These are the people I take to bed with me every night. Don’t snicker, I only shack up with them one at time and only for a few days. These are not just passing fancies; I’ve had long-term relationships with each of the people I’m about to blab about. My occasional one-night-stand with other folks is a subject for another day. Also, you’ll probably be quick to point out that there are a lot more men than women in my little exposé. You’ll just have to deal with it … I have.
He’s been in and out of my bed for almost thirty years and I don’t even know his first name. He routinely gives out his business cards. I wonder what they say? Just Spenser? As you probably guessed, I’m talking about Robert B. Parker’s wiseass private investigator, Spenser. He’s a bonafide tough-guy with a good sense of right and wrong, a better sense of humor and a heart of gold. Although Spenser is true to his lady friend Dr. Susan Silverman I wish he would bonk that sexy redheaded lawyer, Rita Fiore, just once and share it with us. Shows you what kind of guy I am. Besides being true-blue, he’s a well educated, ex-boxer, gourmet cook and an avid Scotch and soda drinker who spends most of his time with Pearl, his German shorthaired pointer. If I ever need a private investigator or any kind of protection I’d hire Spenser and his shady but equally as tough friend, Hawk, in a heartbeat. I know for a fact that these two guys could hunt down and blow away Osama bin Laden and a whole bunch of Al-Qaeda in a day or two. Okay, maybe three days.
Authors note: A few hours after I wrote this little tribute to Spenser I learned that Robert B. Parker had died from a heart attack sitting at his desk working on his next book. He was 77. We’ll miss you Robert.
For a good time call Trixie at 555-1814 or for an even better time share an evening with Janet Evanovich’s quintessential Jersey-girl, Stephanie Plum. Stephanie works for her cousin as a bond enforcement officer (bounty hunter) out of an office full of wackos: cousin Vinnie, a pervert rumored to have had a romantic relationship with a duck, Lulu a plus-size former ‘ho with a petite-size spandex wardrobe, Connie, the office guard-dog with a hairy upper lip and Mafia ties, and Ranger, Stephanie’s mentor, occasional lover and frequent guardian angel. Stephanie tracks down and attempts to apprehend an ever interesting array of characters in one humorous episode after another usually destroying her car along the way. Her cars have been repossessed, stolen, stripped, wrecked, crushed, blown up, and smashed into little pieces. Between chasing FTAs (Failures to Appear) she hangs out with her hamster Rex, her on again, off again boyfriend, Trenton detective, Joseph Morelli and his dog, Bob, her nutcase parents, and her wonderfully wacky Grandma Mazur. My ménage à quatre with Stephanie, Lulu and Grandma Mazur are some of my most memorable evenings.
Archy McNally is one of the dead guys that I mourn and miss terribly. Until Lawrence Sanders’ death in 1998 Archibald "Archy" McNally was his bon vivant Palm Beach private investigator. Or as Archy would be quick to point out, he conducted “discreet enquiries” for his father’s prestigious law firm, McNally and Son. Archie was a cross between a wantabe private eye, a neighborhood busybody, and a privileged college boy home for summer break. His clients, or rather his father’s, were all the weird and wacky rich and powerful of this ultra-exclusive community. He still lived with his parents, had an on-and-off relationship with Connie Garcia, the personal secretary of Lady Cynthia Horowitz and hung out at his private club, the Pelican Club, with his doofus childhood buddy, Binky Watrous and his unlikely pal, Sgt. Al Rogoff of the Palm Beach Police Department. Although Archy rubbed elbows with the rich and famous he often sought the advice and help of the couple that ran his dining club, the Pettibones, and the Olsens, the domestics at his parent’s mansion. I wouldn’t hire Archy to conduct a discreet inquiry but I’d jump at the chance to have lunch with him at the Pelican Club.
While we’re talking about dead guys, you can’t live in the southwest and not be a big fan of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police detective, Jim Chee. Chee along with the “Legendary Lieutenant” Joe Leaphorn introduced me to the exotic world of Navajo culture. Chee was studying to be a traditional Navajo healer while he was chasing bad guys and solving crimes on the vast reservation before his uncle told him that, to be a good shaman he must “believe and not believe.” Chee interpreted that to mean he could not be a good shaman and a cop too. He was devastated. In addition to that frustration he’s had lots of women troubles, he fell in love with a white woman but soon found they would never be compatible; next he fell in love with a half-Navajo, half-white lawyer but she wanted Chee to leave the reservation and finally he married Bernadette Manuelito, a full-blooded Navajo and fellow member of the Tribal Police. Chee realized that the white man will never understand the Navajo but it was the white man’s world that was the source of his livelihood and most of his troubles. On the reservation violence is usually associated with the supernatural. In the white man's world the motivation for violence is often greed which makes no sense to a Navajo. Rest in peace Jim Chee.
