The world of Shaft: a complete guide to the novels, comic strip, films and television series 9780786499236, 9781476622231, 0786499230

Mention Shaft and most people think of Gordon Parks' seminal 1971 film starring Richard Roundtree in a leather coat

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English Pages viii, 257 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm Year 2015

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The world of Shaft: a complete guide to the novels, comic strip, films and television series
 9780786499236, 9781476622231, 0786499230

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Table of Contents......Page 6
Acknowledgments......Page 8
Foreword by David F. Walker......Page 10
Introduction......Page 14
1. The Shaft Phenomenon......Page 18
2. Ernest Tidyman: The White Man Behind the Black Hero......Page 24
3. The Shaft Novels......Page 44
Book 1: Shaft (1970)......Page 50
Book 2: Shaft Among the Jews (1972)......Page 59
Book 3: Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)......Page 67
Book 4: Shaft Has a Ball (1973)......Page 72
Book 5: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (1973)......Page 78
Book 6: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (1974)......Page 86
Book 7: The Last Shaft (1975)......Page 92
4. The Shaft Comic Strip......Page 100
5. John Shaft: A Portrait......Page 105
6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters......Page 115
7. Shaft’s New York......Page 126
8. Gordon Parks: A Life in Pictures......Page 142
9. Richard Roundtree: The Man Who Was Shaft......Page 146
Shaft (1971)......Page 151
Shaft’s Big Score! (1972)......Page 170
Shaft in Africa (1973)......Page 185
11. The Shaft TV Series (1973–4)......Page 198
Episode 1: “The Executioners”......Page 203
Episode 2: “The Killing”......Page 206
Episode 3: “Hit-Run”......Page 209
Episode 4: “The Kidnapping”......Page 210
Episode 5: “Cop Killer”......Page 213
Episode 6: “The Capricorn Murders”......Page 215
Episode 7: “The Murder Machine”......Page 217
Shaft (2000)......Page 220
Epilogue: Shaft Back in Print......Page 230
A: Ernest Tidyman Credits......Page 234
B: Gordon Parks Credits......Page 235
C: Richard Roundtree Credits......Page 236
E: Phillip Rock Credits......Page 239
G: Shaft’s Openings......Page 240
H: A Character Named Willie......Page 241
Chapter Notes......Page 242
Bibliography......Page 252
Index......Page 258

Citation preview

The World of Shaft

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The World of Shaft A Complete Guide to the Novels, Comic Strip, Films and Television Series

Steve Aldous Foreword by David F. Walker

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Jefferson, North Carolina

ISBN 978-0-7864-9923-6 (socover : acid free paper) ISBN 978-1-4766-2223-1 (ebook)

LibrAry oF CongreSS CATALoguing DATA Are AvAiLAbLe briTiSh LibrAry CATALoguing DATA Are AvAiLAbLe

© 2015 Steve Aldous. All rights reserved No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Front cover: poster art for Sha’s Big Score! featuring richard roundtree, 1972 (MgM/Photofest) Manufactured in the united States of America

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers Box 611, Jefferson, North Carolina 28640

Table of Contents Acknowledgments Foreword by David F. Walker Introduction

vii 1 5

Part I—The Genesis of John Shaft 1. The Shaft Phenomenon 2. ernest Tidyman: The White Man behind the black hero

9 15

Part II—Shaft in Print 3. The Shaft novels book 1: Shaft (1970) book 2: Shaft Among the Jews (1972) book 3: Shaft’s big Score! (1972) book 4: Shaft has a ball (1973) book 5: goodbye, Mr. Shaft (1973) book 6: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (1974) book 7: The Last Shaft (1975) 4. The Shaft Comic Strip 5. John Shaft: A Portrait 6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters 7. Shaft’s new york Part III—Shaft on Screen 8. gordon Parks: A Life in Pictures 9. richard roundtree: The Man Who Was Shaft 10. The Shaft Films Shaft (1971) Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) Shaft in Africa (1973) v

35 41 50 58 63 69 77 83 91 96 106 117 133 137 142 161 176


Table of Contents

11. The Shaft Tv Series (1973–4) episode 1: “The executioners” episode 2: “The Killing” episode 3: “hit-run” episode 4: “The Kidnapping” episode 5: “Cop Killer” episode 6: “The Capricorn Murders” episode 7: “The Murder Machine” 12. Shaft returns Shaft (2000)

189 194 197 200 201 204 206 208

epilogue: Shaft back in Print


Appendices: A: Ernest Tidyman Credits B: Gordon Parks Credits C: Richard Roundtree Credits D: Robert Turner Credits E: Phillip Rock Credits F: Shaft’s Publishers G: Shaft’s Openings H: A Character Named Willie

225 226 227 230 230 231 231 232

Chapter Notes Bibliography Index

233 243 249


Acknowledgments This book has been compiled from the huge amount of research i undertook over a period of years. As ever, the internet proved to be a great resource providing me with access to archived articles and some key contacts. however, i still had gaps in relation to the novels. My breakthrough came in February 2014, when i discovered the American heritage Center, based at the university of Wyoming, held ernest Tidyman’s papers—over 140 boxes of material had been donated by his widow, Chris Clark-Tidyman. These papers offered significant new insight into the development and history of the Shaft novels, films, proposed comic strip and Tidyman himself and have been the key material source for my book. My thanks also goes to the following individuals: ChrIS Clark-TIdymaN for providing her blessing and encouragement for this project. Chris remains enthusiastic about all things Shaft as you will discover. PaTTy keSSler, who acted as my proxy researcher in reviewing ernest Tidyman’s papers. i quickly began to realize was there was a vast amount of material available to review. The problem i had was that i live in the uK and the papers were in the Wyoming. The AhC therefore put me in touch with Patty who set about the task of itemizing, describing and copying content under my direction over the period of a year. i therefore owe Patty a huge thank you for her time, patience, perseverance and most of all her enthusiasm for the project. Simply, without Patty’s help this book would not have been possible. davId F. Walker, for sharing his plans for the new Shaft comic book series and prose novels as well as writing the Foreword for this book. David is an exciting talent who must be one of the hardest working people i have come across. he is also the “keeper of the keys” to Shaft and the legacy is in great hands. davId ruSSell, for providing me with development material from the proposed 1972/3 Shaft daily newspaper comic strip. David also kindly restored his original test panels for this project and i am very grateful for his generosity with his time. David is a very talented artist and his work is well worth seeking out. vii



alaN rINzler, the commissioning editor at Macmillan who brought Tidyman on board to write Shaft, for his time and patience in answering my questions. My book acknowledges the role he played in the Shaft story. raChael dreyer, JohN r. WaGGeNer and the archive team at the American heritage Center at the university of Wyoming for their support in providing me with a detailed inventory and initial copies on request and permission for use of material in this book. JeFF kINGSToN PIerCe for publishing on his web blog The Rap Sheet a couple of articles i had written on the Shaft books, which gave me the confidence there would be sufficient interest in the character for me to seek publishing interest. ThomaS aTkINS at random house for granting permission to use covers from my uK paperback Shaft originals.

Foreword by David F. Walker Most people don’t understand the importance of John Shaft. This in and of itself is not that surprising, as most people fail to understand the significance found within much of pop culture entertainment. The diversions that provide momentary respite from the real world, are often examined solely on a surface level, taken in as superficial and disposable sensory perceptions, and then often dismissed or forgotten. but sometimes these diversions resonate in ways that create something more enduring. it is at these times that the rather disposable nature of popular entertainment transforms into something more lasting, becoming something of a touchstone. This is what happened with private detective John Shaft. he became something enduring—something important—though in time many people either have forgotten, or never fully examined the importance of the character. Perhaps the best way to explain the importance of Shaft—aside from the wonderful book that awaits—is to offer a very personal example of the impact the character has had. it is some time in the early 1970s (though i’m not sure of the exact year), and my cousin Sean and i are both very young, impressionable, and just starting to explore the world of popular culture. We’ve already been introduced to James bond, and through syndicated reruns, we’ve discovered both Star Trek and Batman. For two kids, both around five or six years old, the trifecta of cool is, in no particular order, James bond, Star Trek, and Batman. And then one afternoon, Sean and i found his father’s copy of the isaac hayes soundtrack album to the 1971 film Shaft. We stared in wide-eyed wonder at the image of richard roundtree on the album cover. We had never seen anything like it before. We had never seen anyone like Shaft before. And keep in mind, at this point we hadn’t even seen the movie—we were just looking at the album cover! up to that moment, all the heroes we had in film and television and comic books—all the guys we wanted to be—had been white. in an era when actors like Denzel Washington and Will Smith play tough action heroes and save the world from alien invasions, it is difficult for some 1


Foreword by David F. Walker

people to grasp the notion that this wasn’t always how things were. People forget that the larger-than-life personas that typify many of the rappers in the world of hip-hop are still a relatively new thing. in a time of bravado and hyper-masculinity, too many people have forgotten that it wasn’t that long ago when America was the land of separate-but-equal, where segregation was legal in much of the country, and black folks were told to know their place. before cats like ice Cube emerged—first as a member of n.W.A., and then as an actor—what we got as representations of black masculinity were men like bill “bojangles” robinson as the docile sidekick to Shirley Temple. When author ernest Tidyman’s book Shaft was first published in 1970, and director gordon Parks’ cinematic adaptation followed a year later, a new era of black representation began in American pop culture. To be clear, there were other contributors to the significant changes that would take place during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and in no way do i want to diminish the contributions of actors like Sidney Poitier, or filmmakers like Melvin van Peebles. Likewise, i’m not trying to exclude the contribution of real life people who struggled during the Civil rights Movement to create a better place of black Americans. but this book is about Shaft and Tidyman. John Shaft, the former juvenile delinquent, who served in the vietnam War, and became one of the toughest private detectives to set up shop in new york, is a character that forever changed my life, and the lives of countless other young black kids in America. he was a key player at a pivotal moment in history that provided not only heroes that looked like us, but that crucial inspiration so many of us needed to activate our dreams. With the arrival of Shaft, black kids like me, growing up in predominantly white communities, were set free from the governing laws of the playground that said we could not be the hero: “you can’t be __________, he’s a white guy.” before Shaft came along, i had never seen a representation of a black man as the hero. i didn’t know how much i wanted to see something like that, until i actually saw it, and my view of the world, and myself, shifted greatly. Suddenly, there was a place for heroes that looked like my cousin and me. As a child, this was just something that was really cool. but as i grew older, and as i began to write and explore my own creativity, the heroes i began to envision and create were informed by the pop culture paradigm shift that included John Shaft, standing defiantly with his middle finger in the air. i first fell under the spell of Shaft when i saw that iconic image on the album cover. years later, when i finally read Tidyman’s book—after having seen the film countless times—the character resonated even more deeply. it may sound hyperbolic, but without ernest Tidyman and John Shaft, i would not be the writer that i am today. This is not to say that i wouldn’t have become a writer without them, because that was always in my destiny. but

Foreword by David F. Walker


without them, i would have become a different writer, of that i have no doubt. i mean let’s be honest, my breakout work as a comic book writer—the title that put me in the spotlight—was Shaft. That comic book started as the spark of an idea in the mind of a child, who grew up to have it become a reality. i think that helps to illustrate the importance and impact the character has had, at least on a personal level. Double entendre aside, Tidyman gave me Shaft, and Shaft gave me permission to be the hero in a very specific context, at a time when that didn’t seem possible. For both, i am eternally grateful.

David F. Walker is an award-winning journalist, filmmaker, educator, podcast personality, comic book writer, and author. He produced the documentary Macked, hammered, Slaughtered & Shafted and co-authored the book Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. He engineered in 2014 a deal between Ernest Tidyman’s estate and Dynamite Entertainment to launch a Shaft comic book and a new novel, SHAFT ’ S REvENGE, both written by Mr. Walker.

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introduction John Shaft is an undisputed cultural icon who in the early 1970s became a role model to black Americans fighting oppression and looking for the social reform that would give the same opportunities in life as white Americans. The Civil rights Movement had mobilized black people to campaign for their rights to equality and militant groups under the banner of “black Power” had shown they were willing to fight. America had gradually come to accept the need for change and the government followed up with legislation. When richard roundtree’s Shaft emerged confidently from the new york subway onto broadway, his uncompromising attitude represented the aspiration amongst black Americans for an integrated society. The irony is that Shaft was the creation of a white man. ernest Tidyman was a respected former journalist who at that point in his life was struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer. his creation of a black detective hero found a home with Macmillan’s mystery editor Alan rinzler, who was sympathetic to the plight of black Americans. The result was a novel, which Tidyman knew had movie potential leading him to canvass the major studios. MgM picked up the rights and gordon Parks’ hit film opened up opportunities for black filmmakers, actors and technicians. The rest is history. So, where did i come in? i was introduced to the world of John Shaft not, as you might expect, through the films or the books, but instead via what many consider to be the inferior CbS Tv series, which aired on iTv in the uK in 1974. Despite what i can now see as the bland Tv plots and the toning down of Shaft’s character, richard roundtree’s charisma shone through. As an impressionable young teenager i was captivated by roundtree’s confident performance and athleticism. i think my imagination was captured because even the Tv Shaft was very different to many of the other small screen detectives of the time—and not just due to the color of his skin. he was a loner and a man of principle. he was also tough, stylish and attractive to women. he had a swanky midtown apartment and, in short, he was everything a teenage male wanted to be. The Tv series was broadcast in the days before home video recording. The only way to relive your favorite shows, therefore, was to record them on 5



audio cassette with a microphone placed in front of the Tv and a patient family under instructions to remain silent. i remember doing just this with the Tv episode “The Killing.” it was even tougher with your favorite movies, which could not be shown on Tv until at least five years after release. in this case you would either have to wait to see if the movie would be re-released (i was a regular at the frequent James bond double-bill showings through the 1960s and 1970s) or buy the paperback novelization. it was on a trip to my nearest decent bookshop, which happened to be W.h. Smith in bolton, that i saw Shaft has a ball on the paperback shelves, so i eagerly bought a copy. At the time i must have been thirteen or fourteen years-old and was both surprised and enthralled by the adult tone of the book compared to the Tv series and the more abrasive nature of the John Shaft character. The violence, language and the sex were much more explicit. unlike in film or Tv, there were no age restrictions on the purchase of literature. To a shy teenage male it proved to be perfect escapist entertainment. An exciting world had opened itself up to me and i wanted more. over the next two or three years i collected each of the novels in their Corgi paperback original editions—the only exception being Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, which i somehow missed on its short print run in the uK. i would catch up with that title many years later with the advent of the internet enabling me to purchase a second-hand copy of the bantam paperback. All my original purchases remain in my collection and i have re-read each title many times over the years and again as research for this book. it was probably around the mid to late 1970s when i finally got to see gordon Parks’ film adaptation of ernest Tidyman’s first Shaft novel. i caught Shaft on its premiere on bbC Tv and noted how roundtree’s portrayal was more in keeping with the character Tidyman had described in his books than that seen in the Tv series. i probably wasn’t typical of the intended audience that either ernest Tidyman or gordon Parks had in mind. Tidyman hadn’t intended his creation to be any form of political statement—merely a detective hero with a different perspective on the world. but his creation had hit a chord with a vast number of young blacks and whites across not just the u.S. but also the world. While the original Shaft novel had sold well, it was the movie that catapulted John Shaft into the public conscience. Shaft was an enormous hit, spawning two sequels as well as the so-called blaxploitation genre that would dominate cinema in the first half of the 1970s. John Shaft’s influence had spread far and wide, but by the time i came on board Shaft’s star was already beginning to fade. Cinema audiences had moved on to martial arts (in the wake of Enter the Dragon) and then later to science fiction with the advent of Star Wars. Tidyman had also become tired of his creation, wishing to explore new projects, and he killed off Shaft in



The Last Shaft—as i sadly found out after reading the final scene of that book on its paperback publication in 1977. The character of John Shaft had captured a moment in time, but he had now outlived his purpose. The black revolution in America had delivered on its promise. Shaft’s self-assurance and survival instincts had become synonymous with the changing attitudes in a world of increasing racial tolerance. black Americans no longer needed to look for a representative voice—they had found their own. Despite my love of the films and fondness for the Tv series, each helped significantly by richard roundtree’s charismatic portrayal of John Shaft, it is the books that have given me the greatest pleasure. They have been an inspiration in my own writing and i wanted to share my appreciation of them in this book. i have therefore given them equal coverage with the better known screen version of Shaft. i have also approached this book very much from ernest Tidyman’s perspective, which i have garnered through my extensive research of his papers. This book has taken a couple of years to assemble and my intention has been to provide the most complete guide to ernest Tidyman’s Shaft. So here i cover the events leading up to Tidyman’s creation of John Shaft. i also highlight the collaborative role played in developing the character by Tidyman’s editor at Macmillan, Alan rinzler. The book follows Shaft’s development through the novels, the films and the Tv series. i have deliberately concentrated on the period from 1968, when Tidyman signed the contract with Macmillan to 1975 and the publication of The Last Shaft. This was the golden period for John Shaft. The book also provides clarification around Tidyman’s use of other writers to assist in maintaining momentum with the book series once his career had taken off—a common practice in men’s adventure fiction of the time. There is a history of development and an analytical comment on each novel, film and Tv episode along with full credits. There are profiles of John Shaft and the supporting cast of characters, along with a guide to Tidyman’s use of real new york locations. Also included is a detailed biographical profile of ernest Tidyman alongside briefer profiles of the two other key creative talents who made John Shaft the icon he is today—gordon Parks and richard roundtree. on 29 May 2014, i was delighted to see the announcement by Dynamite entertainment that they had purchased the rights to not only re-print the original Shaft novels, but produce a new series of both prose and comic books. David Walker, who has kindly contributed the Foreword to this book, was the chief instigator in bringing Shaft back into print and he is the writer of the new Shaft comic books. David is also designated “keeper of the keys” to the Shaft legacy having been wholly endorsed by Tidyman’s widow, Chris Clark-Tidyman.



one of the main aims of my book had been to re-kindle interest in this iconic character and most of all in Tidyman’s original series of books. i am delighted that others were similarly enthusiastic and have been successful in restoring Shaft to the printed page. now i hope my book will act as the perfect companion piece to these new ventures. in order to avoid confusion and distinguish titles of novels and prose from other media forms i have used small capitals for book Titles and italics for all other media titles.

Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

1. The Shaft Phenomenon The inevitability of the creation of the ultimate black fictional hero can be seen through the history of America in the 150s and 160s. With the advent of the African-American Civil Rights Movement in 154 there followed a revolution in politics and a changing attitude in society toward black Americans. Over a decade or more of campaigns and civil resistance the Movement aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination. The first major result was the passing of The Civil Rights Act in 164, which banned discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in both employment practices and public accommodations. The bill was championed by President John F. Kennedy until his untimely death from an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 163. The legislation was finally pushed through congress by his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, and proved to be a major step forward for the movement now led by Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young and James Farmer. As a result of his campaigning King, aged just 35, received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of the Civil Rights Movement in December 164. Despite the political advancement that followed these landmark events, racist attitudes prevailed in America. High profile incidents were widely reported, such as a number of black American football players being refused service by hotels and businesses in New Orleans resulting in a boycott by both black and white players. Civil unrest continued throughout the 160s, with marches organized to protest against restrictive voting rights and these led to violent disturbances. As a result, on 6 August 165, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act and Federal Examiners replaced local registrars to ensure the law was enforced. Progress continued to be made through the middle years of the decade, but another momentous event would spark even more civil unrest. Martin Luther King, Jr., was invited to Memphis, Tennessee, by the Rev. James Lawson following the killing of two black sanitation workers. King was asked to speak in support of a workers’ strike. On 4 April 168—a day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon—King was assassinated. What followed was a series of riots in major cities across the United States. Chicago, 


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

President Lyndon B. Johnson moves to shake hands with Dr. Martin Luther King while others look on at the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965 (photograph by Yoichi Okamoto. LBJ Library).

Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in particular witnessed large scale violence and destruction. During these riots further legislation was hurried through by Lyndon B. Johnson when on 11 April 168 a second Civil Rights Act (also known as The Fair Housing Act) addressed the issues of inequality in housing opportunities as well as discriminatory threats and acts of violence based on race, color, religion or national origin. Alongside King’s Civil Rights Campaign, other more militant groups surfaced in the mid-sixties under the banner of “Black Power.” In 166 the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee leader, Stokely Carmichael, urged African-American communities to confront the Ku Klux Klan and be armed and ready for battle. But the most famous was the Black Panther Movement founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California, in 166. The Panthers followed the ideologies of Malcolm X and sought to liberate black neighborhoods from police brutality. They adopted a uniform of black leather jackets, berets, slacks, and light blue shirts along with afro hairstyles—creating a distinctive and confrontational look.1 The Black Panthers inspired black culture and James Brown’s “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” was a Number 1 single in August 168. Black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously adopted the Black Power

1. The Shaft Phenomenon


salute, while receiving their Olympic Medals at the Mexico Games. Black Power had become a loud enough voice to be heard—not only in America, but across the world. It was against this backdrop that a fictional character, who would be adopted as a symbol of black liberation, was born—John Shaft. Also significant to the evolution of John Shaft was the release of a crime movie which tackled the issue of racial prejudice. In the Heat of the Night was released on 2 August 167 and was based on John Ball’s novel concerning a black Philadelphia policeman, Virgil Tibbs, involved in a murder investigation in a racist small southern town. The film addresses the racism issue by presenting most of the white policemen as bigots, while Sidney Poitier’s Tibbs is presented as the respectable face of black America. The screenplay was adapted by Stirling Silliphant and the movie proved to be a critical and commercial success.2 The audience, in particular, drew on the famous scene where Tibbs retaliates to a slap from a white bigot, cementing the view in the American conscience that black people were no longer prepared to tolerate being treated as subservient. But while Virgil Tibbs emphasized the successful middle-class black man and provided a strong moral icon, the young and poorer blacks of America were looking for a hero more suited to their plight. They would soon get one from the most unlikely source. Ernest Tidyman was a veteran journalist, who by the mid–160s was writing freelance for magazines and newspapers. He had referenced the social issues experienced by the black population of America in a broader article on society’s problems, notably inner city issues, published in The Milwaukee Journal on 10 September 168.3 Tidyman highlighted the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Operation Breadbasket,” which encouraged businesses to employ black people and to do business with black-owned companies. Tidyman had also been looking to branch out into writing fiction. He was keen to tap into topical and social issues and his first novel, Flower Power (published on 15 March 168), was inspired by the hippie movement. The book, however, failed to trouble the best-seller lists. In late 168 Macmillan mystery editor Alan Rinzler was also looking for something different in the genre. He got in touch with the only well-known black agent in New York City, Ron Hobbs. Hobbs suggested Tidyman fulfill Rinzler’s desire to create a new black detective hero. Rinzler commissioned Tidyman who set about creating John Shaft. Rinzler had tapped into Tidyman’s journalistic street-wise instincts and helped him develop the characteristics. Tidyman’s outline described a black hero who had emerged from various foster homes in the Harlem slums. 4 He had been a veteran of the Vietnam War, in which he served only to avoid a jail sentence. After studying law and joining the Pinkerton National Detective Agency he finally struck out on his own by setting up his one-man detective operation.5 The character


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's march for jobs around the White House, July 1973 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division).

of John Shaft oozed self-confidence and pride in his black heritage, but without the socio-political agenda of the revolutionaries. All Shaft wanted was the freedom to move about the world in the same way as anyone else. It was this attitude that struck a chord with the film-going public in July 171, when Gordon Parks’ adaptation of Tidyman’s novel hit the big screen. While there are undercurrents of the racial tensions of the time apparent in Tidyman’s Shaft, they merely provide a backdrop for a traditional gangster versus gangster story. The fact that the white Mafia want a piece of Knocks Persons’ black Harlem territory is nothing to do with racial supremacy and everything to do with building criminal empires. Shaft is caught in the middle of a blackmail plot and the novel plays out as a straight hard-boiled crime thriller. Tidyman’s character, therefore, carries much stronger echoes of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in his tough, uncompromising approach to detection. In fact, John Shaft became the first credible black detective since Ed Lacy’s Toussaint Moore. Moore was a much more sensitive, but equally ground-breaking, private eye who is sickened by the racism he encounters in Kentucky and perhaps better represented the cause of the Black Power movement. In that respect, Lacy’s creation was ahead of his time, but paved the way for John Ball’s Virgil Tibbs.

1. The Shaft Phenomenon


Tidyman and Rinzler’s instinct that a different kind of black hero was needed proved to be accurate. The majority of the silent black public connected more readily with an uncompromising, heroic black man who challenged authority while confidently inhabiting the white man’s world. But, while Tidyman’s novel was a success, it wasn’t the literary John Shaft that struck a chord with the public and black America in particular—it was the sight of Richard Roundtree on the big screen dressed in tan leather coat striding through the streets of Manhattan as if he owned them on a cold winter’s morning accompanied by Isaac Hayes’ memorable title theme. Roundtree’s Shaft embodied everything that was hip about young black Americans. He had style, looks, poise and attitude. He was also armed with a quick-witted one-liner. He was tough, sexy and stood up to authority. In short, he was everything that appealed not only to young blacks, but also to liberal whites, being as much an anti-establishment symbol as a metaphor for racial equality. Gordon Parks’ film adaptation of Tidyman’s novel was a huge success and Shaft became one of 171’s top-grossers. The film topped the box-office charts for five weeks following its release on 2 July 171 and was the 14th highest grossing movie of the year. It was a richly productive year that also saw the release of iconic crime thrillers Dirty Harry, Klute and The French Connection (the latter also scripted by Tidyman), each of which became major hits. Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack topped the music charts and his funk laden “Theme from Shaft,” also a chart-topper, became staple radio play for months. Even before the movie was deemed a success a sequel had been commissioned and the film’s strong box office return rescued the ailing MGM studio. Tidyman had very shrewdly set up his own production company, Shaft Productions Ltd., with producers Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant. Shaft’s Big Score! which was released a year later, cemented a deal that would include options for further films either as original stories or adaptations from Tidyman’s continuing novel series. Tidyman had written his own literary followup to Shaft with Shaft Among the Jews, released in hardback just ahead of the movie sequel, and planned further books to capitalize on the success of his creation. As early as 172 cinemas became saturated with Shaft clones—films that were to become collectively known as Blaxploitation, most of which proved to be less impressive. Movies such as Slaughter, Hit Man (which even referenced Shaft), Superfly, Coffy, Trouble Man and Hammer were some of the stronger examples of the new genre. These movies eventually began crossing over into other genres through 173 and 174—notably, martial arts (Black Belt Jones, Cleopatra Jones) and horror (Blacula, Blackenstein). The crime thriller genre was not abandoned with Foxy Brown, Black Eye, Black Caesar as well as the stable’s own Shaft in Africa following. The phenomena filtered through


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

into mainstream movies with the latest James Bond thriller, Live and Let Die, set in New York’s Harlem and the Caribbean with a black villain played by Yaphet Kotto. The Hong Kong set martial arts action-thriller Enter the Dragon also utilized elements of the genre to good effect with Jim Kelly proving an interesting foil for Bruce Lee. During this period Tidyman continued to churn out Shaft’s adventures in literary form, bringing in writers Robert Turner and Phillip Rock to assist in order to keep the momentum going. However, signs that interest in the series was waning came when Shaft in Africa saw disappointing box-office returns. The film, with its locational shift and abandonment of its homegrown urban roots, seemed to get lost within the sheer volume of output in the genre. MGM very quickly bailed out and sold the rights to the series to CBS television. In late 173, the network turned Shaft into a short-lived movie-of-theweek series alternating with James Stewart’s country lawyer Hawkins and the CBS Tuesday Night Movie. In his transition to TV John Shaft had lost his mojo. The prime-time Shaft became a diluted version of Tidyman’s original creation, despite the continued involvement of Richard Roundtree. This led to dissatisfaction amongst critics, fans and most notably the author himself. Tidyman had become increasingly disenchanted with the treatment of his creation by TV executives and movie producers. By 175, after seven books he had killed off John Shaft and Blaxploitation was running out of steam. Jaws signaled the way towards the summer blockbuster movie and two years later the huge success of Star Wars provided cinema-goers with a new direction. Tidyman re-focused his energies on his business concerns including film production, screenwriting—for both TV and cinema—and the occasional novel. By the end of the decade the Shaft books had gone out of print and the world had moved on, but the legacy of John Shaft would not disappear from popular culture. Black heroes had become more commonplace on both TV and the big screen. Although there was still a long way to go, the 170s saw an increasingly tolerant society emerge from the social unrest of the previous decade. John Shaft’s reign may have been short—but it was significant.

2. Ernest Tidyman: The White Man Behind the Black Hero Words are a licensed weapon and I never pull them out on people who aren’t good adversaries.1—Ernest R. Tidyman

Early Career and the Army Ernest Ralph Tidyman was born on New Year’s Day, 128 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Benjamin Ralph Tidyman (born 2 December 185) and Kathryn Kascsak Tidyman (born 6 November 102). His mother was of Hungarian origin and his father had roots in Britain, while his grandfather was a poet and sculptor. Ben Tidyman was employed as chief police reporter at The Plain Dealer for 31 years and was highly protective of his children. When the young Tidyman was expelled from Roosevelt Junior High, by mutual consent, aged just fourteen years his father decided to take his son’s education into his own hands. Tidyman explained how his father pulled him out of school and oversaw the completion of his studies at home, “He came to school with me and convinced the school officials that they should ‘Parole’ me into his care. Considering how little they were accomplishing with me in theirs, they agreed. I haven’t been back to school since.”2 Tidyman described his father as “a slender guy who walked around with pencils in his vest, a hat on the side of his head and a porcelain cup of coffee in his hand. He was self-taught and extremely literate—a really good reporter.”3 Tidyman confessed to being an alcoholic by the time he was fifteen.4 But he still managed to get a writing job at a small newspaper in Greenwich, Connecticut, having written to them in response to an ad in Editors & Publish ers magazine. The paper was impressed with his letter and the young Tidyman lied about his age, saying he was eighteen, to secure the job. A year later, with his brother Robert, Ernest followed in his father’s footsteps by securing a job as a police reporter for The Cleveland News having started as a copyboy. He 15


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

was a mischievous young reporter fond of playing pranks on both the police and his fellow reporters, but it was also a job that would fuel his interest in urban crime. “Christ, I was a child working the police beat on the News in 144 at the time of the East Ohio Gas Company explosion. They sent me over to compile the death list. I was at the morgue watching them putty-knife people out of metal lockers where they’d attempted to duck to escape the flames.”5

Young Tidyman at typewriter (Ernest Tidyman Collection, Photo Shares Box, Folder 1, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

2. Ernest Tidyman


On 15 April 146, aged eighteen years, Tidyman enlisted to serve in the military and was stationed at Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio (Military serial#: 45046281). His term of service was spent in public relations where he spent most of his time reading and enhancing his journalistic skills. He served in the military until 5 May 147 after which his life went through a series of changes. He was married for the first time in 153 to Billy Hill (born 4 March 126), but the marriage did not work out and the couple were divorced soon after. On 18 April 155, he was hit hard by the death of his father from an abdominal aneurysm aged 5. In 156, Tidyman was married for a second time to Ruth Robertson. The couple had two children—Benjamin Ross (born 31 August 157), and Nathaniel Ernest (born 17 September 15). This marriage too would later end in divorce and Ruth would go on to marry Warren Rayle.

A Jobbing Reporter On leaving the army Tidyman resumed his journalistic career at The Houston Press where he worked until 18 January 150 as a re-write man and copy editor then later as assistant city editor. He then enjoyed a brief spell as the Public Relations Director for The Citizen Newspapers of Houston until June 151 before returning to The Cleveland News. In January 153, Tidyman left Cleveland for the Detroit News. But he returned a couple of years later as a copy editor at The Plain Dealer, having been approached by the paper’s editor Wright Bryan. Tidyman worked for the paper for 20 months until February 157 when he moved to New York City. He progressed his journalistic career at The New York Post followed in 160 by the New York Times where he edited both foreign news and the women’s pages. In 163, when his drinking had again become a problem, he contracted hepatic jaundice and entered a coma for nine days. He was nursed back to health at New York’s Saint Clare’s Catholic Hospital. Tidyman recalled that on recovery one of the nuns said to him, “You apparently did something wrong and St. Peter sent you back to us.”6 Tidyman was a highly principled man and this would be demonstrated when in 166 he quit the New York Times after he was transferred full-time to the Women’s Department without his consent. Tidyman instead decided to become a freelance writer, promoting articles and stories to journals and magazines. He edited Diners Club and Signature magazines and also contributed to Tuesday Magazine, a supplement for black newspapers. He also worked with Robert Harrison, the legendary creator of L.A.’s Confidential magazine, who had moved to New York. Tidyman contributed fabricated sto-


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

ries for Harrison’s magazines Confidential and Whisper. Legendary newspaperman Llewellyn King said, “Tidyman’s success as schlock writer was that he got the little things right, giving an air of authenticity to the great fiction. He was greatly helped in this endeavor by the New York Times’ library…. One of Tidyman’s more intriguing tales was about a drifter who travelled the country, clinging to the underside of freight train cars. It was a possible but unlikely physical feat. Good enough for a Harrison-owned tabloid.”7 This period also included a spell as writer and editor at Magazine Management Company, which produced men’s adventure pulp short stories in a number of titles such as Stag, Men’s World and Male. Tidyman contributed stories such as I Hunted Giant Anaconda with a Bow and Arrow. The Company also helped form the careers of writers such as Mario Puzo, Martin Cruz Smith, Rona Barrett and Bruce Jay Friedman. It was during this time he asked a publisher about popular subjects with a view to writing a novel. He was told “hippies” were in and this led to him writing Flower Power, a tale of a runaway 16-year-old girl, Phyllis Greenfield, and her introduction to sex, drugs and protest rallies. The blurb announced: You’ll dig this novel of a groovy chick doing her thing at the hippie crossroads of America, Haight-Ashbury. The book was published in paperback in the U.S. on 15 March 168 but failed to trouble the best-seller lists. Trash Fiction website noted Tidyman’s debut novel was “pretty inauspicious, not to say unreadable.”8 On 11 March 168 Tidyman’s factual behind-the-scenes look at one of WWIIs bloodiest battles entitled The Anzio Death Trap was published. Donal Sexton in his 2011 book The Western European and Mediterranean Theaters in World War II remarked that Tidyman “retells the familiar story without adding something new.” Tidyman’s initial forays into long-form writing had been unsuccessful and financially the demands of maintaining a New York apartment could not be funded by his freelance work alone.

John Shaft Is Born In a 3-page typed autobiography in 172, Tidyman admitted he was “flatass broke, sick, unemployed, and being pursued by the legal representatives of a young lady [his third wife, Valerie] who apparently took her pre-marital training from Ma Barker.”10 Encouraged by his literary agent, Ronald Hobbs, Tidyman took up a commission from Macmillan mystery editor, Alan Rinzler. Rinzler had been looking to spice up the publisher’s mystery output and wanted to produce something new in the field and also wanted a black hero. Earlier in the decade,

2. Ernest Tidyman


Rinzler had worked on a number of books highlighting the plight of the black man in America—notably publishing Claude Brown’s memoir of his Harlem childhood, Manchild in the Promised Land at Macmillan. He therefore approached Hobbs, the best known of the few black literary agents around at the time, and Hobbs in turn suggested Tidyman, who had also written articles on the plight of black Americans. “I know a lot of people, and a lot happen to be black,” Tidyman said in a later interview, “so, of course I drew on acquaintances and friends for pieces of character and plot structure.”11 Tidyman shared his thoughts on creating a black detective hero with Rinzler, who had been looking for something in the Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe mold and followed with a 7-page outline, which Rinzler liked. Tidyman relays an oft-quoted story of how he came up with the name Shaft: “His name came off the side of a building. I was talking to an editor about the character and looking out his window onto the back of a building where a sign was hanging. It said—‘Fire Shaft Way.’ The Shaft part grabbed me. It’s so symbolic in so many ways.” He goes on to say the inspiration for John Shaft “came out of my awareness of both social and literary situations in a changing city…. There are winners, survivors and losers in the New York scheme of things. It was time for a black winner, whether he was a private detective or an obstetrician.”12 An agreement was signed on 18 October 168 and after some initial pages were drafted Rinzler encouraged Tidyman to toughen up the lead character. He suggested a gesture of violence by having the hero throw a gangster out of his office window.13 Tidyman ran with the idea and set about the book with renewed purpose. As he was working for a magazine at the time, he would dictate his writing as he drove to and from work in his 168 Saab with a microphone attached to his lapel and linked to a tape recorder. “Secretaries used to transcribe it,” explained Tidyman, “and they weren’t always sure [when] I said ‘get out of the way, you son-of-a-bitch’ if I was talking to some other car or it was part of the book.”14 Once Tidyman had completed Shaft he immediately circulated galleys to contacts in the film industry. He was quick to see the business potential in his creation and having fallen on hard times he was determined to maximize his earnings. Initially there was interest from Columbia and producer Leon Mirell with a suggestion of Yaphet Kotto, who was filming The Liberation of L.B. Jones for the studio at the time, to play Shaft.15 It was MGM, now run by James T. Aubrey, Jr., who bought the film rights in April 170. Aubrey had been brought in to sort out MGM’s financial problems and had begun to commission cheaper, more efficiently made films and Shaft fit the bill. Upon its hardback release on 27 April 170, reviews for Shaft were positive and a year later the book had sold nearly half-a-million copies. An option for a three film deal for the character was taken up with MGM and Tidyman


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

formed Shaft Productions Ltd. in order to retain some form of creative control, bringing in producer Roger Lewis and writer Stirling Silliphant as equal partners. Tidyman had already set up his own company to control his literature output in 16 as Editors & Writers Inc. The company was managed by former L.A. literary agent Sylva Romano and on 8 December 172 would become Ernest Tidyman International Ltd. based in New Preston, Connecticut. Sylva Romano would eventually shut down the company’s L.A. office and move east to join Tidyman in August 174.

