Simon Lash

Created by Frank Gruber
(1904-1969)

Ornery, cantankerous, cynical ex-soldier, ex-lawyer SIMON LASH is one shamus who doesn’t seem to give two hoots about much of anything except his beloved books about the Old West and, of course, his fee. He has an assistant, Eddie Slocum, whom he barely tolerates, but together they managed to appear in three delightfully loopy novels from the forties by Frank Gruber, and they were popular enough for PRC to film the first book, Simon Lash, Private Detective, in 1946, as Accomplice.

Accomplice is some sort of film — that’s for sure. Supposedly a better-than-average B-film, but that’s only if you’re not looking for a coherent plot or, you know, excitement. Lash, whom Richard Arlen — to his credit plays as written — is hired by an old girlfiend to find her missing husband, but the susequent investigation turns up one murder after another, an inexplicable tailjob through several Southwestern states, some great character bits (the interplay between Lash and Eddie, played by Tom Dugan, is definitely amusing) and a rather goofy shootout. The Detective in Film calls Lash “a surly and unattractive hero.”

Still, I sort of enjoyed its cheesy incompetence, and I thought Arlen did a pretty good job. It rushes by so fast it barely makes sense, but that’s part of the fun. And it features Palmdale prominently, although it’s not exactly a flattering portrait. No sequels were made. But that’s okay. The books are way better.

Author Frank Gruber is one of the most prolific of the great pulpsters, and recouted his experiences in The Pulp Jungle. He also found the time to write three different private eyeseries. Beside Simon and Eddie, he wrote about con artists/PIs Fletcher and Cragg, and legit dicks Otis Beagle and Joe Peel, and came up with TV hybrid P.I./cowboy Shotgun Slade. But he cut his teeth in the pulps, where he wrote a long series of short stories about crime-solving encyclopedia salesman Oliver Quade.

NOVELS

FILMS

  • ACCOMPLICE | Buy the DVD Watch it now
    (1946, PRC)
    68 minutes, black and white
    Based on the novel Simon Lash, Private Detective by Frank Gruber
    Screenplay by Irving Elman and Frank Gruber
    Directed by Walter Colmes
    Produced by John K. Teaford
    Starring Richard Arlen as SIMON LASH
    and Tom Dugan as Eddie Slocum
    Also starring Veda Ann Borg, Marjorie Manners, , Archie Twitchell, Earle Hodgins, Francis Ford, Edward Earle, Herbert Rawlinson, Sherry Hall, Robert McKenzie
    Arthur Lyons, in his homage to B-films Death on the Cheap, wrote that Accomplice “looks as if it was (and it probably was) shot in four days. Particularly notable in the film is director Colmes’ exciting use of endless close-ups of tires during automoblile chase scenes.”

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Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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