This Day in P.I. History

Births, deaths, anniversaries, celebrations and other reasons to celebrate.

This is an on-going project, a compilation of dates, anniversaries and holidays of historical interest to readers of this site, that I’m hoping will be updated frequently. Don’t be shy — please tell me what I’m missing…

JANUARY

JANUARY 1

  • Novelist and screenwriter Ernest B. Tidyman, the creator of Shaft, the black private eye who dug like a private sex machine with all the chicks, born on this day in 1928.
  • The Adventures of Sam Spade makes its debut on CBS radio in 1946, starring Howard Duff.
  • British author Leopold Horace Ognall passed away on this date in 1979. He was better known by the pseudonym of Hartley Howard, who wrote forty books about Glenn Bowman, a hard-boiled New York City private eye.
  • Mystery writers Oriana Papazoglou (Gregor Demarkian) and William L. DeAndrea (Matt Cobb) get hitched in Siuth Norwalk, Conneticutt on this day in 1984.

JANUARY 2

  • Author Isaac Asimov born on this day in Petrovici, Russia. He wrote over 400 books, most of them science fiction, of course, but he also wrote a couple of darn good mysteries, as well as one of the first truly successful sci-fi/mystery hybrids, The Caves of Steel (1953), feauring the human/robot team of detectives, Lije Baley & R.D. Olivaw.

JANUARY 3

  • Prolific mystery author, screenwriter and playwright Rufus King, born on this day in New York City in 1893, is most famous for his Lieutenant Valcour police procedurals, but also wrote Holiday Homicide (1940), a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Rex Stout and Archie Goodwin, featuring high-priced sleuth Cotton Moon and his secretary-assistant-narrator, Bert Stanley.

JANUARY 4

  • Harlan Coben, creator of Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who insists on playing private eye, born on this day in 1962.

JANUARY 5

  • Author and film noir champion Arthur Lyons, creator of one of the finest — and most unjustly forgotten — private eyes to come out of the seventies, Southern California’s Jacob Asch, born on this day in 1946 in — where else? — Los Angeles.

JANUARY 6

  • Sherlock Holmes, arguably the world’s most famous private eye, born on this day in 1854, at Mycroft, North Riding, Yorkshire, according to the calculations of Sherlockian scholar William S. Baring-Gould, and is now celebrated by Sherlock fans around the world.

JANUARY 7

  • Ed Lacy, creator of the first truly-credible black private eye, Toussaint Moore, and the winner of the Edgar for Best Novel for Room to Swing (1965), suffers a fatal heart attack in his Harlem home in 1968. That book, says Ed Gorman, is “the one that got him into heaven.”

JANUARY 8

  • Wilkie Collins, whose most popular works were The Woman in White (1860), and The Moonstone (1868), forerunner of the modern detective novel, born on this date in 1824.
  • Dashiell Hammett‘s last — and most successful novel — The Thin Man, which introduced husband and wife sleuths Nick and Nora Charles to the world, published on this date in 1934.

JANUARY 9

  • Actress, stripper, playwright, mystery author (maybe) and world class ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee born on this day in 1911 as Ellen June Hovick in Seattle, Washington.

JANUARY 10

JANUARY 12

JANUARY 13

  • California mystery and sci-fi writer and unabashed fan of comic books, pulp fiction and sci-fi, Ron Goulart born in 1933. Beside penning a slew of non-fiction books on his obsessions, he created numerous private eyes including John Easy, Jake and Hildy Pace, Ben Jolson, Jim Haley, Max Kearney and even Jake Cardigan, allegedly written by William “T. J. Hambone” Shatner.

JANUARY 14

  • In 1938, LAPD Intelligence Squad Captain Earle Kynette blows up the car of former police chief and then-current private detective Harry Raymond. With Raymond inside it. Just in case anyone thought Los Angeles was ever the City of Angels. Fortunately Raymond survived to testify against the bastards.

JANUARY 15

  • Dennis Lynds (aka Michael Collins, William Arden, John Crowe, Robert Hart Davis, Carl Dekker, Maxwell Grant, Mark Sadler, Sheila Lynds, Sheila McErlean, John Douglas, Walter Dallas and house pseudonyms Nick Carter, Brett Halliday, Don Pendleton & Maxwell Grant), the creator of, among others, Dan Fortune and Slot Machine Kelly, born in St. Louis, Missouri, 1924.

JANUARY 16

  • Carroll John Daly, creator of Race Williams and whom William F. Nolan dubbed “the father of the hard-boiled private eye,” died on this day in 1958 in Los Angeles.