A is for Attractive, B is for Brave, C is for Comical and so forth. Yep, I’m in love with Kinsey Millhone, Sue Grafton’s witty and charming private investigator who is working her way through the alphabet bagging bad guys. She quit college to join the Santa Teresa, California police force but two years of the police department’s bureaucracy was all she could take. She then became an investigator for an insurance company where she learned enough about investigating to go into private practice finding people, solving murders, clearing names and getting into all sorts of scrapes. She’s been married and divorced twice, first to an ex-cop and later to a struggling musician. Kinsey lives in a converted garage behind her landlord Henry, an eighty-something who bakes wonderful pastries and counsels and consoles her regularly. Henry is the only permanent man in her life. She has lots of relationships and affairs that all seem to fizzle out. Maybe it’s because we haven’t met yet.
I can’t figure out whether it’s the Jesse Stone of Robert B. Parker’s novels or the Jesse Stone played so wonderfully by Tom Selleck in the made-for-TV movies that I like better. Both equally I guess. Jesse was minor league shortstop who injured his throwing arm and still regrets and misses the baseball career he never got to realize. Strike one. His second strike came when his beautiful wife dumped him for a career in TV and his third strike was being fired from the LAPD because of a drinking problem. His career and his life are at rock bottom as he, the big city cop, deals with the small town issues of dinky, little Paradise, Massachusetts. Jesse brings a strong sense of right and wrong and a no bullshit style to his position as Paradise’s chief of police. As you read or watch Jesse you’ll want to drop your book or pause the TV and see if you can reach out and somehow help this deeply troubled man.
Unlike the Jesse Stone character I like the Alex Cross I take to bed with me much better than the one played by Morgan Freeman in his two movies. Cross is James Patterson’s African-American detective and psychologist living and working in Washington, D.C. He was with the homicide division of D.C’s Metropolitan Police Department before he became a Senior Agent for the FBI. He lives with his grandmother, Nana Mama and his children, Damon and Janelle, by his deceased wife and Alex Jr. by his ex-girlfriend, Christine. He drives a 1974 Porsche and plays the piano on his back porch to relax. He owns an Abyssinian cat named Rosie, who was left at his door, or so we’re told, by one of the evil villains Alex pursues so well. Alex has a lot more luck tracking down really weirdo serial killers than with his women. His wife Maria was murdered; his next lover was executed; his following squeeze was kidnapped before his next lover and former partner was murdered by a serial killer. Later he met a San Francisco P.D. inspector who looked like she might be around for a while but she parted company just before he began a relationship with a resident at a local hospital. But, you guessed it, she moved back to North Carolina and he’s now involved with a hot young detective on D.C. police force. Wow, Alex is getting more action than Warren Beatty.
Lucas Davenport is John Sandford’s. maverick detective lieutenant with the Minneapolis Police Department in his Prey series. He's known for his unorthodox and manipulative behavior as a detective and is as close to the Dirty Harry character as you’ll find in bedside reading. He often acts independently and feels more at home with his network of street contacts than with the police brass. He was forced to resign to avoid excessive force charges, partly due to his knowledge of the connection of a senior police officer to that case. He returned as a Deputy Chief running his own intelligence unit and is now an investigator for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, acting as a special troubleshooter for the governor in politically-sensitive cases. Davenport has strong interests in reading, poetry, war gaming and once spent an entire novel compiling his list of the top 100 rock-and-roll songs or all time. He suffers from a number of anxiety disorders, including depression and a chronic fear of flying. My kind of guy.
Ezekiel "Easy" Porterhouse Rawlins is Walter Mosley’s unemployed defense plant worker turned hard-boiled, unlicensed private investigator out of a need to make his house payments in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Easy is not a detective with a PhD living in the modern, racially integrated world of Alex Cross. He lives and investigates in the gritty black ghetto of Watts and experiences the racial inequities and social injustices experienced by African-Americans and other persons of color in the greater Los Angeles of the 1960s. If you’re up for a black Philip Marlowe or a Lew Archer of color, you’ll love Easy. He’s a private investigator with no background or training in law enforcement who matches wits with the best of ‘em sorting out corruption and solving crimes. Easy with help of his childhood friend, the murderous and charming Mouse give us an insiders look into the urban black culture of a bygone era.
Detective Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch is Michael Connelly’s veteran homicide detective in the prestigious Robbery Homicide Division of the Los Angeles Police Department. Bosch's mother, a prostitute in Hollywood, was murdered when Bosch was 11 years old and the key reason why he became a homicide detective. He ran away from his foster family to join the Army while he was still in his teens. In Vietnam, Bosch was a "tunnel rat", a specialized soldier whose job it was to venture into the maze of tunnels used by the Vietcong. After returning from Vietnam he joined the LAPD and quickly rose to the rank of Detective III. Bosch lives in a house on stilts in the Hollywood Hills; a home he financed by being the technical advisor on a TV mini-series. Bosch always finds himself in conflict with authority, whether it’s with his lieutenant, or his especially despicable Deputy Chief of Police or the FBI. His confrontational side is usually attributed to his strong sense of “do the right thing” coupled with his total lack of regard for his career but it is his relentlessness that drives him.
Okay, now you have it. These are the people I’ve been spending my late evenings and early mornings with: five cops, four PIs and a bounty hunter. This must say something about me but I don’t know what. I do know that if you long for an exciting evening … just pick up a book about one of these folks and you’ll never sleep alone again.
©2010 by Bob Rockwell