Invisible Ink: No 88 - Loren D Estleman
Sunday 07 August 2011
I count at least 65 novels and hundreds of short stories to date in Loren D Estleman's Chandleresque output. Not bad for a guy who works on an old manual typewriter. He's been described as "the Stravinsky of hard-boiled prose", whatever that means, but his career to date is better summed up by The Boston Globe, which says that he's "a true professional, a writer of a sort increasingly rare ... so given to his work as to spontaneously combust to genius".
His novels are the kind you find in dog-eared editions on rotating wire racks in general stores, the sort you may only pick up when you're desperate for reading material on holiday. But Estleman has a secret: he's actually a terrific writer who can turn his hand to almost any style of prose. And that, as we know from past entries in this column, is enough to hopelessly confuse the public.
Estleman was born in 1952, and his childhood love of TV westerns such as Maverick and Gunsmoke led to a series of western novels. His detective fiction series featuring the Detroit-based private eye Amos Walker has reached its 20th volume, and he is currently running several other crime series in the US.
So, why is he difficult to find on British shelves? In part, Estleman is the kind of writer we no longer nurture or publish. In America it's still possible to enjoy a career based on sales of short fiction; many of Estleman's tales have been published in magazines including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. His latest creation, appearing in a series of short stories and novels, is Valentino, a film archiv-ist employed by UCLA who becomes an amateur sleuth involved in murder cases as he tracks down missing films and their stars, .
In the late Seventies, Estleman wrote two volumes of memoirs by John Watson MD, detailing untold novel-length adventures of Sherlock Holmes in which the Baker Street detective tracks Dracula and Dr Jekyll respectively. But my favourite Estleman oddity is Peeper, a pitch-perfect spoof of hardboiled fiction that starts with a dead priest in a hooker's bed. "Was he in a state of Grace?" asks the Bishop, upon hearing of the death. "See, that's what I wanted to talk to you about," replies the private dick, setting off on a chase through lowlife Detroit.
Estleman's excellent short stories have been collected, but are virtually impossible to find. Here's hoping his Valentino series finally introduces him to British readers.
The best TV shows and films coming to the servicetv
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
- 2 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 3 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 4 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 5 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut