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Gumshoe: Reflections in a Private Eye Mass Market Paperback – September 30, 1989

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why would a philosophy professor at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, married with two dependent children, give up a tenured post paying an estimated $75 an hour to become a San Francisco private eyeapprentice op, in the lingoat $10 an hour? Perhaps for the "voyeur's rush" he feels on surveillance jobs? Readers, for their part, will experience little of that high as Thompson relates the "hugger-mugger stuff" (his wife's phrase) of his work during 1978-88: a palimony suit involving a gay podiatrist, murder in Chinatown, domestic-estrangement capers, a trip to India on a child-custody case. With nods to Kierkegaard's "despair of finitude" and to the "detectivery and shadowy" ideal of "St. Dashiell" (Hammett), he shows us a philosopher "dicking around as a detective" and becoming so pleased with himself that he makes his new career permanent. Readers can only wonder at his misreading of Soren and Dash.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While on a sabbatical, Thompson, Haverford College professor of philosophy, took a job as a private investigator in the San Francisco area. In this book, he narrates his experiences on several cases, during which he confronted himself and his concept of morality. He tells of auto repossession, murder, child snatching in India, and recovering $30,000 for an accused drug smuggler. Occasionally philosophical, at times introspective, Thompson uses Dashiell Hammett's fictional Sam Spade as his measure. Lack of continuity and suspense tarnish what could have been a fascinating firsthand account. Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Fawcett (September 30, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449217698
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449217696
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,392,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Imagine the talents of the late John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers and Brad Solomon THE OPEN SHADOW By BRAD SOLOMON 1978 FIRST EDITION combined and you'll get just a hint of the style of Josiah Thompson. This is non-fiction excellence. Although this is a true story, I've had this image of Michael Z. Lewin's--Albert Samson The Silent Salesman a Novel of Suspense in my head since reading it for the first time many years ago.

Josiah is a philosopher, and as such his style is to take in great deal of detail in the telling. Martin Heidegger's reference to a 'world worlding' comes to mind. And by that I don't mean that this is so intellectual that it will lose readers, but that it so rich that the world herein surely comes alive. So much so that even more sophisticated readers may in fact be seduced into wanting to try the adventure that Thompson took a sabbatical to try.

This is an adventure on a par with Fatu-Hiva Back to Nature. If you ever even thought you might like to try the life of a private detective this is the book to read. And based on the number of internet schools advertising careers as a 'Private Detective' I think this superior book can expect new readership.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This stands out for very fine writing that pulls you right into a gritty, from-the-ground-up view of real PI work. In the Age of The Rockford Files - the 1970s, before hacking, pretext-calling, and cell phones - Thompson must rely on his wits and tenacity when performing the surveillance work detailed here.He is a gifted author who chronicles jobs with little inherent drama and makes them page-turners.

GUMSHOE comprises a very well-sketched series of vignettes detailing moments of Thompson's work, from his first mundane case that didn't seem real "until I saw the bullet hole", to a very complicated caper in the Third World.

At first Thompson gives snapshots of moments out in the field that are very, very interesting, but - true to real life - don't evolve anywhere (his work is long finished before the particulars are settled). As he moves into this new career, he ruminates how his personal life influenced his attraction to it, and contrasts his collegiate job to this new, grittier one. Later in the book his cases become longer and even more gripping. GUMSHOE climaxes with a true-life adventure that unfolds like a traditional PI story, except it's real, right down to the mundane problems that actually turn out to be quite critical as he travels halfway around the world in a job worthy of a movie.

This is what makes memoirs so great - you see little corners and slices of life undocumented anywhere else. Usually you have to tolerate dull clunky writing; Thompson, though, is a talented author who already had three books under his belt before he wrote this one. I wish he had written ten more. He's still a celebrated private detective.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
A very interesting and informative read about one of the most misunderstood professions ever. Thompson takes us through some typical days of a modern private detective and soon we realize the old stereotype of a seedy office, bottle of bourbon, fast fists, and a Colt .45 belongs strictly in a '40's detective movie. Thompson points out that the computer is the "weapon" of choice now and it is the staple of the profession. Information gathering is what a detective is paid for and by networking with other computer users and agencies they carve out a living. If you want glamour and excitement, watch an old Bogie black and white. But if you want a true and factual account of what a private eye does and how they work then read this.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an author signed copy, and I didn't even know that when I bought it. Fair condition, but workable, and it is really old, so no surprise. Love this book. Read it many years ago, and wanted to re-read.
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