Lew Griffin

Created by James Sallis
(1944–)

“There was a half-filled glass of bourbon and an almost empty bottle on the desk. A fly floated in what was left in the glass. I thought about it, fished the fly out with a letter opener, drank, poured in the rest of the bottle.”
— Lew meets the titular insect in The Long-Legged Fly

New Orleans’ LEW GRIFFIN is a professor, poet, novelist, and occasional private eye who appeared in six dark, defiantly literate novels that brought author James Sallis instant comparisons to Walter Mosely, Chester Himes and James Lee Burke. But for once the comparisons are apt. Lew’s obsession with missing children — and his quest to find them — may permeate the series, but the real thrust seems to be the art of writing itself.

Phrases such as “brooding,” “powerful,” “allusive, haunting prose,” “surreal quality,” “existential noir,” “highly literate” and the ever-popular mention of the “dark truths about American racism and the search for identity” are not uncommon in reviews of this series. But don’t let all the lofty ambitions and the high-minded blurbery scare you away — these are kick-ass stories. It’s just that their full impact sneaks up on you in deft and often surprising ways.

A renowned critic, poet, essayist and professor himself, Sallis has written a highly-regarded critical study of Jim Thompson, David Goodis and Chester Himes entitled Difficult Lives, and even started another series series in 2003 about another P.I., Turner, who doesn’t quite fit in. Sallis taught writing at Phoenix College in Arizona and Otis College in Los Angeles. But he may be best known for his 2005 dark brooding novel Drive, which was adapted into a widely acclaimed 2011 film, starring Ryan Gosling.

UNDER OATH

  • “The Griffin series is in some ways an aesthetic exercise, but that doesn’t mean the mysteries aren’t masterfully crafted or fun, it’s just that Griffin is also going to do a lot of wandering the city streets asking profound questions and partaking of various earthly delights while recalling lines from Keats. That’s just how it is in his New Orleans. Any crime fan who hasn’t already experienced the magic of Griffin should stop what they’re doing… and get to your local bookstore or library. Ask for The Long-Legged Fly.”
    — Dwyer Murphy, Crime Reads (March 2019)

NOVELS

RELATED LINKS

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Stewart Wilson for the heads up.

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