From Page to Screen Film producer Phil D’Antoni had also read an early galley copy of Shaft and was impressed by Tidyman’s writing style, notably his use of dialogue and knowledge of New York City. As a result, in August 16, D’Antoni invited Tidyman to adapt Robin Moore’s factual book The French Connection which told the story of Eddie Egan, the NYC narcotics detective who uncovered a European drug smuggling ring. Tidyman wrote the screenplay and received a modest fee of $17,500 and no cut of the film’s profits. With the film a smash hit and Oscar-winner, Tidyman resolved to not make the same mistake again by forming his own production company and lifting his writing fee to $200,000. There were also disagreements with director William Friedkin over credit for the screenplay. An abrasive and hurt Tidyman retained his caustic wit when he commented: “As a screenwriter, Friedkin couldn’t write ‘Help’ on a piece of paper, stick it in a bottle and throw it in the sea of problems a writer solves with his craft. I’d be delighted to show him which end of the typewriter the paper goes into.”16 Friedkin had wanted a co-author credit citing that he had encouraged an ad-lib approach to filming the action and dialogue. Tidyman stood firm: “Hollywood has a suicidal policy of screwing writers.”17 The Screen Writer’s Guild ruled in Tidyman’s favor and later during film seminars he would emphasize the closeness of his script to the finished product by showing the film and reading extracts from his screenplay alongside. Meanwhile, Tidyman had married his fourth wife, New York editor Susan Katherine Gould (born 26 May 141), daughter of New York Times journalist Jack Gould, on 25 July 170. They would later have two sons—Adam (born 171) and Nicholas (born 174), leaving Tidyman with four sons in all. He had quickly divorced his previous wife, Valerie, acknowledging the marriage had been a disaster having ended after only one month. In a short typed biography on both Shaft and himself, Tidyman stated he had been married three and a half times because “One was such a loon she doesn’t count.”18 As filming commenced in New York City on both The French Connection and

2. Ernest Tidyman


Shaft, Tidyman learned of the death of his brother, Robert, on 2 February 171. Robert had remained a well-respected journalist throughout his career and was the father of seven children. MGMs movie adaptation of Shaft was directed by renowned stills photographer Gordon Parks and released in the summer of 171 to positive reviews and a very strong box office return. While Tidyman could not capitalize on the success of Friedkin’s film, released later the same year, he was determined to make the most of John Shaft. Tidyman had signed a contract with Bantam on 27 May 170 for two further Shaft books of between 70,000 and 0,000 words, based on early ideas for what were to become Shaft Among the Jews and Goodbye, Mr. Shaft.1 He also agreed a separate contract on 21 December 171 for the novelization of the Shaft film sequel. He later signed an amendment to the two book agreement, on 23 February 172, to incorporate what was to become Shaft’s Big Score! The amended agreement was a basket arrangement for the three titles with a guaranteed $115,000 in royalties.20 At the time the screenplay was progressing under the working title of Gang Bang. Tidyman then drew up plans for the final three books in the series provisionally titled The Gang’s All Here, Shaft, Shaft on Rye and Shaft Goes to Hollywood. The titles later became Shaft Has a Ball, Shaft’s Carnival of Killers and The Last Shaft respectively. He struck a further agreement with Bantam on 22 June 172. A new basket agreement for the whole Shaft book series, excluding Shaft, was signed by Tidyman on 20 July 172 for a guaranteed sum of $235,000.21 Alongside his work on the Shaft book series Tidyman moved into film production. In June 171 he set up his own film production company, Ernest Tidyman Productions, which was based in L.A. Seeing the opportunity that success from both The French Connection and Shaft would bring for him, he appointed his long-time associate and former Hollywood agent Sylva Romano as vice-president and encouraged her to scout Britain and Europe for production partners. Between March and July 170 Tidyman worked on one of his earliest ideas—a movie script for Avco-Embassy titled The Beauty Trap, however the project was later abandoned. He also acquired the rights to a bundle of fifty pulp magazine short stories under the banner The Pulps, which he then explored, unsuccessfully, with ABC with a view to developing an anthology series. By August 171 Variety reported that Tidyman had lined up five movie productions for which he would supply screenplays. These included an early version of what was to later become Dummy and projects entitled Please Be Careful, Barney Noble about a blind man operating a used car lot and Call Me Hero, which was an early draft screenplay for what was eventually to


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

become the novel Line of Duty. He was also looking to prepare a couple of TV films entitled Paternity Suit, a romantic comedy-drama and Piece of the Action (aka Hemperly), concerning a tough private eye who works for an old lady.22 Ultimately only Dummy would see the light of day and this eight years later. In January 172 Variety reported Tidyman was seeking to prepare a deal to make films in a German studio with American actors and technicians.23 He had also written his second non–Shaft novel, Absolute Zero—an absurdist sci-fi conspiracy tale set around a cryogenics organization called “Hope” and run by Adam True Blessing, which in abbreviated form was A. True Blessing. Macmillan initially made an amendment to their agreement with Tidyman for Shaft to incorporate Absolute Zero on 10 October 16, but this was later revoked. Advance copies had been issued to key industry figures along with Shaft in spring 170 and the book was finally published in July 171. It received mixed reviews with his former employer New York Times commenting “Ernest Tidyman has such a flair for inventing quirky characters that it is a pity he can’t think of suitably interesting things for them to do.”24 Kirkus also remained unconvinced, writing in its review, “Obviously Mr. Tidyman has a playful taste for the absurd and, who knows, you might smile as well as flinch. But the real problem with the book is that all these assorted cold cuts don’t make a full meal.”25 Tidyman had intended to package the book with a film deal and garnered initial interest in the UK during November 172 with Peter Sellers lined up to star, but again nothing came of the venture. By now Tidyman was also in the early stages of writing a western screenplay for Clint Eastwood entitled Dance, the original name for Eastwood’s mysterious stranger character. As the screenplay was developed the title would be changed to Death of a Small Desperation and finally High Plains Drifter. Eastwood felt the screenplay lacked depth and brought in Dean Riesner, who had worked many times with Don Siegel (one of Eastwood’s mentors), to help sharpen the script by adding in new mystical elements. Tidyman, however, retained sole credit for the screenplay on screen. Tidyman was now starting to seriously juggle his business activities and was also in discussion with 20th Century–Fox on bringing his screenplay of The Inspector—another version of the screenplay that would later be reworked as the novel Line of Duty—to the screen. The screenplay concerning a cop out of control was based on a true story that Tidyman had gleaned from a police informant while working as a reporter. The eventual book would carry a dedication from Tidyman to his father. The success of Shaft had created immediate interest in a sequel. Tidyman’s partners Stirling Silliphant and Roger Lewis were keen to progress and

2. Ernest Tidyman


wrote an original outline under the working title The Big Bamboo. Lewis then went on to build the story up into a screenplay. The pair had also considered and eventually rejected a proposal from author Joe Greene (better known as B.B. Johnson, creator of the black 170 pulp fiction hero Richard Abraham Spade— “Superspade”). There then followed a disagreement between Tidyman and his partners on the direction of the story and Lewis in particular became increasingly frustrated by Tidyman’s seeming lack of enthusiasm for the project. Eventually Tidy man would get on board with the insistence Tidyman holding Oscar, April 10, 1972 (photograph by Sheedy and Ling. Ernest Tidyman Colthat he write a new screen- lection, Photo Shares Box, Folder 5, American play. Heritage Center, University of Wyoming). In 172, Tidyman was riding the crest of a wave as he collected the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation at the 44th Academy Awards Ceremony for the smash hit The French Connection. At the same event, held on Monday 10 April 172, Isaac Hayes also picked up the award for Best Song for Shaft. The attention Tidyman garnered following his Academy Award triumph meant he would command a much higher fee for his services.

Big Business The Shaft sequel was retitled Shaft’s Big Score! and released in the summer of 172 to mixed reviews. While not matching the success of Shaft it still performed well at the box office. It would be the last of the movie series in which Tidyman would be creatively involved due to his other commitments and a breakdown in his relationship with his partners. This left the third film in the contract agreed with MGM in the hands of Lewis and Silliphant.


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

Tidyman continued the adventures of his popular hero on the written page, submitting each novel to MGM as part of the 5-year option deal signed in April 170. He had become increasingly disenchanted with the direction in which the studio and his partners were taking John Shaft and disliked the whole Blaxploitation genre that had followed in the wake of Shaft’s success. “The attacks on most ‘black films’ are entirely justified,” he said, “They stink. So do the characters, and the motives of the people making them.” However, he defended his hero’s violent actions with, “You will note that Shaft does not commit gratuitous mayhem. But when some evil person or evil philosophy threatens him, he reacts very strongly as any man would.”26 Tidyman was now splitting his home and business life between London, England and his 40-acre farm in New Preston, Connecticut. He managed to keep his work and private life separate, shying away from the spotlight. He was not a party-goer and shunned the social aspects of his profession. His free time was spent walking, reading, going to the movies and visiting museums. Tidyman felt very much at home in London, where he rented a flat in Grosvenor Square and also a place in the country where he felt most at home. In correspondence he wrote: “London seems to be getting the first rain of the year—all of the horsey set will be very happy because they have been complaining that the ground is too hard. And maybe now all the tourists will go home.”27 He worked prolifically on both Shaft Among the Jews, his book sequel to Shaft, and the novelization of his screenplay to the movie sequel, Shaft’s Big Score! The books were published in quick succession during the summer of 172, the former in hardback and the latter in paperback (after initial delays following a dispute between Tidyman and MGM, along with Lewis and Silliphant, over royalties from Tidyman’s $60,000 advance). Also during 172, Tidyman was looking to keep Shaft in the public eye by launching a daily newspaper comic strip. This had been done successfully many years earlier in the UK for James Bond. He initially worked with artist David Russell on ideas, but when contract terms could not be agreed he turned to Don Rico. Test panels were produced and circulated to daily newspapers in New York and L.A., but ultimately the strip was not taken up and the idea was abandoned in early 173. On 7 November 172, following the simultaneous publication of Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score!, Romano and Tidyman began negotiations on a deal with Michael Legat at Corgi Books for UK paperback rights to the rest of Tidyman’s published and planned novels. These included the remaining four planned Shaft books as well as Flower Power, Absolute Zero and the yet to be published Dummy and Line of Duty, both of which had originally been prepared as screenplays.28 A deal was agreed and Tidyman enjoyed a long and loyal relationship with the publisher.

2. Ernest Tidyman


During this period Tidyman terminated his relationship with the Ronald Hobbs Agency following a number of administrative disagreements—notably over handling of his royalty payments. Tidyman began taking more control of his literary and film affairs and by 173 had begun to develop screenplays through his production company to ensure he got the best deal possible. He was heavily in demand as a writer following his Academy Award win and by submitting screenplays through his own company he could retain control and command a bigger income. He is said to have looked for help with the writing of screenplays through commission, which resulted in a high output but of variable quality. Screenwriter Joe Eszterhaus commented: “Overwhelmed with big money offers to write screenplays, he signed every deal offered him, then hired three young writers to write for him, all of them writing under the name ‘Ernest Tidyman.’ None of the scripts the young men wrote were very good, none of them were made into movies and suddenly Ernest Tidyman, Oscar winner, wasn’t getting any offers anymore.”2 Tidyman now had to push even harder to get attention for his work. He produced a number of story outlines and scripts including Forfeit, a story set in the world of horse racing based on a Dick Francis novel. It was initially developed for Columbia but later, with Canadian producers Claude and Denis Heroux, for Cine-Video. The proposed film did not reach production. Dummy was the true story of a black mute accused of murder (subsequently delayed by a dispute over rights to the book) and Report to the Commissioner was adapted in collaboration with Abby Mann from the novel by James Mills. In March 173, he also tried to broker a deal with Josef Shaftel Productions in London for TV films/pilots based on a number of story outlines including By the Numbers, Let’s Hear It for Henry, The Hunters, The Chinese Gentleman, On Good Behavior, The Keepers, The Needy and the Greedy and Comeback. Again the deal came to nothing. During this busy period Tidyman also proceeded with his plans for four further John Shaft books including the completed The Gang’s All Here, Shaft (the latest working title for what was to become Shaft Has a Ball) and Good bye, Mr. Shaft, the latter of which would take his hero to London. These books would see Tidyman start to utilize writers Robert Turner and Phillip Rock in order to keep the workload up and both books would be published in 173—the former in paperback, the latter in hardback. A third Shaft movie—Shaft in Africa—was simultaneously in development by MGM, with Stirling Silliphant taking over scripting duties and Roger Lewis producing following Tidyman’s withdrawal from active involvement. Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter finally opened in the spring of 173 to an initial lukewarm reception from most critics—although the film has grown significantly in stature over the years. Some contemporary reviewers complained of a weak plot, sadistic violence and criticized the mysticism,


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

but others welcomed the movie’s fresh approach to the genre. A novelization was produced to capitalize on the film’s box-office success. Due to his busy schedule, Tidyman hired Rock (a prolific writer in the field who had produced a strong novelization of Eastwood’s Dirty Harry) to write the manuscript, which Tidyman would later edit and Bantam would publish under the Tidyman brand name. In a letter to Rock, Tidyman commented: “The High Plains Drifter drifted mighty well. I hurried a check off to you yesterday as one expression of appreciation and this is intended as another. I’m off to London tomorrow. Sylva will be back in touch soon. Keep well and keep writing.”30 While Tidyman had struck up a good relationship with Corgi in the UK, he maintained a somewhat rocky relationship with his U.S. paperback publisher, Bantam. This is evidenced by a letter written on 1 December 172 to the publisher’s editorial director Allan Barnard: “I may be back in the United States in January or February but that is not in prospect at the moment. I don’t know if I am going to have lunch with anyone at Bantam until I detect a change in that company’s attitude toward me as a writer.”31 Additionally a further letter outlining his disapproval of a marketing campaign noted: “…a flyer that is being sent out to book stores by your sales representatives is an insult to the intelligence, yours and mine. I must conclude that you think I am a prize yo-yo or that your publicity and promotion departments are unable to grasp the connection between selling the writer and selling the book.”32 Tidyman’s desire to push on with his film commitments meant he could devote little time to a project he had researched meticulously. His development of the book, Dummy, based on his earlier unsold screenplay concerning the real-life arrest of Donald Lang, a young deaf and mute black man who became institutionalized was stalling. As well as using Chicago Daily News reporter Dorothy Storck to help with the research he also enlisted the help of Rock on the manuscript. In a letter to Rock on 28 March 173, he gave the following instruction: “The story is so shocking as it comes across in the bare facts that it doesn’t need fancy writing to get across the message. What it requires mostly is clarity, because it is all very confusing and contradictory. It also requires an abstention from maudlin sympathy, which is not to suggest that this is what you would bring to it. But if we examine it coolly and carefully the case of Donald Lang evokes about as much shock and sympathy as the reader can handle without the infusion of additional gasps and sighs on the part of the chronicler. I am, of course, interested in what you think and delighted that you have agreed to become involved.”33 The book received strong reviews following its publication in March 174. The Los Angeles Times stated it was “…as tough and exciting a book as any of his Shaft novels.”34 Kirkus also commended the book stating: “Tidy-

2. Ernest Tidyman


man’s report of the trial is concise and thorough. His investigation of Lang’s condition is buttressed by documents from hospitals, court-appointed specialists, and private practitioners. He presents Lang as the victim of a callous, inflexible system of justice, but admits that the state has a vigorous case. It is a superior documentary of a unique situation.”35 On 15 October 174, Tidyman’s novel Line of Duty, which told the story of a killer cop and was set in his home town of Cleveland, was published. Kirkus gave Tidyman a mixed review: “The reader is swept from scene to bleak scene of violence, sinister pizza parlors, bars, hijackings, gunnings, rapes with plenty of police procedure…. Tidyman’s fake grim humor never rises above the crime entertainment level even if he has something more ambitious in mind. Still it might do well.”36 The sixth John Shaft book, Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, followed in paperback in the autumn of 174. The book’s brevity was a symptom of problems with Robert Turner’s work on the book—at the time Turner was suffering from health and personal issues. Tidyman therefore had to re-write large portions of the book in order to meet Bantam’s deadline. The rushed result suggested the author was becoming increasingly tired of his most famous creation, preferring to invest his time elsewhere. Tidyman’s thoughts turned to his most famous creation one last time. He had written an outline for Shaft’s finale, which Rock then developed into a manuscript and Tidyman later fleshed out to produce the final edit. The last paragraph, in which Shaft is killed by a mugger, was seemingly added as a coda to provide a literal full-stop to the adventures of John Shaft. “I felt he had served his purpose and was now perverting his purpose,” admitted Tidyman.37 He had become increasingly unhappy with the screen portrayal of Shaft. Former Motown singer and executive Chris Clark (born 1 February 146), his fifth wife and surviving widow, remarked in an interview, “Ernest felt the movies had made Shaft into a comic book character. Ernest couldn’t understand why the filmmakers felt a need to change him. He was especially disappointed with the last one [Shaft in Africa, 173].… He was juggling a lot of projects and characters and he felt the quality of the Shaft books was slipping. That’s why he decided to kill off the character.”38 But it was the move from big to small screen that proved to be the final straw for Tidyman. While initially supporting the project the end result was a watering down of the character and a succession of bland stock TV detective scripts, which in Tidyman’s view robbed John Shaft of his identity. He therefore decided to kill off his creation, citing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s written demise of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls as his lead. This reference also left open the possibility of the character returning from the dead, just as Holmes had done. The Last Shaft was published in hardback in the UK in March 175 after Bantam declined to publish the book in the U.S.


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

Tidyman remained protective of his creation and sensitive to commentators’ views on his writing style. In response to a request from British writer Janet Pate to quote from Shaft in her study The Book of Sleuths, Tidyman said, “I have had unfortunate experiences in the past from people wanting to quote from my books—taking certain phrases out of context to substantiate the view that I was everything from a racist to a literary axe murderer—and I am reluctant to grant permission these days unless I know what is being quoted and why it is being quoted … with emphasis on the why.”3 When MGM’s options on the books ran out in June 176, Tidyman himself tried to resurrect Shaft for the big screen, proposing to base new films on his un-filmed books with himself producing. In a letter written on his behalf by Sylva Romano to Rob Cohen at Motown Productions he outlined his plans to recast Shaft “according to his original concept of the character.”40 He suggested actors such as Nathan George, Jim Brown and Tony King. It was proposed to start with Shaft Among the Jews then move on to Goodbye Mr. Shaft and Shaft’s Carnival of Killers. When Motown passed citing “social stigmas that have become attached to Shaft and the entire black exploitation market,”41 Tidyman unsuccessfully approached Avco-Embassy on 7 September 176 and then 17 months later Polydor, whose record label had recently signed Isaac Hayes. Tidyman noted in his pitch to Polydor for a series of films with a modest budget of $1.5m, “Shaft and Hayes go together like sugar and cream and create a very strong music marketing situation as well as a good cinema opportunity.”42 By late 176 all the original paperback Shaft books were out of print in America prompting Tidyman to write to Bantam saying, “In accordance with the publishing agreements between you and Ernest Tidyman International, Ltd. (formerly Editors and Writers, Inc.), covering the above titles, this letter constitutes a written demand that you bring out a new printing of each of these works.”43 However, the books would not be reprinted in the U.S. until Dynamite Entertainment announced it had bought publication rights in May 2014.

Life After Shaft Report to the Commissioner finally opened in cinemas in early 175. Critics were impressed by the film’s realism but had problems with Michael Moriarty’s hippie, rebellious cop. Nora Sayre of The Washington Star felt, “the dialogue by Abby Mann and Ernest Tidyman strains to be in a style that’s now old fashioned, especially where the language of young drug addicts or blacks.”44 Having buried Shaft, Tidyman’s next novel was a departure from crime

2. Ernest Tidyman


and attempted to capitalize on the popular disaster movie genre. Indeed the book was also simultaneously proposed as a screenplay for Italian filmmaker Dino de Laurentiis. Starstruck, which was published in the UK only, hit the shelves in August 175 and was the story of a group of passengers whose private plane is struck by lightning and left suspended over the streets of New York. Tidyman further busied himself through the summer of 175 by developing a screenplay based on the Sicilian Mafia, entitled The Sicilian Cross (aka Street People and The Executors). The film was shot cheaply in Italy by Maurice Lucidi and starred Roger Moore and Stacy Keach. It was released in late 176, but was quickly forgotten. The following year Tidyman worked on TV mini-series entitled To Kill a Cop based on Robert Daley’s 176 novel. It starred Joe Don Baker and Louis Gossett, Jr. The plot concerned a maverick cop’s investigation into the killings of a number of his colleagues, while he also battled with internal politics. Eddie Egan, the cop on whom The French Connection was based, took a role in the movie and acted as advisor alongside fellow NYPD detective Joe Cirillo. The mini-series, broadcast in April 178, was well received by critics and eventually taken up as the full TV series Eischeid. Tidyman was then invited by To Kill a Cop’s exec producer, David Gerber, to script another four-hour story, broadcast in January 180, concerning labor unions entitled Power and which again starred Baker. At the same time Tidyman had re-developed the adaptation of his book and earlier screenplay of Dummy as a TV movie to be directed by Frank Perry. This had been a personal project for Tidyman, which he had pursued over a number of years. The production’s bumpy ride to broadcast continued when it had to overcome an attempted injunction against its broadcast in Illinois. In the film LeVar Burton played Donald Lang and Paul Sorvino played Lang’s lawyer—also a deaf man. On its eventual broadcast by CBS in May 17 it received positive reviews. Barbara Holsopple commented in The Pittsburgh Press: “The drama’s broad scope not only encompasses one youth’s personal tragedy, but also probes the plight of the handicapped in our society…. Burton skillfully conveys the confusion, fear and anger of a young man trapped in a situation he cannot understand.”45 By now Tidyman was fully immersed in both his writing and production roles. In 178, the novel Table Stakes appeared in which the author tackled themes based around high stakes gambling and the world of Hollywood. Kirkus commented positively on the book’s “solid poker-playing atmosphere, an appropriately sharp, cynical tone—a convincing evocation of gambling fever in the blood.”46 A Force of One, a martial arts action movie, was scripted by Tidyman and starred Chuck Norris. The film was released in late 17 and was rea-


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

sonably well-received with Time Out commenting, “A typically plot-heavy script from Ernest Tidyman survives unimaginative direction to deliver that current rarity, an unpretentious action movie.”47 This was followed by two more four-hour TV mini-series. The first was the well-received Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (broadcast in April 180), which Tidyman again adapted from a real-life incident this time involving a religious mass suicide. He said, “I see Jones as a social phenomenon and as a part of a recurring historical pattern of warped men, charismatic paranoids who are capable of leading groups of people, like Hitler or Attila the Hun.”48 He won a Writer’s Guild Award for his screenplay and the movie also led to him defending a libel claim. The second, broadcast in November 180, was Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story for which Tidyman visited the prison with Clarence Carnes, the Choctaw Indian who had been sentenced for  years in 145 for kidnapping. Carnes had written the book, which Tidyman adapted. During 17 it was reported by Variety that Tidyman had struck a deal with Italian filmmaker Alfredo Leone to make two films based on his screenplays—The Snake, about a lethal Black Mamba on the loose in New York and The Last Victim, covering the events leading up to the arrest of serial killer the Son of Sam.4 Neither project made it to production. The paper also noted Tidyman was to work on the fourth Dirty Harry film, provisionally titled Waterkill. This didn’t work out and eventually Eastwood would return as the San Francisco cop in Sudden Impact in 183 based on a different story. Other ultimately unsuccessful projects included Lords of the Land, a fictionalized account of the creation of King Ranch; World Without End and Agent Orange, concerning a family affected by a crop spray. In late 180 Tidyman was offered a post as a lecturer in writing at the University of California. He then went on to work as executive story consultant on the TV series Walking Tall, broadcast January to March 181 and based on the 173 movie covering the real-life exploits of Sheriff Buford Pusser who had uncovered corruption in a Tennessee county. While heavily involved in TV activity Tidyman still had time to contribute a script for the poorly received movie, Last Plane Out. The film starred Jan Michael Vincent as a reporter based in Nicaragua during the coup where he falls in love with rebel Mary Crosby. In the same year Tidyman also published what was to be his last book—Big Bucks: The True, Outrageous Story of the Plymouth Mail Robbery…and How They Got Away with It. This book was again based on journalistic research and was well received by critics. The TimesNews said of the book in its review: “If you do not like this book, you’re impossible to please.”50 Tidyman married Chris Clark on 26 March 182 in Los Angeles, California. Chris had recorded songs for Motown between 165 and 170 with

2. Ernest Tidyman


Paul Ryan (left) and Ernest Tidyman, 1980 (Ernest Tidyman Collection, Photo Shares Box, Folder 3, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

her biggest hit the Holland-Dozier-Holland penned and produced “Love’s Gone Bad.” She would be referred to by the music press as “The White Negress,” being one of the few white artists on the label’s books. Chris was also a talented writer and co-wrote (with Suzanne De Passe and Terence McCloy) the screenplay for 172’s Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues based on the book Holliday wrote with William F. Dufty. Chris eventually became vice-president at Motown’s film and TV division during the 170s and remained in post until her marriage to Tidyman, following which she left Motown to help him with his writing and production work. Tidyman worked on a number of proposed TV projects through the early 180s. His last filmed scripts were for the TV movie Brotherly Love, a modest suspense thriller in which Judd Hirsch is haunted by his vengeful twin brother and Stark, a TV cop movie starring Nicholas Surovy, Dennis Hopper and Marilu Henner. Both were broadcast after his death in spring 185. He also had plans for Junction, a TV sequel to High Plains Drifter set to star Richard Chamberlain with Chuck McLain producing and Crisis, a two-hour TV pilot for a series about a psychiatrist with Dick Van Dyke lined up to star. He produced an outline for a new Virgil Tibbs movie, provisionally titled Scorcher: Mr Tibbs Is Back in Town and had been in initial talks with


Part I: The Genesis of John Shaft

star Sidney Poitier and producer Walter Mirisch. Additionally he was looking to adapt Big Bucks into a film, which he aimed to direct himself. Tidyman was working with his wife on a biopic of Nat King Cole, The Nat King Cole Story, before he became too ill to continue. He had been a heavy smoker and drinker through his life and was now beginning to see the impact. He died from complications of a perforated ulcer on 14 July 184 at the age of 56 in Westminster Hospital, London, England. He was buried on 16 July at Washington Cemetery on the Green in Litchfield County near his Connecticut Estate. The funeral was set against a backdrop of a poster-size portrait of him standing on the beach in the sun with a towel wrapped around his waist and a straw hat on his head, smoking a large cigar. A taped recording of his wife, Chris, singing “Goodbye to Storyville,” was played and two of his four sons, Adam and Nicholas, delivered brief eulogies. Tidyman was also survived by his other two sons Benjamin and Nathaniel. His mother, Kathryn, dropped the last rose into his grave and would die shortly afterward aged 81.

Impressions of Ernest Tidyman Not only was Ernest Tidyman a talented and productive writer and editor, he was also an imaginative businessman. From the time in his youth when he stole a watch while working a burglary assignment as a crime reporter to his capitalizing on the character he would forever be associated with, Tidyman made the most of his opportunities in life to seize the moment. He was proud, demanding, principled, pointed, impatient and challenging but he was also focused, loyal to his friends and colleagues and very witty. He certainly wasn’t a man to shy away from confrontation. John Shaft changed Ernest Tidyman’s life forever. The book Shaft got him the job of scripting The French Connection and the movie Shaft was an instant hit. The success of these two movies along with his Academy Award sealed a golden 12-month period that set him up financially and shaped the rest of his life. While he would never again enjoy that level of success, he milked the cow for years to come. Over five years he produced seven Shaft books, set up production companies for his film and writing interests, marketed himself in Europe and maintained a high level of output by sometimes involving the use of other writers under his “house” author name. By the time interest in John Shaft had waned and he had killed off his creation he had a solid foundation from which to build his business. The resultant projects may have been less lucrative, but many were more personal often relying on his journalistic instinct and skill.

2. Ernest Tidyman


Despite his success Tidyman deliberately shirked the celebrity lifestyle and the Hollywood treadmill, preferring to live away from the limelight in rural locations both in the U.S. and the UK. He would run his business in a low-key, but highly efficient manner and continue his writing in solitude with just his family as companions. He said, “I don’t go to parties. If I want recreation I go for a walk. If I want excitement I go to a movie, read a book or go to a museum. If I want to gamble I begin the first word of a new novel and wager my life against the improbability of being able to finish it 0,000 words later.”51 A few months after his death, veteran journalist George Condon wrote of him: “It would take a book, at the very least, to convey the real Tidyman, who emerged in the full flower of his career as a large, distinguished, even forbidding, personality.”52 Former New York Post reporter Don Forst described Tidyman as a “wonderful re-write man. Probably the best I ever knew. He could write it faster and better than anyone else. And he was accurate too.”53 Woody Haut, author of Heart-Break and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood in 2002 said of Tidyman’s Shaft series, “While I wouldn’t rate Tidyman as a noir innovator, he was an authentic tough-guy writer whose work, at its best, is a cross between Chester Himes and Mickey Spillane. His protagonists on the page and screen retain a sense of ethics and some vestige of a political consciousness, while maintaining ties with the criminal world, often blurring the distinction between the two.”54 Last word should go to his widow, Chris Clark, who piqued by Gordon Parks omitting any mention of Tidyman when referencing Shaft in his biography, said, “You have to admit that one could do a lot worse than having an Ernest Tidyman riding shotgun on your project.”55

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Part II: Shaft in Print

3. The Shaft Novels U.S. Distributors: Macmillan (Shaft only)/Dial Press (hardback); Bantam (paperback) UK Distributors: Michael Joseph (Shaft only)/Weidenfeld & Nicolson (hardback); Corgi (paperback) TITLES 1. SHAFT (U.S. Hardback: 27 April 170; U.S. Paperback: July 171; UK Hardback: 24 June 171; UK Paperback: 20 October 172) 2. SHAFT AMOng THE JEWS (U.S. Hardback: 2 June 172; U.S. Paperback: June 173; UK Hardback: 15 February 173; UK Paperback: 21 September 173) 3. SHAFT ’ S BIg SCORE! (U.S. Paperback: 7 August 172; UK Paperback: 20 October 172) 4. SHAFT HAS A BALL (U.S. Paperback: 2 April 173; UK Paperback: 20 July 173) 5. gOODBYE, MR. SHAFT (U.S. Hardback: 28 December 173; UK Hardback: June 174; UK Paperback: September 176) 6. SHAFT ’ S CARnIVAL OF KILLERS (U.S. Paperback: 2 September 174; UK Paperback: 24 January 175) 7. THE L AST SHAFT (UK Hardback: 27 March 175; UK Paperback: 28 January 177

In creating a detective for the modern generation, Ernest Tidyman drew heavily from the past. John Shaft’s cynical view of the world is closer to that of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe—albeit his one-liners are delivered with a distinctly rougher edge. But Shaft generally uses his muscularity and force of personality to solve his cases rather than mental deduction and in this respect he is closer to Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. But where Tidyman differs from Spillane and Chandler and many other pulp PI novelists is in his use of multiple viewpoints. His stories, therefore, have greater flexibility to explore the characters driving his plots by focusing on their individual motivation, thought process and action. 35


Part II: Shaft in Print

Despite John Shaft being black, the ethnic element was not particularly played up beyond the initial book’s use of Ben Buford’s militant gang as a symbol of the Black Power movement. Instead Tidyman produced novels based around plot, action and character interaction. As such his books, with the exception of Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, which was written from Shaft’s viewpoint although not in the first person, cannot be categorized as mysteries in the accepted sense of the genre. They are crime thrillers where we are introduced to the villains and their motives from a very early point in the story. The first novel, Shaft, was published in the U.S. in hardback by Macmillan in June 170 and in the UK nine months later by Michael Joseph. Tidyman had circulated galley copies to known contacts in the film industry and the book was quickly optioned for a movie by MGM. The resultant smash-hit film was released in the summer of 171. Once director Gordon Parks had dressed Richard Roundtree in a knee-length tan leather coat and encouraged him to walk the streets of Times Square as if he owned them, a cultural phenomenon was born. The 5-year agreement with MGM for options on any new John Shaft books for future films encouraged Tidyman to continue the literary adventures of his hero and also to develop a screenplay for the sequel, which was again helmed by Parks. The next book in the series, Shaft Among the Jews, hit the shelves in hardback just after the release of the second film, Shaft’s Big Score! By now the Blaxploitation boom that had followed the huge success of Shaft was in full swing and dominating popular culture. While the Shaft movie series increasingly played up the ethnic angle and expanded in scope in the wake of the genre it had created, Tidyman concentrated on the basics of the urban thriller with Shaft Among the Jews a case in point. The book focused on the search for an Israeli scientist who had invented a method of manufacturing diamonds synthetically. The fact that Shaft is black has little bearing on the story and Tidyman even fleshed out his hero into a much more rounded character—adding a previously unseen softer side evidenced in his protective attitude toward the scientist’s vulnerable daughter, Cara Herzel. The book proved to be a strong follow-up. Tidyman also novelized his own screenplay with Shaft’s Big Score! which went straight to the paperback racks in August 172. This was three months later than planned due to the dispute over royalties with Bantam, MGM and his partners in Shaft Productions Ltd. Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score! were published simultaneously in paperback in the UK during October 172 to tie in with the release of the second film. These paperbacks featured cover photos of Richard Roundtree in action, emphasizing the personal stamp Roundtree had put on the character. Despite writing and co-producing Shaft’s Big Score! Tidyman distanced

3. The Shaft Novels


himself from the screen adventures of his hero leaving him in the hands of his partners at Shaft Productions. Roger Lewis produced and Stirling Silliphant penned the third movie, Shaft in Africa, released in June 173. A clause in the deal Tidyman made with MGM over Shaft’s Big Score! stated only Tidyman could write and publish Shaft novels, meaning no novelization of Silliphant’s script was commissioned. In the meantime Tidyman had set the juggernaut running on the remaining titles in his now planned seven-book series. Tidyman’s heavy workload at this point led to him employing other writers to assist with the series to ensure momentum was maintained. He drafted in pulp specialist Robert Turner and screenwriter/novelist Phillip Rock to produce manuscripts from his outlines for the final four books in the series. Tidyman would later polish these manuscripts and add his personal style into a final edit. Shaft Has a Ball was worked on by Turner and is a fast entertaining, if shallow, read that went straight to the paperback shelves in April 173. Goodbye, Mr. Shaft was worked on by Rock and was published in hardback in the U.S. in late December 173 and the UK in June 174. Goodbye was also published in paperback in the UK in September 176. As a result the series’ UK paperback publications became out of sync, with the later Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (this time worked on by Turner) having a limited publication in the UK in January 175. For these latter two books Tidyman had decided to move Shaft out of his familiar New York setting sending him to London (Goodbye) and Jamaica (Carnival). These books also had larger and more conspiratorial scenarios with the former driven by a kidnapping plot and the latter by a planned assassination. Goodbye was a solid book and in many ways a diversion for the series, but Carnival suffered from moments of self-parody and an overlymacho approach to the action set-pieces. Some lapses in continuity also crept in during this period as a result of the writers working on their novels simultaneously. Even Tidyman’s usually reliable editorial eye missed the mistakes. While the later books tended toward a more formulaic approach that simulated many of the men’s adventure novels of the time, these books still retain Tidyman’s trademark wit and style through his outlines, his heavy editorial influence and his enhancements of the manuscripts delivered. By 174 interest in Blaxploitation was already beginning to wane and the screen version of Shaft had moved to the more sanitized home of TV. Tidyman was particularly unhappy with the way the character had moved away from his original vision—particularly once TV had toned down some of his excesses. He sublimely commented on the casting of Richard Round tree, never a personal choice for Tidyman who felt Roundtree was too good looking for the role, by adding a line in Shaft’s Carnival of Killers where


Part II: Shaft in Print

Shaft lets it be known of his hatred of moustaches. Finally, in a tired and frustrated response, he decided to finish the series by killing off his creation. With the Blaxploitation era over almost as quickly as it had begun, The Last Shaft hit bookshelves in the UK in its hardback publication in March 175. It received a muted response and the paperback release did not follow until almost two years later. The book was not published at all in the U.S. For this last book Rock was again hired to work on Tidyman’s outline. The result only slightly improves on the excesses of Carnival, but at least returns Shaft to the urban setting of New York City and the prose is much stronger. Here Shaft takes on the Mafia in a tale of revenge for the killing of his friend, Captain Vic Anderozzi. The final paragraph—more a coda as if added as an afterthought—has Shaft killed by a random mugging and represents an unsatisfying conclusion to a series of books that provides frequently excellent escapist entertainment. While the books were never regarded as serious contenders for the crime writing elite, they were assessed favorably as a group alongside other male adventure pulp novel series of the time, with the New York Times noting: “The Shaft series is an example of superior work in the field. John Shaft has a lot more personality in print than he does on screen…. The pace is rapid, except when Tidyman stops to explain exactly what everybody’s wearing.”1 The books have been out of print for many years in both the U.S. and the UK—although the original Shaft has appeared twice via magazine promotions in the UK. The series remains in print through the Pendragon house in Germany where the character has retained his popularity. Indeed such is the popularity of the series in Germany it led to German producers partly financing the John Singleton film version in 2000. David Walker, a long-time fan of the books and respected writer and commentator, took up the mantle to bring Shaft back into the public eye through a suggested series of comic book adaptations. He approached Tidyman’s widow, Chris Clark, who loved Walker’s suggestions and agreed to release the literary rights to the character. Walker in turn approached Dynamite Entertainment to negotiate a publishing deal. On 2 May 2014, fans of Shaft were given the exciting news when Dynamite Entertainment announced an agreement with Curtis Brown, the agency representing Tidyman’s estate, to not only reprint the original novels but to produce original comics as well as new prose.2 As the books have been out of print since the mid–170s retrospective assessment from critics is hard to find. However, Robert Allen Baker and Michael T. Nietzel say of the series in their book Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights: “The action in all seven is as violent as that in any of the Mike Hammers but it is more sophisticated and intelligent. Shaft is smart, sharp and sexy, a man that appeals to men as well as to women.”3

3. The Shaft Novels


Chris Clark, perhaps best summed up what Shaft offered when she said, “Tidyman’s true skill was an ability to define the hero and the bad guys without ever allowing racism to bump into itself. Everyone, black and white, was rooting for Shaft, the hero. The fact that he was black had nothing to do with it … and, of course, everything to do with it. Blacks and whites could root side by side, but in Shaft territory it was always going to be hipper to be black. And, you have to admit, it was great fun to see whites leaning in to watch and listen, suddenly hungry to imitate a race they were so vigorously suppressing.”4 While the books, like the film series, certainly captured a moment in time, they are worthy of re-appraisal as tough crime based action thrillers in the post–Jack Reacher world. Today’s testosterone fuelled action heroes strongly echo John Shaft’s self- confidence and toughness and Tidyman’s tightly-written novels would sit comfortably alongside today’s more bloated tomes on the bookshelves.

