Mon 24 Mar 2008
The news of mystery writer Arthur Lyons’s unexpected death appeared quickly on the mystery blogs today. First to report was Jiro Kimura’s The Gumshoe Site, followed up soon after by Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet, with a long and personal homage to Mr. Lyons. The latter died on March 21st of complications from pneumonia and a stroke; he was only 62.
Arthur Lyons’s primary character, the one who appeared in all the novels he wrote on his alone and not as part of a twosome, was a LA-based private eye named Jacob Asch. Borrowing Kevin Burton Smith’s words:
“JACOB ASCH was a glib, cynical, half-Jewish reporter for the L.A. Chronicle until he got sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source. He did six months on a contempt of court beef, and when he was sprung, the glamour of journalism, for some reason, had lost its appeal for him. So now he’s a glib, cynical, half-Jewish LA private dick who gets involved in some very nasty murders, instead.”
From an interview that Jeff Pierce did with Arthur Lyons some time ago, here’s the author’s take on his character:
“You’ll never find Asch doing anything unlikely. He will not usually find stuff through coincidence. He’s a plodder. That’s what private detection is, going through papers. All of Asch’s cases come out of paper. He works with paper more than he does people, whereas in Ross Macdonald and with most of those guys, they do it with information people tell them. But there aren’t too many people out there who are going to spill their guts to an investigator, unless the guy has a handle on what’s going on.”
Here’s a complete list of Arthur Lyons’s work, at least in printed form. Taken and expanded upon from Crime Fiction IV, by Allen J. Hubin, I’ve been able to find covers from all but one of the Jacob Asch books. I apologize that it’s a mixture of hardcovers and paperbacks, nor have I made note of the various reprint editions in which his books have appeared.
LYONS, ARTHUR (Jr.) (1946-2008)
* The Dead Are Discreet (n.) Mason/Charter 1974 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* All God’s Children (n.) Mason/Charter 1975 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* The Killing Floor (n.) Mason/Charter 1976 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* Dead Ringer (n.) Mason/Charter 1977 [Jacob Asch]
* Castles Burning (n.) Holt 1980 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* Hard Trade (n.) Holt 1981 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* At the Hands of Another (n.) Holt 1983 [Jacob Asch; California]
* Three with a Bullet (n.) Holt 1985 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA; Idaho]
* Fast Fade (n.) Mysterious Press 1987 [Jacob Asch; California]
* Unnatural Causes [with Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D.] (n.) Putnam 1988 [Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Eric Parker]
* Other People’s Money (n.) Mysterious Press 1989 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
* Physical Evidence [with Thomas T. Noguchi, M.D.] (n.) Putnam 1990 [Los Angeles, CA; Dr. Eric Parker]
* False Pretenses (n.) Mysterious Press 1994 [Jacob Asch; Los Angeles, CA]
Slow Burn, based on Castles Burning. Starring Eric Roberts as Jacob Asch.
The Second Coming: Satanism in America (1970)
Satan Wants You: The Cult of Devil Worship in America (1971)
The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime (1991) (with Marcello Truzzi)
Death on the Cheap: The Lost B Movies of Film Noir (2000)
[UPDATE] 03-26-08. For an insightful essay by Jeff Pierce on both Lyons and Jacob Asch, may I suggest a return visit to The Rap Sheet. It was written in 1981 or thereabouts, but its age does not diminish the timeliness of this followup post in any way whatsoever.