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"Paranormal Detectives" from the 50's or 60's


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Initial post: Oct 17, 2011 7:56:11 AM PDT
I seem to recall from way back in my early SF reading that there was a "paranormal detective", probably a volume or two of short stories (or maybe never even collected from the magazines). Might have even been more than one of them, though, and I can't actually rule out novels. I'd guess probably the 50's, maybe the 60's or even 40's.

My very vague recollection is that these stories were along the line of the hard boiled private dick, and firmly set in the real world (big city, maybe San Francisco) .... but each with a paranormal twist, the odd ghost, werewolf, poltergeist, etc. Maybe a bit tongue in cheek, but not outright spoofs.

I could see Ron Goulart doing something like this, but I'm thinking more likely somebody like Brown, Leiber, one of those guys.

So, does this ring a bell with anyone?

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 12:19:41 PM PDT
Marion Stein says:
I can't think of a bell in books, but it reminded me of Kolchak - The Night Stalker television series with Darren MacGaven as a kind of noirish hardboiled reporter-type. I think late sixties or early seventies.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 1:09:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2011 1:20:14 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
It doesn't ring a bell:( Isidore Haiblum played around with a hard boiled style in some of his SF, as you say it would have been a natural for Goulart. The best of example that I've seen of the sort of thing you're asking about is fairly recent:

The Price of Salt (The Grim Arcana)

It's kindo like China Mieville doing tough guy, and notable for having the best hard boiled style I've read in or out of the genre.

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 2:38:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2011 3:00:45 PM PDT
me FPA says:
Actually, I'd like to know what those stories are; sci-fi/mystery and/or crime combos are my favorite type of book and movie.* Finding content in those genre blends is often difficult, at least for the other aspects I specifically like.

But if you like that genre combo in general, you might enjoy Pohl's Dan Dannerman character; I liked The Other End of Time a lot. Tom above had mentioned Blood Orbit to me; I read and liked that one. Thanks for that recommendation, Tom.

*Though I typically consider paranormal to be under the speculative-fiction umbrella term, not under the more specific science fiction type of speculative fiction. But it depends: paranormal could also be sci-fi to me if, for example, some scientific-sounding explanations are used. It really depends on the specific story. I do just like fantastical stories mixed with a hard-boiled writing style.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 17, 2011 9:06:26 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
@me FPA, I am glad you liked "Blood Orbit". There do seem to be a fair number of neonoirish urban fantasies now that fit in the genre we're discussing. However, I have lacked the time or inclination to peer deeply into "The Dresden File" spectrum.

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 9:53:38 PM PDT
Thanks for the ideas and suggestions,guys. I'll probably follow up a few of the latter for general interest, but I was specifically looking for those real early stories I seem to recall. I had recently read a couple of "Aunt Dimity" novels, which billed her as "the original" paranormal detective (the series started about 1990), and felt that wasn't really true.

@me FPA: I placed this in the science fiction forum because back in the days I was thinking of, urban fantasy of this sort was pretty intertwined with SF. These days, it seems like fantasy is a very separate thing, with it's own tropes and standardized plots/world, mostly either paranormal romance (vampire bodice rippers) or post-Tolkien sword-and-orc stuff.

One example that comes kind of close to what I"m looking for is Heinlein's Magic Inc., although that's a one-off and I do recall a series, and the magic in Magic Inc. is a big part of everyday life, rather than the odd little corner I was thinking of.

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 10:43:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2011 10:49:06 PM PDT
Tom Rogers says:
Thomas Carnacki (Hodgson) is a very early paranormal detective. You might be thinking of Jules de Grandin (Quinn), who came somewhat later, but is a more pulpy dude.

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 11:09:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 17, 2011 11:13:13 PM PDT
Jody says:
Could it be Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy you're thinking of? Garrett wrote three, I believe, and the series was continued by other authors. It's been a long time since I read them, but I remember how clever and well plotted they were. They're set in an alternate Europe and magic is very much a part. They're short mystery stories but I don't know if I'd call them hardboiled. I loved them.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2011 4:18:39 AM PDT
That sounds like Ghost Breaker by Ron Goulart. The book is a collection of Goulart's Max Kearny stories. Max worked for an advertising agency and the occult detective work was just on the side. I remember one of his clients turned into an elephant on national holidays while another was convinced her husband was having an affair with a mermaid.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2011 5:56:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 18, 2011 6:19:24 AM PDT
Thanks again, all.

@ Jody: I'm familiar with the Lord Darcy series. I didn't realize it had gone to three volumes, and I may try to hunt up what I've missed, but it's not really what I was looking for. As you point out, set in a world where magic is prominent part of the mix, and also hardly hardboiled.

@ Tom Rodgers: Carnacki sounds familiar, I'm not sure about de Grandin. My lib system doesn't have the collected Carnacki volume, but does have a collected Hodgson with the original "ghost breaker" story, and I'll request that. They don't have the rather grand sounding three volume collection of the Seabury Quinn stories, and at $325 I doubt they're going to order it (they don't even do interlibrary loan any more for budgetary reasons). Maybe some of those old stories are on the net somewhere? ETA: I doubt, on looking more closely, that was familiar with the de Grandin: they don't seem to have been collected until the recent 3-volume set, and they were all initially published before my SF days; it's just possible I ran across an old issue of Weird Tales, or one or two might have been anthologized. AHA! Further research (i.e. a search right here at ammie) shows that at least many of the de Grandin stories were collected in several paperback volumes in about 1976. (Bad Wikipedia article, not to mention these!) So it might, after all, have influenced my memories.

I don't think they're what I was looking for specifically, but to the extent I ran across them, they might have blended with other stories to form my vague memory.

@ Book Gift Giver: I think you've hit it, at least a major part of the memory, with the Max Kearney Ghost Breaker stories. The client who turned into an elephant on holidays definitely rings a bell. The description at Clockwork's Pirates / Ghost Breaker (Ace #11182) seems about right:
""Ghost Breaker" is a collection of occult investigator Max Kearny's case files: "Please Stand By" (1961); "Uncle Arly" (1962); "McNamara's Fish" (1963); "Kearny's Last Case" (1965); "Breakaway House" (1966); "The Ghost Patrol" (1968); "The Strawhouse Pavilion" (1969); "Fill in the Blank" (1967). "
The library system doesn't have this, though they do have a lot of Goulart. I'm pretty sure I've got it somewhere among boxes of old SF which I really have to go through some day.

Posted on Oct 19, 2011 9:41:00 AM PDT
Supernatural Sleuths: 14 Mysterious Stories of Uncanny Crime
Dark Detectives: Adventures of the Supernatural Sleuths
Black Veil & Other Tales (Mystery & the Supernatural) (Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural)
The Vampire Files, Volume One
Diana Tregarde Investigates (Children of the Night, Burning Water, & Jinx High)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2011 10:54:45 AM PDT
Thanks, homecooking.

The first couple or three, the anthologies, look like they have some interesting material going back to the good old days, and some of the stories or characters could have been mixed into the gestalt I was recalling.

The Vampire Files tales look interesting, and maybe have some of the right atmosphere, but as far as I can see were from the 1990's, way too late for what I'm thinking of.

The Diana Tregarde books sound more comparable to later Buffy vs monster of the week, and are also from about 1990 et seq, as far as I can see. (Why doesn't amazon give actual copyright dates, instead of printing dates?)
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Discussion in:  Science Fiction forum
Participants:  7
Total posts:  12
Initial post:  Oct 17, 2011
Latest post:  Oct 19, 2011

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