Shaft’s “Ghosts” Robert Harry Turner (born in 115 in New York City) started writing at the age of 23 and was a major contributor of short stories and novellas to pulp detective and western fiction magazines during the 140s and 150s. These included such titles as Black Mask, Dime Detective Magazine, Dime Mystery Magazine, Manhunt, Rangeland Romances, Detective Tales, Terror Detective Story Magazine, New Detective Magazine and many others. Kirkus described Turner as “a pro who has hacked or hammered or ‘sweated’ out some 10 million words in the course of 32 years.”5 He even wrote a manual on the subject in 148 entitled: Pulp Fiction: The First Manual of Modern Pulp Writing. Turner moved to Florida in 154 and turned to paperback novels as another outlet for his writing in the mystery genre including The Girl in the Cop’s Pocket, which was published in 156. During this period he also wrote a number of stories for the Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine under the house author name of Shayne’s creator, Brett Halliday (the pseudonym of Davis Dresser). He also adopted several pen names himself including: Robert Harry Turner, Roy Carroll, Eric Calhoun, Robert Morgan, Mark Savoy, K. K. Klein, Ken Murray, Steve Lawson, Lisa Roberts, Parker Lee, Don Romano. A collection of eighteen of his short stories was published in 170 under the title Shroud . Turner also contributed scripts to a number of TV series in the late 150s and early 160s, including Mike Hammer (156–). Alongside this he worked on novelizations of such TV series as Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. He also


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wrote for comic books and was credited with creating the female heroine Wildfire while working for Quality Comics under the pseudonym of Thomas Brown. In 170, Turner wrote another guide on genre fiction with Some of My Best Friends are Writers…but I Wouldn’t Want My Daughter to Marry One. He also ghosted on a number of novels. Besides his two contributions to the Shaft books—Shaft Has a Ball (173) and Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (174), he also wrote under the name Don Romano, coauthoring three books with Allan Nixon in a men’s adventure Mafia series. The series began with Operation Porno (173) and was followed by Operation Hit Man and Operation Cocaine, both in 174. Turner suffered from illness throughout the 170s and died in 180, aged 65. Phillip george Rock was born on 30 July 127 in Hollywood into a family already steeped in show business. His father, Joe Rock, had been a comic silent film star as well as producer and director who had worked with Stan Laurel amongst others. His mother, Australian-born Louise Granville, was an actress who appeared in a number of silent shorts. His uncle, Murray Rock, was also in the movie business working as a cameraman. Murray too had worked with Laurel as well as Charlie Chaplin. The Rock family re-located to England in the mid–130s, where Joe Rock set up Joe Rock Productions and Rock Studios at Borehamwood in Hertfordshire. It was here that Alfred Hitchcock would later work on Crook’s Tour in 141. After returning to America in 140, Phillip Rock served in the navy during the latter stages of World War II. Like his parents and uncle, Rock wanted to make his name in the movies and while working as a page and then bit actor at CBS he started writing screenplays. He eventually had success with a story, written in collaboration with his brother-in-law, the Australian actor Michael Pate. The story became the film Escape from Fort Bravo—a civil war era western directed by John Sturges and starring William Holden. Rock later worked on a screenplay for 161’s low-budget sci-fi programmer Most Dangerous Man Alive based on a story he again wrote with Pate entitled The Steel Monster. The story itself had been re-worked from an original story by actor Leo Gordon entitled The Atomic Man. However, a lack of regular work in screenwriting forced him to re-focus on novels. Rock drew on his background in the navy to write his first successful novel, The Extraordinary Seaman, in 167. The book was subsequently filmed in 16 by John Frankenheimer and featured David Niven in the lead. The adaptation, which Rock scripted with Hal Dresner, was poorly received and led to Rock stating he never wanted to have his work adapted for the screen again.

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He followed up on his first novel in 168 with The Dead in Guanajuato, which Kirkus described in its review as “a mix of some rather disagreeable human beings in abortive pursuits which never quite jells, either as satire or straight soothsaying…. Except for the writer scenes which are quite funny, this is more amusing in its prospectus than in its execution.”6 In the early 170s Rock began to write novelizations and demonstrated a skill at interpreting and expanding other writers’ ideas and screenplays. He worked on adaptations of films such as The Cheyenne Social Club (16), Dirty Harry (171—which had been well-received by fans of the movie), A Gunfight (171), Hickey & Boggs (172) and High Plains Drifter (173). The latter was adapted from Ernest Tidyman’s screenplay and was published under Tidyman’s “house” author name. Rock also helped Tidyman out with his novel Dummy (174) as the author struggled to manage his workflow. Tidyman had been sufficiently impressed with the quality of Rock’s work that he used him to write manuscripts from his outlines for two of the later Shaft books—Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (173) and The Last Shaft (175). Rock returned to writing original novels in 177 with Flickers—a loose account of his father’s experiences in 120s Hollywood. He finally attained some acclaim for his trilogy about an aristocratic English family, the Grevilles of Abbingdon, as they cope with the social changes brought about by the First World War. Passing Bells was published in 17, which Kirkus noted in its review: “Versatile novelist Rock now decants a full-bodied fermentation of that good stuff about the coronets, kind hearts, and gallant men and women who soldiered through World War I—only to witness the dissolution of English days and ways that would never be the same again.”7 The second and third novels in the trilogy were Circles of Time (181) and A Future Arrived (185). Phillip Rock then disappeared from the writing scene and he died of cancer in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles on 3 April 2004, aged 76. His son, Kevin, is a working actor in the film industry.

Book 1: Shaft (170) © 170 Ernest Tidyman U.S.: Macmillan edition published 27 April 170 (hardcover); 188pp (cover illustration by Mozelle Thompson) U.S.: Bantam edition published July 171, First Printing; 218pp UK: Michael Joseph edition published 24 June 171 (0-7181-0873-6) [hardcover]; 12pp UK: Corgi edition published 20 October 172 (0-552-0056-5); 218pp


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UK: Bloomsbury Film Classics published 15 October 17 (0-7475-3777-1); 214pp UK: Sight and Sound re-print and free give away published 2000 (0-7475-538-X); 214pp

Dedication: For Grace Johnson, Diane Schereschewsky, Nancy Ware. Without whom SHAFT would have been impossible. And Constance Bogen, Ronald Hobbs, Judith Oppenheimer Loth, Charles Mandelstam, Warren Picower, Jack Robbens, Sylva Romano, Leo Rosen, Helen Sears, Billie Jean Tidyman. Without whom I would have been impossible. Blurb: John Shaft is a sexy, beautiful black man who doesn’t get scared … ever. He’s tough enough to stand up to the most dangerous men in New York—heroin pushers, black militants, the Mafia. Harlem’s black crime king, Knocks Persons, hires Shaft to find his beautiful daughter—who’s disappeared after an orgy of drink, sex and dope. Shaft’s fee is twelve dollars an hour plus expenses. Knocks would give his kingdom. The Mafia want it for the heroin trade in Spanish Harlem … the bothers want it for racist revolution … the police and the Mayor want it kept cool. Sooner or later they all get to Shaft. Meanwhile he has to get to the girl.

Synopsis Private detective John Shaft is hired by Harlem crime lord and racketeer Knocks Persons to find his missing rebellious 19-year-old daughter, Beatrice. Meanwhile NYPD Lieutenant Vic Anderozzi has heard rumblings about a potential gangland war and wants Shaft to find out what he can. Shaft visits an old childhood friend, Ben Buford, who now runs a group of black militant activists, to seek information that might help him locate Beatrice. When Buford’s men are killed by a Mafia hit on their headquarters, Shaft realizes Persons has played him as an unwitting finger man. Persons explains the Mafia are looking to reclaim the Heroin trade they have lost to him in Spanish Harlem and have kidnapped his daughter in order to force a trade. With Buford wanting revenge for his dead comrades and Persons wanting his daughter back, they pool resources to help Shaft and a daring rescue is planned.

Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; KNOCKS PERSONS, Harlem crime lord; LT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct Detective; BEN BUFORD, black militant leader; HELEN GREEN, wife of Shaft’s accountant; ROLLIE NICKERSON, actor and part-time barman; THE POLICE COMMISSIONER; WILLIE JOE SMITH, Knocks’ right-hand man; CHARLIE CAROLI, Mafia hood; CARMEN

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CAROLI, Mafia hood; EDDIE, Mafia hood; ELLIE, Shaft’s girlfriend; VALERIE, girl Shaft picks up in the No Name Bar; BEATRICE THOMAS, Persons’ daughter; DOC POWELL, former boxing doctor; SHAPIRO, Assistant District Attorney; LONGFORD DOTTS, militant; BEYMAN NEWFIELD, militant; PRESTON PEERCE, militant; SYLVIE, Police Commissioner’s wife; MILDRED, Shaft’s answering service

notes The novel is assumed to be set in the spring of 16. The setting of most of Tidyman’s Shaft books seem to be contemporary to the time of writing, which would suggest the 16 date. This is also confirmed by the timeline for Shaft Has a Ball and Shaft’s age being quoted as 32 in that book compared to 28 here. However Shaft Among the Jews suggests a 170 setting as it is noted that book, written in late 171, takes place less than two years after the Persons case. Tidyman was loose with his timelines and continuity and there is a distinct possibility he lost track of his dates as the series progressed or maneuvered them for the benefit of the story.

Development Having resigned his post at the New York Times, Ernest Tidyman was working freelance and looking for opportunities to produce long-form fiction having written numerous articles and short stories for a variety of magazines through the late 160s. He was keen to tap into topical matters that would help sell his work. His initial foray into flower power fiction with the appropriately titled Flower Power, proved a failure. Without a steady income he was struggling to make ends meet and was anxious to explore new opportunities as a novelist. Alan Rinzler was Macmillan’s mystery editor in the late 160s and he met Tidyman via black literary agent Ronald A. Hobbs. Rinzler was looking to move Macmillan away from what he saw as the bland Agatha Christie– type novels the publisher was producing, stating: “I was a great admirer of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler and had the idea for a new Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe type, but black. I envisioned a rogue black detective, a private investigator, not an official NYC policeman, who went around and above the law to do justice. A hero to fit the changing times.”8 Rinzler therefore approached Hobbs to suggest writers. Hobbs was the only high-profile black literary agent in New York at the time. He had previously got Tidyman work writing magazine articles for the black press and following Rinzler’s approach he encouraged Tidyman to take on Rinzler’s suggestion and develop a fictional black character.


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK Corgi paperback cover for Shaft (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).

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Surprised at first to see Tidyman was white, but encouraged by the quality of his writing, Rinzler commissioned him to write what became Shaft. Rinzler was looking for a contrast to John Ball’s polite and well-educated Virgil Tibbs, who had been recently portrayed on screen by Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night (168) and the character Tidyman eventually developed was a significant step away from the traditional detective hero. Rinzler commented “…he did a few sample chapters that weren’t bad, but too soft. I asked for a rewrite, suggesting a specific gesture of violence, throwing a guy out a closed window, as a good way to open the story and introduce the character with a bang.” Rinzler’s motivation for working with Tidyman on creating a tough black hero, came from his observation of the changes in social culture. This he witnessed through his involvement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), for whom he worked as a ghost-writer. Later as an editor he commissioned work from black writers such as Claude Brown, who wrote about growing up in Harlem in his book Manchild in the Promised Land. As an experienced editor dealing with an inexperienced novelist Rinzler offered up ideas to Tidyman, who then fleshed out John Shaft’s character and background and introduced new plot ideas in a seven-page outline. Tidyman later said in an interview, “The blacks I knew were sharp and sophisticated, and I thought what about a black hero who thinks of himself as a human being, but who can use his black rage as one of his resources, along with intelligence and courage. One publisher could see what his redeeming social graces would be, but Macmillan gave me an advance and I wrote the novel.”10 Rinzler was impressed enough to offer Tidyman a contract. The agreement was signed for publication rights to Shaft with Macmillan and Company on 18 October 168 with an advance to Tidyman totaling $3,500 with $2,000 given on the signing of the acceptance and the remaining $1,500 once the circa 65,000 word manuscript was delivered by 1 June 16. Royalty rates were agreed at 10 percent for the first 5,000 copies, 12.5 percent for the next 5,000 then 15 percent for copies over and above this.11 Tidyman wrote the manuscript while he was still working as a freelance magazine journalist on other assignments. He would make audio recordings on his journey to and from his office, which secretaries would later transcribe for him. He finally delivered a draft and synopsis of the novel to Macmillan on 3 July 16. He also took the opportunity to circulate galleys to various contacts in the movie industry for their consideration. One of those contacts was Phil D’Antoni, who on the strength of Tidyman’s writing on Shaft hired him to adapt Robin Moore’s factual book into a script for The French Connection (171). Tidyman also later attracted interest from MGM for an adaptation of Shaft. He signed a contract with the movie studio on 7 April 170 for the film rights and the parties also agreed a five-year option for sequels based


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on any further books written by Tidyman involving the character. This led to Tidyman agreeing a contract with Bantam for two further Shaft books on 27 May 170. Shaft received its U.S. hardback publication on 27 April 170 and the paperback publication followed in July 171 to tie in with the release of the film adaptation. Following the U.S. hardback publication Tidyman looked for overseas interest, notably in the UK. He employed Charlotte Wolfers from Ron Hobbs’ agency staff as his overseas agent to negotiate deals. After being turned down by a number of publishers including Heinemann, Granada, Cape, Collins, Blond and the UK arm of Macmillan and also failing to come to agreement on terms with W.H. Allen, a UK deal was finally struck with Michael Joseph for a hardback publication. Corgi purchased paperback rights ahead of NEL after Pan and Sphere had passed. The book saw its UK hardback publication on 24 June 171 with the paperback following on 20 October 172, simultaneously with Shaft’s Big Score! The casual and reflective style of Tidyman’s writing gave the first Shaft book a descriptive fluency that set it apart from many of the pulp novels of the time and created an iconic hero with whom young black Americans could finally identify. Tidyman himself later commented modestly: “It was a good little novel and it worked well. It came out at the right time and the movie was terrific. Isaac Hayes did dynamite music. Shaft was the first black hero.”12 The book produced strong sales, primarily driven by the huge success of the movie, and by 5 November 176 it had sold an estimated 350,000 copies.

Comment Shaft is a novel that pulls on both the past and the present. Its hardboiled approach and tough, confident hero are blended against the background of modern-day social issues to create a new approach to the genre. Tidyman opens his novel in a way he would repeat in each subsequent book, by introducing Shaft in the first sentence and describing his state of mind at the time: Shaft felt warm, loose, in step as he turned east at Thirty-ninth Street for the truncated block between Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It had been a long walk from her place in the far West Twenties. Long and good. The city was still fresh that early. Even the exhaust fans of the coffee shops along the way were blowing fresh smells, bacon, egg and toasted-bagel smells, into the fact of the grey spring morning. He had been digging it all the way. Digging it, walking fast and thinking mostly about the girl. She was crazy. Freaky beautiful. Crazy. They went out to dinner and she was wearing a tangerine wig and a long purple

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coat that looked like a blanket on a Central Park plug pulling one of those creaky carriages. It was the mood she was in and he had become a part of it. He never got back to his apartment. She wanted a night like that. They had it and, then, about 7:30, she handed him a glass of cardboard-container orange juice and began pushing him out of the apartment. It was their night, but the maid’s day [Shaft, Chapter 1].

In this opening paragraph Tidyman immediately captures the essence of Shaft’s character. He describes his journey via a sensory description of the smells of a waking city. By doing so Tidyman creates a sense of place through his working knowledge of the streets. We also get a feel for Shaft’s attitudes and personality with his dry sense of humor coming to the fore. John Shaft is a tough, streetwise private eye brought up in the rough streets of Harlem. His decision to work as a private eye based in the “white” area of Manhattan is viewed by some of his peers as a betrayal. This is evident in Knocks Persons’ claims that he approached Shaft because of his white connections and the protestations from Ben Buford, the militant with whom Shaft had grown up on the streets of Harlem. Tidyman uses Shaft’s relationship with Buford to explore the reasons for his movement away from his Harlem roots. The antagonism between the two is highlighted by Buford’s mistrust of Shaft and the detective’s cynicism toward Buford’s political ambitions. He scoffs Buford’s militant approach and draws out the activist’s naivety: “There’ll be statues to you all over Mississippi one of these days, with big letters all over them saying ‘This here is the nigger who led the sheep to the slaughter’” (Shaft, Chapter 6). While referenced sporadically through the book, the social and race issues do not form its central theme—they merely provide the canvass upon which Tidyman paints his characters and storyline. The main theme is of gang warfare and comes from the simple plot surrounding the kidnapping of Persons’ daughter by the Mafia and how Shaft is used by both the gangsters and the police to their advantage, despite his ego. Shaft carries himself with such arrogance that he thinks no one will get the better of him. He therefore gets himself into some pretty dangerous situations along the way. When he trawls through the streets and cafés of the East Village and SoHo high on the adrenalin leaving messages for the Mafia, the reader seriously questions his sanity. That it results in a severe beating demonstrates how Shaft lives close to the edge. That Shaft wins out in the end comes as no surprise, but the reader is carried along with him through to the exciting finale. Despite resisting the temptation to write in the first person, the standard approach for many writers in the mystery genre, the majority of the book is played out through Shaft’s eyes. This helps retain a certain amount of mystery early in the book around the disappearance of Beatrice. But once the kidnapping plot becomes clear, at the half-way stage, the focus of the story shifts


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more to how Shaft will take on the Mafia through his attempts at rescue and to how the police will keep pace with the potentially escalating gang warfare. The only other characters given any significant perspective are Anderozzi and Knocks Persons. Tidyman gives Persons an imposing presence not just through his physical size but also the sheer scale of everything that surrounds him—his office, his car and his wardrobe. He is also a man proud of the status he has achieved through his criminal empire and in his daughter. While Shaft persistently chisels away at Persons’ exterior, he still respects the man’s dignity. Along the way the book is liberally dosed with barbed dialogue and wisecracks. As such it follows the tradition of the hard-boiled detective novels of Raymond Chandler, but with an added toughness that perhaps even more closely channels Mickey Spillane. The book is also spiced with heavy doses of sex and violence—a trend that had increased through 150s and 160s pulp fiction. For instance Shaft has no qualms about shooting Charlie Caroli in the head during his first attempt to rescue Beatrice. Most private eyes in fiction have a competitive and often antagonistic relationship with the police department demonstrated by their exchanges with their contact and John Shaft is no exception. Shaft’s verbal jousts with NYPD Lt. Vic Anderozzi are wittily played through their attempts at oneupmanship. This is established during their first exchange: “Shaft,” said Anderozzi. Tense, tight, waiting for Shaft’s play. “Lieutenant. You’re out early.” “It’s late. Depends on when you start.” “Okay, lieutenant, you’re out late” [Shaft, Chapter 1].

Anderozzi uses Shaft for his own purpose, in the same way as Knocks Persons. The police detective has been hearing rumblings of unrest in Harlem and pumps Shaft for information. But Shaft is world-wise and he also uses Anderozzi’s dependency on him to get him off a murder charge when he throws one of Persons’ hoods out through his office window. He later contacts Anderozzi to arrange for the arrest of two Mafia hoods who are lying in wait at the No Name Bar to work him over. But Shaft only releases information to Anderozzi on his own terms, emphasizing his need to retain the control over their relationship. The Shaft-Anderozzi exchanges would continue in this vein throughout the series and would be amongst the highlights of the novels. The book also highlights Tidyman’s fondness for highly descriptive prose. He often used exaggerated metaphors in his descriptions, thereby lending the action an eccentric style decorated with an almost absurd grace. This unique style lifts Tidyman above many of his peers, although his writing style could sometimes baffle the casual reader. His prose carried a dark and per-

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verse humor, reflecting his own personality, conveyed through much of the tough dialogue. His years working as a journalist in the city also enabled him to create an authentic feel for the streets of New York. He was as at ease in describing the senses of a waking city as he was the harshness of the ghettos in Harlem. The action scenes are just as well written. This example, where Tidyman describes the moment one of Persons’ hoods exits Shaft’s 3rd Floor Office through the window and lands in Times Square, being a good example: Every taut muscle of Shaft’s body went into the twist and turn, the wrench of his arm and the lash of his wrist. The limp, bent form in brown danced, skated and angled crazily through the open space between the desk and the window. The glass exploded against the head and shoulders of the projectile. It crashed and clattered and tinkled as the body went hurtling through and out into the bright, breezy, sunny spring day [Shaft, Chapter 1].

Tidyman’s writing remains distinct and elevated from the more cartoon-like approach to action and violence adopted in much of the pulp fiction of the time. Actions have consequences. People get hurt and Shaft himself takes a severe beating and has to be patched up by an old boxing doctor after an unsuccessful first attempt to rescue Persons’ daughter. Tidyman also established a small cast of characters who would populate future books. Alongside Anderozzi, we have: Mrs. Klonsky, Shaft’s grumpy Polish cleaner; Mildred, his similarly grumpy answering service, who has a distinct lack of trust in her husband, Emil; the unemployed actor and parttime barman, Rollie Nickerson, who specializes in impressions of classic screen actors; the Greens—Accountant Marvin and his wife Helen—Shaft’s only truly “respectable” friends. Ben Buford would also make a return appearance in Shaft Has a Ball and Knocks Persons similarly in Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft was picked up by MGM for film adaptation ahead of its publication after Tidyman had circulated galley copies. Although the book was successful when published, it was the resulting movie that put the character of John Shaft firmly on the map. Tidyman had already intended to continue his adventures in book form having planned out two more novels and in total he would see seven novels published over a period of five years. But once the movie had become a smash hit with the public, the character would become instantly, and forever, identified with Richard Roundtree’s confident portrayal on the big screen and Isaac Hayes’ legendary theme. It is a shame the film tends to put Tidyman’s Shaft in its shadow as the book stands up well as an excellent example of pulp crime fiction with a welldrawn protagonist of real depth—more so than is seen on the big screen. The later books may have portrayed Shaft as more of a killing machine but here he is a fully rounded and interesting, if flawed, individual.


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Reviews Both contemporary and retrospective reviewers are generally positive with the following examples: “Outdoes in violence any other recent crime story we remember, and the saturation in four-letter-words is glutting. Nevertheless, the plot, characters and scene have such validity and fiery force that this is highly recommended.”—Publishers’ Weekly,  March 170 “Tidyman has a good character going, and the book, Shaft, should be the first of a successful series.”—The Hollywood Reporter, 24 April 170 “Contemporary contours are hazy but the action’s solid for a very readable chaser.”—Kirkus, 27 April 1970 “Tidyman hasn’t got black dialect, black lifestyle or black politics right in this book though he makes a big try at all three.”—Ivan Webster, L.A. Times, 10 June 170 “Tighter writing and much tighter editing next time around should mold John Shaft into an acceptable character.”—Jack Quinn, Buffalo Evening News, 1 August 170 “Tidyman not only keeps things moving at a bloody fast pace—but as he does so he doesn’t slight on characterizations—even when these are occasionally given a strong tongue in cheek variety. Books such as Shaft could easily become habit-forming for those who appreciate well-packaged suspense yarns.”—The Lewiston Evening Journal, 13 February 171 “After reading through the racy and tough chapters (four-letter words come out of the mouths of characters unflinchingly) the ending is something of an anti-climax, virtually a stand- off as if the writer ran out of breath.”— Christchurch Star, 11 June 171 “…a stylish and near-cinematic exemplar of the two-fisted Spillane school of paperback detective romance.”—Gene Seymour, L.A. Times, 22 June 2000

Book 2: Shaft Among the Jews (172) © 172 Ernest Tidyman U.S.: Dial edition published 2 June 172 (hardcover); 244pp U.S.: Bantam edition published June 173 (paperback). UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published 15 February 173 (hardcover); 244pp UK: Corgi edition published 21 September 173 (0-552-030-2) (paperback); 208pp Paperback Cover Painting: H. Rogers

Dedication: For some of my best friends. “Hold me in your love and kind regard and I will take my comfort anywhere.” Blurb: A black eye for the diamond district. That’s John Shaft. Supercool

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private eye on an incredible retainer from seven Hassidic Jews—diamond merchants who decide this dark uptown dude is mean and wily enough to handle a caper involving five murders, synthetic jewels, the mid-east arms race and an international shyster with dreams of ruling the world—until he runs into Shaft Among The Jews.

Synopsis Shaft is hired by a group of Jewish diamond merchants to find out what is causing a destabilization of their business. Morris Blackburn, an ambitious trader, is in financial difficulties and using his right-hand man, David Alexander, to source his stock illegally then kill his suppliers. Blackburn is then visited by Avril Herzel, an old friend of his father, who claims to have developed a formula for manufacturing synthetic diamonds and wants his formula to be a gift to the world. Blackburn plans for the old man to teach him his methods, then secretly plots to kill him and use the formula for personal profit. But Herzel is also being sought by Ben Fischer and his Israeli Secret Service agents, having left his homeland with the formula. Also looking for Herzel is his daughter, Cara. When Shaft goes undercover at Blackburn’s store and Cara turns up looking for her father the various parties come together explosively.

Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; MORRIS BLACKBURN, Diamond trader; DAVID ALEXANDER, Blackburn’s right-hand man; CARA HERZEL, daughter of Avrim; BEN FISCHER, Israeli agent; LT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct Detective; SIMON SOLOMON, diamond merchant; AVRIM HERZEL, synthetic diamond cutter; WILLIE J. SCOTT, porter at Jackson Bean tailors; DETECTIVE ARNOLD BERKOWITZ, NYPD 17th Precinct; MARC BELLIKOFF, one of Fischer’s team; ENOCH BELZER, one of Fischer’s team; LEVI YADIN, one of Fischer’s team; MORDECAI TAL, one of Fischer’s team; NORMAN GREENFELD, cab driver; AMY TAYLOR-DAVIS, Shaft’s girlfriend; PETER DAY, Floor manager at Blackburn’s; DETECTIVE AARON FELDMAN, NYPD; HELMUT ZINDER, doorman at Blackburn’s; ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman; CHALINE “CHERRY” CULP, Blackburn’s mistress; LEOPOLD FISHBEIN, diamond trader; ELVON DREW, porter at Blackburn’s; ANDY, porter at Donovan & Cathcart; PAUL, porter at Phelps Ltd.; LONNIE, cleaner at Blackburn’s; MAX LISHKIN, diamond trader; PATROLMAN DANIEL HENNESSEY; PATROLMAN RAFAEL NUNEZ

notes Linking to the timeline of Shaft and Shaft Has a Ball suggests this book is set in November/December 170—based on Shaft’s reference to the


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK Corgi paperback cover for Shaft Among the Jews (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).

3. The Shaft Novels


Knocks Persons case being almost two years ago. Alternatively, Tidyman could have got his sums wrong and set it roughly at the time of writing, as with other books in the series, in November/December 171. The book was later published in braille and as a talking book in Canada following a permission agreement with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind dated 6 August 182.

Development Ernest Tidyman signed his publishing agreement for what was provisionally titled Shaft II, as part of the two-book deal follow-up to Shaft with Bantam on 27 May 170. The genesis of the book, however, lay in an earlier 8-page outline Tidyman had provided to MGM for a sequel to Shaft. The original outline did not feature the sub- plot involving Cara Herzel and devoted more time to the murder of a number of diamond merchants. Another variance to the finished book is Shaft’s direct relationship and building a position of trust with Blackburn rather than his go-between David Alexander, who does not feature in the outline. Producer Roger Lewis confirmed to Tidyman on 28 May 171 that MGM had agreed to exercise their rights to a sequel to Shaft, however the studio were pushing for an original screenplay—a cheaper option for them. Tidyman, therefore, developed his original story outline into a book sequel producing draft manuscripts between September and October 171. He submitted a copy of the completed Shaft Among the Jews to Russell Thacher at MGM for consideration on 1 October 171 to fulfill his obligations under their options agreement. Inspiration for Shaft Among the Jews came from a 168 New York Times report on the murder of three traveling diamond salesmen over a three month period.13 In the report executive secretary Arnold J. Lubin spoke on behalf of New York’s Diamond Dealers Club expressing fear of “Syndicate” involvement. In a letter to future business associate Sylva Romano (then employed by the Allied Literary Company in L.A.), dated 4 December 168, Tidyman enclosed the article and explained how he had created a plot about a new technique discovered in Israel for creating synthetic diamonds. At the time this storyline did not feature John Shaft—the investigator would have come from within the insurance or diamond industry. The character that became Morris Blackburn was initially named Mr. Sparkles—very James Bond. As well as using the Jewish diamond dealers, Tidyman brought in characters from Israel in the form of Avrim Herzel, his daughter and the group of secret service agents. There was also a Jewish detective in Arnold Berko -


Part II: Shaft in Print

witz. In order to familiarize himself with Jewish terms, which he could use throughout the book, Tidyman was referred to Leo Rosten’s The Joys of Yiddish. Shaft Among the Jews was published in hardback in the U.S. on 2 June 172, almost a year after the release of the Shaft movie and a few days after its sequel Shaft’s Big Score! Promotion of the book proved to be a thorny subject. Tidyman initially took Dial Press to task for their perceived lack of interest in the novel—a theme that would re-surface later for the Bantam paperback publication. The issue started when, on 21 May 172, Tidyman requested Dial Press issue copies of his book to reviewers and some movie people, notably at MGM. When Donna Schrader, Publicity Director for Dial, replied, “I think in the future the movie people should get their copy from your agent,”14 Tidyman took offence and threatened to look for another publisher citing a similar issue with Macmillan that had caused him to move on from that relationship. Richard Marek, editor at Dial, finally intervened on 22 June stating TV and radio were not interested in talking to fiction authors and that promotion was best served through reviews and word of mouth adding, “Dial will surely rethink its advertising policy should sales spurt. But we have no specific promotion plans in mind.”15 Tidyman remained unhappy with the response pointing to his journalistic experience and stating, “I am obliged to comment that relying on book reviews and word of mouth as sales promotion of books is utter drivel.”16 Cover design also proved to be an issue. Tidyman had made suggestions for The Dial Press publication: “A group of Hassidim in their large black fedoras on a field of diamonds. One or two are stooping to pick up the stones. Another is looking at a stone through a loupe. In the middle of them is Shaft, also wearing a large black hat and long coat with a pistol in his hand. (He does this in the book, by the way).”17 In the end the book had a simple lettering design of the title for its cover, but some of Tidyman’s ideas would later be used in the design of the paperback cover. While Tidyman continued to write the Shaft character true to his original outline, Richard Roundtree was now very much the public image of John Shaft. There was some initial disagreement between Bantam and MGM about using Roundtree’s likeness for the 173 paperback edition cover and the end result is more of a resemblance than a direct portrait. Interestingly early drafts of the Bantam cover had Shaft with a moustache, but this was removed for the final publication. For the Corgi UK cover, which utilized the same artwork, the moustache was returned. Tidyman was also involved with Bantam in other issues regarding the styling of the cover—notably the relatively low prominence of his name, as these points in his letter to Jane Toonkel, the Permissions Editor, demonstrate:

3. The Shaft Novels


Specifically, the point of the title is completely lost. The title of the novel is Shaft Among The Jews. As it is, we might as well use the old cover of the first book … the type size you have chosen for my name is ridiculous and its placement is an afterthought. If you were not trying to hide it, put the name above the title … the illustration on the cover makes Shaft look like a combination of Sal Mineo and Johnny Mathis wearing an obscene T-shirt. I suggest the artist read the book…18

These issues were resolved on 5 March 173 and the paperback saw publication that June—one year on from its hardback publication. However, Tidyman was still not happy with Bantam’s perceived lack of promotion for the book and their terse relationship continued. When Bantam responded that Tidyman could not be tied to a location long enough to get promotion going, Sylva Romano responded on his behalf noting Tidyman was traveling due to work that was earning him awards and raising his status as a writer. She finished saying, “Ernest is now in Connecticut/New York. He is willing, available and very capable of taking part in a promotional campaign for Shaft Among the Jews and other books. Nothing would please him more and I think a real campaign would produce gratifying results.”1 Tidyman was pleased with the novel and in a letter to James Lynch of the New York Times he said, “I think it’s better than the first one but what the hell.” He added intuitively, “They will probably deteriorate in quality as they go on since there are going to be seven of them and I doubt that I have that much to say about the big ape.”20 He also forwarded a copy of the book to Gordon Parks on 8 June 172, director of the first two Shaft films.

Comment With Shaft Among the Jews, Tidyman fashions an exciting and more complex story centered on themes of greed and opportunism populated with a cast of colorful characters. As he opens the book Tidyman has huge fun playing up to the clichéd view of the Jewish being very careful with their money as the following exchange with Shaft demonstrates: “And how much does this cost?” “The rates vary, but mostly I get fifteen dollars an hour now … and expenses.” “Expenses?” Big frowns all round. “Phone calls, taxi fares, maybe I have to buy some information…” “Why do you have to buy information when you get fifteen dollars an hour to find out for yourself?” Now Shaft frowned [Shaft Among the Jews, Chapter 1].

As in Shaft there are a number of long descriptive passages, often containing surreal metaphors and character introspection interspersed with


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hard-nosed action and wise-ass dialogue. This is very much Tidyman’s writing style and something that would become less evident in the later books on which he collaborated with Robert Turner and Phillip Rock. The book is written from several character viewpoints, meaning Shaft is not as frequently at the center of the action as he was in Shaft. Lt. Vic Anderozzi returns from the first book and indeed this book contains the best Shaft/Anderozzi exchanges, most notably around two separate instances of Shaft being detained. Also back is Shaft’s unemployed actor friend Rollie Nickerson, who is portrayed in characteristic fashion to be almost permanently high on drugs. The supporting cast are well drawn with a number of them being given an individual perspective in order to help flesh out their characters. We learn of Avrim Herzel’s time in Germany during the holocaust and his friendship with Morris Blackburn’s father, which created the bond leading to the proposed gift of his formula to the world through Blackburn. Morris Blackburn is portrayed as a man of greed and extravagant tastes in both material goods and women. He has a socialite mistress in Chaline Culp and his handsome features also attract David Alexander, his gay right-hand man. Alexander is less well-drawn as a character and Tidyman’s approach to his sexuality tends toward the caricature. In fact throughout his books Tidyman adopts what seems to be a homophobic attitude to gays reflecting the time they were written, depicting most of them as delinquents or deviants. Ben Fischer, though, is portrayed as a professional agent with a strong authoritative hold over his men who has no qualms about killing to achieve his objective. Of the female characters, Cara Herzel is Avrim’s vulnerable daughter. It is her vulnerability that draws Shaft to help her and he adopts a protective stance toward her, which displays a tenderness rarely seen in him before or since. Shaft’s girlfriend, Amy Taylor-Davis, on the other hand is shown to be a shallow, manipulating blonde who tries to shape Shaft into her ideal man. This creates an anger within Shaft that demonstrates his own personal prejudices such as this instance when she suggests he takes up tennis: “The vision embarrassed him. He looked like a ballet dancer, and so did all the other silly fucking faggots who danced around on tennis courts” (Shaft Among the Jews, Chapter 3). It is Shaft’s growing attraction to Cara that leads him to understand that he is only dating Amy for the sex. Their final conversation ends abruptly with Shaft hanging up on her when she complains about not seeing him for a few days. From here Amy disappears from the story. Shaft’s undercover assignment as a porter at Blackburn’s store takes up the central section of the book and leads to the tense and explosive midnight showdown when Ben Fischer’s agents storm the building. This is an exciting scene, well-written by Tidyman. The finale, with Alexander’s attempted hit

3. The Shaft Novels


on Shaft and Blackburn’s self-sacrifice, serves to enforce the story’s moral that vanity and greed can only lead to self-destruction. Alexander is killed because of his failure to control his desire, while Blackburn kills himself as a last resort rather than face losing everything he has. The irony of the conclusion gives the book more depth than is seen in Shaft. Shaft Among the Jews is probably the strongest book in the series. It has rich characterizations, strong action scenes and displays a depth to Shaft’s character that would rarely be seen again in the series. Future books would trade more on Shaft’s vicious sense of justice and less on the thought process behind his actions.

Reviews Both contemporary and retrospective reviews of the book were a surprisingly mixed bag. Here are some examples: “…most damaging, the scenario approach leaches away Shaft’s furious blackness, which gave the earlier novel its vitality. Tidyman has written a slick professional entertainment but he’s turned his fierce prowler of the mean Harlem streets into a black face Bond and Shaft deserves better.”—Don Crinklaw, St. Louis Post Dispatch, 25 June 172 “Herzel has had an alchemical vision which can be translated into new gems—diamonds, emeralds and rubies. That is if you know how to apply enough pressure and heat. Tidyman certainly does (he scripted The French Connection) so that this streaks, and the ethnic touches are pretty damned funny.”—Kirkus, 2 June 172 “Certainly a book to recommend to the sophisticated Jewish thriller addict.”—Jewish Chronicle, 26 January 173 “It sometimes moves stickily, and sometimes looks like foundering under the weight of its own ferocity, but has touches of stylishness gleaming through the dense thickets of four-letter-words.” —Edmund Crispin, The Sunday Times, 18 February 173 “I found the story too much inclined to improbabilities and the crudities the needlessly permeate it nauseating.”—The Oxford Times, 23 February 173 “Tidyman fans will lap it up, though relatively it’s hardly his best work, since even the best four-letter-style writing is no substitute for an undisciplined plot.”—Anthony Price, Oxford Mail, 8 March 173 “Shaft Among the Jews proves that his ear for hip dialogue has not dimmed. John Shaft, his black private eye, is as cool and deadly as ever in a slightly over-complicated, but nevertheless convincingly-written plot.”— Anthony Masters, The Birmingham Post, 27 March 173 “This sophisticated essay in violence needs a strong stomach as well as quick wits to be appreciated.”—West Lancashire Evening News, 10 March 173


Part II: Shaft in Print “Moving fairly quickly, with some good action scenes, Shaft Among the Jews is one of the best in the series.”—Scott Adams, Teleport City, 7 June 2005 ( “Reminded me a bit of the Spillane’s Goliath Bone. I’m aware that it’s not a fair comparison but they are both violent and sexy and dealing with some truly ridiculous plots (dreams of million alchemists are fulfilled in this one) involving Israel and world domination. But I remember reading Goli ath Bone just made me sad for the old maestro while reading Shaft was pure fun. Like always is.”—Alpha-60 Books, 7 June 2014 (www.a60books.

