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Death of An Unknown Detective

Actor Ralph Waite, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 85, didn't know it, but he starred in at least three detective stories. They were written by yours truly and, of course, never published, but they exist. Three stories completed, one pretty much done but in need of editing, and strands of a few more in-progress. That, dear reader, is the life of an old detective who was portrayed by Mr. Ralph Waite.

I wrote for pleasure, at leisure, beginning in 1984. It wasn't enough to simply read short stories, novels, or to watch a good story on television -- I wanted to create them. So, I did. There were lots of influences: old Vincent Price horror movies, Gothic episodes of Doctor Who such as The Talons of Weng-Chiang and the novels of P.D. James. In 1989, I read the novelization of the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson Batman movie and decided, "I'm going to do this one better," and wrote a 32-page story about Foxbolt, the superhero in one of the comics I wrote and drew.

In 1992, I felt the urge to write a proper detective story. This was during the height of my love for the genre. I was really into reading P.D. James novels and watching the British mysteries of Campion, Morse and Poirot on PBS. Detective Alexander Robertson was kind of a mixture of all of them. The premise that my 17-year-old mind devised was that he was a retired cop who'd won the lottery and was living the good life. He had a friend, a portly gentleman named Mr. Plum, and they would solve mysteries together as amateur sleuths.

'Where is Ralph Waite in all of this?' I hear you ask. Well, he was Alexander Robertson, at least in my mind. I thought of the old, retired detective as someone white-haired, with a bit of a gooseneck, a gentle yet authoritative voice, and kind but wickedly discerning eyes. This was my detective. This was Alexander Robertson. I can't attest to how good the actual stories were. I'm a little biased, especially to a younger teenage self, but I one thing I can say is that Mr. Waite did an excellent job in the role.

He never knew that he did, of course.

RIP, Alexander Robertson.


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