JANUARY 17

  • Jakob Arjourni, writer of five acclaimed novels featuring Frankfurt private eye Kemal Kayankaya, passed away on this day in 2013 after a long battle against pancreatic cancer.
  • Benjamin M. Schutz, expert in forensic psychology, one helluva nice guy and the author of five acclaimed novels featuring Washington DC private eye Leo Haggerty, passed awasy on this date in 2008. Too soon, too soon.

JANUARY 19

  • Edgar Allan Poe, born on this date in Boston in 1809.
  • The Queen of Darkness, Patricia Highsmith, born on this date (as Mary Patricia Plangman) in 1921 in Texas.

JANUARY 22

  • Cop writer Joseph Wambaugh born in Pittsburg in 1937. He gave us at least one P.I. novel, Fugitive Nights, but made his mark with his police procedurals, both fiction and non-fiction.

JANUARY 24

  • Beer in a can makes its debut on this day in 1935, and stakeouts become a lot more fun, if not more conscientious, thanks to the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Virginia.

JANUARY 26

  • NYC cartoonist and author Jules Feiffer born in 1929. His P.I. novel., Ackroyd (1977), is a real head-scratcher: an existential blowout that’s part-mind game and part-satire.

JANUARY 27

  • Novelist, journalist, scriptwriter and giant finger in the eye of all pretence, Mordecai Richler born in 1931 in Montreal. He shoulda/coulda written the Great Montreal P.I. Novel. Duddy Kravitz, Private Eye, anyone?

JANUARY 28

  • Dora Amy Elles passes away on this date in 1961. She was bettert known as British crime writer Patricia Wentworth, who wrote 32 bestselling novels featuring spinster private eye Miss Silver.

JANUARY 30

  • Richard Brautigan, much-beloved Beat poet and novelis who gave the world Trout Fishing in America (1967) born in 1935 in Washington, also gave us a P.I. novel, much less beloved.

FEBRUARY

FEBRUARY 1

  • Allan J. Pinkerton signs this contract between the Illinois Central Railroad and the Pinkerton’s Detective Agency, Pinkerton & Company, agreeing to establish a “Police Agency” in Chicago to assist the Railroad in the “prompt and efficient performance of their business,” on this date in 1855.

FEBRUARY 2

  • Frank Gruber, proud survivor of The Pulp Jungle, born in Elmer, Minnesota in 1904.

FEBRUARY 5

  • Television producer, writer, and bestselling crime novelist, Stephen J. Cannell,creator of Jim Rockford, The A-Team, Shane Scully et al, born on this day in 1941 in Los Angeles.
  • Basil Copper, an unlikely but appropriate name for a Brit who wrote 52 American-style hard-boiled pulp starring tough guy gumshoe Mike Faraday, born on this day in 1924.
  • Margaret Millar born on this day in 1915 in Canada. Her early success at writing mysteries inspired her husband Ken to try his hand at it, but she wrote some damn good P.I. novels herself, most notably How Like an Angel (1962).
  • William S. Burroughs, the Big Daddy of the Beats, born on this day in 1914. Not only did he create private eye Clem Snide, but Burroughs worked, albeit very briefly, as a private eye himself. Some critics think Snide was creared as a surrogate for Burroughs.
  • Stephen Marlowe, creator of the Chester Drum series, passed away on this date.

FEBRUARY 14

  • In honour of St. Valentine’s Day, here’s Raymond Chandler commenting in a letter on his relationship with his wife, Cissy, who had recently passed away.

FEBRUARY 19

  • Birthday (1941) of Jersey boy Stephen Dobyns, poet and novelist, who wrote several books about Saratoga milkman/private eye Charlie Bradshaw.

FEBRUARY 22

  • The Thrilling Detective and The Girl Detective make it legal, 2003.
  • Ed Hoch, serial short story writer, with over 700 stories to his credit, and creator of such series heroes as New York State cop Captain Leopold, master thief Nick Velvet, crime-solving gypsy Michael Vlado, 2000-year old Simon Ark and my favourite, private eye Al Darlan, born in Rochester, New York in 1930.
  • Peter Cheyney, an Englishman who learned to speak American, and gave us hard-boiled private eye Slim Callaghan and hard-boiled spy Lemmy Caution, born in 1896.
  • Philip Kerr, creator of the acclaimed series of historical thrillers which follow hapless Berlin private eye Bernie Gunther as he gets kicked around by history before, during and after World War II, born on this day in Edinburgh in 1956. A sly mix of Chandleresque prose and LeCarre reach, the series remain a high-water mark in the genre.