Book 3: Shaft’s Big Score! (172) © 172 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. U.S.: Bantam edition published 7 August 172 (0-552-0072-7) [paperback]; 176pp UK: Corgi edition published 20 October 172 (0-552-0072-7) [paperback]; 170pp

Dedication: None. Blurb: He’s jazzing the underworld again … hunting half-a-million big ones buried by a dead undertaker … standing six feet tall in the middle of a black-and-white Mafia war … taking on all comers, from the Mob’s meanest headbusters to a lean black widow with a loving sting … he’s big, beautiful, black—and he’s back … the baddest mother ever made of muscle and ice, John Shaft!

Synopsis When old-friend Cal Asby asks for help, Shaft travels to meet him at his business office in Queens only to arrive as a bomb is detonated killing Asby. Shaft then takes a personal interest and starts to investigate why Asby was hit. In doing so he comes across Asby’s business partner, Albert J. Kelly, who is looking to settle a gambling debt with gangster Gus Mascola using money he and Asby had earned from a numbers racket. In turn Mascola wants to use the money to buy more turf for his criminal empire. However, the money is missing—Asby had instead intended it to go to a children’s foundation—and Kelly is desperately trying to locate it. Mascola is also in competition, in a city-wide syndicate run by Arthur Sharrett for control of the numbers scene in Queens, with Harlem crime lord Knocks Persons. As the search for the loot intensifies Shaft gets caught in the crossfire.

3. The Shaft Novels


Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; GUS MASCOLA, Brooklyn based gangster; KNOCKS PERSONS, Harlem based gangster; ALBERT J. KELLY, Cal Asby’s partner; ARTHUR SHARRETT, Manhattan based gangster; DET SGT PETE BOLLIN, NYPD Queens; ARANA ASBY, Cal Asby’s widow; GAIL SHARRETT, daughter of Arthur Sharrett; RITA TOWNE, Kelly’s mistress; WILLY, Knocks Persons’ bodyguard; ANDY PASCAL, Mascola’s hood; JOE RIP, Mascola’s hood; JERRY LONGO, Mascola’s hood; TONY FOGLIO, Mascola’s hood; SAL LONGO, Mascola’s hood; JUNIOR JOHNSON, Asby-Kelly collector; CAPTAIN SAMSON, NYPD Queens; CALVIN MONROE ASBY, co-owner Asby/Kelly Insurance and Funeral Home; ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman; LT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct; DONALD FOREST, cleaner at Asby-Kelly; The REV. ANDREW BLAKE, reverend at Asby’s funeral

notes Set in January 172 with Shaft returning from a holiday in Jamaica.

Development The third book in the series is actually Tidyman’s novelization of his own screenplay for the second movie, Shaft’s Big Score! The sequel to Shaft was commissioned before the first film had even been released. Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant, who were equal partners with Tidyman in Shaft Productions, had set about commissioning a script for the follow-up, while Tidyman, who had submitted his own outline for a sequel that was to become his second book Shaft Among the Jews, was busy on other projects. Initial ideas had included an adventure for Shaft in the Caribbean. A screenplay from Joe Greene (also known as B.B. Johnson, who had recently created black action hero Richard Abraham Spade “Superspade” in a series of books) was considered, but in the end Lewis and Silliphant developed their story, The Big Bamboo, with Lewis writing a screenplay treatment.21 Tidyman’s lack of involvement and perceived lack of interest had tested the patience of his partners and their relationship deteriorated as a result. When Tidyman finally rejected Lewis’ screenplay he set about writing the sequel himself. An initial outline was produced on 21 October 171 under the title Gang Bang. And on 13 December 171 terms were agreed between Tidyman and Bantam for a paperback publication of the Shaft sequel novelization. Other titles considered during development were Shaft’s Triple Cross and Bury Me Deep, John Shaft before MGM finally settling on Shaft’s Big Score! on 2 March 172. Production of the film ran from January to April with the paperback


Part II: Shaft in Print

due to be published in May. However, a disagreement over royalties between Tidyman and MGM (who had determined the split) along with his partners in Shaft Productions (who claimed others were also involved with screenplay development), led to the paperback release being postponed and it seemed the book may never be published. “MGM let it be known they wanted 25% of the royalties,” said Tidyman, “and my partners said they wanted a slice. I insisted no one was to get a piece of any novel, or would I let anyone do a novelization of my Shaft character. He’s a valuable entity—he’s been bastardized in films.”22 Tidyman’s justification was that his novel was based on his story and screenplay but was also a separate entity to the final film, in that additional characters (drawn from Tidyman’s early Gang Bang outline) and situations were included. Lewis countered, “Ernest did not have the legal right to make the deal with Bantam without the permission of MGM or Shaft Productions. He was informed of this on numerous occasions.”23 Tidyman informed The Pittsburgh Press: “I told them I would tear up the book, which represented six months hard work, and give the publisher back the money rather than give MGM money it had not earned nor in any way contributed to. I startled the hell out of them. They never heard of a writer who would give back money or tear up a book because of a principle. They were very upset.”24 As it transpired the legal advice was that Tidyman did not have separation rites to the character and hence the copyright for the novelization stayed with MGM.25 However, an agreement was finally reached between Tidyman, Bantam and the studio to the effect that Bantam donated 2 percent of its royalties to Tidyman and an additional 2 percent would be paid to MGM and Shaft Productions, of which Tidyman was a one-third shareholder.26 The paperback was eventually published hot on the heels of the hardback release of Shaft Among the Jews and shortly after the movie was released. In the UK the book was simultaneously published by Corgi in paperback alongside Shaft in October 172.

Comment Shaft’s Big Score! varies in a number of ways from the final version that was seen on the big screen and is therefore more representative of Tidyman’s vision for the story drawing from early drafts as well as the final screenplay. In Tidyman’s book Arna Asby is Cal Asby’s wife, not his sister. Shaft and Cal were in competition for her affections as younger men and Shaft still holds a torch for her, but never follows up on it, despite being tempted. The characters of Arthur and Gail Sharrett are missing completely from the movie

3. The Shaft Novels


where it is Mascola who has the swank apartment and expensive tastes. This brings out the fundamental differences in the portrayal of Gus Mascola in the book to that in the film. In Tidyman’s book Mascola is a much more basic and violent character than the more charismatic version seen on screen, which actor Jo seph Mascolo helped to create. Also in the book, the closing sequence is limited to just the car chase, whereas the movie would add a speed-boat and helicopter to the mix making the chase climax much more protracted as a result. This was likely a decision taken either by the director or producers looking to in crease the level of action in the finale. As in Shaft, Knocks Persons became Bumpy UK Corgi paperback cover for Shaft’s Big Score! Jonas in the movie and (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random Willy’s role is beefed up. House group, Ltd.). The book omits the scene in the film where Shaft and Willy extract revenge on Mascola for the beating given earlier in the story to Shaft. It also omits the machine gun attack on Persons’ office. On the whole the book is a more cohesive package than the movie. Introducing Arthur Sharrett gives the plot an extra dimension alongside more reasoning behind the Mascola-Persons feud and the pressures put on Kelly to provide the $500,000. The contrast between the sophistication of Sharrett’s old school approach and Mascola’s more direct stance is well drawn.


Part II: Shaft in Print

The three main female characters all come across as subservient in one way or another, while each demonstrate an inner strength, which helps counteract their seemingly servile nature. Arna Asby is ignorant to her husband’s involvement in the numbers racket and unaware of the fortune he has accumulated. She has unquestioningly lived a happy and affluent life and when Cal is killed her lonely vulnerability is exposed and she leans heavily on Shaft for support. Gail Sharrett is Arthur Sharrett’s daughter. Her father is crippled by a muscular disease and she is his nurse, his secretary and his protector. She also defends herself admirably against the leering advances of Gus Mascola and shows no fear when Shaft breaks into her apartment in search of her father. Yet later she is reduced to a whining wreck as Shaft tears the Brooklyn roads apart in her Ferrari. Rita Towne relies on Kelly to pay the rent for her apartment. She is there to meet his needs, but when the stresses of searching for the missing cash come to the fore and Kelly rejects her sexual advances then strikes her, she reacts strongly and takes her revenge by seducing Shaft. Little is added to Shaft’s character in this book. In the opening he is returning from a disappointing vacation in Jamaica, which may be a thinly veiled reference to Roger Lewis’ rejected Jamaica based screenplay The Big Bamboo. The following establishes Shaft’s cynical frame of mind: “Got another back there?” he asked the pudgy stewardess, holding up the plastic glass at her. She smiled the pudgy little smile. Did the pilots have to wind them up before each trip? Could she hold that smile as an engine fell off? “Here you are, sir. Scotch on the rocks.” The voice had all the sincerity of a radio commercial for hemorrhoid ointment and the girl would probably smile all the way through a blow job [Shaft’s Big Score! Chapter 1].

Shaft reacts to situations through the book as we expect by delivering the wisecracks and showing the metaphoric finger to authority. We learn of his friendship with Cal, an ex-army buddy, and Arna—the closest to a normal friendship, outside of the Greens, we see from him in the series. The story has no room for the recurring characters we saw in the first two books in the series, largely due to their absence from the movie, with Vic Anderozzi and Rollie Nickerson reduced to mere reference cameos. However, Detective Sergeant Pete Bollin (promoted to Captain in the film to remove the need for the Captain Samson character) is a strong creation. He is a Harlem detective making good in a white neighborhood. He is as hard on blacks as he is on whites. It is a shame Tidyman would not use Bollin again in other books in the series. The villains are in the finest tradition of the author. Knocks Persons makes his second and final appearance in the series, but is largely superfluous to the plot and is seemingly there to provide a strong link to the first book

3. The Shaft Novels


and film. His addition, however, does help create some tension for Mascola’s race against the clock to find the money. Gus Mascola is a thug who has elevated himself beyond his class and above his potential on the gangster hierarchy ladder. There is nothing likeable or redeeming in his character. He is a violent and sadistic man with a lecherous eye for his boss’ daughter. In contrast to the film, Arthur Sharrett is the senior villain here, but his disability works against him in the closing chapters as Mascola uses it to his advantage as he tries to take over Sharrett’s business by force. Albert J. Kelly is the man caught in the middle and he too, like Mascola, has no redeeming characteristics. In desperation he sells his partner out to Mascola and sets Shaft up for a hit. He beats his mistress, Rita Towne, and is motivated purely by greed. Of these four characters, only Knocks Persons emerges from the story physically unscathed as Shaft brings his own brand of mayhem to the Queens Cemetery and Bowery Bay wharf showdown. While the book echoes some of the themes seen in Shaft, notably in its gangster versus gangster plot basis, Shaft’s Big Score! is a fast-moving and entertaining read, which joins the first two books in the series as being the most representative in terms of quality.

Reviews Reviews of the book are few and far-between with these examples from retrospective reviewers showing a mildly positive response: “…fun read with great dialogues, cool slang and some hilarious one-liners. But it does get a bit repetitive and dull towards the end as there’s 100+ pages gap between the initial killings and the final bloodbath.”—Alpha-60 Books, 3 November 2013 ( “This is probably the best written of the books, but it doesn’t have the same manic energy some of the later entries would have.”—Scott Adams, Teleport City, 7 June 2005 (

Book 4: Shaft Has a Ball (173) © 173 Ernest Tidyman U.S.: Bantam edition published 2 April 173. UK: Corgi edition published 20 July 173 (0-552-0273-8); 160pp.

Dedication: None.


Part II: Shaft in Print

Blurb: Do Unto Others…. Fast! That’s John Shaft’s golden rule—and the way he takes care of biz. This time it’s at the center of a Mafia heist plan to cop a million from the Hotel Armand during a fag convention and put all the heat on a revolutionary brother. But things are not as Black as they seem until Shaft jumps in, fists first and gun burning holes in whatever moves. When the smoke clears and the bodies are all counted, it’s no news that SHAFT HAS A BALL.

Synopsis Captain Vic Anderozzi has received information about a potential heist by political activist Ben Buford to fund bail for six of his supporters. Anderozzi tries to persuade Shaft to look into it, but Shaft refuses. When Anderozzi’s informant, a young girl junkie, turns up dead in his apartment, Shaft finally agrees to help and in return is given a job as bodyguard to an ambitious black senator in thanks. While Shaft follows up on his leads, believing Buford is being framed, the senator is badly beaten by a rough-trade thug. Shaft now has to work both cases, which converge at a GAY convention at the Hotel where the senator is staying.

Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; CAPT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct; ALBERT CONGDON STOVALL, U.S. Republican senator; BEN BUFORD, political activist; WINIFRED GUITERREZ, magazine journalist; ANDY LE DUC, heist gunman; DONALD GRAYCOFF, heist actor; NEAL WICKMAN, heist organizer; SAUL YANCEY, heist co-organizer; JEFF BIGGER, heist lock man; ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman; BEBE JENNINGS, LeDuc’s girlfriend; PETE DRAKE, Head of Security at Hotel Armand; CYRUS CREIGHTON, executive manager of Hotel Armand; DIRK “COWBOY” DOHENY, rough-trade thug; BILLIE YEATS, bellhop at Hotel Armand; HELEN GREEN, wife of Shaft’s accountant; ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY; MRS. HUEY BUFORD, Ben Buford’s mother; MR. JULIANSON, Graycoff ’s uncle; DOMINIC, Mafia man; UN-NAMED, Second mafia man; MARILYN CRISPIN, friend of Winnie Guiterrez; BREAM, one of Buford’s men; THE BOOK, numbers man; GEORGIE AINS WORTH, pimp; HOWARD MARCY, Georgie’s minder; RUBE POSEY, pool hall owner; ANDREA, junkie prostitute; CELIA CONSTANCE “CEE CEE” FERGUSON, junkie informant; CLAUDE PHILLIPS, Client of Shaft’s

notes Set between Wednesday 16 August and Saturday 1 August 172. This is confirmed with the calendar dates quoted in the book. As Shaft is also quoted as being 32 years old, this places his birthday before 16 August 140.

3. The Shaft Novels


Development Shaft Has a Ball was the first book referenced in a three-book contract Tidyman had signed with Bantam on 22 June 172 for the final titles in the series. Shaft, Shaft Among the Jews and Goodbye, Mr. Shaft were covered in an initial three book arrangement, while Shaft’s Big Score! was subject to a separate agreement being under copyright to MGM. The fourth book in the series was provisionally titled The Gang’s All Here, Shaft. Tidyman had reasoned a production line of books within the term of his 5-year options contract with MGM for adaptations would maximize the potential for one of them being adapted into a film. Having sketched outlines of plots and characters for the stories he looked for help in writing the books. It was at this point that Ernest Tidyman the writer became Ernest Tidyman the brand name. Tidyman commissioned two writers to develop these outlines into draft manuscripts, to which he would add material and produce a final edit to ensure they maintained his “house style.” The writers he used, Robert Turner and Phillip Rock, would be assigned two books to work on each and back to back. Their writing would overlap ensuring the momentum behind the production of the books could be maintained. Their requirement was to basically organize a manuscript into something of a workable structure for Tidyman to embellish further. The book had its roots in a story outline entitled Two Faces for a Traitor which was developed in early 172 for a proposed daily newspaper comic strip. Tidyman would further develop this with artist Don Rico from June 172 into some test panels. The concept of Ben Buford being framed for a heist was taken from this story and re-developed. There is also a female character named Chee Chee in the comic strip, who became Cee Cee in the novel. The decision to base the plot around a National Congress of Gay American Youth (GAY) convention was likely inspired by the gay movement happening around this time. Notably the famous Stonewall Inn riot that took place in Greenwich Village on 28 June 16 and the various marches led by members of the Gay Activist Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front. The second annual Gay Pride Parade of 171 in New York was one of the biggest processions the city had seen. Robert Turner was assigned to work on Shaft Has a Ball and the approach taken was for Turner to write the basic manuscript and for Tidyman to flesh out with his distinctive style. In correspondence to Tidyman, Turner wrote, “As you’ve probably noticed I’m not even attempting to too much insert the kind of literary quality passages that are rather a unique part of your personal style. I figure leave the genuine Tidymnanisms up to Tidyman.” 27 At this time Tidyman was based in London and working on proposals


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK Corgi paperback cover for Shaft Has a Ball (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).

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for other writing and film ideas. Turner would therefore send Xerox copies of the developing manuscript as he worked, which Tidyman would then edit and return with comments and suggestions. The final pages were submitted by Turner on 20 August 172. Tidyman submitted the first half of the fleshed out novel to Bantam on 6 September and the remainder two weeks later. Tidyman made changes “justifying his [Shaft’s] violence and calming some of the graphic sex scenes.”28 Bantam accepted the manuscript on 2 October and the title was changed to Shaft Has a Ball on 16 November. Shaft Has a Ball was published in paperback in the U.S. on 2 April 173, only eight months after Shaft’s Big Score! It followed in the UK on 20 July. Each of the last four books would adopt a more formulaic approach, no doubt attributed to the speed of writing and the production line mentality adopted. Shaft Has a Ball also contained a shorter page count than the previous books in the series coming in at 160 pages in its published paperback format. As Turner was completing Shaft Has a Ball, Phillip Rock was commencing work on Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, a book which also used the character of Senator Stovall. The lack of collaboration between Turner and Rock and a hole in the editorial work by Tidyman resulted in errors in continuity between the two, which Tidyman later only partly rectified.

Comment Shaft Has a Ball is a quick and entertaining read, but shows distinct signs of its hurried route to publication. There are a number of unsatisfying elements to the story and a rushed wrap-up after the closing shootout in Yonkers. Additionally the violence has become more casual and the killings more frequent, relegating the book to the level of much of the men’s pulp adventure fiction of the time. Early in the book we get a reminder of who John Shaft is through his interview with magazine journalist Winifred Guiterrez. This seems like an attempt by Tidyman to re-affirm his John Shaft as opposed to the version seen on the big screen, where Shaft was given no background. So in Shaft Has a Ball we get a potted biography of Shaft’s life, most confirming what fans of the series had already learned in Shaft. The rest was drawn from Tidyman’s original outline for the character. These include one or two new pieces—notably concerning Shaft’s post-army career. The character of Winnie is used merely as a device to create this opportunity and the character disappears from the story half-way through, having been seduced by Shaft, who somehow cures her fear of sex, which had resulted from a rape in her youth. The casual way in which this is dealt with is an example of the lack of depth in characterization compared to the earlier books.


Part II: Shaft in Print

Shaft is not immune to this two-dimensional approach. Here he has been turned into more of an action hero than a detective. He has a personal kill count of six in this book—two of them delivered with his bare hands. He is also seen to more easily overcome an assault, as evidenced by the effortless way he fights off the two Mafia hit-men in the closing chapter. This makes the character seem more indestructible than he had in the first three books and as a result less convincing. There is some tension with Anderozzi, now a captain (although Shaft refers to him as both captain and lieutenant), in their initial meeting. But the police detective seems more tolerant of Shaft’s methods than before—defending him to a young assistant DA and not even questioning him in connection to the deaths of Howard Marcy and two pushers—seemingly giving the message that killing is okay as long as the right people get killed. There are also hints dropped that Anderozzi himself stepped beyond the law in his younger days as an apparent explanation for his tolerance. The villains are all cheap hoods. The heist team are incompetent and illmatched. Setting the heist during the National Congress of GAY gives the whole plot a blackly comic and almost absurd tone with the heist team having to dress in drag to mix in with the crowd. Shaft’s intolerance of homosexuals is evident throughout the series and reflects that of the New York authorities at that time. The strongest character on show is the black Senator, Albert Congdon Stovall. Shaft is assigned as his bodyguard on recommendation from Anderozzi. Shaft has a respect for Stovall that he does not have for Buford—Stovall having taken his issues through the traditional political route rather than the militant one. Stovall disappears quickly from the story after he is assaulted and hospitalized by Cowboy, a rough trade thug. Ben Buford, though, is less well drawn here than in Shaft. Despite this there are a couple of excellent scenes between Buford and Shaft—first in Shaft’s apartment and then later in this exchange at Buford’s secret hideaway in a funeral parlor: “What do you want?” he said. Shaft made a hand gesture that took in the room. “Good hobby to get into— in your line of business. What the fuck do you think I want? Maybe somebody to tell me how that mother of yours had a creep like you” [Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 7].

The heist team are led by Neal Wickman, a long-term criminal of many identities and Saul Yancey, a man with a grudge against Buford. These are the most interesting characters of the five-man team. However, they are casually killed off by their associates LeDuc and Graycoff, who then become the main focus of Shaft’s pursuit in the concluding chapters. The shootout finale at LeDuc’s sister’s cottage is exciting and maybe a nod to the movie versions—notably the finale of Shaft’s Big Score!—with

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Shaft’s muscular athleticism used to good effect. The book then finishes suddenly with a short final scene in Shaft’s apartment, after Anderozzi has already left, with a jokey call from a client who is complaining about the lack of service he is receiving on tracking his cheating wife. Tidyman has obviously heavily edited Turner’s writing to ensure core components of his own style are retained. His penchant for witty lines are evident here: Summer in New York. The young ladies and their designers had turned it into an erotic festival [Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 1]. Shaft was sure the “please” tasted like hummingbird shit on Drake’s tongue— he got it off so quickly [Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 3].

Shaft Has a Ball though can be seen as the point where Tidyman began to see the character as less of a personalized literary statement and more of a commodity. Conversely, the book also seems like an attempt to reaffirm that John Shaft is his creation through emphasizing Shaft’s background in the rushed interview with magazine writer Winifred Guiterrez. The book’s short page count confirms the rushed nature of the writing process and highlighted the need for more refinement—notably to create a more fleshed out and satisfying closing section. Nevertheless, it is still an entertaining read with sporadic strong passages.

Reviews Again contemporary reviews are hard to come by, but retrospective reviewers gave a mixed reaction and noted the homophobic content: “If you can get past the cringe-inducing blurb on the back advertising Shaft going undercover at a ‘fag convention,’ you’ll get a pretty good misanthropic detective story. Not the best of the series and it seems as if Tidyman was getting a little tired of churning out the series at this point, but it does have its moments.”—Scott Adams, Teleport City, 7 June 2005 ( “Literary Shaft drips disdain for gays, and it’s an ugly attitude that recurs with irksome regularity throughout the series, particularly in Shaft Has a Ball, in which Shaft investigates a scheme to pull off a heist during a drag queen ball.”—Jay Potts, World of Hurt, 6 November 200 (www.worldofhurt

Book 5: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (173) © 173 Ernest Tidyman U.S.: Dial Press edition published 28 December 173, First Printing [hardcover]; 186pp


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published June 174 (0-27-76724-0) [hardcover]; 186pp UK: Corgi edition published September 176 (0-552-10263-6) [paperback]; 158pp

Dedication: For May Jane Nelson. The only girl who left Shaft for a better man. Blurb: Shaft goes to London—and Big Ben tolls for the spivs and smarmy villains of the London underworld. It’s as dark and dirty down there as it is in the nether regions of Times Square, where the big black private eye usually enforces his kill-or-be-killed code for survival. He’s there to guard the two small sons of an important American black political figure, who are the prizes in a kidnapping caper masterminded by a neo-fascistic American zillionaire. The bodies and the dolly birds pile up like hot crumpets at high tea when he discovers that all is not square in Piccadilly and in the sudden-death alleys of Soho.

Synopsis Shaft is hired by Senator Stovall as bodyguard to his two young sons— Barnaby and Reggie. Stovall is in line for the Vice-Presidency and believes there are racist factions trying to prevent that happening. Stovall arranges for his children to move to London with Shaft, as well as the boys’ minder and governess. Before leaving Shaft foils an attempt to put him out of the action and when in London, Shaft is again attacked—this time by a razor gang—he realizes the kidnapping plot is real and Stovall’s sons are at great risk. When the boys are then grabbed from the school they are attending, Shaft has a race against the clock to find them.

Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; DAVE CLAYTON, minder to Stovall’s boys; D.I. ROGER WILKINS, Scotland Yard; CREIGHTON STOVALL, Republican senator; DR. INDRA RICHARDSON, chemistry teacher; GEORGE ROSS, Marsh’s right-hand man; MAJOR GATES, English connection; TOMMY KRAIL, kidnapper; HARRY KRAIL, kidnapper; GINGER FALLON, gambling club owner; CAPT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct; WINSTON MARSH, Kidnap organizer; CORKY TOMPKINS, kidnapper; “OLD” PARTRIDGE, Underworld go-between; BARNABY STOVALL, Senator Stovall’s son; REGGIE STOVALL, Senator Stovall’s son; BERT JARVEY, Fallon’s minder; DR. ALGERNON PIKE, head at Griffin’s; ALBERT EDWARD “TINKER” BELL, ex-con; MRS. BANE, governess to the Stovall boys; ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman; SHEILA, air hostess; DUCHESS OF ADDISCOMBE, pupil’s mother; SIR KITTS,

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razor gang member; WILLIAM, razor gang member; CONSTABLE MULLINS; JOE THATCHER, Stovall’s security; ANGUS HEPBURN, Stovall’s advisor; TIMOTHY JOSEPH “T.J.” KELLY, muscle; DANNY, Fallon’s minder; SEAN, Gates’ assassin; LINDA BARR, Shaft’s date in New York; MILDRED, Shaft’s answering service

notes Set in January 173. In an example of the lapses in continuity in the later books, Shaft references a 10-month gap between meetings with Stovall at odds with the time-line confirmed for Shaft Has a Ball, which suggests in fact only 5 months. A more glaring error is that Senator Stovall is re-named Creighton Stovall here rather than Albert Congdon Stovall as he was in Shaft Has a Ball. There is no explanation for the name change, so one can only assume a continuity error, which is disappointing given the short time distance between the writing of the two books. May Jane Nelson (actually Mary Jane), to whom Tidyman dedicated the book, was an employee at Ernest Tidyman International who transcribed manuscripts.

Development Tidyman signed the agreement for what was originally intended to be the third book in the series, as part of the two-book deal follow-up to Shaft with Bantam on 27 May 170. At this point the book had no title and was merely referenced as Shaft III in Tidyman’s log of the contract deals with Bantam.2 The writing of Goodbye, Mr. Shaft finally started hot on the heels of the completion of Shaft Has a Ball. Tidyman had worked with Robert Turner on Shaft Has a Ball and having been impressed with Phillip Rock’s writing on the novelization of High Plains Drifter, he hired Rock for a fee of $5,000 to work on the manuscript for Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. The novel would again use the Senator Stovall character introduced in Shaft Has a Ball. This time the plot concerned the kidnapping of Stovall’s two young sons. In a letter to Rock, Tidyman said: “I intended this to be the last of the Shaft books and thought about killing him off at the end of it, but now it will relate to the relationship that evolves between Shaft and the youngsters in the story.”30 The London setting was prompted by Tidyman’s temporary residence there. The fact that Rock had also lived in London for six or seven years made him a perfect choice to write the manuscript based on Tidyman’s outline.


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK Corgi paperback cover for goodbye, Mr. Shaft (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).

3. The Shaft Novels


The use of a British private school setting for part of the book prompted the title switch from Shaft’s Last Goodbye (having already jettisoned Shaft for President) to Goodbye, Mr. Shaft—this is a reference to James Hilton’s 134 novella, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, which utilized a similar setting and was subsequently filmed in 13 with Robert Donat in the lead and again in 16 with Peter O’Toole. Unfortunately, in re-using the Stovall character with a new writer Tidyman gets his continuity mixed up: “I think the Senator is a bachelor in The Gang’s All Here, Shaft [working title for Shaft Has a Ball]—but you can fix that.”31 But while he fixes one continuity error, he misleads Rock on Stovall’s first name—here Creighton Stovall and not Albert Congdon Stovall as in the previous book. It may be that Tidyman somehow confused the surname of the hotel manager, Cyrus Creighton, in Shaft Has a Ball with the senator’s first name. Tidyman finishes his outline stating: “Phillip, I think the violence in this one can be a little more controlled because of the setting, while we can have a good deal more fun with some of the characters.”32 As research, Tidyman refers Rock to a book by Peta Fordham, The Villains: Inside the London Underworld. He instructed Rock to “make the power behind all this maniacal but quite subtle and sophisticated. These are enormously wealthy and possibly even smart men like H.L. Hunt and the Detroit crowd who really believe that their racism is an expression of the public good.”33 Work progressed over the next couple of months with Tidyman shaping Rock’s development of his outline from London. In a further letter to Rock he offers the following around the use of different gangster clans in the novel: “I think it is the better way to go to eliminate the West Africans and concentrate on gangsters as we know them.”34 Rock continued work on the manuscript through to the end of the year. Tidyman was pleased with the output and commented: “Goodbye is going along very well, please keep it coming. I haven’t made any character changes for you to worry about.”35 Rock completed the manuscript on 22 December 172 and Tidyman his editing and additions on 2 January 173. The manuscript was submitted to both Bantam as well as Daniel Melnick at MGM as part of previous arrangements regarding filming rights. Sylva Romano sent a note to Rock on Tidyman’s behalf: “Ernest had to go to Paris on business last Friday and he finished editing Goodbye, Mr. Shaft en route. I talked to him by phone and he asked me to send you a note telling you how pleased he is with the book and especially with the ending.”36 The final manuscript was dated 7 February 173 with galleys produced on the 20 February. With Shaft Has a Ball set for U.S. paperback publication in April


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through Bantam, Goodbye, Mr. Shaft was trailed for hardback publication later in the year in the Dial Press Fall/Winter 173-74 catalogue. U.S. publication was on 28 December 173 with a UK release the following June after a UK hardback publication deal was again agreed with Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Despite the catalogue trail Tidyman remained unhappy with the promotion support offered by Dial and cited the strong support he had received in the UK from W&N noting there had been “a couple of television appearances and more radio talk shows than I can count (or do, for there are three or four waiting).” He finished by saying, “The results are book sales and a condition of mutual respect between author and publisher, a state we don’t seem to be able to reach.”37 While the book only secured an initial hardback publication in the U.S., the UK followed-up with a paperback publication through Corgi in September 176. Bantam eventually decided not to take up the option for a U.S. paperback publication reverting rights back to Tidyman on  August 176. Instead they moved on to Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, which was being worked on simultaneously by Robert Turner.

Comment Goodbye, Mr. Shaft is a big improvement on Shaft Has a Ball. The writing is more consistent and assured and the story is more engaging. Shaft is less of a superhuman action hero here, showing more human fallibility. Indeed this is demonstrated through his weakness for women. His dalliance with the Duchess of Addiscombe makes the kidnapping of the Stovall boys an easier task for the Krails. His reprimand by Senator Stovall is a stinging rebuke, leaving him humbled and determined to right his wrong. “Better stay clear, Shaft. I … I won’t risk my boys’ lives. Stay out of it.” “I’ll be cool…” “You won’t do anything, period!” A cold, angry voice. A voice filled with pain—and disappointment. The click of the phone sounded final. Good-bye, Shaft and thanks for nothing. You let them down. If you’d been with them this wouldn’t have happened [Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Chapter 11].

The change of location also gives fresh impetus to the series. The move from New York to London offers a new direction as Shaft gets used to English culture and London gets used to Shaft. DI Roger Wilkins is a strong character with a stiff-upper-lip approach to policing that may come across as oldschool caricature. Despite his breeding he has a healthy respect for Shaft that

3. The Shaft Novels


echoes that of Anderozzi in Manhattan. Anderozzi indeed has a brief scene with Shaft in New York at the start of the book, after Shaft has dispatched a would-be assassin, T.J. Kelly. “Okay. All I want to know, Vic, is how much heat I’m going to draw on this. I have a client who needs me in London.” Anderozzi raised quizzical eyebrows. “Who do we get in exchange? Sherlock Holmes?” “Fuck you,” Shaft said. Anderozzi raised a hand in dismissal. “I’m glad you’re going. It’ll help hold down the homicide rate.” “And T.J. Kelly?” “A public service” [Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Chapter 2].

Of the other recurring characters in the series, Rollie Nickerson also has a brief scene in which he arrives at Shaft’s apartment expecting to hit the town and ends up running errands as Shaft prepares to leave for London. There is also reference to a brief telephone conversation with accountant Marvin Green. Once in London, Shaft falls foul of the underworld in the shape of casino owner Ginger Fallon. Fallon, though is shown to have a sense of fair play with his abhorrence for crimes against minors leading to him helping Shaft track down the kidnappers. However, a number of the London characters, notably the criminals, are very clichéd—Tinker Bell, Corky, the Krail brothers are all stereotypical London villains in both name and manner. Shaft has three dalliances with the opposite sex in this book—the air hostess, Sheila; the schoolteacher, Indra Richardson and the Duchess of Addiscombe. This is the most sexually active he has been in the series to date and the female characters merely seem to provide a sugar coat to a male dominated story, offering little more than a recreational break for Shaft. Indra is the most used character, but there is little depth to her beyond her ethnic background—she is half–Sikh Indian on her mother’s side. Her father was a soldier who served in the British Army out in India, but she had never visited the country. Shaft’s relationship with the Stovall boys is more interesting. It starts with coldness on the part of the siblings—unhappy at being shipped abroad and resentful of Shaft as their bodyguard. They gradually grow to admire Shaft, through his rough-house treatment of the tail they pick up in Regents Park and then the self-defense classes he holds at their temporary school. Their “thank-you” note at the story’s conclusion even leads Shaft to shed a tear as he reads it, showing a rarely-seen softer side to his personality. The story unfolds through multiple view-points enabling the villains to be well fleshed out in both motivation and character. There is plenty of action


Part II: Shaft in Print

and fisticuffs too. Shaft dispatches a hired hard man in New York, then a black razor gang in London and finally the Krail brothers and George Ross in the tense finale set aboard the rusting ship “Rose of Grimsby.” The continuity error relating to Senator Stovall’s name may be symptomatic of Tidyman juggling activities while editing Turner and Rock’s manuscripts. Rock also hadn’t seen the finished manuscript for Shaft Has a Ball, so was unaware of the error. But it does not detract from a book that in many ways is a return to form. For the next book, Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Tidyman would again work with Robert Turner and take Shaft to Jamaica.

Reviews Reviews were generally positive with most commending the book’s fast pace and strong plot: “Since Shaft will probably be around as long as James Bond, it is something of a blessing that Tidyman is a deft man with a plot and a slick writer, but his formula is beginning to wear a bit thin, even with the international changes in scene.”—Publishers’ Weekly, 15 October 173 “Maybe a little less humor this time but the pace is staggering and that Shaft is almost too macho to be true.”—Kirkus, 28 December 173 “Tidyman’s plot races, his dialogue is like raw meat, his pace an SST at maximum altitude. And even after being there only a year or so, Tidyman puts his London on paper with the expertise of a travel writer. It’s good Shaft is back. He’s got black power where it does the most good.”—WGA News, January 174 “Excess without nonsense is the Shaft recipe, and it works every time.”— New York Times, 3 February 174 “Mr. Tidyman writes with an alert eye; but it is very definitely an anxious and alien eye.”—James Davie, The Glasgow Herald, 13 July 174 “Shaft is left to cope with a very banal story … and with scene-setting which is better suited to a movie. Yet he does not shake his readers as easily as he loses his pursuers … he remains sympathetic and his author’s sense of humor gives him some fine unspoken lines.”—Robin Lane Fox, Financial Times, 1 July 174 “This is in many ways quite the best of the Shaft books…. The English stuff is done far better than usual from an American author.”—Edmund Crispin, The Sunday Times, 21 July 174 “Exciting and readable, despite overwriting.”—Maurice Richardson, The Observer, 4 August 174 “The climax on a rusted dry docked freighter is among the best of the ser ies, and great, pulpy action.”—Scott Adams, Teleport City, 7 June 2005 (www.

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Book 6: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (174) © 174 Ernest Tidyman U.S.: Bantam edition published 2 September 174, First Printing [paperback]; 136pp UK: Corgi edition published 24 January 175 (0-552-6844-5); 136pp [paperback].

Dedication: None. Blurb: Don’t kick sand in his face or he’s liable to drop a whole beach on you! Anyway, that’s how Shaft gets caught up in some tropical treachery involving an assassination plot, some shady cops, beautiful women, killers lying in wait and a crew of nasties ready to turn Jamaica into a disaster area!

Synopsis Shaft is on vacation in Jamaica when he is disturbed as two men in suits chase a girl in a bikini across the beach. Shaft knocks out the men and rescues the girl, but it later transpires the men were policemen and the girl, Marita Daws, was a suspect in an assassination plot against the country’s Prime Minister, Sir Charles Lightwood. The one-eyed chief of detectives, Alex Ashton tries to enroll Shaft’s help in unraveling the plot, but Shaft initially refuses. However when he is nearly caught by a stray bullet at a reception for Lightwood and gives unsuccessful chase to the would-be assassin, Lightwood asks for Shaft’s help. The suspects range from the PM’s mistress, to a group of political activists as Shaft hunts down the leads, which converge at a masked ball to celebrate Lightwood’s birthday.

Characters JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator; ALEX ASHTON, Chief of Detectives, Island Police; MARITA DAWES, Lightwood’s PA; SIR CHARLES LIGHTWOOD, Prime Minister; BERNADETTE LIGHTWOOD, PM’s wife; IVAN GRAFF, Kingston PI; LT. GRANDSDEN, Kingston police; LT. NIMBUS, Kingston police; SIMEON JONES, taxi driver; MARVIN GREEN, Shaft’s accountant; JOB CUTHCART, hunchback villain; SARAH WATSON, Lightwood’s mistress; LINDA, New Jersey teacher; VALERIE CASCAFALCO, New Jersey teacher; DAVID MICHAELANGELO, barman at Sheraton; GUS DUMBRILLE, Cathcart’s partner; AUNT VANGIE, Marita Dawes’ aunt; HORACE TUCKER, charter pilot; GREGORY, young boy in Shanty town; ILSA, maid at Summit Great House; CARLO PRAGINO, beggar at Paw Club; QUEEN, CID Island Police; ISLIP, CID Island Police; JACQUES, Bernadette Lightwood’s body- guard; TARZAN LEE, taxi driver;


Part II: Shaft in Print FREDDY, taxi driver; SIR NEVILLE LEVIN, Minister of Agriculture; ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman; CAPT. VIC ANDEROZZI, NYPD 17th Precinct

notes Set in late October 172, assuming this follows the trend of the timeline being contemporary to the time of year the book was written. This would set the book ahead of Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. An alternative is advancing a year to October 173, due to the delays with the book’s publication. Under the contract signed with Bantam Books on 6 July 172 the book was referred to as Shaft VI and in later correspondence as Shaft on Rye.

