The Future of Private Eye Fiction (a guest blog)
Scrape that gum off your shoe, and try this one on for size: private investigators. What goes through your head when you picture one? A tough guy in a trench coat spouting gruff, side-of-the-mouth dialog that’s sharp enough to shave with? Brassy, wisecracking dames in distress? Fistfights, gunfights, and dark, glistening city streets, all put to the music of a lone, wailing saxophone? Well yeah. I do, anyway. Matter of fact, most of us do. But somehow over the years that mythos turned into a stereotype, and we are all poorer for it. Because make no mistake, there are some gems to be found. The masters from the early years showed us how to do it: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ellery Queen … even Mickey Spillane had his moments. A lot of their work was magic.
But beginning in the early sixties, private eye fiction began to fall out of favor. James Bond—and don’t get me wrong, I love the guy—and gadgets started taking over. Private shamuses (shami?) waned, and then transmogrified (gotta love them college words) into objects of ridicule. Only in the last decade and a half or so has the reading public decided to give the genre another try. Why? I don’t know. Maybe we simply were ready for heroes again.
Thankfully some good writers have stepped up to the plate. A cursory perusal showcases such talents as Sara Paretsky, Loren Estleman, James Lee Burke, Robert Crais, and many others. These writershave helped expand the borders of PI fiction. Now we have lady PIs, gay PIs, midget PIs, kid PIs, part-time PIs, handicapped PIs, just about everything under the sun except for spiritual PIs.
Question: can a faith-based private investigator hold his own in a secular market? Answer: why not? Lord knows (excuse the pun) there’s a need. Okay, so what would such a creature look like? How would he (or she) act when confronted by J. Evil Villain? Pray for him? Shoot him? Pray for him and THEN shoot him? I’m not sure. But something tells me these ideas would be a lot of fun to pursue. And someone’s going to do it. Maybe even me. All that to say, the future for private eye fiction looks bright, no matter what brand of gumshoe you favor.
Now enough jawing. Somebody get this dame off my desk, hand me my heater, and cue the sax.
John Robinson is the author of several gritty novels, including Abyss, Until the Last Dog Dies, To Skin a Cat, and Last Call. He lives in Ohio.
Hmm. Maybe an Amish P.I.? He looks like an ordinary farmer, yet he carries a concealed miniature, spring-loaded pitchfork–and he knows how to use it!
And he keeps a .38 in his beard?
No better author to pen the gumshoe back to life than John Robinson. Great article.
We tried at Harvest House with excellent author Brandt Dodson. We could not find a market for his well-written books. Men’s fiction of any genre seems hard to sell in CBA. I encourage such authors to try to break into the general market. They’re certainly good enough to do so.