One of my favorite mystery authors is
He is the author of 50 published novels, 5 biographies, 4 textbooks,
and 35 short stories. He also has screenwriting credits on four produced
films which include, Once Upon A Time In America, Enemy Territory, A
Woman In The Wind, and Hidden Fears.
He is past president of the Mystery Writers of America, and
has been nominated for six Edgar Allen Poe mystery book awards.
Stuart Kaminsky writes several popular
mystery series including those featuring:
Lew Fonesca, (An investigator for local attorneys in Sarasota
Abraham Lieberman, (A 60 -something Jewish police
detective and his Irish-Catholic partner in Chicago Illinois.)
Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, (A Russian
police inspector in Moscow, Russia) and, imagine Peter Falk as Columbo.
Take away his raincoat, give him a boxer-like flattened nose, put him
into the Los Angeles and Hollywood of the 1940s when and where I grew
up, and you have my favorite Stuart Kaminsky character, the well-beaten
private investigator, who is so impoverished, that he's not particularly
fussy about the kinds of cases he takes.
His name is Tobias Leo Pevner aka Toby
Peters, and unlike his creator
Stuart Kaminsky, who was born in Chicago, Toby and his brother Phil,
grew up in Glendale, California, where both of them worked in their
father's grocery store.
They both became cops, but while brother Phil got married, got
promoted, got married, got kids, etc., Toby got married, got fired, got
divorced, then got a job at Warner Brothers Studio.
Unfortunately, after he broke the arm of
some cowboy star who, "made the mistake of thinking that he was as
tough in person as he was on screen", Toby got canned by the boss
himself, Jack Warner.
Down on his luck without a buck,
and running out of options, Toby rented space in what can only be
termed, " a broom closet with window, desk, and two chairs",
located in a section of the dental office of Sheldon Minck D.D.S., who
can only loosely be termed an oral surgeon.
It was here that he set up shop as a private eye.
While helping his client Judy Garland in the 1977 book
Murder On The Yellow-Brick Road, Toby saved the life of Gunther
Wherthman. Gunther was a former munchkin in the Garland movie, The
Wizard of Oz, as well as a multi-lingual translator for the government.
This little person became Toby's best friend, and got him
a place to live in a boardinghouse owned by Mrs. Plaut, who because of
her deafness calls Toby, Mr. Peelers.
Another friend of Toby is Jeremy Butler. He is a
sensitive poet, janitor, muscle-bound former professional wrestler, and
owner of the building where Toby's "broom closet" is located.
There are now 22 novels in this series, and since the advent
of Toby's first client, the swashbuckling Errol Flyn in 1977, Stuart
Kaminsky has used his film expertise to bring Toby a host of clients
including, the Marx Brothers, Bela Lugosi, Gary Cooper, Mae West,
Eleanor Roosevelt, Joe Louis, John Wayne, Clark Gable, and a myriad of
His latest client is Cary Grant in, To Catch
Combine the Cary Grant who played an American
intelligence agent with Ingrid Bergman in "Notorious" and the Cary Grant
who played an advertising executive with Eva Marie Saint in "North By
Northwest." Instead of Cary and Eva Marie Saint hanging around on top of
the presidents' heads on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota, let him hang
around the top of Laurel Canyon in California with Toby Peters, as they
attempt To Catch A Spy.
The reason that I like this series, is that those of us who grew up
with Old Time Radio and movies on a big theatre screen rather than a TV
box, can find references to the shows, the stars, and the history of
that period. Another thing that makes me like this series, is that unlike
so many books, television movies, and movie screens motion pictures, the
Toby Peters series is a family read, with no overt sex and violence.
[An Aside:] In a number of Cary Grant biographies, it states that
Grant had been working as a special agent for the British Intelligence
Service since the late 1930s, and that several years later, a telegram
from Sir William Samuel Stephenson, Head of British Security
Coordination, confirmed Grant's role as a secret agent.
In light of the following, this seems quite credible.
In 1940, Winston Churchill dispatched a Canadian industrialist to New
York with an extraordinary mission. He was to set up a secret spy
network across both North and South America to cripple and confound Nazi
propaganda and to fan the flames of pro-war sentiment.
This man, William Stephenson, was known simply as "Intrepid",
and it is said that he was the real-life model for Ian Fleming's James
During the Second World War, the intelligence exploits of this
mysterious man were celebrated in his lifetime in espionage lore the
Stephenson set up shop in Rockefeller Center to build a vast
Operating on still-neutral soil, Stephenson's people soon launched an
astonishing bagful of dirty tricks., infiltrated labor unions, and
spread British propaganda using U.S. radio stations, and enlisted
prominent journalists such as Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson to their
From the attacks and invasions upon their neighbors by the Nazis in
1939, to the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and the subsequent
declaration of war by the United States upon Japan on December 8, 1941
and Germany's declaration of war against the United States, Americans
had engaged in one of the bitterest debates in their history. This was
whether or not to aid Britain at the risk of entering World War II.
Each step taken by the Roosevelt administration brought the United
States closer to war: repeal of the arms embargo in 1939, the
destroyers-for-bases deal in 1940, and in 1941, the Lend-Lease Act, the
occupation of Greenland and Iceland, the presidential order to shoot
German submarines "on sight," the arming of merchant vessels,
and the removal of the ban of entry into Allied ports.
I haven't seen the alleged "telegram" previously mentioned
that supposedly confirmed Cary Grant's work as a special agent for the
British Intelligence Services, but I doubt it not.
To purchase To Catch
a Spy, click on the book cover below:
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