Development The original story for Shaft’s Carnival of Killers came from a screenplay outline Tidyman produced before the release of the first Shaft movie. He had a strong knowledge of Jamaica, which may have encouraged him to use the Caribbean as a setting for this book. In April 170 he had written a two-part article entitled Jamaica: Black Economy at Work and Jamaica: A Nation Grows Up following a visit to the island in which he commented on the capable black government and the emerging black economy.38 Tidyman had signed with the Mitchell J. Hamilburg Agency in September 16 and produced a 13-page screenplay outline as a potential sequel to Shaft dated 20 April 171 entitled A Carnival of Killers. The idea for the carnival setting may also have originated in an article Tidyman had read entitled, The spectacle of two worlds counting down to Easter, I. Trinidad, Carnival in Trinidad. The Caribbean had been considered as a setting for the movie sequel, but ultimately Tidyman’s outline was rejected and he also vetoed screenplays by both Joe Greene and Roger Lewis with a similar setting. The eventual book follows Tidyman’s original outline very closely. Tidyman had also touted the same story outline as a screenplay with a PI named Francis Clifford—all other elements within remain identical including character names (with the exception of replacing Lt. Vic Anderozzi with Lt. Daniel Bormann). This demonstrated Tidyman’s belief the plot was strong and likely the reason he used it as the basis for the sixth book in the Shaft series. He sent his original screenplay outline to Robert Turner on 17 August 172 and asked Turner, who had just completed work on Shaft Has a Ball, to turn it into a novel. Tidyman also forwarded on an article he had read on Jamaica as background research.3 At the time Tidyman was based in London

3. The Shaft Novels


U.S./UK Bantam paperback cover for Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).


Part II: Shaft in Print

working on other projects and he gave the writer a free-hand to change any plot points that were at odds with his initial research—notably the gambling situation—and confirmed the setting should be Jamaica.40 Sylva Romano, on Tidyman’s behalf, confirmed: “The original outline should not be regarded as a rigid confinement in which you have to work—but as a general shape of the story, a malleable shape that will undergo some remolding as the writing progresses.”41 Turner’s fee totaled $4,400, which included a trip to Jamaica to complete his research. Tidyman suggested Turner visit Sign Great House, with its outlying bungalows, which Turner later suggested as the venue for the costume party climax.42 Turner also suggested changes to this climax to include the killer’s henchmen in order to inject more action and further red herrings. Turner delivered the first section of the book, which Tidyman heavily edited on 16 November. In a letter to Tidyman on 2 November he noted the departure from the usual Shaft type of plot and having to plump out the storyline and rework it from Shaft’s point-of-view as a mystery, “For me, at least, a much more difficult procedure.”43 Turner began to run behind schedule as he re-worked his approach and would miss the original draft deadline of 10 December. His progress was also hampered by health issues and upon submitting his latest pages to Tidyman on 1 December he stated, “Unhappily, this is all I have for you at this time. A strep throat cut into my production by about two weeks and my doctor advised me not to do any work until after Xmas. So I’m going to Spokane to visit my youngest grandson, over Xmas & will be back at work on the 27th. Hopefully, I can finish up sometime the first week in ’73, after being rested. I already have the rest of the book blocked out, scenes roughed-in, etc. Hope this delay doesn’t screw things up with Bantam but I’m just beginning to relize [sic] that I ain’t as young as I used to be, work-wise, anyhow.”44 However, with no further pages received by 21 February 173, Sylva Romano was forced to chase Turner. The remainder of the book was finally received on 2 March. Romano arranged to meet up with Turner when she got back from London in the third week of March. After reviewing Turner’s work, however, Tidyman deemed the manuscript below par telling Turner, “Without denigrating your efforts, I see a great deal of work to be done and particularly in the last third of the book.”45 This caused even further delay as Tidyman undertook heavy edits, and re-writes along with the addition of a new chapter when the page count was found to be too low—indeed the final result was still the shortest book in the series at 136 pages in its published paperback form. The final manuscript was delivered to Bantam on 7 June 173, which was accepted on 20 June 173 although Associate Editorial Director, Allan Barnard noted, “we agree that it’s not up to the earlier books.”46 On 31 July 173 Romano finally informed Turner (after he had sent a let-

3. The Shaft Novels


ter on 27 July chasing his final payment) of the actions taken by Tidyman to complete the book and confirmed Bantam’s acceptance following the rewrites. Despite Tidyman’s obvious frustration with Turner’s output, but in consideration of the health issues he had experienced, Romano enclosed the final installment of Turner’s fee with a payment of $1,200 to ensure he was paid in full. This would be the last collaboration between Turner and Tidyman. In the event it would be another year before the book was finally published. Yet again Tidyman disapproved of the cover design commenting, “Why must Shaft look like a yo-yo with that ridiculous double-collar shirt outside his jacket and why are all the figures of girls black? How about something on the cover copy about an assassination plot against the prime minister of a black republic, since that is more or less the basis of the story. Assassination is one of the popular indoor sports these days.”47 The publisher left the artwork alone but did relent on the cover wording.

Comment Those who thought Shaft Has a Ball was a little off-the-wall, compared to the other books in the series, would likely consider it traditional compared to this bizarre story. The assassination plot is populated by largerthan-life characters that seem at odds with the more urban approach of the earlier novels. That said, and despite the writing problems, Tidyman and Turner do have a lot of fun with Shaft’s Carnival of Killers and there is much black comedy amidst the violence and chaos. The book’s setting, on the Caribbean island of Jamaica, was inspired by Tidyman’s visit in April 170 for an article he had written as a freelance journalist on Jamaica’s thriving economy. Tidyman had studied the economic and political events of the time for the article and he drew on this when developing his plot. Here he has Shaft getting embroiled in island politics and a plot to assassinate the country’s prime minister. The plot, while reasonable in concept, comes across as hollow in execution due to the eccentricities in both character and the line-up of suspects. It really doesn’t pass muster. But despite the unconvincing nature in which the story progresses elements within it make the book a fast and often entertaining read, if you go with Tidyman’s fanciful notions. Where the book differs from the others in the series is that it is told entirely from Shaft’s point of view—but not in the first person. This is an attempt to retain some mystery around the identity of the would-be assassin and thus places the book closer to the mystery genre than the previous ones in the series. That said the mystery element misfires due to the absurdities in the plot. Seemingly sensing this Turner and Tidyman play many scenes


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with tongue-in-cheek, echoing the route taken in the James Bond films of the period, such as Shaft’s frightening journey in a Kingston taxi, driven by one of a series of colorful taxi drivers called Freddy: They rammed their way through the crowded downtown area without accident. Shaft couldn’t understand why, except that God probably loved Freddy as an idiot. By all rights, there should have been three or four pedestrians and a couple of motor scooters draped over the front fenders [Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Chapter 8].

The strength of the book therefore lies in Shaft’s interaction with the very colorful cast of characters. There are a number of witty exchanges—notably between Shaft and the Chief of Police, Alex Ashton. Ashton took a cork-tipped Rothman’s from the box on his desk, did the ritual with a gold DuPont lighter. “I see you are a private investigator by profession. A private detective. Why are you here?” Shaft had forgotten to pick up his cigarettes at the hotel. He wasn’t going to ask this pompous asshole for one even if it meant having a nicotine withdrawal fit on the floor. “Vacation. Every year I visit a new and colorful police station—like yours” [Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Chapter 1].

There are enough fisticuffs and shootouts to make action fans happy and indeed the book has the feel of a movie, perhaps betraying its screenplay origin. In fact Shaft’s methods have become increasingly violent as the books have progressed and his torture of the hunchback, Job Cuthcart, is the strongest example to date. The female characters are either conspiratorial (Bernadette Lightwood, Marita Dawes) or used as window-dressing (the New Jersey teachers on vacation). The bedroom scene between Shaft and the teachers is played for laughs as the girls throw their clothes out of the hotel window before the threesome collapse from drunken fatigue. Naming the characters Linda and Valerie is a nod to both the original book and its film adaptation where in the book the girl Shaft picks up in the No Name Bar is called Valerie, but in the film Linda. Another piece of mischief on Tidyman’s part, which may reflect his disillusionment at where the film and TV series had taken his character, was Shaft’s damning view of men with moustaches when he is greeted by one of the Mafia syndicate’s hit men at the Hotel Sheraton: Shaft always thought that people who wore mustaches were assholes who were trying to hide something and were unsanitary as well. But this one was at least neat and trimmed (Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Chapter 7). Of Shaft’s usual roster of recurring supporting characters, Rollie Nickerson and Vic Anderozzi make brief cameo appearances and we get to meet Marvin Green for the first time as he helps Shaft out of a financial hole by transferring money to a PI based in Jamaica named Ivan Graff.

3. The Shaft Novels


There are distinct signs in this book that Tidyman was tiring of his creation. The page count is low, the plot is far-fetched and there are frequent lapses into self-parody. On top of this Shaft’s method of dispatching the villains is almost cartoon-like in its ease of execution. But all this said the colorful Jamaican settings and the eccentric characters make Shaft’s Carnival of Killers an enjoyable and often funny read despite its many faults.

Reviews Again contemporary reviews are hard to find. Retrospective reviews point to the book’s fast-pace, but highlight the problems with the plot. “The whole mess climaxes at a costume party where shots are fired in the dark and none of the plot threads come together at all. Nothing makes a damn bit of sense, but the plot moves along quickly enough, adding more and more stuff, so that in the end it doesn’t really matter.”—Scott Adams, Teleport City, 7 June 2005 ( “Cool stuff, but style is definitely winner over the content here…. Language is great too. Full of slang and cool jokes but at the same time it all seems to be totally natural and not forced at all.”—Alpha-60 Books, 28 May 2013 (

Book 7: The Last Shaft (175) © 175 Ernest Tidyman UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published 27 March 175 (0-2776887-5) [hardcover]; 160pp UK: Corgi edition published 28 January 177 (0-552-10354-3) [paperback]; 160pp

Dedication: For Judith Loth. Who knew him well. Blurb: 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…

Synopsis Shaft receives a visit in the early hours from Captain Vic Anderozzi who has a prisoner in tow carrying a package. The prisoner is Morris Mickelberg,


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the Mafia’s book-keeper and the package contains ledgers outlining Mafia transactions with prominent citizens. Anderozzi has been followed but Shaft manages to take out two of the men. Shaft then reluctantly looks after the ledgers while Anderozzi takes Mickelberg to the DA’s office, but a bomb has been placed in Anderozzi’s car and both he and his prisoner are killed. Shaft hides the ledgers and goes on the run. The police search is led by Lt. Rudolph Gromyck, a crooked cop. Meantime Shaft holes out in a hotel where the desk clerk, Willie, is a budding detective who conveniently has a mobile arsenal. Together Shaft and Willie track down Mickelberg’s widow, Sandra Shane, who Shaft believes will lead him to whoever put the finger on Anderozzi. Shaft then goes on an explosive mission of revenge for his friend’s death.


notes It is assumed the book is set in November 173, which again ties in with when the book was written. 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. The pair collaborated on a story featuring a character named Katherine Coley. Loth had begun to write a novel entitled The Girl Who Could, but withdrew from the project on 23 October 174 due to plotting difficulties, a lack of self-confidence and medical issues when it was twothirds complete. To compensate Tidyman for loss of investment she offered

3. The Shaft Novels


to sign over rights to the book and character of Kate Coley to Tidyman. Tidyman gallantly refused suggesting the project be put on hold instead.

Development Tidyman did not waver from his plans for seven Shaft books in total, deciding to kill off his creation in this final book. He had toyed with the idea earlier before the business side of Shaft had become so successful he extended his initial four-book plan to seven. Frustrated by Shaft’s treatment on screen and lacking inspiration for anything new to bring to the books he decided to draw a line under Shaft’s literary adventures. Tidyman expressed his frustration with the treatment in a reply to a letter from fan Sondra Lee Ogelsby: “Frankly, not even a fictional character of this sort could continue by the wildest stretch of my imagination surviving the beatings he takes in the stories, the beatings he takes from the clowns in Hollywood who want to change him, and the rigors of television where he is changed even further. I have pride; Shaft has pride. And we are both too proud to let him become a battered clothes horse or lounge lizard of the sort he seems to be turning into at the flicks.”48 The original contract for what was to become The Last Shaft, then merely titled Shaft VII and later briefly referred to as Shaft Goes to Hollywood, was signed between Tidyman and Bantam Books on 6 July 172 with Tidy man due to pick up a fee of $40,000. A rider in the agreement grouped Shaft Among the Jews, Goodbye Mr. Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score! with the then undeveloped Shaft V, Shaft VI and Shaft VII for a combined guarantee of $235,000 in royalties.4 Tidyman’s outline for the final book in the series was twelve pages long. Having had problems with Robert Turner on Shaft’s Carnival of Kill ers—which was commissioned before Goodbye, Mr. Shaft but finished much later—Tidyman turned again to Phillip Rock to prepare a manuscript. During March 173, Tidyman had also asked Rock to help out on his book Dummy. He liked Rock’s style and the efficiency with which he worked having been very pleased with the results on Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. The first half of Tidyman’s outline for The Last Shaft was sent to Rock on 22 October 173 with a promise of the remainder shortly after, along with the first installment of his fee—$1,750. Tidyman and Rock discussed development of the story outline over the next few weeks with Tidyman making some changes to scenes as they worked, including one where Shaft is smuggled out of the Chelsea Hotel where he had been laying low: “I changed the drag scene to Shaft being painted white. Gromyck stays alive. He is standing on the corner thinking how smart he is as Shaft comes out of the hotel, gets


Part II: Shaft in Print

UK Corgi paperback cover for The Last Shaft (artwork reproduced by permission of The Random House group, Ltd.).

3. The Shaft Novels


into the bread truck and disappears into the traffic. So he’s still around for the story.”50 A second installment of Rock’s fee was paid on 11 January 174 on receipt of the completed manuscript with a final payment of $1,500 due on the publisher’s acceptance. Tidyman delivered his final edit of the book to Bantam on 22 January. However, when Bantam held back on a decision to publish, Romano followed up in March noting interest from Harper & Row (although they subsequently declined to pursue on  April). The book was also forwarded on to Daniel Melnick, head of production at MGM, on 1 April for consideration as a Shaft movie in accordance with the options agreement signed in April 170. Romano stated the book would likely be published in late 174 or early 175—although it had yet to secure a publication deal. Melnick replied via his story editor on 15 May, “We’re veering away from this type of material and therefore passing.” Despite the rejection he followed with “I’m one of Ernie’s fans and like to keep posted on his activities.”51 While Tidyman continued to struggle to find a publisher for the book in the U.S., Weidenfeld & Nicolson again picked up for a UK release. Responding on 5 June 174, Rosemary Legge stated that she had enjoyed the book and was sad at the demise of John Shaft. She asked whether Tidyman wanted a dedication and if he would like to write the blurb.52 Tidyman’s response was clear enough, “I am sorry you were saddened by the demise of John Shaft. I’m not. He was tired and so was I.”53 Meanwhile, in the U.S., Tidyman was still pursuing a deal with Bantam, who on 1 July expressed a desire to change the title, feeling it would become confused with Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. Tidyman refused four days later stating: “Only a confused mind could see any connection between that and the earlier titles and overlook the appropriateness of its use here.”54 The book went to press in the UK on 2 July 174 with an intended publication date of January 175. Tidyman was obviously becoming irritated by the delays in both the U.S. and UK. He also had to seek Bantam’s permission for a UK publication ahead of one in the U.S. On top of this he was frustrated by the quality of both the blurb and the cover suggestions from the UK publishers. A terse response went as follows: “That may be the worst blurb I ever read. Would you ask your blurb writer to read the book and try again with some consideration?”55 Rosemary Legge at W&N assigned a new blurb writer and submitted the revision to Tidyman, but this too failed to pass muster and Tidyman committed to writing the blurb himself. Disagreements over the cover design rumbled on through October, before Weidenfeld & Nicolson finally relented to Tidyman’s suggestion (black and chrome-yellow coloring as opposed to the publisher preference for silver and blue), which caused a further delay in publication until 27 March 175. The matter relating to the jacket had finally been resolved on 3 February


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when in a letter to Weidenfeld & Nicolson from Sylva Romano stated Tidyman, unsurprisingly, “was delighted with the jacket.”56 On 6 February Victor Temkin, Vice-President and General Counsel at Bantam forwarded an advance check for $10,000 and asked for an extension to their publishing contract to 31 December 176. However, on  August 176 he referred to options for both The Last Shaft and Goodbye, Mr. Shaft dated 27 May 170 (for Goodbye) and 6 July 172 (for Last) when stating that Bantam would not be pursuing publication and would revert U.S. paperback rights to Tidyman. This rejection confirmed the U.S., like Tidyman himself, had lost interest in John Shaft—not only on screen but now also in print. Determined to see Shaft’s final story printed in the U.S., Tidyman approached other publishing houses including Sedgwick Morris and Bleecker Leggett. He also confirmed The Last Shaft was offered to MGM in a revised 7-book contract deal for rights during spring 174 and that the new 5-year deal would therefore expire during spring 17. Despite his lack of interest in continuing the adventures of Shaft on the printed page, from a business perspective Tidyman still retained an interest in launching a new series of Shaft films at this point, over which he would have more control. However, despite his efforts to revive the franchise, the movie industry had moved on. Ultimately no publishing interest for The Last Shaft was secured in the U.S., but the book did see a follow-up paperback publication in the UK through Corgi on 28 January 177.

Comment Shaft bows out with an all action finale to the series, albeit hampered by laziness in the plotting. The Last Shaft is basically one long vendetta with Shaft going after the Mafia for the execution of Vic Anderozzi, before seemingly meeting his own fate in the closing section of the book. As such it resembles much of the pulp fiction of the time—notably Don Pendleton’s The Executioner series. After a promising and powerful opening involving Shaft, some Mafia hit men and the death of Anderozzi and his prisoner, the book quickly loses credibility. It is simply a leap too far to expect that a fleeing Shaft would check into a hotel and find the hotel desk clerk, Willie, is a budding private detective with his own personal armory and a convenient van from which to base his operation. This plot contrivance forms the basis for the rest of the book with Shaft using all the weapons at his disposal to cause chaos and destruction across the various Mafia family bases. Tidyman also finds room for the absurd, with Willie’s girlfriend, Miriam, using make-up to disguise Shaft as a white man in order to smuggle him out

3. The Shaft Novels


of the hotel. The comedic value of this is exaggerated by the fact that Willie has let her experiment on himself, developing a patchwork complexion as a result. Tidyman had suggested this be worked in by Rock having initially planned for Shaft to escape in drag. White. Light brown hair. Jesus, did he look strange. He wasn’t exactly white. He as … well, he didn’t know what the hell he was. Miriam’s mix of pigments and tints had turned him yellowish, pinkish, whitish, greyish—awfulish. He looked in the mirror over the dresser and thought about a guy whose funeral he went to once long ago. That’s what he looked like—a corpse laid out on pink satin, painted to an unreasonable facsimile of life by the undertaker [The Last Shaft, Chapter 4].

Once Shaft has got his armory, he wages his war on the Mafia Dons by destroying their bases in a series of attacks. Men’s action books were very popular in the late sixties and early seventies with many putting their protagonist up against organized crime. The Shaft series had veered increasingly in this direction and away from the detective approach seen in the first three books. While all the Shaft books are enjoyable on their own merits, there is a marked reduction in the care taken over the plots and characters in most of the later books, this being the most glaring example. Tidyman’s decision to hire out writers to work on his outlines had stretched Shaft in a similar way to his treatment by the makers of Shaft in Africa—pulling the detective in new and often more fantastical directions. The Mafia are presented here as caricatures. Other clichés include the crooked cop, the slimy crooked lawyer and the jilted femme fatale out to collect what is rightfully hers. Willie is the most interesting new character, although he quickly becomes a mere plot device acting as a driver to carry Shaft to the fight. Shaft finally gets his man and manages to turn the papers over to the law. Unlike Shaft, where there were recriminations for his actions, the aftermath is not stated here and presumably the police will overlook his killing of the Mafia men and the crooked Gromyck as a result of his handing over the papers. The book ends abruptly, Shaft having meted out his justice, with a short closing scene of him returning to his apartment only to be met by a mugger in the lobby, who promptly shoots him dead. Shaft’s death seems to have been tagged on as an afterthought—a coda that had been planned and could have been slotted onto the end of any of the stories. There is no allusion to this being a Mafia hit or in any way linked to the plot in the rest of the book. Shaft is merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. As such the reader feels cheated, as if the author had acted almost out of frustration and resentment due to his tiredness with the series and the treatment of his creation on screen. The Last Shaft can therefore be seen as a summation of Tidyman’s disillusionment. The opening chapters even see


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Shaft recount his own disenchantment with the city of New York, which can perhaps be seen as a metaphor for Tidyman’s disenchantment with Shaft. So, in true Conan-Doyle style the final words try to convince us our hero is dead, but there is no follow-up to confirm this. Despite its many faults and some big contrivances in the plot, Tidyman and Rock still manage to produce a fast and 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.

Reviews Contemporary and retrospective reviews of the book were mixed. It seems the critics, the publishers, the movie executives, the writer and the public had all grown tired of Shaft and it was time to lay him to rest. “Conscientiously foul-mouthed and tough, with some interludes of uneasy farce.”—Edmund Crispin, The Sunday Times, 6 April 175 “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 175 “It goes like a rocket and the writing is as clean as a peeled stick.”—Stanley Shivas, Daily Record, 26 April 175 “Mr. Tidyman has served up as succulent a dish of excitement as would satisfy any gourmet.”—Mick Mills, Hawkes Bay Herald Tribune, 15 October 175 “Barely completing the complete Shaft bookshelf, The Last Shaft is the weakest read in the series with the laziest, most disposable premise.”—Raymond Embrack, 2008 (

4. The Shaft Comic Strip With the success of the big screen adaptation Ernest Tidyman began looking into another media outlet for John Shaft—a daily newspaper comic strip. An initial approach was made to Sid Jacobson, best known as the creator of Casper the Friendly Ghost, to find a black artist and he suggested Bill Riley and Ernesto Colon for consideration.1 Other artists considered were Calvin Boze, Anthony Cox, Emerson Terry and Alex Toth. Sylva Romano also approached the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in New York for ideas and suggestions and sales manager Tom Dorsey recommended a black artist be employed on the strip. Romano also approached Brian Kirby, former editorin-chief of the Los Angeles Free Press, who suggested a bi-monthly Shaft magazine.2 Development of the comic strip finally began in January 172 involving David Russell, a young artist of growing repute. Russell says, “I was alerted to the Shaft assignment by a fellow Art Center student named Dan Quarnstrom, who later became a director for the noted VFX Company Rhythm and Hues. I interviewed with Tidyman at his Sunset Blvd office, in company with his secretary, Sylva Romano.”3 Russell was born in Los Angeles on 13 December 150 and as early as 13 years old he had decided to become a comic book artist. By the time he was 15 he was a regular contributor to superhero fanzines. He majored in art at Pasadena City College and then won a full scholarship to the prestigious Art Center College of Design. He became great friends with Jack Kirby, who was a major figure in the comic book world and creator of Captain America. Kirby had also worked with Stan Lee in the 160s co-creating characters such as the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk. He proved to be a great influence on Russell’s early career and acted as his mentor during this period. Russell drew up some story ideas and example art work including test panels, character ideas and portraits. Russell pitched two stories to Tidyman. The first, Diamond Blacc, concerned a Louisiana drug dealer who with his small hardened southern army is looking to take over the drug trade in Harlem. Shaft is called in to work with the police in tracking down the gang when the Police Chief ’s son is killed. The second story was Underground Fire 1


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in which a killer is stalking Harlem and targeting victims seemingly at random. The police suspect a resident Vietnam veteran, but Shaft believes the killer is white. In his search Shaft forms an uneasy alliance with a group of Black radicals led by a charismatic Jamaican woman. Russell’s art work was impressive but terms could not be agreed with Tidyman for a contract—Russell had asked for a weekly fee of $500 but Tidyman was only willing to offer $350 per week and 10 percent of any weekly grosses exceeding $1,000.4 Russell’s attorney advised him not to proceed and his development of the strip ceased on 27 March 172. Russell would move on from comic strips to magazine and book illustrations as well as film poster design, including some pencil work for Blaxploitation titles. In 181 he began working as a storyboard artist, initially on animated TV series such as The New Adventures of Zorro and The Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Puppy Hour. He quickly became bored with this work and progressed to movies. His big break came when another friend, author Jack Vance, got him an interview with Industrial Light and Magic. The result was him being hired as a Visual Effects storyboard artist on Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi on which he worked on the throne scene showdown between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor. He built a reputation in the field and has worked on numerous big movies since including Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Tim Burton’s version of Batman.5 On 13 April 172, artist Morris “Morrie” Turner who had created the Wee Pals strip, which was the first to feature a cast of diverse ethnic background,

Top: David Russell’s restored logo artwork for the proposed 1972 Shaft comic strip (David Russell’s personal collection). Bottom: David Russell’s restored artwork from his original test strip drawings in 1972 (David Russell’s personal collection).

4. The Shaft Comic Strip


Twelfth test panel of Don Rico’s comic strip. The center image was noted by Tidyman as the closest likeness to his vision for John Shaft (Box 148. From folder labeled “Shaft File: Shaft Comics.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

was approached to take over development. Turner was very interested and submitted some test sketches, but these were rejected by Tidyman. It was on 22 June 172 that Tidyman finally commissioned writer/artist Don Rico, famous for his work for Marvel superhero comics, to produce a sample portfolio of twenty-four daily strips to be touted amongst the leading New York and L.A. newspaper syndicates. Tidyman also commissioned artist Robert O. Smith. Rico and Smith were both offered a $250 per week contract and a 12.5 percent share of any profits.6 Ultimately Smith did not work out and Rico proceeded with the strip alone. Donato Francisco Rico II was born on 26 September 112 in Rochester, New York. His parents were Italian immigrants. Aged 12 he received a scholarship to study art at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. His initial interest was in wood engraving, but in 13 he began his career in comic books. He worked at Victor A. Fox’s Fox Publications, where he penciled and inked features for Fantastic Comics #1, and Weird Comics as well as Fiction House’s Planet Comics and Fight Comics. During the 140s he worked for Timely Comics, which was a forerunner of Marvel Comics, both writing and drawing stories for characters such as the Human Torch, the Destroyer, the Blonde Phantom and the Young Allies. In the 150s Timely Comics became Atlas Comics and Rico contributed to titles such as Adventures into Terror, Astonishing, Marvel Tales, Suspense and Strange Tales. He co-created Leopard Girl with artist Al Hartley in Jungle Action #1 and later went on to contribute to Western anthologies. In 158, he moved to Los Angeles and began writing for film and television. During the 160s he began to write paperback novels, sometimes using pseudonyms such as Donna Richards, Joseph Milton, and Donella St. Michaels published through Lancer Books and Paperback Library. He also continued contributing to comic books including Marvel’s Silver Age of Comics.


Part II: Shaft in Print

It was Rico’s reputation in the comics industry that drew him to the attention of Tidyman. He produced some initial draft sketches of Shaft on 18 June 172, on which Tidyman commented: “My only thoughts on these are, Shaft looks Puerto Rican…. He isn’t Orphan Annie, but he doesn’t have any eyes.”7 Storylines for the strip were also being developed. One story considered took the working title Shaft Among the Sandwiches—a riff on Shaft Among the Jews. It involved Shaft being hired by a catering company to go undercover to investigate a possible insurance fraud. During his investigation Shaft becomes embroiled in a battle for control between rivaling companies and scheming employees. The story eventually taken forward was entitled Two Faces for a Traitor. It centered on Ben Buford being framed for a robbery on an armored vehicle by a character named Gutzo, who is looking to take over Buford’s gang of militants—here called The Conquerors. Both Shaft and the police, headed up by Lt. Vic Anderozzi, are trying to track down Buford to find out the truth. The story would later be re-worked as the novel Shaft Has a Ball. The author was keen to keep the strip faithful to his books and continued to comment on the likenesses Rico had produced of Shaft and Anderozzi as well as the authenticity of Shaft’s apartment.8 Notably, frustrated by the public image of Richard Roundtree as John Shaft, Tidyman instructed Rico to remove Shaft’s moustache and make his face more round—less “Victor Mature.” Rico made some changes but refused to make Shaft too round-

Fifteenth (Sunday) test panel of Don Rico’s comic strip. (Box 148. From folder labeled “Shaft File: Shaft Comics.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

4. The Shaft Comic Strip


faced believing it would weaken the character. He also noted that the syndicates may insist on an “exact duplica of Roundtree.”10 The look Tidyman finally preferred was the center picture of the twelfth panel.11 Tidyman also sent Rico photographs of locations in New York as well as the book Harlem on My Mind, edited by Allon Schoener, which showcased photographs from an exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 16. Rico completed his work on the twenty- eight evolving panels on 5 December 172. The Chicago Tribune Syndicate was given first offer of the strip on 2 January 173 but the paper declined on 12 January. Approaches were subsequently made to three more New York newspaper syndicates including Publishers-Hall, Newspaper Enterprise Association on 15 and 16 February 173 respectively. Rico himself approached Patrick McHugh, the Chief Editor at the L.A. Times Syndicate and General Features Corporation.12 Newspaper Enterprise Association pointed to changing times for newspaper strips stating, “The very factors which make Shaft so successful in book and film, and in your projected television presentation, are the ones which legislate against its success as a comic. The continuity-type strip has fallen on lean days, and the episodic panel or strip is the “in” thing, comics-page wise. Or such has been our experience. Shaft does not, of course, lend itself to such treatment.”13 Undaunted Sylva Romano continued to pursue interest approaching the Bell-McClure Syndicate on 12 March 173, but responses from all syndicates approached were similar in tone and ultimately the strip was abandoned. Don Rico returned to work in TV, including two years at Hanna-Barbera Productions where he worked as story director on an animated adaptation of his own 150s creation Jana of the Jungle (178) and the 17 animated version of Godzilla. He died on 27 March 185 aged 72. A comic version of John Shaft would finally see the light of day on 3 December 2014 with Dynamite’s Shaft series, penned by David Walker and drawn by Bilquis Evely.

5. John Shaft: A Portrait “Shaft is one part of the violence of the streets, one part the honor and dignity of his aspirations, one part the guile and cunning of the animal who survives in the American urban jungle. Also, of course, he’s a very mean man, tough, resilient and resourceful.” 1—Ernest Tidyman

Background John Shaft was born sometime between the spring and 16 August 140. Although Tidyman never specifies his hero’s birth date, the range can be established by the fact that Shaft is 28 years-old in the contemporary early 16 setting of the first Shaft book, and 32 years-old by Shaft Has A Ball, which the calendar date of Shaft’s appointment with Winifred Guiterrez confirms is set between 16 and 1 August 172. Shaft was orphaned at two-years old when his mother, who juggled menial jobs, died falling from a fourth floor window after fainting from exhaustion. His father had previously abandoned his mother on learning she was pregnant. Shaft had never met him, but later learned he was a numbers runner and had been killed by having his throat cut. Shaft was moved from foster home to foster home in Harlem—in fact he had seven sets of foster parents by the time he was twelve (including Mrs. Iggleston, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Underwood—the latter of whom Shaft liked but thought she drank too much). His foster parents were subsidized by the Welfare Department. By the time he was fifteen he had become the war lord of a Harlem street gang living in empty tenement buildings and accumulating a string of juvenile offences. He got into fights with the police and on at least one occasion was beaten by an officer with a nightstick. At nineteen, he was drafted into the Army having been given the choice of service or jail by a sympathetic judge. He was stationed in boot camp on Parris Island and became a light-heavyweight boxer in his company’s team. He won honors in his company and was later shipped out to Vietnam, where he learned the dependency raw recruits had on each other and developed an instinct for survival. Here, he was discharged after being shot in his left side— 6

5. John Shaft


Don Rico’s original character studies for the aborted Shaft comic strip. Tidyman would modify Shaft’s likeness more to his vision, removing the moustache and broadening his face (Box 148. From folder labeled “Shaft File: Shaft Comics.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

two bullets in his upper thigh and a third in his lower left abdomen—having been caught off-guard by a Vietcong teenager in a bunker south of Danang. Backed by the GI Bill and drawn into the battle of wits and survival of the courtroom, he enrolled at City College of New York in law but flunked it. He then went into private investigation—having taken a number of temporary jobs while at CCNY with agencies, mainly working stakeouts as an invisible black face. He got his break when he joined Pinkertons in the mid– 160s, but after two years he left to set up his own agency—the first such agency for an independent black private eye in New York City. From his new base in Times Square he figured he could serve both black and white communities. In Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, he recalled he has held his license for fourteen years, which is at odds with this timeline and would discount his time in service and at CCNY. It is likely this continuity slip was a result of the production line approach to the book series by this point. His fee escalates through the series starting at $12 an hour plus expenses in Shaft, $15 in Shaft Among the Jews, $20 by Shaft’s Big Score! and $50 by Shaft’s Carnival of Killers. That’s 170s inflation for you! The only surviving family member referenced in the books are an aunt who lives in Connecticut and another who lives in Danbury and works in a hat factory. This contradicts the assumption in John Singleton’s film Shaft (2000) that Shaft has a nephew—Shaft has no siblings.

Age and Appearance Shaft is six-feet tall with a broad, hard, muscular build and weighs in at between 185 and 12 pounds. He moves fluently and with an agility gained


Part II: Shaft in Print

from years of fleeing from tenement to tenement in his youth. He has had to rely on his physicality to survive both the streets of Harlem and the jungles of Vietnam. Shaft’s skin color is described as the tone of a French-roast coffee bean –deep, rich black-brown. He is also, unlike his movie portrayal, clean shaven. His facial features are flamboyantly described by Tidyman as follows: … more round than oval, more flat and concave than sculptured and convex. The eyes and nose seemed to have been cut into it, rather than built upon it. It was almost a Polynesian carved face, cut into stained balsa or some dark wood. The lips were full but they lay flat against his teeth. A mask but not a mask. Even in sleep, there was life in it. Life and strength. It was framed in a modified Afro haircut, notched with unexpectedly delicate and tightly set ears [Shaft, Chapter 5].

He has green eyes and he carries scars to the back of his right hand and his face (above the right eyebrow) from a whipping he was given with a bicycle drive chain in his youth street gang days. “…big, strong and meaty hands broad across the pink palms, heavily veined on the back. Across the right hand was a twin track of saddle-stitch scar. It was a precise match and continuation of the inch-and-a-half track moving down his forehead toward his eyes” [Shaft, Chapter 1].

Personality Shaft is driven toward achieving his objectives and is a realist, although he regards cynics as losers. While he has experienced racist attitudes, he has not turned that anger inward and become political. Instead he channels his energy into achieving his goal to make a life for himself in what others, like his childhood friend Ben Buford who had taken the militant path, see as a white-man’s world. This gives him a seemingly selfish attitude and as a result he has few close friends. But it does leave him with a set of values that are geared around his personal journey and his survival instinct. Through this drive to survive Shaft has built up a sarcastic irreverence to authority. This can be witnessed on many occasions through the series. In Shaft, while being interrogated about the death of a black hood who exited through his Third Floor office window, the following exchange takes place: “What did he say to you?” “Which one?” “The first one. We’ll have his name in a couple of minutes.” “He said he was going to blow my mother-fucking brains out.” “It was definitely a threat on your life?” “It wasn’t an invitation to go roller-skating.”

5. John Shaft


Tidyman’s handwritten character outline of John Shaft (Box 108. From folder: “Research File: 1968–70, Shaft.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

“Mr. Shaft, I am trying to establish the reason why a man died this morning.” “Mr. Shapiro, I’m only trying to tell you why he was the one who died … and I wasn’t” [Shaft, Chapter 2].

Shaft understands how tough men, who carve their own way in life, need to hold onto their pride. This respect is evidenced when he witnesses Harlem crime lord Knocks Persons break down over the disappearance of his daughter. “You a young man, Mr. Shaft,” Persons said. “But you been aroun’. I’d just as soon you forget you saw that.” Shaft nodded. He’d never forget it. But he’d never mention it. He knew the price of pride [Shaft, Chapter 3].

He puts up a very tough front giving the signal that nothing fazes or scares him. This attitude is designed to put his adversary on the back foot. The following exchange in his meeting with the Mafia contact at Café Borgia in Shaft demonstrates his approach: “I sure am glad you look like a Wop punk,” Shaft said in greeting, the .38 under the table fixed on what he guessed was the position of the caller’s belt buckle. “We might have missed each other in the crowd.” “I’d know you anywhere nigger,” the man said, pulling out a chair to sit oppo-


Part II: Shaft in Print

site him. “How about a nice slice of watermelon with your coffee?” [Shaft, Chapter ].

His tough attitude and natural arrogance means while he is not necessarily liked he is respected. When, in Shaft, Victor Anderozzi defends his use of Shaft in trying to get information about potential gangland war he says to the Commissioner: “He doesn’t stop to think a lot. He acts. And every ounce of the man is muscle and anger” (Shaft, Chapter 8). Anderozzi gives Sgt. Pete Bollin this description of Shaft when Bollin calls to check up on him, while investigating the Asby-Kelly Funeral Home bombing: “There’s nothing he probably won’t do,” Anderozzi said, “To you or for you— depending whose side he’s on. Sometimes I wanna kill him. Other times, he’s straighter than most people I’ve got on the squad here” [Shaft’s Big Score! Chapter 7].

