Down Those Yuletide Streets
Christmas 2005 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. Check back here often -- my helper elves ain't done with this yet.
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 2005 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 Amazon.com, 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 |
- Philip Marlowe's Guide to Life
By Raymond Chandler
Edited by Marty Asher
Buy this book
What took 'em so long? This is a no-brainer -- a collection of the wit and wisdom culled from the greatest series of private eye novels ever, offering the "rude wit," two-fisted wisecracks and bruised romanticism Marlowe was known for. A tip of the fedora to Marty Asher for rounding up all the usual suspects (and plenty of surprises) that comprise this slim volume, making it the stocking stuffer of the year for the P.I. fan.
- Dashiell Hammett: Lost Stories
By Dashiell Hammett
Inroduction by Joe Gores
Edited by Vince Emery
Vince Emery Productions/$24.95
This year marked the 75th anniversary of the book-length publication of Hammett's masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon, and now we're blessed with the long-awaited collection of 21 long-lost stories, many appearing for the first time ever in book form. Not Hammett's best or even most important work, but it's Hammett, damn it, and anyone interested in the man or detective fiction in general could do far worse than this compelling book, with its savvy intro by Gores and fascinating and copious notes from editor Emery that put each story into often illuminating biographical and historical context.
- Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade
Edited by Richard Layman
Vince Emery Productions/$19.95
The companion volume to Dashiell Hammett: Lost Stories (and the second volume in vince Enery's proposed "Ace Performer" series explores the legacy of Hammett and includes just about everything you always wanted to know (and plenty you didn't know you wanted to know) about Sam Spade and the Black Bird's various incarnations from Black Mask to best seller to film, radio, television and beyond. Includes documents, photos and memorabilia about the book and movies (all three of 'em!), plus a full account of Hammett's detective career, a bibliography and about a zillion other treasure, the perfect gift for fans of Sam Spade and Hammett.
- The Novels of Ross Macdonald
By Michael Kreyling
University of Southern Carolina/$34.95
Finally, someone has dug deep into the novels themselves, giving us a fresh, passionate and fiercely intelligent book-by-book look at what William Goldman considers "the finest series of detective novels ever written by an american." Of course, Goldman's full of it, because even a cursory reading reveals the deep, dark (and twisted) Canadian heart of Macdonald's best work, but, territorial pissing aside, this is a book that has been sorely needed for years. Even Macdonald biographerTom Nolan, despite a few small quibbles, gives it a thumbs-up, which tells you something about the literary legwork by Vanderbilt English prof Kreyling on display here. Heartily recommended.
- The Robert B. Parker Companion
By Dean James and Elizabeth Foxwell
Buy this book
Everything you always wanted to know about Robert B. Parker's novels -- from Spenser to Jesse Stone to Sunny Randall -- but were afraid to ask. Includes plot summaries, cast of characters, Boston locations, a omprehensive biography of Parker, his stand-alone fiction, memorable quotes, an inclusive bibliography and a new interview with Parker himself. One of the first -- but not the last -- look at the work of a man whose contribution to the development (and popularity) of the private eye and crime genres in the last thirty years is only now beginning to be recognized.
- Behind the Mystery
By Stuart Kaminsky and Laurie Roberts
Hot House Press/$29.95
Buy this book
Edgar-winning crimescribe Kaminsky and professional shutterbug Roberts went a-calling on eighteen currently best selling mystery writers, and came back with eighteen surprisingly candid and wide-ranging interviews and plenty of great pics of the authors at work - and occasionally at play - in their own homes. Among the suspects given the third degree are Mickey Spillane, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, Martin Cruz Smith, Faye and Jonathon Kellerman, Sue Grafton, Evan Hunter, Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, Joseph Wambaugh, John Jakes, Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Lisa Scottoline, and Lawrence Block. The subjects swing from the expected topics of creativity, inspiration and writing to much more personal - and often illuminating - topics such as their families, childhoods and their politics and spiritual beliefs. A real treat for fans of the genre.
- Flashgun Casey, Crime Photographer: From the Pulps to Radio and Beyond
By J. Randolph Cox and David S. Siegel
Book Hunter Press/$18.95
Who'd a thought it? Despite the title, this book zeroes in not just on Flashgun (see above) but also on his creator, George Harmon Coxe, one of the genre's great -- but largely unheralded -- masters. Until now, that is. Dubbed the professional's professional, this long-overdue biography/tribute to Coxe includes the Black Mask boy's first ever short story, a couple of radio scripts, plenty of notes on Flashgun's numerous appearances in the pulps, novels, film, comic, television and (of course) radio, not to mention on stage, and an intro by William F. Nolan. Good stuff all around, not just for OTR fans.
