THE LAST SHAFT
© 1975 Ernest Tidyman
UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published 27th March 1975 (0-297-76887-5) [hardcover]; 160pp
UK: Corgi edition published 28th January 1977 (0-552-10354-3) [paperback]; 160pp
Story: Ernest Tidyman
Manuscript: Phillip Rock
Final Edited Manuscript: Ernest Tidyman
Dedication: For Judith Loth. Who knew him well.
The Last Shaft? Could it be? Had the super cool, super black private eye finally met his match? In the dark alleys of Manhattan, death was stalking the prowling black cat from Harlem. And New York’s underworld operators were all ready to dance at the funeral. But could be they were jumping the gun – big John Shaft didn’t aim to bow out that easily…
JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator
WILLIE, Desk clerk at Chelsea Hotel
SANDRA SHANE, Mickelberg’s ex-wife
RUDOLPH GROMYCK, NYPD
CAPT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct
MORRIS MICKELBERG, Mafia bag man
FRANKLIN DIAMOND, lawyer
DON ANGELO CALABRESI, Mafia Don
DON VITO CARUSO, Mafia Don
DON ANTHONY PANGRINI, Mafia Don
GUIDO GRIMALDO, Mafia co-ordinator
SAUL “THE HAMMER” ARNSTEIN, Grimaldo’s chief aide
FAT DOMINIC PIZZOLA, North Mafia boss
FERDINAND, owner of Army Navy store
MIRIAM, Willie’s girlfriend
JOLLY JOHNSON, pimp
LADY LIPS, prostitute
ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman
BOSWELL STAMMERS, lawyer
DAVID LEVINE, lawyer
DETECTIVE PATRIARCA, NYPD
DETECTIVE FERGUS, NYPD
ARCHIBALD COOMBE, “The Mouth” at City Hall
SEAMUS O’KANE, Irish gangster
Mafia Hoods: BIPPY SCALLO, SAM “DUCK-PIN” GIAMO, JOEY CALABRESI, RICO CALA-BRESI, BENNY RUBIO, TONY SCARSI, JOE SCAPATINI, ANGELO DE MARCO, CHARLES “BIG C” YACOVELLI, STEVE MASSERIA, FRANK “THE SNAKE” TRAMUNDI, ANIELLO “CRAZY EYES” CAPUZZI, EDDY DRAGO, CHARLES MIGLIA, ALPHONSE FRISCH, BILL KIDD, ENRICO VERDI, JOE “THE SWITCH” TAGLIO, MARCO GASPARI
- Based on a story treatment by Ernest Tidyman the writing was commenced by Phillip Rock in October 1973.
- Rock’s manuscript was delivered on 11 January 1974 with Tidyman’s final version readied on 22 January.
- The novel is set in November 1973.
- The dedication recipient, Judy Oppenheimer Loth, a writer best-known for her biography of Shirley Jackson, had a continuing relationship with Tidyman. Tidyman took on the role of mentor to encourage Loth’s ambitions as a creative writer.
- Determined to at least see Shaft’s final story in print in the US, Tidyman approached other publishing houses including Sedgwick Morris and Bleecker Leggett.
Shaft felt like a stale peanut butter sandwich some kid had discarded under a picnic table in favour of a second popsicle.
The glint of metal became a blossom of flame, a bouquet of orange and vermilion thunder flowers. But only for the shortest moment known to man, that moment before dying. (Chapter 11)
Shaft bows out with an all action finale to the series, albeit hampered by a laziness to the plotting. Despite its many faults in plotting and some contrivances, Tidyman and Rock still manage to produce a fast and at times entertaining read that is certainly better written than SHAFT’S CARNIVAL OF KILLERS. However, it remains a disappointing close to a series which started with such promise.
“If we have now seen, as this book indicates, the last of John Shaft, Harlem’s own private eye, I shall not mourn his demise, though a lot of people have come to like his up-dated toughness (Raymond Chandler with the rude words added). This one deals (yes, really) with corruption in the big city and Shaft is mugged at the end.” – Andrew Hope, Evening Standard, 8 April 1975
“Mr. Tidyman has served up as succulent a dish of excitement as would satisfy any gourmet.” – Mick Mills, Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune, 15 October 1975