Thursday, 29 October 2009


My obituary of Stuart Kaminsky, whose Toby Peters series was one of crime fiction's great entertainments, and whose biographies of Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel were among the really excellent works of early popular film criticism, was published in the Guardian today (you can link to it here). The paper corrected an error that had crept into the print edition and the first version posted online: in my original copy I had written he was a conscientious objector who served as a medic (which I had seen in an appreciation by Sara Paretsky) but his daughter Tasha, whom I reached to check facts, corrected me, and I corrected the copy, but somehow the original snuck back in. In fact, as Tasha told me, he would have preferred virtually any job except being a medic, and sadly, had that been the case, he would likely not have contacted hepatitis.

The Toby Peters books, inspired by Andrew Bergman, were a treasure trove of Hollywood lore and 1940s nostalgia. Kaminsky and Max Allan Collins had discussed bringing Peters together with Max's historical detective Nathan Heller, but sadly, that never happened. Peters' stock company could sometimes become a little farcical, but little things rang true: his feud with his older brother the cop, who resents that Toby has changed the family name of Pevsner, and his beat-up Crosley car; my parents moved into their house when I was two and their Crosley was still fully functioning (although almost impossbile to find parts for) when my mother finally moved out some 50 years later. Lots of people prefer Kaminsky's other series, which have their own virtues, but I like to think that, like black and white movies from that era of great film, the Peters books will always have their place.

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