- The Adventure of the Missing Detective and 25 of the Year's Best Crime and Mystery Stories
Edited by Gorman and Martin Greenberg
Carroll & Graf /$15.95
Buy this book
They've tried to jazz up the title, but this is simply another solid addition to the on-going top notch series of annual collections of the best in short crime fiction, edited by crime writer Ed Gorman and anthologist Martin Greenberg, and augmented by reports from the front lines by some of the savviest writers working the crime fic beat. This year's edition boasts great stories from Max Allan Collins, Laura Lippman, Stuart Kaminsky, Val McDermid, Edward D. Hoch, Carolyn Wheat, Jeffrey Deaver, Joyce Carol Oates and our very own Dave White, whose Derringer-winning "God's Dice" (which first appeared on this site) is included.
- Plots With Guns: A Noir Anthology
Edited by Anthony Neil Smith
Dennis McMillan Publications/$30.00
Buy this book
And what would Christmas be without a collection of short stories to read? This rock 'em, sock 'em collection of 24 hard-bitten tales, most of them taken from the late, lamented e-zine/web site (this era's Manhunt) and the rest from fellow travellers includes offerings from such heavyweights as Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch's first case!), Kent Anderson, Victor Gischler, Reed Farrel Coleman, Laura Lippman, Eddie Muller, Gary Phillips, Scott Phillips, Jason Starr and Charlie Stella. The perfect way to shut up the hard-boiled/noir fan on your list who decries that they don't write 'em like they used to, and get yourself a little Christmas morning peace.
- Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective: The Long Ever After
By Frank Cammuso
Nite Owl Comix/ $18.00
Buy this book
Where Chandler meets Mother Goose. Everyone's favourite Fairy Tale Detective, the Eisner-winning Max Hamm, is back, putting the P.I. back in "PIG," with this gorgeously presented volume that gathers all four of his previous storybook/noir adventures, plus fourteen pages of new material. This time Max is trying to help an aging film queen track down her missing neice, among other things, even as the questions pile up: What's Snow White's secret? Who offed Prince Charming? Is Humpty Dumpty all he's cracked up to be? And what happened to the missing Glass Slipper? It doesn't take The Magic Mirror to tell Max there are some very bad apples in Storyland.
- Dead Boy Detectives Digest
Written and illustrated by Jill Thompson
Buy this book
This digest-sized graphic novel, done in manga-style by writer/cartoonist Jill Thompson, has everyone's favorite dead boys detectives, Charles and Edwin - first introduced in Neil Gaiman's Sandman -- travelling to Chicago on a missing persons case, where they're forced to go undercover at an all-girl's school. Meanwhile, Death is -- as always -- hot on their heels.
- Casey, Crime Photographer
10 CDs/10 hours
Radio Spirits, $39.98
Available from www.radiospirits.com
Originally appearing in the pages of Black Mask, under
the watchful eyes of then-editor Joseph Shaw, George Harmon coxe's
Flashgun Casey was the original fast-talking crime photographer
for the Morning Express Newspaper, a big, hot-tempered Boston Mick with a gift for gab and a nose for trouble. Casey kept a bottle of hooch and a .38 in his desk drawer, and boasted of being able to put a "slug where he aimed" and having "two big fists he knew how to use." Ol' Flashgun even becamesomething of multimedia superstar of the day, appearring in a couple of quite popular B-flicks; and this very successful radio show, which ran on CBS for several years in the forties, starring Staats Cotsworth as Casey. In the radio version, Casey sported a reporter girlfriend, Ann Williams and hung out at the Blue Note Café where the Blue Note Musicians (played by The Teddy Wilson Trio) held court. This 10-CD set brings it all back, with twenty half-hour episodes.
- The Adventures Of Harry Nile: "The Judge from Whiskey Dick" and "The Mystery of the Galena".
Jim French Productions/$9.95
Available from www.jimfrenchproductions.com
When Phil Harper, the long-time voice of radio's Harry Nile passed away last year, many wondered whether it was time to pull the plug on the popular syndicated radio series. But for the past year Larry Albert has taken on the role of Harry and, according to the show's extremely loyal fans, he's doing just fine. And now the first two episodes featuring Albert as Nile are available on a single-CD, an ideal stocking stuffer for those who miss old-time radio.
- The Thin Man Collection
Warner Home Video/$59.95
Buy this DVD set
This is simply THE gift this year, if the sales figures are any indication -- stores just couldn't keep this pricey boxed set in stock when it was released last summer. Not bad for some sixty-year old movies, eh? But who doesn't love this classic series starring William Powell and the eternally gorgeous Myrna Loy as Dashiell Hammett's famed detecting duo, Nick and Nora Charles? No wonder they flew off the shelves. But what were they expecting? This is one sweet seven-disc set, featuring all six classic films (The Thin Man, After The Thin Man, Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, Song of the Thin Man, and The Thin Man Goes Hom) plus more tasty extras (documentaries, comedy shorts, classic cartoons, a radio show with Powell and Loy and even an episode from the subsequent TV series episode starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk) than you can shake a swizzle stick at. Wit, class, sophistcation and murder, plus Asta - I mean, really, what's not to love?
- The Rockford Files: Season One....
