played with a light touch cynical perfection by Howard Duff (with Lorene Tuttle as his long-suffering Gal Friday, Effie), he proved to be one of radio's most popular private eyes in the forties and fifties. This new set, spread over nine CDs, presents 17 classic shows, including "The Kandy Tooth," a special hour-long Sam Spade adventure, and sixteen other half-hour episodes. Also available on cassette.

  • It's That Time Again ...Buy this book
    Edited by Ohmart, Ben, editor,
    Bear Manor Media
    Now here's an interesting concept: a collection of short stories based on characters from old time radio shows. Okay, this volume covers not just crime and detective shows, but also stuff like Our Miss Brooks, The Bickersons, Tom Mix and Ma Perkins. Still, there are original stories featuring OTR private eyes Candy Matson, Pat Novak, Johnny Dollar and even Richard Rogue of Rogue's Gallery.


  • 1950's TV's Greatest Detectives DVD ...Buy this set
    Radio Spirits
    For the crime-busting couch potato, what could be cooler than this three-DVD set available from Comprising 12 classic TV crime shows from the fifties, there's a little something for everyone, from the genteel amateur sleuthing of Mr and Mrs. North to the suave and urbane private eyeing of Peter Gunn, right up to Joe Friday's hard-boiled deadpan in the original Dragnet. Also includes episodes of Treasury Men in Action, Mark Saber of the Homicide Squad, Dick Tracy, Sherlock Holmes, The Lone Wolf, Gang Busters, I Am the Law, Man Against Crime and Martin Kane-Private Eye.
  • A&E's Nero Wolfe-The Complete First Season ...Buy this set
    Starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton

    For those who just can't get enough of the Fat Man and his brash leg man, A&E offers this classy 3-DVD set, comprising the entire first season, over nine hours of murder, food and orchids. Order it from the A&E web site, and receive a free poster. And while you're there, check out those funky Nero Wolfe silk ties, available in Floral or Swirl. What, no thongs?

  • The Cheap Detective ..Buy this DVD ..Buy this video
    (1978, Columbia/EMI)
    Screenplay by Neil Simon
    Directed by Robert Moore
    Starring Peter Falk,Ann Margaret, Eileen Brennan, Sid Caesar, Stockard Channing, James Coco, Madeline Kahn
    Murder By Death
    ..Buy this DVD ..Buy this video
    (1976, Columbia TriStar)
    Screenplay by Neil Simon
    Directed by Robert Moore
    Starring Truman Capote, Peter Falk, David Niven, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Peter Sellers

    Tired of thinking? Then turn off your brain, and just relax with these two classic, star-studded Neil Simon spoofs on the mystery genre. The Cheap Detective (1978), gleefully rags on the hard-boiled shenanigans of the private eye genre and half a dozen Bogie flicks (Casablanca in particular). The humour's decidedly broad, and some of the jokes are real groaners, but hey, if you don't like that joke, just wait a few seconds for the next one. And let's face it -- you're probably going to be sitting there groaning from all that turkey anyway, so you might as well have something to watch. Murder By Death (1976), with much of the same cast, is a shotgun blast of fun, skewering everyone from Nick and Nora Charles to Charlie Chan (with pot shots at Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot along the way). Sample line, courtesy of "Milo Perrier" in Murder By Death: ""Be quiet everyone! I smell something!"


What could be cooler than receiving a gift all year long? There are tons of great mystery magazines and newsletters, featuring a range of fiction and non-fiction, ranging from enthusiastically amateur to slickly professional, for all tastes and budgets. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Mystery Scene...Subscription information
    5 issues/year
    Kate Stine and Brian Skupin's Mystery Scene, originally created by Robert Randisi and Ed Gorman, is a labour of love, and has rapidly become the cornerstone of the mystery writing community. Currently published five times a year, this "trade journal" promises "news, reviews, interviews and views," with special empasis on the business of writing. The magazine has received numerous awards and contributors include some of crime fiction's best writers as well as editors, agents, booksellers, film and television directors, collectors and critics. They also let me scribble its pages now and then, but don't let THAT discourage you.
  • BULLET....Subscription information
    Digitalent Ltd
    First four issues: £8.00.

    Keith Jeffrey's hot new mag from the U.K. specializes in what he calls "rock'n'roll noir." He promises a slim volume of 10 high voltage stories each no longer than 1500 words. From the promo: "Imagine the buzz of the Ramones, the electric intensity of the Clash. Imagine rock'n'roll turned into fiction. Imagine BULLET." Hard-boiled? This stuff is flame-throwered! An issue slips easily into your back pocket, but the stories will claw their way into your brain. Available in print or in electronic versions, with postage and packing included.
  • Crimestalker Casebook...Subscription information
    Falconcroft Press
    Semi-annual, two years $24
    Andrew McAleer and his dad, John, know and love their mysteries, and it shows in this great little zine (also known as Austin Layman's Crimestalker Casebook), featuring some truly great short stories from the likes of O'Neil De Noux, Stephen D. Rogers and Michael Bracken, Andrew McAleer. Highly recommended.
  • Mystery News...Subscription information
    $20 US for 1 year/six issues
    You could certainly do a whole lot worse for the mystery fan on your gift list than to give him or her a subscription to this smart bi-monthly tabloid which focusses on crime fiction. Unlike some mags that tend to be overly fawning, this one gives it to you straight. Contributors include Chris Aldrich, Reed Andrus, Gary Niebuhr, Beth Fedyn, Frank Denton, Marv Lachman, Lynn Kaczmarek and several other shady characters who have been known to have opinions worth hearing. Intelligent book reviews, columns and excellent interviews abound. These people know their stuff.


  • Gift Certificates
    Okay, it's not the most thoughtful gift, but at least you won't be buying someone a book they've already read. Most bookstores and online bookstores offer gift certificates, including several that offer rare and collectible books. Check out my list of Booksellers & Dealers.

  • Mystery Parties/Events
    Give your loved one murder this Christmas. What could be more fun? If you have a family or business function, consider throwing a mystery-theme party. Do it yourself, or check out these companies who will do it for you, whether you plan to entertain a few friends, or the entire office.
  • Film Noir Portraiture & Promotional Photography....Check 'em out!
    I swear -- this is SO COOL. Jim Ferreira offers B&W photographic portraits that capture the spirit of '30s Hollywood glamour and '40s film noir cinema. Now that special someone on your list can be the "Dish'y Dame" or "Private Dick" they've always wanted to be. Located in the San Francisco bay area (why can't they be everywhere?), but gee, what a great idea.

And finally, the ultimate gift for any truly serious private eye fan....

  • The Maltese Falcon Statuette....Buy this statuette
    Not the real one, but an incredible facsimile. What mystery fan wouldn't want their own Black Bird? A foot high and weighing in at a solid nine pounds, cast in heavy plaster and covered with jet black, glass enamel. The stuff that dreams are made of....
  • Wrought Aluminium Maltese Falcon Statue....Buy this lawn ornament
    $300-350, depending on finish
    The stuff that bigger dreams are made of. If your sweetie already has several Black Birds scattered around the house, how about outside? Maybe Mrs. Spade raised her little Sammy to be a gardener. This wrought aluminum statue, approximately 32 inches tall, comes in various finishes. Be the first on your block...

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