Shaft is often seen to have his own prejudices, whether it be toward the frugality of the Jews (Shaft Among the Jews) or his distaste toward homosexuals, whom he constantly refers to as faggots. The latter is mostly evident in Shaft Has a Ball, where he uncovers a heist planned by a gang posing as attendees at the National Congress of Gay American Youth. In the process he tracks down a gay bellhop who has given a rough-trade thug, known as Cowboy, access to Senator Stovall, which results in the senator being beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted: “You scream or holler,” Shaft said. “And the only thing you get to suck for six months is a hospital thermometer. Cowboy. I want to find Cowboy” (Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 4). In fact Shaft is merciless, whether it be in his delivery of justice or in protecting himself from potential danger. He believes in pro-activity rather than reactivity. It’s an instinct developed through years of gang warfare on the streets of Harlem and another kind of warfare in Vietnam. He has no second-thoughts about acting as judge, jury and executioner when shooting Cowboy dead. Also in Shaft Has a Ball, he defends himself against an assault by Georgie Ainsworth and his minder, Howard Marcy, by killing Marcy outright with a flat handed blow to the face and then breaking Ains worth’s arm. Later in the book he kills a Mafia hit-man with the same flathanded drive to the face. In Shaft he cold-bloodedly shoots Charlie Caroli outside the room where Beatrice Persons is being held hostage, so as not to compromise his rescue attempt. In Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, he overcomes T.J. Kelly, who has been hired to take him out of the picture as part of a kidnap plot on Senator Stovall’s sons, with a hammer-fisted punch sending Kelly down a stairwell and breaking his neck. He kills a member of a London razor gang by kicking him in the throat and then later kills three of the four men involved in the kidnapping of Senator Stovall’s boys, two of them in physical combat.

5. John Shaft


David Russell’s depiction of John Shaft in his restored art work from the test panels he produced in 1972 for the proposed newspaper comic strip. Russell stays close to the image portrayed in the movies (David Russell’s personal collection).

Shaft also displays a strong protective loyalty to Captain Vic Anderozzi in The Last Shaft, despite his initial anger at Anderozzi leading Mafia hoods to his apartment after the policeman has arrested their accountant, Morris Mickelberg. Shaft kills two men on the roof and then watches Anderozzi leave to hand over Mickelberg to the DA. When Anderozzi and Mickelberg go up in flames—the result of a car bomb—Shaft goes on the rampage for revenge against the Mafia families. Eventually he arranges an exchange of the papers for the men who wrote the contract, but through an elaborate deceit exacts his final revenge by planting explosives and blowing up the warehouse containing the waiting Mafia Don and his army. It is both ironic and inevitable that having fulfilled his obligation Shaft is later caught off-guard by a mugger in the lobby of his apartment, where he is seemingly shot dead. 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 [The Last Shaft, Chapter 11].

Friends Shaft has few “traditional” friends and no one he can call special. Through out the books he has a succession of girlfriends but he has no inkling to settle down into a long-term relationship. He has no direct family, but there is his accountant Marvin Green and his wife Helen, who he regards almost as a surrogate family—referring to Helen Green as the closest he has to having a sister. There is also his ex–Army buddy Cal Asby and his wife Arna, who Shaft and Asby had both courted in their younger days. But most of his friends


Part II: Shaft in Print

are casual, such as the spaced out actors and artists who populate Greenwich Village, including Rollie Nickerson. This is something Shaft acknowledges in the aftermath of the death of Anderozzi, for whom Shaft had a grudging admiration and a fondness he hadn’t fully recognized. In a rare piece of self-examination we get into Shaft’s head as he reflects on those friendships: Oh, he had some friends. Didn’t he? He thought hard—and finally came up with Marvin Green, his accountant, and Green’s wife, Helen, and how pleasant they were to him when he went out to dinner once every six to eight months. They were friends. And Rollie. He was a friend too. And some others, only he couldn’t think of them at the moment. Well, wait, what about the women? No. Their heads were so fucked around they couldn’t be friends with themselves most of the time. And search as he might—his heels jolting against the concrete of the pavement, past the wholesale florist on Sixth Avenue in the twenties, not seeing any of the greenery, not smelling any of the blossoms—search as he might his mind and his heart for somebody special, he found them empty [The Last Shaft, Chapter 2].

Attitude to Women Shaft has a disposable attitude to women, believing their main use to be recreational. Shaft has no lasting relationship in the series and has no qualms about sleeping around. He sees women as objects and as a release mechanism for the stresses of his world. In Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft is more than willing to oblige the insatiable sexual appetite of Rita Towne, who has been beaten by her lover Albert J. Kelly and is seeking a form of revenge. The books are representative of a time when political correctness was years away. When confronted by the politically opinionated Marita Dawes in Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, he muses to himself: Women in politics, women in love, women in business, women in revolutions. What a fucking nuisance they were getting to be, he thought, stripping down for a shower. A man could probably make a fortune if he rounded up twenty with big tits and no vocal chords and opened up an old-fashioned whorehouse [Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Chapter 1].

In Shaft, despite being in a relationship with Ellie, he has a dalliance with a girl named Valerie who he picks up in the No Name Bar. We do not hear of Ellie again in the series. By Shaft Among the Jews he has moved into a seemingly steady relationship with the snobbish Amy Taylor-Davis, who he met at one of Rollie Nickerson’s parties. Once she tries to change his lifestyle by re-decorating his office and pushing for him to take up tennis, Shaft becomes annoyed at the intrusion on his lifestyle, but keeps going back

5. John Shaft


for the sex. Once he meets Cara Herzel, however, we see a softer and more protective side to Shaft. It is hinted that he has really fallen for Cara and his tenderness with her when they finally make love is in total contrast to the wilder approach to sex with Amy. At the end of the novel Shaft is genuinely sad when Cara leaves for Israel. He reached over and held onto her hand. Hell, she’d never been anywhere or done anything. He had thought of a million things to do with her and now they wouldn’t do any of them [Shaft Among the Jews, Chapter 12].

Shaft’s sensitivity is again displayed in Shaft Has a Ball, in his love making with Winifred Guiterrez, who had been raped when she was younger and been afraid of sex ever since. He is considerate in making sure Winnie feels comfortable, despite the opportunistic way in which he coaxes her into his bed in the first place.

Lifestyle Shaft’s taste in clothes is smart and expensive. He often wears suits, being dressed in a grey lightweight wool suit in the opening passages of Shaft. He later wears a grey charcoal suit bought from Paul Stuart’s on Madison Avenue, sold to him by a salesman called Burke. In The Last Shaft it is stated he has a tailor called Mario on North State in Chicago. He gets his gym clothes from an Army Navy store close to McBurney YMCA on West 23rd Street, the venue for his workout sessions where he also occasionally plays handball. His shoe size is described as size 11D and he wears crepesoled Oxfords. Food wise, we discover Shaft enjoys the occasional quarter-pound bag of natural pistachios. He dislikes toast, yet in Goodbye, Mr. Shaft eats five slices for breakfast. He also dislikes bananas having stolen a batch when younger. He was sick after eating them when he realized he couldn’t sell them on. He enjoys fried egg sandwiches with tomato ketchup. He likes to eat peaches directly from the tin and drink down the nectar syrup and eat peanut butter from the jar. He takes his coffee black with no sugar and buys Frenchroast Columbian beans from a Coffee store called McNulty’s on Christopher Street. His taste in alcohol is Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey—an inch and a half, or two fingers. By The Last Shaft he has switched to Moscva vodka after being convinced by Rollie Nickerson the vodka does not contain as many impurities as whiskey. He also enjoys wine when dining out. Shaft is a smoker with his brand being Kent cigarettes.


Part II: Shaft in Print

He holds an American Express Card and initially wears a steel cased Rolex watch, face down on the under-side of his left wrist. Later he switches the Rolex for an expensive Patek-Phillippe he is gifted by Senator Stovall for his efforts in protecting him during Shaft Has a Ball. Shaft seems obsessed with staying young and fit. He is distraught in Shaft Has a Ball to find a few grey hairs growing at the temple just above his sideburns. In Shaft’s Carnival of Killers he chastises himself for putting on some weight as he struggles into a toreador outfit for the masked ball. Not much is said about Shaft’s tastes in music, with the exception of his love of Jelly Roll Morton, having been turned on to his music at NYU. In Shaft, Shaft and Rollie Nickerson share their memories of Jelly Roll’s music. Shaft later uses Jelly Roll’s name as a disguise to have two Mafia hit men arrested while telephoning Anderozzi from the No Name Bar.

Injuries Shaft suffers a severe beating from Mafia gangsters in a failed attempt to rescue Knocks Persons’ daughter in Shaft. He is dumped outside Knocks’ headquarters having sustained two or three broken ribs and numerous cuts and bruises. There he is patched up by Doc Powell (a former boxing doctor) and a dose of Demerol relieves the pain and enables him to mount a second, more organized, rescue attempt. He is also badly beaten in Shaft’s Big Score! by Gus Mascola’s men, who believe him to be Knocks’ representative. He is thrown in the gutter and again left for Knocks’ men to collect their message. As well as the scars from the gang fight in his Harlem youth, Shaft has three gunshot wounds (two in the left thigh and one in his left side) he obtained in Vietnam. The field surgeon also had to re-string his intestines. In Shaft Among the Jews we see Shaft shot twice—in the left shoulder and side, just below his rib cage. The injuries are delivered by Israeli agent Ben Fischer as they confront each other in Morris Blackburn’s apartment. Shaft has to spend a month in Doctor’s Hospital to recover from his wounds. In Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, he receives a seven-inch cut across his third rib after being attacked by a black razor gang. Later, in his rescue of the Stovall boys, he falls through the decks of the rusting cargo ship in a struggle with George Ross. Ross is killed and Shaft is again hospitalized with broken bones. Of course in the closing section of The Last Shaft he receives a fatal gunshot injury from a random mugger.

5. John Shaft


Weapons Shaft owns a variety of weapons including at various stages a snub-nosed .38 revolver; a .44-40 Smith & Wesson, blue in collar; a .380 Colt automatic; a .357 Smith & Wesson Magnum. In Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft buys a pump-action Remington from which he saws off the rifle stock and barrel. He later uses this in The Last Shaft to dispatch two Mafia hit men on the roof of his apartment building.

6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft books introduced a small group of recurring characters, some of whom Shaft would call on as a friend, but most of whom he would more likely call on for a favor:

The Police Contact Victor Anderozzi Shaft/Shaft Among the Jews/Shaft’s Big Score!/ Shaft Has a Ball/Goodbye Mr. Shaft/Shaft’s Carnival of Killers/The Last Shaft Vic Anderozzi is a Police lieutenant of Italian descent from upstate in New York. He was born in 123 and is based in New York’s 17th Precinct on East 51st Street. In his handwritten character outline Tidyman describes Anderozzi as rather gentle and introspective as well as poetic. In the books, however, there is little sign of this side to his character. Tidyman gives us brief snatches of Anderozzi’s personal life. As a boy he used to go state fishing with his father. He is married with kids, although how many children he has is not stated, but it is noted in Shaft that he has a twelve-year-old daughter. His wife is dark-haired and she also snores in bed. He smokes Camel cigarettes and he also likes hot cashew nuts, despite them giving him heartburn. Anderozzi works hard and late and gets little time for out of city vacations, having only visited once each of Florida and California. In The Last Shaft we learn his weapon of choice is a .38 caliber Chief ’s Special—a five-shot gun that has a hidden hammer. Anderozzi never uses his weapon in any of the books. Tidyman describes Vic Anderozzi’s tall, gaunt appearance in his introductory paragraph: The lieutenant had a thin grey face and black hooded eyes. He was as tall as Shaft, just under six feet, but much leaner and the way he stood made Shaft


6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters


Tidyman’s handwritten outline of Lieutenant Vic Anderozzi (Box 108. From folder: “Research File: 1968–70, Shaft.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

think of sharp objects. The lieutenant looked like a linoleum knife, ready to cut. The big beak of a nose made it complete [Shaft, Chapter 1].

Pool hall owner, Rube Posey, sees Anderozzi as: … tall and sparely built but tough as rip-cord and piano wire twined, with a face like a pig killing knife [Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 1].

At the time we meet him in Shaft, Anderozzi is head of a special investigative detail reporting directly to the Commissioner of Police and the New York City Mayor. He has been assigned to investigate the rising tensions within the various factions of organized crime. Anderozzi uses Shaft to get a better understanding of the cause of these tensions and remains on the periphery of the action updating the Commissioner on progress and ready to step in when required. But he gives Shaft sufficient license to work out his plans without the legal restrictions he himself would have been under. Although there is some initial antagonism between Anderozzi and Shaft, it is borne out of a mutual respect and a friendship neither is willing to acknowledge. Anderozzi gives Shaft as good as he gets in their verbal sparring:


Part II: Shaft in Print

“What do you know about diamonds?” “Well I bought my wife one about seventeen years ago and I think I got through paying for it last week,” said Victor Anderozzi, the lean grey man hunkered over a coffee cup opposite Shaft in the automat on West Fifty-seventh Street. “But it was a big one. You could almost see it with the naked eye.” “Will you stop this shit and give me some help?” Shaft persisted. “Who put the nickels in the slot for the coffee?” “I did.” “That’s only because I didn’t have any change. I’m good for it” [Shaft Among the Jews, Chapter 2].

Also, in Shaft Among the Jews, Anderozzi twice releases Shaft without charge after he has been arrested for serious offences. He warns Shaft that his attitude will one day get him killed, having seen many licensed investigators bite off more than they can chew in the past. At the same time he begrudgingly admits to liking Shaft more than any of them and doesn’t want to be the one to have to fish his body out of the river.

Don Rico’s interpretation of Lieutenant Vic Anderozzi, which Tidyman thought made the detective look “too young and WASPish” (Box 148. From folder labeled “Shaft File: Shaft Comics.” Coll 09178. Ernest Tidyman Papers. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming).

6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters


Anderozzi only appears briefly in Shaft’s Big Score! in a cameo in which he is contacted by Sgt. Pete Bollin for an appraisal of Shaft’s character. By Shaft Has a Ball, Anderozzi has been promoted to Captain of a team of detectives. He is still on special assignment reporting directly to the police commissioner. Following information from an informant, Anderozzi asks for Shaft’s help in establishing whether Ben Buford is planning a heist. When Shaft refuses to help, saying he owes Anderozzi no favors, Anderozzi is initially annoyed: “Thanks, John,” he said softly. “You’ve often been a big pain in the ass to me, maybe more trouble than you’ve been worth. It’s nice to know I won’t be needing to go through that again. You’re right. We’re square and from now on I’ll take it from there” [Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 1].

He knows Shaft will eventually relent and agree to co-operate, but he plays him along to let him know he will not be taken for granted regardless of whatever friendship they may have. Anderozzi also has a friendship with Jamaican chief of police Alex Ashton and he vouches for Shaft when Shaft is arrested for assaulting two of Ashton’s men on a Montego Bay beach in Shaft’s Carnival of Killers. This friendship seems to have been contrived in order to fit a need to provide Shaft with a supporter in order for Ashton to take him into his confidence. In Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Anderozzi is involved at the beginning of the story and in getting Shaft out of a hole, following his killing of the hit man T.J. Kelly, writing it off as “a public service.” In The Last Shaft, Anderozzi has arrested Morris Mickelberg along with records of Mafia deals across all the families. The Mafia target Mickelberg for a hit and take Anderozzi with him by attaching a bomb to the Captain’s car. This is the trigger for Shaft to go on his final rampage in search of revenge. In the aftershock of such an explosion there is always total silence. Perhaps it is because anyone nearby is momentarily deafened. Shaft lay unmoving in this silence, barely breathing. He could not clear his mind of a question that began on the first wave of concussion. Victor Anderozzi, my friend, what is it really like to die? [The Last Shaft, Chapter 2].

The Harlem Crime Lord Knocks Persons Shaft/Shaft’s Big Score! A Harlem crime lord in his fifties, Knocks Persons is a big time racketeer who is fighting off organized crime run by the Mafia who are looking to mus-


Part II: Shaft in Print

cle in on his turf. He also has issues with the militants in the black community who are wanting to rid Harlem of the destruction and degradation Knocks’ criminal empire has brought to it. In his younger days he served time in prison where he worked in the infirmary. He is a big man, six foot six inches in height and weighing in at 20 pounds and he has distinctive scars in at least eleven places on his body. In his hand written character outline for Persons, Tidyman says he has a liking for diamonds and limousines, which signifies his expensive tastes. His office, for which there is no specific location mentioned in the books, is as big as the man with ceilings up to thirty-five-feet high, white walls and soft lighting. He has a long glass desk set on chrome and his office chair is a huge white leather affair also set on a chrome base and with castors. The room has a thirty-foot ebony bar filled with quart bottles of spirits. The carpet is fleecestyled and the walls are decorated with African prints. There is a dressing room closet to the left of his desk where he keeps his private phone. He tends to wear a black suit—he has twenty hung up in his closet along with a hundred white shirts, thirty white silk ties and forty pairs of simple black shoes. Everything about Persons is two-tone. In his outline for Shaft, Tidyman notes the character of Knock Persons was based on Bumpy Johnson, who controlled the gambling, drugs and crime trade in the ghettos in pre– and post–World War II Harlem. While Tidyman moved away from the “Bumpy” nickname in the novel, Gordon Parks made a more overt reference in the movie adaptation by re-naming Moses Gunn’s character Bumpy Jonas. Knocks is chauffeured around the city by his driver, Willie Joe Smith, in a black Fleetwood Cadillac limousine and is described by Tidyman through Shaft’s point of view on their first meeting as follows: Shaft looked for Persons’ eyes, which were tucked away in folds of flesh. So we all look alike, do we? The head of the man was shaven, glistening, the jaw around the full, firm mouth was heavy-boned and hard. Nature had structured Knocks Persons to drive through immovable objects and beat back irresistible forces [Shaft, Chapter 3].

Persons has an estranged wife who contacts him once a week via the exdirectory public phone installed in the closet of his office. Their daughter, Beatrice, is a sexy, wild teenage child with a rebellious nature, but she is Knocks’ pride and joy. In Shaft, Beatrice has gone off the rails and become hooked on drugs and sex. When Beatrice is kidnapped and Knocks fails to find her through his network, he hires Shaft to trace her knowing Shaft’s ability to operate in both the black and white communities. This later creates friction between Shaft and Persons once Shaft realizes Persons’ sly manipulation of him to not only infiltrate the Mafia, but to create friction between the Mafia and Ben Buford’s militants resulting in the death of five of Buford’s men.

6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters


By Shaft’s Big Score! Persons has expanded his empire into the Bronx and the black areas of Brooklyn. He has also made an enemy in Brooklynbased gangster Gus Mascola, who is looking to expand into Queens in a deal with Albert J. Kelly and in direct competition with Persons. With Mascola killed at the book’s conclusion, there is no follow-up to confirm whether Persons was successful in his expansion plans as the character disappeared from the series.

The Political Activist Ben Buford Shaft/Shaft Has a Ball Ben Buford is a black militant activist who was also a childhood friend of Shaft, having been involved in street gangs in their youth. Buford is very tall (six-and-a-half-feet) and is an imposing figure with a rich voice. He wears gold-rimmed spectacles in order to lend himself an air of respectability and acceptance in the political community. His appearance is best described in this passage from Shaft Has a Ball where he is waiting for Shaft in his apartment having heard the detective has been tracking him down: It was a tick away from 6.00 a.m. when Shaft trudged into his own apartment, feeling as if he’d been chopping cotton. The first thing he saw was something that looked like a six-and-a-half-foot black grasshopper on the living room chair. Elbows, knees, shoulders, and big feet were sticking out at all angles. The gold-rimmed glasses had slipped down to almost the tip of the nose. Bushy black hair, tightly, naturally curly, framed the long, thin, sensitive face. Heavily hooded, widely set brown eyes opened and stared at Shaft a moment, over the top of the specs, then closed again [Shaft Has A Ball, Chapter 4].

Buford’s commanding voice, helps him get attention from fellow revolutionaries as well as give him a vehicle to deliver his political speeches at universities and political rallies. In Shaft we learn Buford was involved in the riots in Bedford-Stuyvesant (21–22 July 164), Watts (11–17 August 165) and Detroit (23–27 July 167). We also discover how Buford and Shaft have taken very different paths since their teenage days on the streets of Harlem. Buford accuses Shaft of selling his race out by working downtown amidst the white man, while Shaft chastises Buford on his misplaced idealistic views. Despite being at loggerheads, once they realize they have both been used by Persons to further his advantage, they reluctantly decide to work together to free Persons’ daughter from the Mafia. In Shaft Has a Ball, Buford is being framed as the organizer of a heist of half-a-million dollars of laundered money and Shaft tracks him down to


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firstly find out the truth and secondly warn him to get out of town and keep himself visible. The set-up has been arranged by a bankrupt shopkeeper named Yancey, who lost his business when Buford encouraged the black community to boycott it when Yancey wouldn’t contribute to the cause. As the heist is botched due to double-crossing between the conspirators, Buford is ultimately cleared. During this book we meet Buford’s mother, Mrs. Huey Buford, who has a soft spot for Shaft, which is reciprocated. Buford has a habit of keeping his mother up to date on his whereabouts and in both Shaft and Shaft Has a Ball, Shaft uses her fondness for him to locate Buford.

Shaft’s Friends Helen green Shaft/Shaft Has a Ball Helen is the wife of Shaft’s accountant, Marvin Green. Shaft regards Helen almost as family as she adopts a friendly concern for his welfare. In Shaft she shelters Shaft and Ben Buford at her Riverdale home after they escape the Mafia massacre of Ben’s militant group. Helen and her husband represent the middle-class blacks who have made good. While Shaft has little time for the conformism of their domestic bliss (in Shaft, he mercilessly ribs Helen about her collecting Green Stamps to exchange for kitchenware), he also secretly envies the happy and family-orientated lives they obviously lead. Helen is highly organized—she even lists her shopping in abbreviated form— and the Greens’ apartment is spotlessly clean. In this extract we get a brief description of the hazel-eyed Helen Green from Shaft’s point of view: “She was the least black negro he knew, possibly the most attractive, possibly the most feminine and womanly as well” (Shaft, Chapter 5). There is an obvious bond between the pair and Helen shows concern for Shaft. What flirtation there is between them is tempered by Shaft’s insistence that should he try anything on then Marvin would fix his tax return good and proper. Shaft, having been orphaned from two years old, muses Helen is the closest thing to an older sister he has. Shaft also gets on well with Marvin and Helen’s children, who are smart and her son beats Shaft in a game of three dimensional tic-tac-toe at the first book’s conclusion. In Shaft Has A Ball, it is Helen who introduces Shaft to magazine journalist Winifred Guiterrez. Winifred is writing a series on black men and women being successful in unusual professions and is looking to write an article about Shaft.

6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters


Helen smokes Salem cigarettes and reads Ladies’ Home Journal, but we discover little else about her and Marvin’s lifestyle outside of their organized domesticity and children.

Marvin green Shaft’s Carnival of Killers Marvin Green is Shaft’s accountant and Helen Green’s husband. He is acknowledged by mention in most of the books but makes his only personal appearance in Shaft’s Carnival of Killers. Shaft counts Marvin as a friend, as well as his financial adviser and organizer. He teases Marvin constantly about his fussiness: “Marvin, the accountant, a true and faithful friend—but a paranoiac pain-in-the-ass every spring, up to and including the witching hour on April fifteenth” (Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Chapter 1). In Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Marvin helps Shaft by referring him to Ivan Graff, an ex-FBI man turned PI in Kingston, to loan him money to help him evade the police. Like Anderozzi’s friendship of Alex Ashton, this seems an overly convenient link to help solve an issue with holes in the plot. There is little fleshing out of Marvin’s character in the books, due to his peripheral presence, but Shaft’s fondness for both Marvin and Helen is made apparent. The three of them would have dinner every six or eight months and Shaft appreciated their pleasant manner with him.

Rollie nickerson Shaft/Shaft Among the Jews/Shaft’s Big Score!/ Shaft Has a Ball/Goodbye, Mr. Shaft/Shaft’s Carnival of Killers/The Last Shaft Rollie Nickerson is a tall (six-foot-four), skinny actor who is often out of work and therefore performs duties as the part-time barman at the No Name Bar which is situated across the street from Shaft’s apartment. Nickerson is often stoned on drink, drugs or both. He frequently wears unmatched shoes as a result. He also smokes cigarettes and lives life as if it was a permanent party. He has a penchant for doing bad impressions of famous movie stars—Shaft regards this as a façade in order to hide the real man underneath. “Rollie Nickerson, hair lank and disordered, face nothing but cheekbones, nose and chin, looked like young Lincoln and now chose to act like Peter Lorre attempting to calm the Wolf Man” (Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 7). It becomes a standing joke through the books that Nickerson is only ever in acting work when there is demand for Abraham Lincoln (he also does an impression of Raymond Massey from the film Abe Lincoln in Illinois) or tall basketball players. His carefree attitude is seen in Shaft as he happily


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hands over control of the No Name Bar to Shaft who has spotted two Mafia hoods watching his apartment. Later, once Shaft outwits the hoods and has the police arrest them, Nickerson arranges for Shaft to hook up with Valerie for a one-night stand. Nickerson lives in the theatre district in Midtown Manhattan. It is at one of Rollie’s house parties, in Shaft Among The Jews, that Shaft meets the snobbish Amy-Taylor Davis. Later in the book Nickerson is again in a stoned state while working at the No Name when Shaft calls to enlist his help in evading Anderozzi’s men as he goes in search of Morris Blackburn. In Shaft Has A Ball, Nickerson helps Shaft locate Donny Graycoff, an out of work actor, who is involved in the Hotel Armand heist. While searching through an Actors register, Nickerson proudly announces he has worked on an ad for mouthwash. Nickerson has a very brief role in Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. He is waiting for an hour and a half outside Shaft’s apartment, expecting for them to hit the town, but ends up collecting Shaft’s dry-cleaning as Shaft prepares for his London trip. In Shaft’s Carnival of Killers we see Shaft recall a conversation with Nickerson about dealing with two girls in a threesome. Shaft recalls the conversation in order to help him cope with the attentions of Linda and Valerie in his hotel room. The result is all three crash out drunk. Finally in The Last Shaft, while Nickerson does not appear in the book, Shaft recalls it was Nickerson who convinced him to switch from scotch to vodka, due to impurities in the whiskey.

The Politician Senator Albert Congdon (“Creighton”) Stovall Shaft Has a Ball/Goodbye Mr. Shaft Senator Albert Congdon Stovall is a black politician who has a white grandfather, which accounts for the lighter shading of his skin. He is described as intelligent looking with wide set eyes and thick hair greying at the temples. He was keen on sport at Harvard, where he represented the University at lacrosse and boxing. He spent two years at Oxford and then taught political science in a mid-western college. From there he built a political career in the Republican Party with a signature agenda of integration and minority rights. He is said to lead a flamboyant bachelor lifestyle. In Washington he is known to have courted a Jamaican girl from a wealthy family. We later learn through a continuity error that Tidyman fixed for Goodbye, Mr. Shaft that he was a widower and had two sons. Tidyman gets around this change in Stovall’s

6. Shaft’s Supporting Characters


bachelor profile by explaining his wife had died seven years previously and the boys had been raised by her sister. Shaft meets Stovall for the first time in Shaft Has a Ball. Stovall is staying at the Presidential Suite of the Hotel Armand and Shaft has been recommended by Anderozzi as a bodyguard. However, the hotel has been targeted for a heist in an attempt to frame political activist, Ben Buford. An attack on Stovall is planned to get him and Shaft out of the way. When the senator is beaten and sexually assaulted by a hired rough-trade thug, Shaft hunts down and kills the assailant, recovering Stovall’s wallet in the process. As thanks for his actions and for keeping the attack out of the papers, Stovall gifts Shaft a Patek-Philippe watch. By Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Stovall’s forenames have changed from Albert Congdon to Creighton. This seems to be a continuity error on Tidyman’s behalf. Stovall hires Shaft to watch over his kids in London, as he believes they may be subject to an attempted kidnapping in order to stop him running for vice-president. This is over thirty years before Obama and Tidyman has made prophecies around at least a black vice-president. Stovall also shows a hard side to his personality when he displays his obvious disappointment in Shaft for not being around when his sons are kidnapped. Shaft is stung by Stovall’s rebuke and this leads him to a determined search for the boys leading to the violent climax and a retribution of sorts with the Stovall family.

The Hired Help Mrs. Klonsky Mrs. Klonsky (no first name given) is Shaft’s grumpy Polish cleaner, who constantly takes him to task over his cleanliness. She cleans Shaft’s apartment every Wednesday morning, but we never actually meet her in any of the books. The only occasion when we find out any more about her is when, in Shaft Has A Ball, she has asked Shaft to help get loan sharks off her son Albert’s back. Shaft solves the problem in his own inimitable way.

Mildred Shaft/Goodbye, Mr. Shaft Mildred is the voice behind Shaft’s answering service at the We Never Sleep So You Can Answering Service—contact number 675. She is revealed to have a sense of paranoia when in Shaft she asks Shaft to find out if her 63-year-old husband, Emil, is seeing another woman.


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Shaft also enjoys teasing Mildred as evidenced by this exchange in Goodbye, Mr. Shaft: “Where have you been all day?” She sounded pissed off, offended by his dilatory habits. “In the steam room at the McBurney. I’ll sneak you in there sometime, Mildred. We can play cop the soap.” Her laughter was like a gunshot in the ear [Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Chapter 1].

7. Shaft’s New York New York in the early 170s was a very different city from today with a high crime rate, corruption within the police force and a growing level of social disorder. Times Square was not the attraction it is now, being largely populated by prostitutes. Forty-second Street was home to adult movie houses and Central Park was a refuge for muggers and the scene of numerous rapes. This situation had been driven by the economic recession, which took the city to near bankruptcy. When President Gerald Ford refused to bail the city out New Yorkers were outraged. Ford would later relent and extend Federal loans. It was also during this period that The World Trade Center was officially completed on 4 April 173, having been five years in construction. The Trade Center would become a symbol of western capitalism until the Twin Towers were tragically targeted and destroyed by Al-Qaeda, killing 2,753 people on 11 September 2001. Ernest Tidyman had a real eye for detail when it came to describing New York City. He had lived and worked in the city throughout the 160s and used his time as a magazine writer and journalist to accumulate a great deal of knowledge of New York and its suburbs. Throughout the Shaft books Tidyman utilized a wide variety of real and fictional locations:

Shaft’s Home and Office Shaft’s Apartment—56, Jane St/Hudson St (corner) Shaft’s corner third floor apartment is located in a square white-painted four-story, two-apartment deep building running into Hudson Street from Jane Street toward 8th Avenue in Greenwich Village. The roof, where Shaft confronts two Mafia hoods in The Last Shaft, contains a high parapet. The building is an actual apartment building that sits opposite the red-bricked 1-story Cezannes apartments (now the Van Gogh apartments), which housed young arty types. It was originally completed in 111 and in 140 the building was converted into apartments. 117


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The 1970s Manhattan skyline in the early morning (photograph by Chester Higgins. national Archives and Records Administration).

Shaft’s small apartment comprises a kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom. A solitary club chair is situated near the living room window, which overlooks Hudson Street and the No Name Bar opposite and is adorned by slatted venetian blinds. The bathroom backs onto Jane Street and contains the basics including a shower. The kitchen is lit by a circular fluorescent tube light and contains a small circular wood table between two windows. In Shaft Has a Ball during a hot summer, Shaft buys an air conditioner from Korvette’s. One of his ornaments is an ebony figurine with a raised middlefinger. The decor is white-grey and the front door bright red. The building superintendent keeps a dog in the basement. The front of the apartment building has two entrances. A main and second entrance from Jane St is accessed by key or buzzer from individual apartments. The building neighbors brownstone buildings, which run up to Eighth Avenue. The apartment has also been the scene of some violent exchanges. In Shaft Among the Jews. Shaft subdues Willie Scott who thinks Shaft wants to muscle in on his plans to rob Blackburn’s store. Later in the same book he similarly overpowers David Alexander, after Alexander has come to murder him. In Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Shaft kills T.J. Kelly, who has been hired to take him out of the picture in a plot to kidnap senator Stovall’s sons, on the second floor stairwell.

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In The Last Shaft, Captain Vic Anderozzi calls on Shaft with a prisoner—the Mafia bag man, Morris Mickelberg—and Mafia hit men on his tail. Shaft goes to the roof and kills two of them and the others flee, but they have left a bomb in Anderozzi’s car killing the policeman and his prisoner. Shaft later stores the Mafia book-keepers records on top of the elevator car. When Shaft has set up the Mafia dons for his sucker punch, he returns to his apartment to collect the records only to find crooked cop Lt. Rudolph Gromyck waiting for him in the hallway and his apartment torn apart. When he refuses to hand over the records for Gromyck to sell back to the Mafia he kills the cop in the hallway with a kick to the head and stashes his body on top of the elevator car in place of the box. Finally at the close of the book on returning to his apartment he is mugged and apparently killed in the lobby at the Hudson Street entrance to his apartment.

Shaft’s Office—“John Shaft Investigations”— 165 West 46th Street/Times Square In reality the building which houses Shaft’s office is the Actor’s Equity Building, which was constructed between 124 and 126 and contains 17 floors. The building spreads down West 46th Street, but also fronts onto Times Square wrapping around the smaller 4-story Israel Miller Building. Renovation work on the building commenced in 2013. In Shaft, Tidyman states it has two public entrances, one to the east on West 46th Street the other facing Times Square, and three others—the fire exit out back, through a shoe shop and also via a sex shop on the corner (the latter being the entrance Shaft chose to avoid the hoods from Harlem in Shaft). Shaft’s office, which fronts onto Times Square, is situated on the third floor and accessed by an elevator, operated by a man called Jimmy. The municipal offices are described as containing: “…second-rate law yers, small show business types, a couple of novelty merchandise jobbers…” (Shaft, Chapter 1). Also, in Shaft, one of Knocks Persons’ hoods leaves Shaft’s office via the window after a fight ensues when Shaft finds them lying in wait. This leads to Shaft’s arrest on suspicion of manslaughter. At the start of Shaft Among the Jews we learn that Shaft’s office has been re-decorated and re-furbished by his girlfriend Amy Taylor-Davis, much to his distaste. A bright blue carpet, orange daybed, white filing cabinets, pale blue telephone and a clear transparent Perspex desk with black leather chair. This is the last book to feature any scenes set in his office.


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Other Locations Amy Taylor-Davis’ Apartment—47 East 64th Street Between Madison and Park Avenues Amy Taylor-Davis lives in a private home converted into apartments, which Tidyman states is situated between a hotel and an embassy. The hotel is the Plaza Athenee and the apartment building is therefore likely to be number 47 East 64th Street. Amy’s apartment has a high ceiling and is elegantly decorated in shades of brown and gold with red and pink fabrics.

Army navy Store—West 23rd Street The store is located on the south side of West 23rd Street about halfway up the block from Sixth to Seventh Avenue and a short distance from the Chelsea Hotel, where Shaft would check in to hide away from the law and the Mafia. The store window is decorated with work boots, uniforms and camping equipment. This is the store where Shaft buys his track suits and gym shoes. In The Last Shaft he goes here while on the run from the Mafia and borrows clothes and money from the proprietor, Ferdinand.

Arthur Sharrett’s Apartment—Central Park South (West 59th Street)/6th Avenue In Shaft’s Big Score! Arthur Sharrett’s swank apartment, where he lives with his daughter Gail, overlooks Central Park from Central Park South near the corner to Sixth Avenue. As Sharrett is crippled he uses the penthouse apartment as the base for his plans to set up an organized approach to the various rackets across the boroughs of the city. Sharrett’s main office is his oak-paneled study populated with ornate trinkets. Gail Sharrett keeps her 365GT Ferrari parked in the basement. Shaft takes her and the car as he takes off after Arthur Sharrett and Gus Mascola who are rendezvousing with Albert J. Kelly to collect the $500,000. The building Tidyman based Sharrett’s home upon is likely to be Park House (116 Central Park South), a 17-story building, which currently contains 7 apartments. The building also has a rear aspect onto West 58th Street.

Asby-Kelly Insurance and Funeral Home— Myrtle Avenue, Queens These are the offices for the insurance business and funeral home jointly run by Cal Asby and Albert J. Kelly in Shaft’s Big Score! The offices are

7. Shaft’s New York


situated on Myrtle Avenue close to Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. Asby had inherited the business from his father and uses an expensive casket in which to hide $500,000 in cash that his partner intends to use to pay his debts to Gus Mascola. In the second chapter of the book the office is destroyed by a bomb planted by Mascola’s men in an attempt to kill Cal Asby. They are successful in this, but the $500,000 is missing.

Augustus Mascola’s Flower Shop— near Prospect Park, Old Brooklyn In Shaft’s Big Score! Gus Mascola runs his Brooklyn-based criminal activities from this flower shop. The shop is situated in the affluent area of the borough, though no specific location is referenced. Mascola uses his flower delivery business as a means for attempting a hit on Shaft as he consoles Arna Asby following the death of her husband.

Ben Buford’s Militant Hideout— 139th Street/Amsterdam Avenue In Shaft this is one of a number of locations where Buford’s militant group hideout. The base is close to CCNY, where the college kids are a prime audience for the group’s political canvassing. Buford constantly moves his base in order to stay one step ahead of the CIA and the police. Shaft tracks Buford down and meets up in order to seek help with locating Knocks Persons’ kidnapped daughter. The building is attacked by Mafia hit-men who kill five of Buford’s men. Shaft and Buford manage to escape running through the tenements before the police arrive.

Benedict’s Hot Dog Stand— West 43rd Street/7th Avenue This street stand is run by a Puerto Rican vendor. In Shaft, John Shaft absently devours seven hot dogs here after his initial meeting with Knocks Persons.

Café Borgia—185 Bleecker Street This is an Espresso coffee house situated in the SoHo district on the corner of MacDougal and Bleecker Streets. The Borgia was a real coffee house that Tidyman used as a setting in Shaft for Shaft’s meeting with a Mafia


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Shaft gets around new York by cab. Here is a line-up of yellow cabs seeking fares on Lexington Avenue and 61st Street in 1973 (Dan McCoy. national Archives and Records Administration).

contact in order to make a deal for the release of Knocks Persons’ kidnapped daughter. During the 160s and 170s the café had a Bohemian décor and was a refuge for the poets and artists who lived in Greenwich Village—amongst them Andy Warhol. The café closed in December 2000 after losing its lease.

