Murray Kirk

Created by Stanley Ellin

Rich, classy man-about-town MURRAY KIRK is a former hotshot young lawyer who takes over as the head of New York’s very respectable Conmy and Kirk Detective Agency in Stanley Ellin’s Edgar-winning The Eighth Circle (1958).

There’s no low rent office with a bottle in the drawer for this baby. Nope. Murray’s one cold, ruthlessly efficient detective — all business all the time.

But it turns out he does have a weak spot — he’s got it bad for a client’s lady fair, and instead of working to prove his client’s innocence in a court case, Murray’s out to nail him.

What makes it even more intriguing is that his client is a cop under indictment for perjury.

Short story ace Ellin studied several agencies before writing the novel, so The Eighth Circle is a far more authentic look at real P.I. work than most such novels. In its way, it anticipates the “private-eye procedural” type of story that Joe Gores would make his stock-in-trade a decade or so later. It’s also one of the few P.I. stories to win the MWA Edgar in the top category, Best Mystery Novel. Gary Warren Niebuhr also considers it one of the 21 Classics in his A Reader’s Guide To Private Eye Novels.

Ellin went on to write three more PI novels, 1969’s The Bind (which became The notoriously awful movie Sunburn), featuring Jake Dekker, and two novels featuring his only series character John Milano, Star Light, Star Bright and The Dark Fantastic.

UNDER OATH

  • “…manages to take the stuffing out of 1950s-style hard-boiled detective novels, while imitating them perfectly.”
    — Art Bourgeau, The Mystery Lover’s Companion
  • “The Eighth Circle… is the first novel I ever read that presented private investigation as a lucrative business, with a detective who’s both dedicated and less than honorable. Think The Maltese Falcon as written by James M. Cain. And it’s filled with day-to-day business stuff that adds to its realistic approach.”
  • — Dick Lochte, The 14 Best Private Eye Novels of All Time(2012)

NOVELS

TELEVISION

  • WESTINGHOUSE DESILU PLAYHOUSE
  • (1958-60, CBS)
    Television Anthology Series
    48 episodes

    • “Circle of Evil” (March 18, 1960)
      60 minutes
      Based on the novel The Eighth Circleby by Stanley Ellin.
      Teleplay by Robert Blees
      Directed by Jerry Thorpe
      Starring Bart Burns as Murray Kirk
      Also starring Ken Clark, Robert Clarke, Curtis Cooksey, Mason Curry, Joe De Santis, Felicia Farr
      This episode was rebroadcast on Kraft Mystery Theatre on September 26, 1962.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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