Buy this DVD set
P.I. fans were truly blessed this year. Not onlydid The Thin Man Collection finally made it to DVD, but now we have Season One of The Rockford Files as well. Those of you have been pestering me about this regularly for the last few years can take a well-deserved breather. The Rockford Files, created by Stephen J. Cannell and Roy Huggins, was simply the greatest detective series on TV ever. Anywhere. Anytime. No arguments. Case closed. Real mysteries, plenty of action, smart acting, writing and directing, satisfyingly complex plots, well-developed characters and the timelessly appealing James Garner in his greatest role ever. Angel, Beth, Dennis, Rocky and all the rest are all here in all their glory, unedited, the way they were intended to be - unlike those butchered-to-death, commercial-injected travesties TV stations have been foisting on us for the last twenty-five years or so.
- Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season...
Warner Home Video/$59.95
Buy this DVD Set
Season two hasn't even finished and already season one's out on a whopping six-disc set, complete with plenty of unaired scenes and an extended pilot. It may not be Rockford but VM's first season was far more entertaining than it had any right to be, an honest-to-goodness mystery stretched over twenty-two episodes featuring a precocious but appealingly savvy iPod-generation Nancy Drew (Kristen Bell) who just wants to find out who killed her best friend. And when she's not doing that (or attending classes and assorted crises at Neptune High) she helps out her dad in his fledgling P.I. business.
- The Dark Corner
Buy this DVD
The avalanche of primo P.I. releases just keeps coming, with this relatively (and unjustly) obscure 1946 noir nugget starring Mark Stevens as a P.I. being framed for murder and a then-unkown Lucille Ball as his long-suffering secretary who sticks by him. Simply great stuff -- a film that coulda, shoulda been a contender. A more dynamic lead and tighter direction and this woulda been a classic.
- Night Moves
Buy this DVD
Sure, Chinatown got all the press, but this 1975 flick, finally available on DVD, directed by Arthur Penn and starring Gene Hackman (in a typically great performance) as small-time P.I. Harry Moseby is one of the great lost noirs, a morally complex stew of bitter half-truths and dynamite performances from people like Susan Clark, Jennifer Warren, Harris Yulin, James Woods and a very young (and very slutty) Melanie Griffith. Simply one of the all-time classic private eye films. Well worth rediscovering.
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:
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
Bi-monthly, one year $26
The Jordan Crime Family of Milwaukee (Jon, Jennifer, Ruth and assorted enforcers, such as Jeremy "Get the Rope" Lynch) offer up this spunky, punky alternative to those "other" crime family publications, and it's an offer you should seriously consider not refusing. Lots of attitude, and a distinctly DIY approach, they're just as likely to comment on an old Batman graphic novel or wax rhapsodic about some murder ballad written in the 1920s as the latest by Mary Higgins Clark.
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.
- Mystery News...Subscription
$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
- 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.
- Kinky Friedman Talking Action Figure
$29.95, from www.kinkyfriedman.com
Kids! Be the first on your block to score the action figure of the year! Kinky Friedman, the world's only country singer/mystery writer/fictional private eye and real-life candidate for governor of Texas is now available as an almost 13-inch tall plastic action figure. Even better is that it actually talks, using Kinky's recorded voice to deliver the wit, wisdom and wisecracks we've come to respect from the one-time Texas Jewboy. The figure, we're told, "comes ready for action, dressed in Kinky's black leather vest and cowboy hat, and of course, Kinky's signature cigar never leaves his hand! With fully poseable arms for gesturing and telling corrupt career polititians where to go."
- Brodart Book Covers
Assorted prices, available from
For the serious book geek who wants to protect his or her prized possessions, and is starting to run out of ZipLocs, what could be better than some library-quality bookcovers to protect their treasured tomes? While their trademark lawyers slept, the Brodart company became so well-known in the industry and among serious bibliophiles that their archival-quality jackets are now commonly refered to simply as "Brodarts." Covering your books is like flossing or calling your mother we all know we should do it.
Assorted prices, available from
Tired of staring at blank walls? Buy your sweetie a movie poster
from their favourite classic mystery film. They're also a great
way cover hide any inconvenient bullet holes or unfortunate blood
splatters. Perennial favourites include Chinatown, The
Maltese Falcon, The Thin Man and The Hound of the Baskervilles.
finally, the ultimate gift for any truly serious private eye fan....
Maltese Falcon Statuette
$59.95, available from The
Mysterious Book Shop
FINALLY!!! I GOT MINE!!! It looks like someone finally took the hint. And now everything is soooo much better. Maybe the Black Bird can do it for you, too. Of course, it's not the real one, but an incredible facsimile, but ut still packs some incredible mojo for any true P.I. fan. I mean, what real buff wouldn't want their own Black Bird? A foot high and weighing in at a hefty nine pounds, cast in heavy plaster from the same mold as the dingus used in the classic Bogart film, and covered with jet black, glass enamel. Available from the Mysterious Bookshop in New York., although there is apparently no truth to the rumour that for a price, owner Otto Penzler will dress as a dying sea captain to deliver it to you personally. Still the stuff that dreams are made of...
Drop a dime. Your comments,
suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes
talking to a man that likes to talk."