Bowery Bay Wharf—48th Street Wharf It is here in the closing pages of Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft disposes of Jerry Longo and Andy Pascal at the end of a long high-speed car chase through Queens and Brooklyn. They are shot advancing on Shaft in their Mustang, which subsequently plunges into the bay.

Casa Mario—132 Sullivan St In Shaft this is a bar in SoHo situated on the corner of Sullivan Street and West Houston Street. The building is now an apartment block with the ground floor occupied by the Bella Donna Café. The Casa Mario is where Shaft leaves a message for the Mafia to meet

7. Shaft’s New York


him as he makes his way around the West Village and Little Italy in his attempt to establish contact and trace Knocks Persons’ kidnapped daughter.

The Chelsea Hotel—222 West 23rd Street The Chelsea Hotel is one of the more historic buildings in New York. It was built between 1883 and 1885. It was a designated New York City landmark

The renovated Hotel Chelsea. Tidyman used the hotel as a location in Shaft Among the Jews and The Last Shaft (photograph by Velvet).


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since 166, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 177. The hotel is situated at 222 West 23rd Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Renovation work on the hotel commenced in 2011. Over the years it became famous for housing many famous artistic people including musicians Bob Dylan, Virgil Thomson, Janis Joplin, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop; artists Brigid Berlin and Larry Rivers; writers Mark Twain, Charles Bukowski, Arthur Miller and Arthur C. Clarke; actresses Viva and Gaby Hoffmann. Poet Dylan Thomas died of pneumonia at the Chelsea in 153 and infamously Nancy Spungen, the girlfriend of Sid Vicious was found stabbed to death in 178. In Shaft Among the Jews Tidyman used the hotel as the second base for Ben Fischer’s team of Israeli agents, as they are forced to relocate when their cover is blown after two agents are arrested in a subway station. In The Last Shaft, Shaft checks into the hotel under an alias while he is on the run from the Mafia. He is booked into Room 502 and strikes up a partnership with the hotel clerk, Willie, who is also an amateur sleuth. Willie smuggles Shaft out of the hotel by having his girlfriend, Miriam, turn his complexion white with the use of make-up.

Drago Shoe Repair Shop— Broadway/Between 41st and 42nd Street Shaft calls into Drago’s for a shoe shine as he walks up Broadway toward his office at the opening of Shaft. It is here Shaft learns from the owner that two of Knocks Persons’ men from Uptown are looking for him. Broadway was initially a thriving theatre district, but during the 160s and 170s the area became the prime red-light district for the city. The area was later cleaned up during the 180s being renovated as a tourist venue for families.

Ellie’s Apartment—West 21st Street In Shaft, John Shaft’s girlfriend, Ellie, lives in a Brownstone building on West 21st Street. It is from here Shaft is walking to his office at the beginning of the story and recollecting his previous evening with Ellie.

Hotel Armand—Central Park South (West 59th Street) This fictional hotel was possibly based on the Essex House hotel at 160 Central Park South. Tidyman used this venue in Shaft Has a Ball. It is the hotel where

7. Shaft’s New York


half-a-million dollars in Mafia funds are held in five of the four hundred deposit boxes and is subject to a heist masterminded by Neal Wickman and Saul Yancey. Wickman sets up base in room 426 during the National Congress of Gay American Youth annual ball. The five-man heist team disguise themselves in drag to mingle with the crowd. Senator Albert Congdon Stovall is also a guest at the hotel, staying in the 30th Floor Presidential Suite. It is here Stovall is assaulted by a roughtrade thug in an attempt to get him and Shaft, who has been hired as Stovall’s bodyguard, away from the venue. During the heist the hotel is set on fire and the ball guests, dressed in drag, run out onto Central Park South.

Hotel Sheridan—West 34th Street/8th Avenue Another fictional hotel, which Tidyman based on West 34th Street close to 8th Avenue. It may therefore have been modeled on the old Penn Plaza Hotel, now known as Regency Inn and Suites. The hotel is largely aimed at business-men. In Goodbye, Mr. Shaft Senator Stovall sets up his low-key New York base during the run-up to the vice-presidency elections. Stovall is stationed in Room 1325 on the thirteenth floor. It is here he hires Shaft to travel to London and act as bodyguard to his sons.

Marilyn Crispin’s Apartment—Apartment 6D, 111, East 54th Street/Park Avenue In Shaft Has a Ball, Marilyn Crispin is a friend of magazine journalist Winifred Guiterrez. When Shaft postpones his appointment with Winnie he arranges an evening re-schedule. Winnie arranges to be picked up from her friend’s apartment. Later in the book Marilyn invites Shaft over to pursue her own interests. The address is now the Brook Club, a privately owned club and one of only four that still exclude women.

Marvin & Helen green’s Apartment— Riverdale, The Bronx Riverdale is an upper class residential area situated in the north-west corner of The Bronx. Its high elevation affords good views of the Manhattan skyline. Even as late as the 2000 census only 7.66 percent of the population of Riverdale was black, making the Greens’ ethnicity very much in a minority.


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In Shaft, Tidyman describes the residence of Shaft’s accountant and his wife as an ultra-clean and orderly middle-class family apartment. The living area has a beige carpet and contains a big leather chair, which Marvin uses. A coffee table contains the latest issue of the magazine Ladies’ Home Journal. Scotch is stored in heavy crystal decanters that Marvin Green had purchased from an antique dealer called Harris Diamant at a store names Eris. A long hallway past the bedrooms connects to the black and white floortiled kitchen. There the Greens have a Chemex filter coffee machine along with a number of symbols of middle-class domesticity, many of which have been purchased using collected Green Stamps. There is also an extension telephone. It is here Shaft and Buford spend an early morning sleeping at the Greens’ apartment using it as a temporary hideout, having escaped the Mafia’s massacre of some of Buford’s men in Shaft.

McBurney YMCA—215 West 23rd Street The -story McBurney YMCA resided at this address opposite the Chelsea Hotel and just west of Seventh Avenue from 104 until 2002, when it moved nine blocks south to West 14th Street. It is also believed to have been the inspiration for the Village People’s late–170s hit song “YMCA.” The property is now a David Barton Gym. This is another case of Tidyman using a real location and in chapter 2 of Shaft we see this is Shaft’s favorite place to work out using the gym, jogging track, overhead ladder and rowing machine.

Mcnulty’s—109 Christopher St This famous coffee shop is where Shaft buys his French-roast Columbian coffee beans. The store has been in existence since 185 and stocks a wide range of coffees and teas stored in apothecary jars.

Morris Blackburn’s Diamond Store— 5th Avenue/56th Street This fictional marble fronted building is based on Fifth Avenue and owned by diamond trader Morris Blackburn. In Shaft Among the Jews Blackburn converts the basement into a workshop for Avrim Herzel to cut his synthetic diamonds. The second floor contains offices and a private showroom. A workroom is housed on the third floor. There is a side door entrance to the building

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The former McBurney YMCA at 215 West 23rd Street, between Eighth and ninth Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan is now the David Barton gym.

that is sealed, but leads to the basement area where Avrim Herzel has set up his laser cutting equipment. Shaft works here undercover in order to investigate Blackburn’s activities and during a tour of the offices at night Ben Fischer’s Israeli agents launch an assault in an attempt to locate Herzel and his formula.


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It is likely the venue was based on the long established Harry Winston salon located on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street, which commenced trading in 132.

Morris Blackburn’s Apartment— Sutton Place/57th Street Sutton Place is situated alongside the East River. The building, which houses Morris Blackburn’s luxury apartment, has each apartment unit taking up a whole floor. Blackburn’s apartment is on the ninth floor. In Shaft Among the Jews it is outside this building that Blackburn strangles Avrim Herzel to death. It is in Blackburn’s apartment where Shaft confronts Blackburn and Israeli agent Ben Fischer while they are trying to do a deal. A shootout occurs leaving Shaft injured and Fischer dead. Blackburn jumps through the window to his own death. Tidyman is likely to have based Morris Blackburn’s home on the apartment building that is 2 Sutton Place situated on the corner of East 57th Street.

Mother’s—Brooklyn/Queens Border Mother’s is a brick-built two-story club situated between a grocery and dry cleaners, which secretly houses an illegal gambling joint. No exact location is stated. It is here Kelly points out Shaft to Gus Mascola who has his men beat Shaft senseless and send him on to Knocks Persons as a message to stay out of Queens.

no name Bar—621 Hudson St The No Name Bar is situated on the corner of Hudson and Jane Streets in New York’s Greenwich Village across the street from Shaft’s apartment. Orange globes adorn the entrance and the bar is thirty-feet long, with a slight elbow to the right ending at a dark oak paneled wall about four feet from a window looking out onto Hudson Street. A snub-nosed .38 Colt hangs on a hook on the underside of the bar. Shaft borrows this for his later excursions into Mafia territory. Shaft’s actor friend, Rollie Nickerson, frequently works at the No Name as barkeep and in Shaft, Nickerson hands over control of the bar to Shaft who has spotted two Mafia hoods lying in wait for him. Shaft goes undercover behind the bar to stall the men as he calls in the police. Shaft breaks a bottle over one of the hood’s heads after he spits in Shaft’s face when the police arrive. The No Name was a real location and the bar was frequented by many

7. Shaft’s New York


artists, writers and musicians. It formed part of a circuit with The Bistro on Jane Street and The White Horse on Hudson Street. When the bar closed it became a delicatessen and from 12 an Italian restaurant called Piccolo Angelo.

n.Y.P.D. 17th Precinct—167 East 51st Street NYPD’s 17th Precinct is situated in midtown Manhattan on East 51st

Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. It is yet another example of Tidyman using a real location for the setting of his books. The precinct covers the following communities: Sutton Area, Beekman Place, Kipps Bay, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill, Manhattan East and the Rose Hill Community. In Shaft, Lt. Vic Anderozzi uses the detective division of NYPD’s 17th Precinct as his base while on assignment to the Police Commissioner. Here Shaft is interrogated by Assistant DA Shapiro after Knocks Persons’ messenger is thrown out of his office window. In Shaft Among the Jews, Shaft is detained at the precinct for an assault on Detective Arnold Berkowitz and then again later for his part in the shootout at Morris Blackburn’s store.

Queens’ Cemeteries—glendale, Queens There are five cemeteries in the southern vicinity of Myrtle Avenue, which is the location for the Asby-Kelly funeral business—Mt. Lebanon, Cypress Hill, Knollwood, Trinity and Evergreens. To the north there are three more—Mt. Olivet, St. Johns and Lutheran All Faiths. One of these (which is unstated) provides the location for Cal Asby’s burial after being murdered by Gus Mascola in Shaft’s Big Score! Later, Shaft has a shootout at the cemetery with Gus Mascola’s men after Albert J. Kelly has dug up Cal Asby’s body to retrieve the $500,000 they earned from the numbers racket. In the film version Cypress Hill was used as a location for this scene.

Rita Towne’s Apartment— West 130th Street, Apartment 12-16 Albert J. Kelly rents this apartment for his mistress Rita Towne. It is situated on the 12th floor of a 15-story red brick high-rise that overlooks the poorer black neighborhood. In Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft tracks Kelly to the apartment but he has already left. Rita seduces Shaft, in retaliation for Kelly’s physical treatment of her, and they make love in the apartment.


Part II: Shaft in Print

Rollie nickerson’s Apartment— ca. 55th Street/6th Avenue Nickerson’s apartment is not given an actual address but is situated in the theatre district of Midtown Manhattan. It is here at one of Nickerson’s parties, in Shaft Among the Jews, that Shaft meets Amy Taylor-Davis.

Sardi’s—West 42nd Street/9th Avenue In Shaft Has a Ball, Shaft takes Winifred Guiterrez to this Italian restaurant for her to conduct the interview for her magazine. The restaurant is a fictional one and is not to be confused with the famous Sardi’s East and West restaurant based at 234 West 44th Street.

Stewie’s—East greenwich Village on 3rd Avenue Stewie’s is a bar where, in Shaft Has a Ball, Georgie Ainsworth provides a prostitution service. Shaft visits here and forces Georgie to tell him who put up bail for Cee Cee Ferguson—a junkie prostitute whose dead body was left in Shaft’s apartment during his investigation into a potential heist.

Sherry-netherland Hotel—781 5th Avenue Tidyman again uses the real hotel located on the south east corner of Central Park. In Shaft’s Big Score! Shaft has Sgt. Pete Bollin house Arna Asby here to protect her from Gus Mascola’s hit men.

The Taft Hotel—152 West 51st Street/7th Avenue In Shaft Among the Jews, this hotel is the first base for Fischer’s team when they arrive in New York in search of Avrim Herzel. Today the 22-story hotel, which occupies the entire eastern block between West 50th and 51st Streets, is owned by the Starhotels chain and is called The Michelangelo.

Thompson Street Thompson Street is situated in the Italian SoHo district of Lower Manhattan. It is here, in Shaft, Beatrice Thomas, Knocks Persons’ daughter, is held by the Mafia in one of the tenant buildings. Shaft burns the building down in his rescue of Beatrice.

United nations general Assembly Building The famous building is situated on the East River near the Queens tunnel in Midtown Manhattan. It is here Shaft, while on a bodyguard assignment,

7. Shaft’s New York


meets Senator Stovall’s two boys and their minder, Dave Clayton, ahead of the journey to London.

Victoria Abbey Hotel—781 7th Avenue In Shaft Has a Ball, the hotel was used as the initial base from which Neal Wickman masterminds his heist of half- a-million dollars of Mafia money from the Hotel Armand. The hotel, based on the corner of 7th Avenue and West 51st Street, was actually the Abbey Victoria, which was built in 127 and divided into the Victoria and Abbey Hotels in 13 for the World’s Fair. The hotels were merged in 166 but gained a poor reputation and it was eventually torn down in 182 to make way for new development.

Whelan’s Coffee House—42nd Street/Broadway Shaft orders a black coffee from this coffee house in Shaft before meeting Knocks Persons’ messengers.

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Part III: Shaft on Screen

8. Gordon Parks: A Life in Pictures “Gordon Parks is the most important black photographer in the history of photojournalism. Long after the events that he photographed have been forgotten, his images will remain with us, testaments to the genius of his art, transcending time, place and subject matter.” 1—Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Center at Harvard University

gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on 30 November 112 in Fort Scott, Kansas, the fifteenth and youngest son of Sarah and Jackson Parks, who was a farmer. He attended a segregated school and had an early experience of racism when three white boys, knowing Parks to be a nonswimmer, threw him into the Marmaton River. His mother died when he was fourteen and Parks was sent to live with relatives, eventually ending up being thrown out by his brother-in-law. He eventually made his way to Chicago where he got a job in a flophouse after the Wall Street Crash of 12 brought an end to the Minnesota Club, where Parks had been working. By 133 Parks was married for the first time to Sally Alvis. The pair would remain together until 161. At the age of twenty-five Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a magazine and this encouraged him to buy his first camera from a pawnshop in Seattle. His photographs attracted the attention of Marva Louis—the first wife of boxer Joe Louis. With her encouragement Parks started up a Portraits business and specialized in capturing society women. Later he moved onto capturing images of the black ghettos in Chicago’s South Side and a subsequent exhibition won him a fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). In 142, inspired to react to the racism he witnessed throughout the city he produced an image of a black woman, Ella Watson, standing with her mops under the American flag—the photograph was entitled American Gothic, Washington, D.C. Parks continued to photograph aspects of Watson’s life.2 Increasingly tired of the racism he encountered in the capital, Parks 133


Part III: Shaft on Screen

resigned his role as a correspondent with the Office of War Information and moved to Harlem. Parks said: I’d become sort of involved in things that were happening to people. No matter what color they be, whether they be Indians, or Negroes, the poor white person or anyone who was I thought more or less getting a bad shake. I, you know, thought I had the instinct toward championing the cause. I don’t know where it came from but possibly the cause was my own early poverty. And out of these photographs I got the exhibition at Chicago’s Southside art center and the Rosenwald people saw them and came down and practically assured me of the first fellowship in photography.3

In New York, Parks became a freelance fashion photographer for Vogue. Later he worked with his mentor, Roy Stryker, on a series of industrial photographic assignments in New Jersey. He also captured images of gang life in Harlem and it was one such study in 148 that won him the job as a staff photographer for Life magazine. He continued to work for the magazine for twenty years and covered a wide range of themes. He captured the black civil rights leaders of the day as well as sporting heroes such as Muhammad Ali and cultural icons like Duke Ellington, Ingrid Bergman and Barbra Streisand. But it was his pictures of poverty and the individuals who struggled to come to terms with it that resonated most. Alongside his photography, Parks was also a keen musician. In 153, encouraged by black conductor Dean Dixon and his pianist wife Vivian, he composed Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. Parks was also assisted by composer Henry Brant. Fourteen years later he followed up this work with another entitled Tree Symphony. Parks first tried his hand at film with a series of documentaries highlighting life in the ghettos for National Educational Television. This eventually led toward his first major feature film—the autobiographical The Learning Tree (16). gordon Parks at the Civil Rights March The film was adapted from a book on Washington, 1963 (national Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, Col- he had written based on his early life, which was published in 163. The lege Park, Maryland, 20740-6001).

8. Gordon Parks


black movement of the mid-sixties had encouraged Parks to turn the book into a film. The actor John Cassavetes was a huge fan of the book and persuaded Warner Studios boss Kenny Hyman to let Parks direct the film. The Learning Tree was a critical success with Parks applauded for tackling the issue of racism in a way few films had done before. A black man writing, scoring and directing a story about his own experiences carried weight and resonance with a public waking up to the issues caused by bigotry prevalent in society. It was his work on The Learning Tree that led to him being offered the job of directing Shaft in 171. Parks was renowned for his visual flair and he also had an empathy with Tidyman’s John Shaft. The movie was shot on location in New York and extensively in Harlem, Midtown Manhattan and Greenwich Village. Parks’ feel for the locale came through on screen. He worked with his director of photography, Urs Furrer, to capture the real New York. The cold winter of 170/1 helped to embellish the film with an authentic feel. Parks also gave newcomer Richard Roundtree strong direction in his portrayal of John Shaft. He encouraged Roundtree to focus in on the character’s arrogant self-confidence—most notably in the opening sequence of the movie where Shaft makes his way toward his Times Square office to the accompaniment of Isaac Hayes’ theme. Roundtree commented: “He would subliminally try to instill some things in me and show me things without actually doing it…. Gordon respected your space as an actor. He was good at what he did. He kept the atmosphere on the set easy-going. But even in his quiet manner, Gordon stood tall as an authority figure.”4 The success of Shaft led to the sequel Shaft’s Big Score! being commissioned immediately and Parks hired the same crew and hoped to repeat the success of the original. The sequel again took advantage of the bleak winter conditions and incorporated more extensive use of New York locations, branching out into Brooklyn and Queens. Parks was also given a bigger budget enabling him to stage an elaborate and extended chase finale that is perhaps the best remembered sequence from any of the films. Parks even provided the music score when negotiations with original Shaft composer Isaac Hayes fell through. Further directorial efforts during the 170s included The Super Cops in 174—the story of two rookie cops on the beat in Brooklyn—and the biopic of blues musician Huddie Ledbetter in Leadbelly (176). Parks later moved back into documentaries, but found the time to write and score the ballet Martin—a dedication to Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks’ personal life was never stable—he married and divorced three times and fathered four children. His eldest child, Gordon Parks, Jr., became a film director himself and contributed one of the strongest entries in the


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Blaxploitation genre with Superfly in 172. Tragically Parks Jr., was killed in a plane crash in 17 while filming in Kenya. Parks himself died on 7 March 2006, aged 3. His legacy in photography, film making, music composition and writing cannot be understated. He was the first black man to write, direct and score a major Hollywood movie, the first to work for Life magazine and was also co-founder of the influential Essence magazine. He was truly an inspiration to more than one generation.

. Richard Roundtree: The Man Who Was Shaft “Acting is a circle and you get what you put out. It requires a high degree of professionalism to keep the circle going. Being late; being unprepared; or not knowing your lines, breaks the circle. The stage prepares you for that degree of professionalism. People who have had a background in the theatre automatically develop a work ethic that gives them that level of professionalism.” 1—Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, on Friday,  July 142. His father, John Roundtree, was a chauffeur, and his mother, Kathryn, a housekeeper. “They slaved to get me an education,”2 he told Ebony. He was a popular student at high school and was noted for his athleticism and sense of style. He managed to get a football scholarship at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. He soon realized he didn’t have what it took to become a pro-footballer as he told Jet magazine: “I found that one of the linemen, Sam Silas, who stood six-four and weighed somewhere between 240–250 pounds, could outrun me.”3 Instead he cut his acting teeth by getting involved in campus stage productions such as A Raisin in the Sun. “All the good-looking girls were aspiring to be actresses,” he noted in Ebony, “Since I was aspiring for girls, I joined up.”4 It was also here he met his first wife, Mary Jane, and the couple married on 27 November 163. After dropping out in the middle of his sophomore year, Roundtree returned to New York and took on a series of jobs—one of which was selling suits at Barney’s department store. His association with fashion led him into modeling for Johnson Publications and he was signed up for the Ebony Fashion Fair. The Fair took in 7 cities over 0 days and was a grueling schedule. On the L.A. leg of the tour he met actor Bill Cosby and others who gave him advice to go back to New York for training. Finally, in 167, his love of acting pulled him away from the glamorous fashion industry and, encouraged by friend and future manager, Bill Cherry, into the Negro Ensemble Company. This caused problems with his home life 137


Part III: Shaft on Screen

as the certainty of an income through modeling was replaced by the uncertainty of the acting profession. Encouraged by the Company co-founder, actor Robert Hooks, he appeared in a number of productions, including Man Room and Kongi’s Harvest, where he began to attract attention. But it was a performance in the eight-week run of The Great White Hope—the story of boxer Jack Johnson, which really got him good notices. Roundtree had also made many commercials as well as industrial movies, but finally in 170 he made a low key feature film debut in a bit part in What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? The film was made by Candid Camera’s Allen Funt, the premise taken from that TV show in trying to gauge public reaction to staged situations. Round tree’s scene involves him passionately kissing a white woman— Donna Whitfield—in a bus terminal. Another bit part in the film Parachute to Paradise went unnoticed as it was never released. Although not the highest profile start to a career, it would be just another year before Round tree hit the heights of stardom. He was one of 200 actors who were being considered for the role of John Shaft in Gordon Parks’ adaptation of Ernest Tidyman’s novel. Roundtree got through to the auditions and was as surprised as anyone when Parks offered him the role ahead of betRichard Roundtree hosts the 21st Annual Black ter known actors such as Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA) gala Awards Ceremony on February 17, 2007 (U.S. navy photo- Jim Brown, Ron O’Neal graph by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class and Raymond St. Jacques. Kristin Fitzsimmons). Roundtree was tall at six-

9. Richard Roundtree


feet-one-inch and athletically muscular at 205 pounds and Parks had certainly seen a raw talent he could mold. But Roundtree entered the production with more than a little trepidation as he stated in a later interview: “I was scared to death…. I didn’t really begin to feel comfortable with the character until three-fourths of the way through the film.”5 Roundtree’s performance on screen belied his lack of confidence. Guided by Parks, Roundtree produced a muscular and assured performance that helped make Shaft a smash hit at the box-office and confirmed Roundtree as a star. His good looks and machismo made him ideal fodder for the day’s cultural magazines and Roundtree was to appear on the covers of Newsweek, Ebony, and Jet. He also recorded an album of songs under the title The Man from Shaft and followed Shaft with two sequels—Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa—each time commanding a higher fee. Roundtree had originally reportedly signed up for seven Shaft movies, but the series halted after three and moved to TV. Roundtree was offered big money to continue in the role and the seven TV Movies he made for CBS earned him more money than the three theatrical movies had done. By now Roundtree had become as synonymous with the role of John Shaft as Sean Connery had with James Bond. It was this common fear of being typecast that led to Roundtree pushing himself into areas far removed from Shaft’s urban crime setting. He took the lead in the 172 spy thriller Embassy as well as the western Charley One-Eye, shot in Almeria, Spain, a year later. In addition to playing John Shaft on TV, Roundtree also made the TV Movie pilot, Firehouse (173)—which dealt with issues of racism in the fire service. It was a powerful and well-received performance. Firehouse was later developed as a weekly TV series, but without Roundtree who was keen to move on. In December 173, Roundtree was divorced from Mary Jane, The couple had been separated since 6 December 168 and a settlement was reached on alimony of $35,000 a year and child support. Mary Jane had filed papers on 31 October 173, looking for and winning custody of their two children— Kelli Elaine and Nicole Suzan. Roundtree had embarked on a number of relationships, including singer Freda Payne and former tennis pro turned actress Cathy Lee Crosby—who had guested in “The Capricorn Murders” episode of the Shaft TV series. Roundtree and Crosby stayed together for four years and were regular guests on the pro-am tennis circuit. It was around this time Roundtree was becoming increasingly at odds with the TV producers over their portrayal of Shaft. He had also taken to heavy drinking. “I wound up sitting in my dressing room sometimes crying my eyes out,” he told the Sarasota Herald Tribune later. “I became numb.”6 When the Shaft TV series was cancelled, Roundtree breathed a sigh of relief saying in the same Tribune interview that it was “a painful experience,


Part III: Shaft on Screen

but one I am now forever grateful for. I was losing contact with reality. Success really went to my head. I would probably have burnt out by now.” It is undoubtedly this period of his life that fuelled his resentment of the character he had made famous, but had also made him famous. This resentment burned on until his later years, by which time he had reconciled himself to a career in character roles. He would eventually briefly return as an older and wiser Shaft in John Singleton’s Shaft in 2000. Roundtree’s next major role was in the blockbuster Earthquake (174), in which he featured as a stunt bike rider—a kind of black Evel Knievel— who gets caught up in disastrous events in L.A. A young Victoria Principal plays his girlfriend. He followed this in 175 with the title role of Man Friday—a low key adaptation with a new twist of Daniel Dafoe’s Robinson Crusoe—opposite Peter O’Toole’s Crusoe. Roundtree was particularly fond of this film and the way it stretched him as an actor. The same year he starred with Robert Shaw and Barbara Hershey in the lame caper thriller Diamonds. “I wish I could forget that one,” he told Roger Ebert. “I made it for the money, and that’s exactly what I got out of it.”7 As the Blaxploitation cult faded through the mid–170s, so did Roundtree’s star—he had literally turned down roles to avoid being typecast as a black action hero. By doing so, as the decade played out, he increasingly restricted his capacity for starring roles and moved toward supporting and character roles in minor movies such as Escape to Athena and Game for Vultures (both 17). He also occasionally appeared on TV—the most memorable of his appearances was as Sam Bennett in the ground-breaking 177 adaptation of Alex Haley’s tale of black slavery, Roots. On 30 August 180, Roundtree married for the second time to blonde actress and model Karen Cernia. “We met about a year and four months ago,” he told Jet at the time, “and it (the relationship) works very nicely. I’ve got to be very happy because I am marrying her. After 10 years I’ve found somebody I want to marry.”8 The couple had two daughters—Tayler born in 188 and Morgan Elizabeth in 10. During the 180s Roundtree’s professional career seemed to be on the wane descending into appearances in routine made-for-video fodder and guesting in a number of low-key TV series. There were, however, some notable standouts during this period such as the cult sci-fi creature feature Q— The Winged Serpent (182) and the Clint Eastwood/Burt Reynolds noir parody City Heat (184). Roundtree also made the TV series Outlaws during this period, a sci-fi western which ran for 11 episodes in 186/7. This path continued through the early 10s until Roundtree was rocked when diagnosed with breast cancer. He undertook chemotherapy and had a mastectomy and was declared free of the cancer in 2000 after seven years of treatment. He had also reconnected with the mainstream big-screen audience

9. Richard Roundtree


with a supporting role in David Fincher’s well-received dark crime thriller Se7en (15), which starred Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The role itself was a minor one, but served to remind the audience of his presence and charisma. This led to him being offered better quality roles going forward. One such role was in the film Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored (15), a film concerning racial segregation in the Deep South (Isaac Hayes also had a role). In 16 he re-united with fellow Blaxploitation stars of the early 170s, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier and Ron O’Neal for Original Gangstas having previously done something similar in 182’s One Down, Two to Go. What should have been a fun, affectionate nod to a faded genre bombed at the box office, so Roundtree returned to TV. He made two more series before the decade was out: Buddies (16) a short-lived comedy concerning two men—one black and one white—going into business together in Chicago; 413 Hope St. (17–8), set around an inner city crisis center, which ran for just 10 episodes; and Rescue 77 (1) a drama based around the emergency services, which ran for only eight episodes. It was John Singleton’s desire to return John Shaft to the big screen in in his sequel/update Shaft (2000) that brought Roundtree back to the attention of cinemagoers. He played an older, wiser, John Shaft who acts as mentor to his NYPD detective nephew of the same name (played by Samuel L. Jackson). As such the film can be seen as a belated sequel to the original trilogy rather than the remake or reboot it was touted as at the time. The movie was a minor success at the box office, but production disagreements between producer Scott Rudin, director Singleton and star Jackson meant a planned sequel was canned. Roundtree was also dissatisfied with both the script and the final product. But, the film did serve to remind audiences of both John Shaft and Richard Roundtree. The actor became busier than ever over the next decade— mainly taking on character roles. Notable amongst his work were five episodes of the TV series Desperate Housewives (2005–6), the teen noir movie Brick (2005), five episodes of Heroes (2006–7) and a regular slot in the 200–11 TV series Diary of a Single Mom. Alongside these he had memorable guest spots in hit series Alias and Lincoln Heights. Now in his early seventies, Roundtree remains as busy as ever. Looking back at the film that made him a star Roundtree told Empire: I was very fortunate in having the guidance of Gordon Parks, and the marriage of the music with the film was an incredible marriage, with Isaac Hayes’ theme song and score. Timing is everything, and that character put me on the map— that movie is in the library of congress—which is amazing when you think about how many films are released annually, and Shaft is in the Library of Congress. That’s huge! And it’s a tribute to Gordon Parks and the way he brought that character to life.

10. The Shaft Films Shaft (171) Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/Shaft Productions, Ltd.; Released: 25 June 171 (USA); 11 November 171 (UK); Running Time: 100 mins.; Budget: $500,000; gross: $13,000,000 (USA) Director: Gordon Parks; writer: Ernest Tidyman, John D.F. Black (based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman); producer: Joel Freeman; associate producer: David Golden; original music: Isaac Hayes, J.J. Johnson; cinematography: Urs Furrer (35mm, Metrocolor, Panavision, 1.85:1); editor: Hugh A. Robertson; casting: Judith Lamb; art director: Emanuel Gerard; set decorator: Robert Drumheller; costume designer: Joseph G. Aulisi; makeup: Martin Bell; production management: Steven P. Skloot; sound: Lee Bost, Hal Watkins (mono). Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Moses Gunn (Bumpy Jonas), Charles Cioffi (Vic Androzzi), Christopher St. John (Ben Buford), Gwenn Mitchell (Ellie Moore), Lawrence Pressman (Tom Hannon), Victor Arnold (Charlie), Sherri Brewer (Marcy), Rex Robbins (Rollie), Camille Yarbrough (Dina Greene), Margaret Warncke (Linda), Joseph Leon (Byron Leibowitz), Arnold Johnson (Cul), Dominic Barto (Patsy), George Strus (Carmen), Edmund Hashim (Lee), Drew Bundini Brown (Willy), Tommy Lane (Leroy), Al Kirk (Sims), Shimen Ruskin (Dr. Sam), Antonio Fargas (Bunky), Gertrude Jeannette (Old Lady), Lee Steele (Blind Vendor), Damu King (Mal), Donny Burks (Remmy), Tony King (Davies), Benjamin R. Rixson (Bey Newfield), Ricardo Brown (Tully), Alan Weeks (Gus), Glenn Johnson (Char), Dennis Tate (Dotts), Adam Wade (Brother #1), James Hainesworth (Brother #2), Clee Burtonya (Sonny), Ed Bernard (Peerce), Ed Barth (Tony), Joe Pronto (Dom), Robin Nolan (Waitress), Ron Tannas (Billy), Betty Bresler (Mrs. Androzzi), Gonzalo Madurga (Counterman), Paul Nevens (Elevator Man), Jon Richards (Elevator Starter), Gordon Parks (Apartment Landlord).

Synopsis John Shaft is hired by Harlem crime lord, Bumpy Jonas, to find his daughter, Marcy, who he believes has been kidnapped. Bumpy gives Shaft a lead to a black revolutionary outfit led by Ben Buford, an old friend of Shaft’s from their Harlem street gang days, who may know who snatched Marcy. When Shaft unwittingly leads Mafia hit men to Buford’s base resulting in many of Buford’s men being killed, 142

10. Shaft (171)


he is suspicious that Bumpy has not leveled with him. Shaft and Buford confront Bumpy, who admits he is being squeezed by the Mafia for narcotics action in Harlem. Bumpy offers Shaft and Buford more money so Shaft can use Buford’s men to effect the rescue of his daughter from the Mafia. After Shaft is shot and beaten in an initial attempt, the men re-group for one final assault.

Production News that MGM had purchased the rights to Tidyman’s novel was announced at the same time as the book’s publication. Tidyman had circulated galley proofs of his novel to most of the major studios in August 16. As early as February 170 there were reports of an adaptation of Tidyman’s as yet unpublished novel. Hollywood Reporter noted: “Look for James Earl Jones to get the Shaft from director Tom Gries, who’s after him for the title role of a tough, sexy New York-based private-eye who’s the bane of muggers and mashers in the screenplay by Ernest Tidyman.”1 Tidyman later stated Jones was his own preferred choice for the role.2 This report preceded the final deal being signed with MGM, so was likely a suggestion during Tidyman’s approach to various studios. Other early rumors linked Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier with the role. Initially the film was to be produced by Stirling Silliphant and Roger Lewis. To this end they formed Shaft Productions Ltd. with Tidyman and the team signing a three-picture deal for use of the character with MGM on 7 April 170. Ossie Davis, who directed Cotton Comes to Harlem, which was based on a Chester Himes novel and released on 26 May 170, was considered at an early stage to direct but declined stating: “Shaft is not exactly my cup of tea. I don’t really like him.”3 In August news leaked that MGM was to produce Shaft with an independent production company (Shaft Productions Ltd.) from an initial draft script Tidyman submitted on 17 July 170. Tidyman then worked up a second 110-page draft between 31 July and 1 August. When Roger Lewis left MGM for Warner Brothers, Shaft was handed to director Gordon Parks by new MGM boss Jim Aubrey. Parks, a long-time photographer for Life magazine, was initially reluctant but finally agreed to direct on the premise he would be able to expand his skills—his only previ ous directing credit having been the autobiographical The Learning Tree in 16. Parks began preparation for Shaft by asking Joel Freeman to manage the day to day production—Parks having previously worked with Freeman at Warner Brothers during the making of The Learning Tree—and a contract to this effect was signed on  October 170. The following day a new agreement


Part III: Shaft on Screen

was made between Shaft Productions and Joel Freeman Productions. Freeman would take full producer credit with Lewis and Silliphant acting as executives. John D. F. Black was then brought in by Freeman and Parks to re-write Tidyman’s screenplay. Parks suggested to Black changing Harlem gangster Knocks Persons’ name to Bumpy Jonas (in reference to real-life Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson) stating Tidyman’s original name for the character was “a rather unsuccessful play on words.”4 Tidyman was dismayed by attempts to make his hero much more ethnic than he had intended. He also pointed to changes to scenes he had adapted straight from his novel of the fight in Shaft’s office and where Shaft poses as bartender in the No Name Bar, feeling they had been roughened and compromised. “I was after character, they were after audience. What is ironic is that I am convinced Shaft would have done even better if it had stayed nearer to my concept of the man.”5 Black produced his 125-page re-write on 5 November 170 and Parks provided nine pages of notes for amendment on the 16 November. Black sub-

Shaft (Richard Roundtree, left) and Bumpy Jonas (Moses gunn) go head to head in Shaft’s office in Shaft (1971).

