A number of years ago, I began work on my own version of a hard-boiled detective novel. It began as an experiment, really. I’d long been enamored of the genre, read the entire output of the greats of that era: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, W.R. Burnett, and others. At the very least, even if it didn’t go anywhere, I thought it would be fun. I was curious to see what I could do with it.
I did have an idea, though, that my detective would be somewhat bumbling. He’d be a guy who solved cases more by blind luck and being in the right place at the right time, rather than any skill at deductive reasoning or knowledge of the human condition. So right away, I figured it would be more humorous than serious. But that would be okay too.
Anyway, I got two or three chapters into the thing and did have some fun. I didn’t give the detective a name and wasn’t sure I was going to. Though I wasn’t married to the idea, I liked the way Hammett in his “Continental Op” series had never named his. If I didn’t name my own detective, it would be subtle homage to that.
In the midst of all this, I was watching television one evening, just clicking around, when I happened upon NBC’s Dateline program. It was one of those “To Catch a Predator” things, where Chris Hansen teams up with cybersleuths who tempt men looking for sex to a nice suburban house for some underage action.
A light went off, and immediately, I went to my desk and began writing. In mostly one sitting, the story Telegraph Hill was born, in which a bumbling private detective (somehow) gets goaded into visiting one of those nice suburban homes where he meets up with Chris Hansen and crew.
In the course of writing it, the plot required I give my detective a name. Further, it required that his name be Dick. Thus, Dick Londergan was born. It also required some other things I hadn’t foreseen when I wrote those first few experimental chapters.
For one, it required my detective be so hard-boiled and rooted in the golden age of detective fiction that he was almost oblivious to modern times. Less comfortable for me, not wanting to offend, it also required he have a gay assistant. I did the best I could with that, and Londergan’s assistant Kyle was born.
However, after finishing the story, there was really nowhere to send it. There aren’t a whole lot of "humorous pulp fiction meets modern times" outlets, if you know what I mean.
To my surprise, when I put it up on Smashwords and Amazon for 99 cents, people started buying it, and what's more, not hating it. In fact, there were months when "Telegraph Hill" was the only story I sold, if even just a few copies. So that gave me hope there might at least be a small market for just such a thing.
I did go on and finish that full-length Londergan novel and called it Hell City. I also went on to write two other Londergan shorts: A Very Dick Londergan Christmas, a (hopefully) humorous mash-up of "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Very Brady Christmas" and The Ghost and Mr. Londergan, in which Dick takes a job spending the night in a haunted house.
At any rate, I very much enjoyed writing the Londergan tales. I hope you enjoy reading them.