FEBRUARY 23

  • Dashiell Hammett stands his ground, testifying before Supreme Court in 1955. “Communism for me is not a dirty word.”

FEBRUARY 26

  • In memory of writer Michael Avallone (who passed away on this day in 1999) and his greatest creation, it’s suggested that everyone grab a nooner.
  • Wisconsin writer August William Derleth, born on this day, 1909, creator of Solar Pons, arguably the world’s greatest Sherlock Homes pastiche.
  • Hugh Wiley, creator of Chinese private eye James Lee Wong, born in Zanesville, Ohio in 1884 on this date. Don’t blame him for the movies.

FEBRUARY 29

  • Dennis Farina, Chicago cop turned film and television actor, born on this day in 1944. Best known for his television roles in Crime Story, Law and Order and, of special interest to this group, Buddy Faro, a short-lived but fondly remembered 1998 show where he played a Rat Pack-era private eye stuck in modern day LA.

MARCH

MARCH 6

  • One of the lost greats, Thomas B. Dewey, born on this day in Elkhart, Indianna, in 1915. His novels featuring world-weary Chicago eye Mac bridged the gap between Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer, and laid the groundwork for such future compassionate, heart-on-their-sleeve eyes as Dan Fortune, Pronzini’s Nameless and John Shannon’s Jack Liffey.

MARCH 7

  • Versatile Japanese playwright and novelist Abe Kobo, born on this date in 1924; came up with one real headscratcher of a P.I. tale, The Ruined Map (1967).
  • South African-born Peter Temple, best known for his novels featuring Australian P.I. Jack Irish, and for being the first Australian to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger (in 2007), passed away on this day in 2018.

MARCH 9

  • Mike Hammer creator and Miller Lite plugger Frank Morrison Spillane born on this date in 1918. Happy birthday, Mickey.

MARCH 10

  • Australian writer Peter Temple, best known for his novels featuring Australian P.I. Jack Irish, and for being the first Australian to win the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger (in 2007), born on this day in 1946 in South Africa.

MARCH 11

  • The party that was British sci-fi satirist Douglas Adams‘ life began on this day in1952. To celebrate, Dirk Gently will be serving tea. Bring your own towels.
  • Frederic Brown, whose crazy-ass takes on sci-fi, fantasy and, of course, detective fiction, can still spin your head around, passed away on this date in 1972. His The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947), which introduced P.I.s Ed and Am Hunter, is a must-read.

MARCH 13

  • Bill S. Ballinger born in Chicago in 1912; wrote two novels about Chicago P.I. Barr Breed, as well as pulp classics such as Portrait in Smoke (1950).

MARCH 17

  • Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by reading a book featuring an Irish private eye. We even have a few suggestions. Best served with a pint of the black.

MARCH 22

  • North Dakotan pulp writer Louis L’Amour born in 1908. He wrote at least four stories featuring boxer turned LA private dick Kip Morgan. The westerns ended up paying better.

MARCH 23

  • Popeyed actor Peter Lorre goes to that big silver screen in the sky on this date in 1964. He’s best remembered as the child killer in Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and as the flamboyant Joel Cairo in John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon.
  • Philip Kerr, creator of the acclaimed series of historical thrillers which follow hapless Berlin private eye Bernie Gunther as he gets kicked around by history before, during and after World War II, passes away on this day in 2018.

MARCH 24

  • Donald Hamilton, best known for creating a respectably hard-boiled and realistic spy, Matt Helm (before Dino turned him into a laughing stock in four atrocious movies in the sixties), born in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1916.

MARCH 26

  • Raymond Chandler, the man who brought poetry to the mean streets, dies on this day in 1959.
  • Dorothy Porter, Australian poet, born on this day in 1954. She gave us one of the best lesbian P.I. novels of all time, The Monkey’s Mask (1995). In verse form, no less. It was subsequently made into a pretty kick ass film, as well, starring Susie Poter and Kelly McGinnis.

MARCH 27

  • “Backlash of the Hunter,” the two-hour television pilot which introduced James Garner as Jim Rockford, arguably TV’s most beloved private eye, first airs on NBC on this date in 1974.

MARCH 28

  • Some may quibble, but I consider Vertigo, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak and released on this date in 1958, to be a private eye film.

MARCH 29

  • Max Brand (real name: Frederick Faust) born on this day in 1893 in Seattle, Washington. He wrote endless mystery and Western short stories for the pulps in the 1920s and 1930s.

MARCH 30

  • Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of beloved shyster Perry Mason (and about a thousand other characters) lets the defense finally rest on this day in 1970.

MARCH 31

  • Chicago author John Jakes born in 1932. Responsible for the American Bicentennial series, not to mention cocky, 5’1″ private eye Johnny Havoc, a different sort of American bastard.

MAY

MAY 8

  • Peter  Corris), Australian academic, historian, journalist and a novelist of historical and crime fiction, often referred to as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing,”  born on this day in 1942.” His long-running series about Sydney private eye Cliff Hardy is one of the truly great series to come out of the 1980s.
  • In January 2017, Corris announced that he would no longer be writing novels owing to ‘creeping blindness’ because of type-1 diabetes.[6] (8 May 1942 – 30 August 2018

AUGUST

AUGUST 1

  • Carter Brown, who cranked out hundreds of trashy paperbacks featuring such randy P.I.s as Mavis Seidlitz, Rick Holman and Danny Boyd, born on this date as Alan Geoffrey Yates in London in 1923.

AUGUST 3

  • On this day in 1920, P.D. James, creator of Adam Dagliesh and private eye Cordelia Gray, was born in Oxford, England.

AUGUST 16

  • In 1954, Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium Trilogy which unleashed Lisbeth Salander upon an unsuspecting world,, was born in Umeå, Sweden.

AUGUST 20

  • Elmore Leonard, American novelist and screenwriter, one of the most acclaimed crime novelists of the hard-boiled school, praised for his gritty realism, strong dialogue and quirky sense of black humour, died in his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on this date in 2013 of complications from a stroke. He was 87 years old. Stephen King has called him “the great American writer.”

AUGUST 25

  • Ed Lacy, creator of the first truly-credible black private eye, Toussaint Moore, and the winner of the Edgar for Best Novel for Room to Swing (1965), born Leonard “Len” S. Zinberg on this date in 1911.
  • Allan J. Pinkerton, who founded the Pinkerton Detective Agency, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1819.

AUGUST 30

  • Peter  Corris), Australian academic, historian, journalist and a novelist of historical and crime fiction, often referred to as “the Godfather of contemporary Australian crime-writing,”  passed away on this day in 2018, at his home in Sydney, Australia..” His long-running series about Sydney private eye Cliff Hardy is one of the truly great series to come out of the 1980s.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER 1

  • According to legend, Lee Child starts writing his Jack Reacher novel today, to mark the day he went out, suddenly unemployed, and bought a notepad to write the first Jack Reacher novel, which became The Killing Floor.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER 29

  • Lee Child, the creator of Tarzan-in-a-T-shirt Jack Reacher, born on this day in 1954 in Coventry, England and raised in nearby Birmingham.

NOVEMBER

NOVEMBER 2

NOVEMBER 10

  • Robert A. Arthur, Jr., best known for creating the popular Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators series of YA mysteries (at least to me), born in Corregidor in the Philippines in 1909.
  • Dora Amy Elles born on this date in 1878 in India. She grew up to become British crime writer Patricia Wentworth, who wrote 32 bestselling novels featuring spinster private eye Miss Silver, a detective so unworried about appearing “cozy” that she actually knits.

NOVEMBER 13

  • Robert Louis Stevenson born on this day in Edinburgh 1850. Mr. Hyde says he’s feelin’ alright, but Dr. Jekyll says he’s not feelin’ too good himself.

NOVEMBER 18

  • Author and book designer Lee Thayer (born Emma Redington Lee) dies on this day in 1973, a few months short of her 100th birthday, leaving behind 60 mystery novels, all but one featuring the red-headed private detective Peter Clancy and his faithful valet, Wiggar.
  • George C. Chesbro, creator of the popular Mongo novels, about a dwarf private eye whose cases frequently wander into the occult, dies on this date in 2008.

NOVEMBER 25

  • Out of the Past, what many consider the ultimate film noir, is released on this day in 1947. Based on a novel by Geoffrey Homes, it stars Robert Mitchum as private eye Jeff Bailey, along with Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas

NOVEMBER 27

  • On this day in 1920, P.D. James, the creator of Adam Dagliesh and private eye Cordelia Grayand often referred to as “The Queen of Crime,” passed away  at her home in Oxford, aged 94.
Compiled by Kevin Burton Smith, with suggestions from Stephen Blackmoore, Ed Kurtz and Duke Seabrook. Missing something? Let me know.

 

 

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