Why P.I.s Are Cool

21 May

Originally posted in King’s River Life Magazine

Why P.I.s Are Cool
by DP Lyle

Cops are cool, and memorable fictional characters, but P.I.s seem to come in more variable and quirkier flavors. From ex-military types to everyday folks with a knack for sniffing out wrongdoing to little old ladies with cats. The latter tend to be the smartest and toughest. This wide variety is what makes reading P.I. stories fun. Private investigators, both licensed and amateur, tend to be more eccentric, possess different skills (some useful, others less so), and seem to break the rules with impunity. How much fun is that?

The fictional P.I. world is populated with iconic characters such as Holmes, Spade, Marlowe, Milhone, Hammer, Archer, Robicheaux, and the list goes on. Meeting such folks is why reading P.I. novels is so rewarding. And so much fun to write.

Each of my four thriller series (Dub Walker, Samantha Cody, Jake Longly, Cain/Harper) features a private investigator, of sorts. None are what you would call a normal, licensed P.I. but each serves that function one way or the other.

Case in point: Jake Longly.

Jake, the protagonist of my comedic thriller series (DEEP SIX, A-LIST, SUNSHINE STATE, and now RIGGED) is a reluctant P.I. Though he tries to avoid it, he finds himself repeatedly dragged into that world, kicking and screaming all the way, Usually by his father Ray and best friend Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers, both real P.I.s, as well as his girlfriend Nicole Jamison, who sorta, kinda works for Ray. 

Jake is an ex-professional baseball pitcher and now owns Captain Rocky’s, his bar/restaurant on the sand in Gulf Shores, Alabama. His life goals are running his bar, hanging out with friends, and chasing bikinis. Well, until Nicole came along. For Jake, life is good. He’s content. He feels that running his bar and lazing on the beach are worthy aspirations. Ray feels otherwise. Ray, who has some murky military history that he rarely talks about and probably can’t without violating a stack of federal statutes, simply doesn’t understand why Jake won’t work for him. A real job is Ray’s take. Jake believes that running Captain Rocky’s is as real as a job needs to be. I mean, he has to show up most days. Isn’t that the definition of a job? Jake also believes that Ray, and probably Pancake and Nicole, are constantly conspiring to drag him into Ray’s domain. Jake’s refusal creates tension, to say the least.

Though Jake fights, scratches, twists, and turns to avoid entering Ray’s world, he constantly finds himself exactly there. And then things get quirky. Therein lies the comedy.

Jake is not well-suited for the P.I. life. And not all that good at it. Barbara Plummer, the target of an adultery case who Jake is staking out gets murdered right under his nose (DEEP SIX); Kirk Ford Hollywood A-List actor filming in New Orleans awakens next to a dead co-ed who happens to be the niece of a mafia-type (A-LIST); Billy Wayne Baker who sits on death row in Florida hires the crew to prove he only killed five of the seven people he confessed to murdering (SUNSHINE STATE); and the solving of the murder of Pancake’s sixth-grade sweetheart in the idyllic town of Fairhope, Alabama leads to a world where nothing is as it seems (RIGGED). In each story, Jake manages to stumble and bumble into solving the crime and saving the day. 

The protagonist investigators of my other series are entirely different animals. Samantha Cody is an ex-cop. ex-professional boxer, who often becomes involved in solving issues for friends. Dub Walker, a forensic science and criminal behavior expert, works alongside best friend Detective T-Tommy Tortelli to solve difficult cases. Bobby Cain and Harper McCoy are non-biological siblings who were raised by a gypsy-like family and trained by the military and now fix the unfixable. See? A variety of characters.

I think the great variability in P.I. characters makes for engaging stories and, as a writer, excellent fodder for character creation and storytelling. It’s why I read P.I. novels and why I write them. As do many of my fellow authors. 

If you also like P.I. stories drop into Jake’s world. I think you’ll have fun.


RIGGED Details:


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Posted by on May 21, 2020 in Writing


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