Johnny Ace

Created by Ron Ellis

Now here’s a man you don’t meet everyday…

JOHNNY ACE has a fledgling career as a private eye under way, but it’s just one of a number of hats he wears. He’s also a full-time landlord, owning several properties in and around Liverpool, and a popular part-time radio host with a controversial phone-in show, Ace Investigations, on a local station, where he plays his beloved old time rock’n’roll. (The original Johnny Ace, whom I’m guessing this guy is named after, was an early 1950’s rock star. Our current Johnny also had a brief brush with rock’n’roll fame himself, as drummer for The Cruzads, a ’60’s band who tried to follow in the steps of hometown heroes The Beatles).

Not content with three jobs, Johnny also has two girlfriends: the faithful, sexy long-standing fuck-buddy Hilary and hot-tempered relative newcomer Maria.

There’s good use of the Liverpool setting, with the cheering on of the local fooball team, and frequent name-dropping of various Beatles landmarks. In fact, The Singing Dead (2000) actually has Johnny uncovering a tape of previously unreleased material by John Lennon himself! Of course violence and mayhem soon ensue.

The series is routinely and regularly praised by the British press for its “colourful Scouse characters, fast-moving action, …black humour and memorably authentic Liverpool settings,” but I found it all a little too earnest. Nobody is going to mistake this for hard-boiled, no matter how many local thugs do walk-ons or how tough Johnny tries to talk. Fair enough. Not everybody have to be Race Fucking Williams.

But Johnny just doesn’t even seem that good a detective, relying an awful lot on luck and coincidence. And he’s full of annoying “Had I but knownisms” — it’s almost like a Scouse Gothic, sometimes. Plus, his Jack-of-all-trades schtick gets real wearisome real quick. Is there anything this guy doesn’t do well? And this thing with all these babes lusting after him just smacks of middle-aged male fantasy. Even worse, for all the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, nothing much actually happens. Still, Ellis and Ace seem to have a lot of fans, so maybe it’s just a matter of the humour not traveling well.

Like his fictional creation, Ron Ellis tends to keep more than one iron in the fire. In fact, the London Sun proclaimed him the man with most jobs in Britain in 1992. They included librarian, lecturer, salesman, landlord, DJ, actor, salesman, broadcaster, photographer, journalist and author. Along the way, he’s imported records for The Beatles, ran an entertainment agency, served as Promotions Manager for Warner Bros Records, appeared in British TV shows such as Coronation St. and Brookside, and even hit the U.K. charts himself with “Boy on the Dole” in 1979. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Liverpool.

UNDER OATH

  • “Lively romp set against a wonderfully authentic Liverpool setting – the quality of Mersey is not strained. DJ Johnny Ace is a likeable, laddish investigator who tries to discover why a friend’s teenage son has been kidnapped. Ellis’s first [Johnny Ace] novel has a sprinkling of memorable characters, plenty of fast, throwaway dialogue and a realistic plot which would win the admiration of more experienced authors. More please.”
    — Janice Young, Yorkshire Post on Ears of the City

NOVELS

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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