Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, May 19, 2022


 The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories (revised edition), edited by Bill Pronzini and Martin H. Greenberg (2004)

Who doesn't love a good private eye?  The hard-boiled PI begin in the May 1923 issue of Black Mask with Carroll John Daly's "Three Gun Terry."  A month later Black Mask published Daly's first Race Williams mystery, "Knights of the Open Palm" in that magazines infamous special "KKK issue."  Three months later Dashiell Hammett published his first Continental Op story.  And the floodgates were opened.

Today, PIs are both hard-boiled and soft-boiled, reflective and instinctive, male and female, straight and gay, and some have physical of mental disabilities.  The field covers a broad range of careers; while many are actually licensed PIs, many others are not.   The Mammoth Book of Private Eye Stories is mainly concerned with real private eyes, although Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder (an  unlicensed private eye) and Joseph Hansen's Dave Brandstetter (an insurance investigator) are included in the mix.  

Pronzini and Greenberg have selected tales about some of the greatest and most popular private eyes of all time.  The only significant omissions seem to be Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer.  (Two other early PIs -- Carroll John Daly's Race Williams and Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner -- were included in the first edition of this book in 1998, but were dropped for this edition.)  Still, according to Kevin Burnett Smith's The Thrilling Detective website, this volume is "possibly the single best anthology of private eye ever...Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Some of the stories may be familiar but most are not.

The contents:

  • Raymond Chandler, "Wrong Pigeon"  (Philip Marlowe)
  • Fredric Brown, "Before She Kills"  (Ed and Am Hunter)
  • Howard Browne, "So Dark for April"  (Paul Pine)
  • William Campbell Gault, "Stolen Star"  (Joe Puma)
  • Ross MacDonald, "Guilt Edged Blonde"  (Lew Archer)
  • Henry Kane, "Suicide Is Scandalous"  (Peter Chambers)
  • Richard S,. Prather, "Dead Giveaway"  (Shell Scott)
  • Joseph Hansen, "Surf"  (Dave Brandstetter)
  • Michael Collins, "A Reason to Die"  (Dan Fortune)
  • Ed McBain, "Death Flight"  (Milt Davis)
  • Stephen Marlowe, "Wanted -- Dead and Alive"  (Chester Drum)
  • Edward D. Hoch, "The Other Eye"  (Al Darlan)
  • Stuart M. Kaminsky, "Busted Blossoms"  (Toby Peters)
  • Lawrence Block, "Out of the Window"  (Matt Scudder)
  • John Lutz, "Ride the Lightning"  (Alo Nudger)
  • Sue Grafton, "She Didn't Come Home"  (Kinsey Millhone)
  • Edward Gorman, "The Reason Why"  (Jack Dwyer)
  • Stephen Greenleaf. "Iris"  (John Marshall Tanner)
  • Bill Pronzini, "Skeleton Rattle Your Moldy Leg"  (Nameless Detective)
  • Marcia Muller, "The Broken Men"  (Sharon McCone)
  • Arthur Lyons, "Trouble in Paradise"  (Jacob Asch)
  • Max Allan Collins, "The Strawberry Teardrop"  (Nate Heller)
  • Robert J. Randisi, The Nickel Derby"  (Henry Po)
  • Loren D. Estleman, "Greektown"  (Amos Walker)


It's impossible for me to pick out a favorite.  Brown, MacDonald, Block, Lutz, Gorman, Greenleaf, and Collins all have stories that just sing to me.  All the other tales are more than worthwhile.

To steal a line from above:  "Recommended.  HEARTILY."

Who's your favorite fictional PI?


  1. Lew Archer or Kinsey Millhone. Loved the early Robert Parker stories but many mediocre ones followed.

  2. Archer and Millhone are up there for me, as McCone and Nameless/Bill. But, still, my favorite for the moment at least, remains Max Kearney, who, to be sure, is more of a psychic investigator.

  3. I'm with Patti and Todd on Lew Archer. Although, I like Max Kearney's wacky psychic investigations, too! I read this anthology years ago, but have fond memories.

  4. I'm working my way through this one myself. Unfortunately I read halfway through the Prather story, had to put the book down to do something else -- and I can't find where I put it! Thanks for reminding me. Time to go looking again.

  5. Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective, no doubt about it. Though Lew Archer comes in a very close second.