10. Shaft (171)


mitted his revision on 23 November, which was reduced to 114 pages. This formed the basis for the final shooting script on 4 January 171. When MGM initially planned to credit the screenplay solely to Black, Tidyman referred the matter to the Writers Guild of America citing that structurally the film followed his first two drafts. The WGA ruled in Tidyman’s favor on 12 April 171 insisting the credit read: “Screenplay by Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black, based upon the novel by Ernest Tidyman.”6 It was Parks’ son, David, who prompted his father to look at a little known actor named Richard Roundtree to play the title role. Roundtree’s only film experience had been a bit part in the 170 movie What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? His main acting experience had been as a member of Robert Hooks’ Negro Ensemble Company along with the Philadelphia stage production of The Great White Hope. Roundtree half-heartedly performed the screen test, thinking he had little chance against a host of more experienced actors. But Parks was sufficiently impressed as he commented in Ebony: “It’s amazing. The minute I saw him he was Shaft to me.”7 Jim Aubrey was also impressed, so Roundtree got the part ahead of the likes of Jim Brown and Ron O’Neal. Other actors considered included: Rupert Crosse, Bernie Casey, Terry Carter, John White, Raymond St. Jacques and Billy Dee Williams. Roundtree’s pay was a modest $12,500 for ten weeks filming.8 Eventually a slightly embarrassed Joel Freeman and Stirling Silliphant persuaded MGM to let Roundtree keep his wardrobe from the film as well as some props from Shaft’s apartment. Roundtree was put on a regime of daily workouts to tone his already muscular physique. He was coached on movement and speech to meet Parks’ requirements for the role. He also was assigned a company barber, who settled on a modest Afro and his wardrobe was supervised by Freeman and Parks. Parks had planned to film Shaft in New York, using many of the locations described in Tidyman’s novel. He spent a number of weeks, with assistant director Dave Golden, researching these locations. Producer Joel Freeman then received a call, two days before filming was due to begin, requesting a move of location to Los Angeles. Parks was insistent he would film in New York and flew out to Hollywood for a meeting with Aubrey. The MGM boss had worries about filming in New York in the winter, believing costs would escalate as equipment would be affected by the cold weather. Parks concocted stories about having heavy-duty heaters to protect the equipment and after much negotiation managed to convince Aubrey he would bring the movie in under budget. During his audition Roundtree had worn a fake moustache provided by make-up artist Martin Bell.10 Parks had wanted Shaft to sport a moustache and encouraged Roundtree to grow one. On 3 January 171, the first morning of filming, Parks caught Roundtree in his dressing room in the process of


Part III: Shaft on Screen

shaving off his moustache (Shaft in the books was clean shaven). Roundtree told him it was under orders from Freeman. “It was another one of those unwritten laws lurking within the minds of Hollywood’s film barons,” said Parks. “A moustache on a black leading man was just too macho. Freeman had fallen prey to the absurdity without realizing it.”11 Parks told Roundtree to keep it. This made Roundtree the first black leading man to wear a moustache. As it transpired MGM’s fear of the New York winter was well founded as filming in one of the city’s coldest in living memory proved a taxing experience for the director, crew and star. Roundtree had to have his feet wrapped in plastic bags to keep warm while filming outdoor scenes. All non-location interiors were shot at old City Hospital on Welfare Island. The crew had secured use of the building, dating back to the Civil War, for free. The opening sequence where Shaft walks through the streets around Broadway was shot for real. Parks instructed Roundtree to walk the streets as if he owned them. Roundtree, who had also practiced in the days leading up to the shooting of the scene, went for it totally as can be seen by his real altercation with a taxi driver as he crosses the street against a red light. “I didn’t have sense enough to be afraid,” said Roundtree. “I just ploughed across the street, while the cameras positioned on a nearby rooftop filmed me. I guess I thought, since this was a movie and cameras turning I’d be protected.”12 Production ran until 18 March 171 after which the editing and music score were completed in California. Isaac Hayes agreed a deal with Joel Freeman on 31 March and took six weeks to compose his ground-breaking score. He had to break off from his touring duties and recorded most of the rhythm tracks in a single day. Hayes initially worked on three sections of the score, while the film was still in production—the opening theme, Shaft’s trek through Harlem and the love scene with Ellie. Parks and MGM were so pleased with the demos that they hired Hayes to complete the whole score. In fact, when Parks heard Hayes’ demo for the main theme he recalls someone pointing out it would be eligible for an Academy Award for Best Song if it had lyrics. It was Parks who gave Hayes his description of John Shaft with the line “black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks.” Hayes came back the next day with the lyrics and the song duly took that prize. It was Charlie Pitts who provided the treated guitar—fed through a wah-wah pedal in order giving the theme its distinctive funky sound. Tom McIntosh, a jazz musician, composer and arranger assisted Hayes with soundtrack. Hayes would return to Stax Studios to re-record the music for the bestselling soundtrack album. He took the opportunity to re-arrange the music due to the availability of more tracks within the studio and by doing so generally created better mixes for the album recording.

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The Cast Moses gunn (Bumpy Jonas) By the time he took the role of Bumpy Jonas in Shaft, 41-year-old Moses Gunn had gained respect in the industry through his performances in the theatre. Gunn had moved to New York from Louisiana, aged 32, in pursuit of a career in acting. Like Roundtree he had joined the Negro Ensemble Company and won an Oble Award for his performance at the New York Shakespeare festival as Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus. He also received acclaim for his performance as Othello at the Stratford, Connecticut, which caused Walter Kerr of the New York Times to remark: “Rarely have I had so strong a sense of the physical presence of words as I did while watching Moses Gunn overmaster Othello.”13 He made his movie debut in 170s WUSA followed by the well-received The Great White Hope. Gunn saw himself as a serious actor and was not a particular fan of the action crime thriller genre as he told Jet Magazine: “For what they are they’re good films. But I won’t compare it with a serious drama. This is fantasyland. James Bond for white folks. Shaft for black folks.”14 While not as physically imposing as Tidyman’s description of Knocks Persons in the novel, Gunn gave the character of Bumpy Jonas great dignity—notably in the scene where he struggles to keep his emotions in check when he hires Shaft to find his daughter. He recovers to regain his cool, puffing on his giant cigar and blowing smoke into Shaft’s face. Gunn would reprise his role, to lesser effect, in Shaft’s Big Score! Here the part was written more broadly and Gunn played the role accordingly. Gunn remained busy through the early 170s before becoming more selective later in his career. Highlights included Roots (177, TV), Ragtime (181) and Heartbreak Ridge (186). He died from complications caused by an asthma condition on 16 December 13, aged 64.

Charles Cioffi (Vic Androzzi) Cioffi was born on 31 October 135 in New York City and embarked on his acting career at High School in Manhattan as a member of the Drama Society. But having left school and joined the marines, there was a hiatus before he resurrected his career becoming a professional actor in January 164. He worked mainly in the theatre in Off-Broadway plays, gaining acclaim for his performances in a number of Shakespeare productions. He also covered for Lee J. Cobb in the title role of King Lear. Shaft was his second film role, having previously made a memorably


Part III: Shaft on Screen

creepy appearance in the same year’s Klute. Before this he had appeared in the TV series Where the Heart Is. Cioffi brought the right amount of worldweariness to the role of NYPD detective Vic Androzzi (the “e” is dropped from Tidyman’s literary version), despite being only thirty-five at the time. He also exchanged some memorable banter with Roundtree’s Shaft—notably the “close it yourself, shitty” running gag. He remained busy with character roles through to 2008. He will perhaps be best remembered for his portrayal of the sinister, revenge-seeking Ernesto Toscano on NBC’s hit soap Days of Our Lives (165).

Christopher St. John (Ben Buford) Christopher St. John (real name Frank Tavares Smith, Jr.) was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. He became a theatre arts major at the University of Bridgeport and a member of the Yale Repertory as well as The Actors Studio in New York having moved to the city in 164. He had performed with the New York Shakespeare Festival and also played the lead role in the Pulitzer winning play No Place to be Somebody. Gordon Parks hired him to play black militant Ben Buford in Shaft having initially auditioned him for the main role. He had acted in previous movies such as For Love of Ivy (168) the softcore short Naughty Nurse (16) and Hot Pants Holiday (171). Buford was a hot-headed black militant leader who is suspicious of everyone—notably Shaft who comes looking for his help. When five of his men are killed by the Mafia he turns his anger on the mob and helps Shaft in the rescue of Marcy. St. John delivered a performance that expressed the anger of a political militant well enough, despite his delivery tending toward the over-wrought. Following Shaft, St. John approached MGM head Jim Aubrey, Jr., with a screenplay he had written, but Aubrey turned it down due to its unconventionality. “Aubrey complained about the dream sequences…. I think the feeling was black people weren’t supposed to have dreams.”15 Sensitive to rejection and disillusioned with the exploitative elements of the black films following in Shaft’s wake St. John was determined to produce work of substance. He would later go on to produce, write, direct and star in Top of the Heap (172), the screenplay rejected by Aubrey, which was a serious look at corruption in the police force. He only appeared in films intermittently through the 170s and 180s and would mostly work in TV. He is father of soap actor Kristoff St. John who achieved fame in the TV series The Young and the Restless. They would work together on the 2013 biographical documentary film A Man Called God about the family embarking on a spiritual excursion more than thirty years earlier and becoming intoxicated by Sai Baba and his cult.

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gwenn Mitchell (Ellie Moore) A major movie debut was given to actress/writer Gwenn Mitchell (as Shaft’s girlfriend, boutique owner Ellie Moore). Mitchell was born on 6 July 142 in Morristown, New Jersey, but was raised in Yonkers, New York. She had appeared in The Immaculate Misconception at New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre having also been a member of the Negro Ensemble Company. In 16 she appeared in a minor movie entitled Recess and spent six months on the TV series The Best of Everything before testing for the Ellie Moore role in Shaft in California. At the same time she was also writing her first novel—Pigs Ear Plus Caviar Equals Murder. While the role of Ellie gave her a higher profile, in reality she was restricted to a couple of scenes—the first of which was a love scene with Roundtree. In the second she had to mop his brow after he is shot by the Mafia in a failed attempt to rescue Marcy Jonas. Despite this she still managed to impress Milton Jordan, writing for Star-News, who said she “has all the marks of a star of the first magnitude.”16 She had to mentally prepare herself for the nude love scene with Roundtree as she commented to Jet magazine: “We first got to know each other, not as John Shaft and his girlfriend, Ellie, but as people. This paved the way for the nude scenes. We knew where each other was coming from and where we were at…. Sure, I felt his body and was stimulated…. We were all there… he’s nude and so am I.”17 She remained busy as an actress through the mid–170s—notably in Brother on the Run (173) and Chosen Survivors (174), but was largely confined to TV guest roles in shows such as Mission: Impossible and Wonder Woman. She would later retire from acting to concentrate on her writing.

Drew Bundini Brown (Willy) Muhammad Ali’s trainer, Drew Bundini Brown was born in Midway, Florida, on 21 March 128. Having dropped out of High School to join the navy aged 13, before becoming a merchant marine who travelled around the world for twelve years. Brown joined Ali (then Cassius Clay) in 163 and remained with him until 181, writing many of Ali’s poems that he used to taunt his opponents. He appeared in a handful of films between 171 and 187, Shaft being his debut in which he played Bumpy Jonas’ right-hand man, Willy Brown. On the strength of his performance he signed a five- year contract with MGM.18 He would return as Willy for Shaft’s Big Score! this time with a more involved role. His verbal jousts with Shaft were among the highlights of both films. His other films were Aaron Loves Angie (175), The Color Purple (185) and Penitentiary III (187).


Part III: Shaft on Screen

He died on 24 September 187, at age 5, from the after-effects of a car accident.

Sherri Brewer (Marcy Jonas) Former Playboy bunny and model, Sherri “Peaches” Brewer (born in Chicago, Illinois, USA) played Marcy Jonas, Bumpy’s daughter, in her one and only movie appearance. She was given little acting to do other than look scared in the hands of the Mafia hoods. A dance scholarship brought Brewer to New York and before appearing in Shaft, she worked on Broadway, appearing in Hello Dolly! During the production she picketed during the Actors’ Equity Strike in June 168. Brewer was engaged for a short time to jazz legend Miles Davis. Then in 17 she married film and Broadway producer Edgar Bronfman, Jr., against the advice the producer received from his father. The couple, who had three children, divorced twelve years later. As a wealthy socialite she went on to manage a number of charitable activities.

Rex Robbins (Rollie nickerson) Rex Robbins was born in Pierre, South Dakota, on 30 March 135. He was a product of Yale’s undergraduate theatre program and made his Broadway debut playing a doctor in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 163. He was cast as Rollie Nickerson, the part-time actor/barkeeper in Shaft. In the books Nickerson was tall, gangly and eccentric but heterosexual. In the movie however, Robbins portrayed Rollie as gay with more than a hint of camp. Robbins was a versatile actor and appeared in numerous plays, movies and TV commercials over a long career. The most memorable was probably the 174 Broadway production of Gypsy, which starred Angela Lansbury, in which he played the agent, Herbie. He was married to Patricia Moran, with whom he had two daughters. Robbins died of a stroke on 23 September 2003.

Camille Yarbrough (Dina greene) Multi-talented Camille Yarbrough (born in Chicago on 8 January 138, the youngest of seven children) is a musician, actress, poet, activist, television producer, and author. She is probably best known for her 175 recording of the song “Take Yo’ Praise.” She was cast as Dina Greene (Helen Green in the books), the wife of Shaft’s accountant, Marvin. Shaft and Ben Buford hide out at the Greene’s apartment after five of Buford’s men are killed by Mafia hit men. Yarbrough

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cut an imposing figure in her brief role, cutting through Ben Buford’s anger and acting as a sisterly figure to Shaft.

The Crew Roger Lewis (Shaft Productions) Film producer and writer Roger Hill Lewis was born in New York City on 14 March 118. He started his career in the publicity department at Warner Brothers in 13. After a spell in the army during World War II he worked at 20th Century–Fox as a publicity assistant before finally moving to United Artists in 152 as advertising manager. By 15 he had worked his way up to vice president of publicity and advertising. He resigned in 161 to take up film production. One of the first major productions he worked on was the controversial and well-received Rod Steiger vehicle, The Pawnbroker in 164. He also provided scripts for a number of TV series through the 160s including The Defenders and NYPD. He also co-produced the Burt Lancaster vehicle The Swimmer in 168. He formed Shaft Productions Ltd. with Ernest Tidyman and Stirling Silliphant in order to help Tidyman retain some artistic control over the Shaft series. As Tidyman’s services were in greater demand elsewhere, following the success of both Shaft and his Oscar winning screenplay for The French Connection, a rift developed with Lewis and Silliphant wanting to further develop Shaft on screen, while Tidyman wanted to spread his wings in other directions. A compromise was reached on Shaft’s Big Score! which resulted in Lewis co-producing with Tidyman, but Lewis and Silliphant went it alone on Shaft in Africa. Lewis later moved back to work in TV, then in 183 became executive vice president of Max Youngstein Enterprises. Soon after he died of cancer, on 26 July 184 (aged 66), in Los Angeles, California, USA.

Stirling Silliphant (Shaft Productions) Stirling Dale Silliphant was a hard-working writer/producer born in Detroit, Michigan, on 16 January 118. He says of his work ethic and criticisms of him as a journeyman writer: “A prolific reputation generates resentment with reviewers. They figure that anyone prolific isn’t very good. Prolific, hell. I just work hard.”1 Silliphant was raised in Glendale, California. After a spell in the army he got a job at Walt Disney Studios in the publicity department. He moved to 20th Century–Fox in New York as publicity manager but later returned to


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Hollywood with the desire to become a writer/producer. The first film he financed was The Joe Louis Story (153). Two years later he produced The Mickey Mouse Club TV series for Walt Disney, writing some of the episodes. He clashed with Disney over style and was fired. He also wrote his first novel, Maracaibo (154), which was later filmed in 158 by Cornel Wilde. Silliphant continued to work in TV and was best known for his role in creating series such as Route 66 (for which he would write 71 episodes) and Naked City. More important, however, was the Academy Award he won for his screenplay for 167’s In the Heat of the Night, adapted from John Ball’s novel about a black detective encountering racist attitudes in South West USA during a murder investigation. In 16, tragedy struck when his teenage son, from his second marriage to New York model Pat Patella, was shot dead by teenagers who had come to the house demanding narcotics. Silliphant resumed work some weeks later and joined Lewis and Tidyman in forming Shaft Productions Ltd. in 170. He acted as Executive Producer on Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score! and became screenwriter on Shaft in Africa when a rift with Tidyman caused Lewis and Silliphant to move on with the Shaft movies without his creator. Silliphant became synonymous for a short while with the disaster movie genre having scripted The Poseidon Adventure (172) and The Towering Inferno (174) for Irwin Allen followed by the less successful The Swarm (178) and When Time Ran Out… (180). He also provided screenplays for Sam Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite (175) and the third Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry vehicle, The Enforcer (176). He continued to work tirelessly contributing some highly acclaimed TV movies including Pearl (178), based on his own novel, and Fly Away Home (181). He also wrote a series of novels about a sea-faring adventurer, John Locke, beginning with Steel Tiger in 183. He was married for a fourth time in 174 to Tiana Du Long and the couple had three children. Tiana was Bruce Lee’s first female student in karate and would become an actress, making her debut in Sam Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite (175). In 16, Silliphant died from prostate cancer while in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had relocated in 187 (after a dispute with Sylvester Stallone over screen credit for the film Over the Top) and taken up Buddhism.

Joel Freeman (Producer) Joel Freeman was born on 12 June 122 in Irvington, New Jersey. He started his career as a messenger at MGM. After spending three years in the Air Force he gradually worked his way through the 150s from Assistant Director at RKO and later back at MGM. He worked on films such as the

10. Shaft (171)


highly regarded 155 pair Bad Day at Black Rock and Blackboard Jungle before moving into production. Freeman worked as production supervisor on several TV series through the late 150s and early 160s such as The Californians and Highway Patrol. He graduated to producer on the series The Reporter (164) for Richelieu Productions at CBS. A move to Warner Brothers brought him to the attention of Jack Warner, who asked him to act as Associate Producer on Camelot (167). He also worked as Exec Producer on 168’s acclaimed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Following that film’s success he formed his own production company, Joel Freeman Productions Inc. In October 170 he was hired by MGM to produce their adaptation of Shaft. He keenly defended Shaft against its Blaxploitation tag, stating it was first and foremost an action film. At a screening of Shaft at the UCLA in October 2010 he commented: “It was not Blaxploitation. Shaft was a hero in his own right. That was the image. Fortunately the picture was in both troughs, black and white, and it was received unbelievably well.”20 The success led him to a partnership with 20th Century–Fox, where he went on to produce the Shaft clone Trouble Man in 172, which was scripted by John D.F. Black, who had re-worked Tidyman’s script for Shaft. His career continued to develop with productions such as Love at First Bite (17), Soapdish (11) and the 18 TV series The New Adventures of Robin Hood. He had also been involved in development of a potential sequel to Shaft, entitled Mr. Shaft. He later worked as a consultant on film production.

John D. F. Black (co-author screenplay) John Donald Francis Black was born on 30 December 132 and is a writer and producer who had mainly worked on TV in the 150s and 160s. He contributed regular scripts to series like Lawman, The Untouchables and Laredo as well as working as associate producer on Star Trek. Black was brought in to work on Shaft by Joel Freeman and Gordon Parks late in the pre-production process in order to sharpen up Tidyman’s screenplay and add some ethnicity, despite the fact he was also white. His work on Shaft led to him working again with Joel Freeman in 172 on the similar Trouble Man as exec producer and writer. Also in 172, he received an Edgar Award from the Writers Guild of America for the script to the made-for-TV movie Thief.

Isaac Hayes (Music Score) Isaac Lee Hayes, Jr., was born on 20 August 142, in Covington, Tennessee, and was part of a sharecropper’s family. Through his youth he took on


Part III: Shaft on Screen

a number of menial jobs. He was also a keen singer and was encouraged to enter a talent show while still at High School as well as joining the school band and learning to play saxophone and eventually piano. He landed a job with a band led by Floyd Newman, who also happened to do sessions as a backing singer at Stax Records. In 163 Newman and Hayes co-wrote “Frog Stomp” which was released on the Stax label. Hayes was then hired as a session keyboard player for the label. He further developed his song writing abilities with producer David Porter with over 200 songs including the Grammy-winning “Soul Man.” In 16 Hayes branched out on his own with his landmark album Hot Buttered Soul. This and two follow-up albums in 170 led to his being signed to score Shaft. Although Hayes was a musician, he also wanted to become an actor. He had earlier put himself forward for the role of John Shaft, but like many others, was rejected in favor of Roundtree.21 Freeman and Parks had Hayes already in mind to write the music, however, and the rest is history. The theme is one of the most recognizable in screen history and the role Hayes played in creating a cultural icon cannot be underestimated. “I can’t even tell you what the ingredient it was that captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of people all over the world,” He said when John Singleton’s Shaft update was released in 2000. “Kids who haven’t seen the original movie hear the song and it strikes a chord with them.”22 He did not contribute a score for either of the Shaft sequels—having been involved in a dispute with MGM during Shaft’s Big Score! He did, however, contribute a solitary track to that film. Later he survived financial difficulties and continued to work prolifically, mixing both recording and acting activity—most notable amongst his acting roles were 174’s Truck Turner and a couple of guest spots on TV’s The Rockford Files. Hayes died on 10 August 2010, aged 65, after collapsing while exercising at home.

Urs Furrer (Director of Photography) Furrer was born to Swiss parents on 18 September 134 in Sumatra, Indonesia. His family immigrated to the USA in 150. A talented cinematographer, Furrer also made his own documentary films. It was this style that attracted director Gordon Parks to him. He had also worked on 16’s What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? In which Richard Roundtree had a role. Parks used Furrer on both his Shaft films. His cinematography in the cold New York winters accurately portrayed the social and financial problems in the city of New York at that time. His strong work attracted the attention of producer/director Phil D’Antoni, who had produced

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The French Connection and subsequently hired Furrer to work on his 173 crime thriller The Seven-Ups. Furrer died on 30 August 175 (aged just 40) in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

Emanuel gerard (Art Director) Emanuel “Manny” Gerard was a highly respected designer, renowned for creating authenticity in his work—notably for drama productions. He was born on 18 May 126 in New York City. He was well educated and majored in biology at New York University in 147 spending the following two years as an illustrator at medical college. In 154 he moved to Yale Drama School and studied scenic design then built his reputation working for Elliot, Unger & Elliot Productions. In 164 he set up his own company—Gerard Designs. He re-created a New York City subway car in his first movie The Incident (167), and affluent houses in Goodbye Columbus (16). He also worked on Ossie Davis’ Cotton Comes to Harlem (170) based on the novel by Chester Himes. He was hired by Parks for Shaft and its sequel Shaft’s Big Score! for which he designed a number of influential interiors, which added to the films’ authentic use of New York locations. Gerard died in October 173 aged just 47.

Hugh A. Robertson (Film Editor) Hugh A. Robertson was born on 28 May 132 in Brooklyn, New York, and was the first Afro-American editor to be nominated for an Academy Award—for Midnight Cowboy (16). In his early career Robertson worked as a sound editor and also assistant film editor before graduating to film editor on Harvey Middleman, Fireman (165). Shaft was Robertson’s third feature film as editor and during filming he made a short documentary on the production entitled Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location. Robertson produced a cut of Shaft that allowed the story and the character to breathe. He went on to direct Melinda in 172, followed by two further movies and some TV episodes of Love, American Style and Roll Out. Robertson died on 10 January 188 in Los Angeles, California.

Promotion Shaft was shown to preview audiences on 23 May 171. Both audience and critics gave a strong thumbs-up, despite some of the black women in the


Part III: Shaft on Screen

audience objecting to the sex scene between Shaft and a white woman. The film opened on Friday 25 June 171 in L.A. and on Tuesday 2 June at the DeMille Theatre in New York to long lines—many of them young black men anxious for a hero to identify with. The film became a huge success across the USA. The Roosevelt Theatre in Chicago was reputed to have taken a million dollars. Freeman was delighted and persuaded Parks to take the film for a press screening in the UK. The black owned ad agency, Uniworld Group, came up with the tag lines aimed at attracting a multi-ethnic audience. “Shaft’s his name, Shaft’s his game” was used in the trailers along with “The Mob wanted Harlem back. They got Shaft … up to here.” Uniworld president, Byron Lewis, told The Afro American: “There’s the fantasy that control of the numbers can be taken away from the Mafia—a totally unrealistic idea at present, but one that establishes Shaft as a guy who beat the system.”23 Parks attended the successful press launch in London, but was bemused at the British having difficulty with the black slang in the movie. This led Parks to conclude that the film would flop in the UK. He was later surprised to learn the movie was a big hit there and similar success would follow across Europe and the rest of the world. Shaft was reported to have broken records at the Ritz in London having grossed $5,428 in its first three days.24 Advertised as “Hotter than Bond, Cooler than Bullitt,” Shaft struck a chord. By July 172, the movie had grossed more than $18 million against a budget of $1.1 million and is attributed with saving MGM from bankruptcy. Even as early as May 171 Freeman was looking to expand on the adventures of John Shaft on the big screen and utilize the three-picture deal signed with Tidyman. In an interview with Publishers’ Weekly he stated: “The first Shaft film is aimed much more directly at a black audience. The language is very pointedly black, which is what we wanted. Later on, if Shaft succeeds, we will open the series up and send Shaft anyplace. That’s when we expect to start picking up our real white audience.”25 As successful as the film, Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack topped the Billboard 200 chart on 6 November 171 and was placed for sixty weeks. The album produced two hit singles—with “Theme from Shaft” topping the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks (20 and 27 November 171) and the track “Do Your Thang” also charting later. Hayes’ score won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Song and Grammys for Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television and for the “Theme from Shaft” for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical and Best Instrumental Arrangement. The film received its initial U.S. television broadcast on CBS on 17 January 175.

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Comment It is easy today to underestimate the impact of Shaft in a world where black action heroes are more commonplace, but in 171 Gordon Parks’ film was a revelation. From the opening shots of Richard Roundtree’s Shaft strutting his way through Midtown Manhattan to the closing sequence of the daring rescue of Bumpy Jonas’ kidnapped daughter from the Mafia, the film oozes style. The bleak New York winter of 170/1 provides a gritty urban backdrop to Parks’ realization of Ernest Tidyman’s novel. In that opening, as Roundtree puffs clouds of breath like an angry bull as he weaves through the traffic on Broadway, he immediately captures the self-confidence of Tidyman’s hero. With Isaac Hayes’ funky theme playing over the credits a movie icon was born. The film is reasonably faithful to Tidyman’s story with the author providing the initial treatment before John D. F. Black was brought in to finalize the shooting script. In his first starring role Roundtree has such an incredible

Left to right: Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is interrogated by Assistant District Attorney Byron Leibowitz (Joseph Leon; standing) as Lieutenant Vic Androzzi (Charles Cioffi) watches Shaft (1971).


Part III: Shaft on Screen

charisma he instantly makes the role his own, brilliantly sparring with the police and gangsters alike. Moses Gunn is also commanding as Bumpy Jonas (renamed from Knocks Persons as the character was named in the novel as a more overt nod to real life Harlem gangster “Bumpy” Johnson). Charles Cioffi is the epitome of world-weariness in his portrayal of Lt. Vic Androzzi. Ben Buford, as portrayed by Christopher St. John, is less imposing than the more aspiringly intellectual version Tidyman describes in the book. The film has a slow pace by today’s frenetic standards, but is punctuated by occasional bursts of violent action. Notable amongst these scenes are the fight in Shaft’s office with Bumpy’s hoods, the shootout at Buford’s Harlem HQ, Shaft’s initial ill-fated attempt to free Marcy (Sherri Brewer) and the final successful rescue. In between these action set-pieces the film shifts from scene to scene at a leisurely pace. Parks’ visual eye for the streets is evident throughout in his capturing of a New York in decay. The bare tenements and littered streets come sharply into focus against the harsh winter backdrop. While the film is iconic it is no classic. Parks’ lack of experience comes through with the aforementioned pacing problems and rather static camera work. The dialogue, fashioned by Black to make Shaft and the other black characters seem more ethnic, comes across as overly hip. The editing could also be tighter in certain scenes—although the finale is well-judged. The film’s energy comes from Roundtree’s performance and his witty exchanges—particularly with Bumpy’s right-hand man, Willy (Bundini Brown). The film’s greatest achievement was the legacy it created. Black action heroes dominated cinemas through the first half of the 170s and the success of Shaft enabled much new talent to thrive in a Hollywood that hitherto had been a largely white domain.

Critical Reaction The movie received a generally positive reaction on its release, with the more astute critics highlighting the genre elements of the film alongside the ethnic themes as typified by these extracts: “…where Sweet Sweetback exploited the common black experience through prejudice, Shaft recalls the experience in terms of its humor, in terms of its aspirations and, perhaps most importantly, in terms of its fantasies.”—Vincent Canby, New York Times, 11 July 171. “It has a bigger emphasis on feats of derring do in a big city than it has on race relations.”—Gordon Kipp, Daytona Beach Morning Journal, 4 September 171. “…if overemphasis on black cool is the only way to make up for past injustices at the hands of Hollywood films, then I am at least glad it is being done in exciting, effective films like this. But I can’t forget how much more

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effective, on the same subject, was Cotton Comes to Harlem.”—Bob Boyd, Boca Raton News, 23 April 172. “The nice thing about Shaft is that it savors the private-eye genre, and takes special delight in wringing new twists out of the traditional relationship between the private eye and the boys down at homicide.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times “Considering the fast-paced early reels, the film may, to some audiences, begin to slow down towards the climax, and the last scene is a bit protracted, though not unduly harmful. However, to those who dig the opening footage, the rest will play like any good general audience entertainment film.”—A.D. Murphy, Variety,  June 171 “Parks’ film is a hip, cool, entertaining thriller that in fact never really says very much at all about the Black experience in America; rather, it merely takes the traditional crime-fighting hero, paints him black, and sets him down in a world populated by more blacks than Hollywood movies were used to.”— Geoff Andrew, Time Out “In his direction of the film, Parks reveals John Shaft’s attitude, suaveness, and sexuality through camera shots that constantly frame Richard Roundtree’s features and athletic frame.”—Melvin Donalson, Black Directors in Hollywood, 2010 “When Roundtree is moving and Isaac Hayes’ score is playing, Shaft is an exceptional movie. Roundtree is good in dialogue scenes involving jive talking or conflict, but less impressive in moments of exposition.”—Peter Lev, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions, 2010

Award Wins Academy Award (1): Best Music, Original Song (Isaac Hayes for the song “Theme from Shaft”). golden globe (1): Best Original Score (Isaac Hayes).

Award Nominations Academy Award (1): Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (Isaac Hayes). BAFTA (1): Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music (Isaac Hayes). golden globe (2): Best Original Song (Isaac Hayes for the song “Theme from Shaft”); Most Promising Newcomer—Male (Richard Roundtree).

Notes/Trivia • In 2000, Shaft was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”


Part III: Shaft on Screen

• Moses Gunn’s character is renamed Bumpy Jonas (in the novel it is Knocks Persons) providing a nod to real life Harlem crime-lord Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, upon which Tidyman had based his character. • Ed Barth, who has a minor role as a Mafia hood, went on to play Lt. Al Rossi in the Shaft TV series. • The girls providing the backing vocals during Isaac Hayes’ theme song are Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson from Tony Orlando & Dawn. The trademark guitar “wah-wah” riff was played by Charles ‘Skip’ Pitts. • The door adjacent to Shaft’s office says “Skloot Insurance.” This was named after Steven P. Skloot, production manager on the film. • Director Gordon Parks makes a cameo appearance as an apartment landlord who answers the door to Shaft in the sequence where Shaft is trying to track down Ben Buford. • The film’s editor, Hugh A. Robertson (who had received an Academy Award nomination for his work on Midnight Cowboy), filmed a short “making of ” documentary, which was included on the DVD release under the title of Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location. • New York filming locations include: 55 Jane Street (exteriors: Shaft’s apartment); 621 Hudson Street (“No Name Bar”); Cafe Reggio, MacDougal Street; Harlem; Times Square. • Shaft’s firearms include: (1) Colt Detective Special 1st Gen—In the first half of the film, he carries a blued one and for the rest of the film a nickel one, which he keeps wrapped up in his refrigerator. (2) Colt M111—Shaft wrestles this from one of Bumpy Jonas’ men as they wait for him at his office. The same brand of gun is also used by Shaft to arrest two Mafia hit men at the No Name Bar. • CBS edited out 28 minutes of content for Shaft’s 175 network television premiere. • The UK VHS release is an edited print of the film which is dubbed to remove some strong language. The DVD and Blu-Ray releases are fully uncut.

DVD Releases Region 1 (U.S.)—6 June 2000. Extras included the behind-the-scenes documentary shot by Hugh A. Robertson, Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location; Interactive menus; 3 theatrical trailers. Region 2 (UK)—5 March 2001. Extras were as per the Region 1 release.

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Blu-ray Releases Region Free (US)—14 August 2012. Extras included the behind-the-scenes Documentary Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location. Also included was the TV episode Shaft: “The Killing” and Theatrical Trailers for the sequels Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa.

Soundtrack Released: July 171; Recorded: May 171 at Stax Recording Studios, Memphis, Tennessee; Label: Enterprise ENS-2-5002; Producer: Isaac Hayes Track listing: Theme from Shaft (Vocal Version)—4:3/Bumpy’s Lament— 1:51/Walk from Regio’s—2:24/Ellie’s Love Theme—3:18/Shaft’s Cab Ride—1:10/ Cafe Regio’s—6:10/Early Sunday Morning—3:4/Be Yourself—4:30/A Friend’s Place—3:24/Soulsville (Vocal Version)—3:48/No Name Bar—6:11/Bumpy’s Blues— 4:04/Shaft Strikes Again—3:04/Do Your Thing (Vocal Version)—1:30/The End Theme—1:56 All songs written and produced by Isaac Hayes. Musicians: vocals, keyboards, lyrics and arrangement: Isaac Hayes; backing vocals: Pat Lewis, Rose Williams, And Telma Hopkins; instrumentation: The Bar-Kays and the Isaac Hayes Movement; electric piano: Lester Snell; bass guitar: James Alexander; guitar: Charles Pitts; guitar: Michael Toles; drums: Willie Hall; conga drums: Gary Jones; lead trumpet: Richard “Johnny” Davis; flute: John Fonville. grammy Awards: Album: Best Instrumental Composition written specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television (Isaac Hayes); Song: Theme from Shaft: Best Engineered Recording, Non- Classical (Dave Purple, Henry Bush, Ron Capone); Best Instrumental Arrangement (Isaac Hayes, Johnny Allen).

Shaft’s Big Score! (172) Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/Shaft Productions, Ltd.; Released: 8 June 172 (USA); Running Time: 104 mins; Budget: $2,24,228 (including studio overheads); gross: $10,000,000 (USA); Rentals: US: $3,71,126 (at 31/8/175) Foreign: $1,825,854 (at 31/8/175) Director: Gordon Parks; writer: Ernest Tidyman; executive producer: Stirling Silliphant; producer: Roger Lewis, Ernest Tidyman; associate producer: David Golden; original music: Gordon Parks; cinematography: Urs Furrer (35mm, Metrocolor, Panavision, 2.35:1); editor: Moe Howard; casting: Judith Lamb; art director: Emanuel Gerard; set decorator: Robert Drumheller; costume designer: Joseph G. Aulisi; makeup: Martin Bell; assistant director: William C. Gerrity; sound: Lee Bost, Hal Watkins (mono). Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Moses Gunn (Bumpy Jonas), Drew Bundini Brown (Willy), Joseph Mascolo (Gus Mascola), Kathy Imrie (Rita), Wally Taylor (Johnny Kelly), Julius Harris (Capt. Bollin), Rosalind Miles (Arna Asby),


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Joe Santos (Pascal), Angelo Nazzo (Al), Don Blakely (Johnson), Melvin Green, Jr. (Junior Gillis), Thomas Anderson (Preacher), Evelyn Davis (Old Lady), Richard Pittman (Kelly’s Hood #1), Robert Kya-Hill (Cal Asby), Thomas Brann (Mascola’s Hood), Bob Jefferson (Harrison), Dan Hannafin (Cooper), Jimmy Hayeson (Caretaker), Henry Ferrentino (Det. Salmi), Frank Scioscia (Rip), Kitty Jones (Cabaret Dancer), Gregory Reese (Foglio), Marilyn Hamlin (Mascola’s Girl), Cihangir Gaffari (Jerry), Joyce Walker (Cigarette Girl), Gordon Parks (Croupier).

Synopsis Private detective John Shaft is in bed with Arna Asby when her brother, an old friend, telephones asking for Shaft to meet him at his offices having mailed him a retainer. Shaft arrives at Cal Asby’s insurance and funeral business office just as a bomb goes off killing Asby. Meanwhile Asby’s business partner, Johnny Kelly, is looking to settle a gambling debt with gangster Gus Mascola, who is also looking to take over the numbers racket in Queens run by Kelly and Asby. Asby however had stashed the money the pair had earned away in the hope of funding a children’s foundation. When Shaft tries to discover why Asby was killed he crosses paths with Kelly, Mascola and also Bumpy Jonas, who is also looking to expand his criminal empire into Queens. Shaft is also keeping the police, in the form of Captain Bollin, at arm’s length whilst protecting Arna from Mascola’s men. When Kelly figures Asby buried the money with him the parties converge on the cemetery and all hell breaks loose.

Production MGM announced that a sequel to Shaft would go into production as early as May 171—before the release of the first film. The producers were looking to broaden the scope and set the film in the Caribbean. Initial reports confirmed Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant had approached Joe Greene, creator of Richard Abraham Spade “Superspade” in a series of pulp novels under the pseudonym of B. B. Johnson, to script the follow-up then titled Shaft #2.26 Greene’s script outline was submitted to Tidyman by Roger Lewis with a note stating: “Here it is, hot off the Zerox [sic]. Joe Greene dropped it off a little while ago and neither I nor Stirling have read or reacted yet. I would appreciate your response as quickly as possible. Our original premise was to have Joe go to the Caribbean in the course of the story but he was working well and preferred to wait until he reached “finis” and then go check it out on the ground-and get your help.”27 Greene’s story has Shaft hired by an insurance company to protect a wealthy socialite, Winnie Evans Brown, and her jewelry as she embarks on a cruise. She is on a mission to dedicate a hospital she has financed in the

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Caribbean, where she also has enemies. Shaft meets her niece, Cleo Thompson, a model and actress who accompanies them. At a banquet Shaft is introduced to the head of security police, Captain Barron. He also meets the mysterious Doctor Dufay who has a laboratory in the mountains and is secretly leading a revolt on the government and plans to steal the jewels with the help of Cleo. There are attempts to get Shaft out of the way including a black mamba placed in his hotel room and framing him for a murder. In the finale Dufay uses drugs to overpower Shaft and send him after Winnie, but the pair escape and Dufay and his group are defeated in a climactic battle. Tidyman rejected the script prompting Lewis and Silliphant to produce their own. Greene would later get a writing credit on a little known movie entitled Together Brother (174) in which a group of ghetto kids try to find out who killed a popular black police officer. Tidyman had also prepared a screenplay outline on 20 April 171 under the title Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, which too was rejected but later used as the basis for the 174 novel. Tidyman had also produced an outline treatment of his novel Shaft Among the Jews, which too was passed over. On 11 June 171, Lewis and Silliphant produced a 6-page outline entitled Shaft Gets It On. Lewis himself went on to write the full screenplay treatment, now being developed under to working title The Big Bamboo, with the story’s setting being Jamaica. Lewis was quoted as saying he was working with a black advisor on the screenplay and they were aiming for the character to develop into a black James Bond.28 Many rumors surrounded the screenplay and production over the summer of 171 including one stating Lena Horne was set to play Shaft’s mother.2 Lewis finally completed his 114-page manuscript on 13 August 171, which he submitted to Tidyman for approval. Lewis’ story had similarities to Joe Greene’s and opened with Shaft thwart ing a hijack attempt on a flight to Jamaica and gaining the attention of a stunning blonde, Pamela Beldon. In Jamaica, Shaft meets up with Hazel Jameson, a dancer of his acquaintance from New York. Also there is Willy, Bumpy Jonas’ right-hand man, who is trying to sell a stolen diamond to Hugh Beldon, Pamela’s father. Meanwhile, Beldon is looking to take control of the gambling scene on the island and plans to create civil unrest then assassinate and replace key figures. Shaft stops Beldon’s men from killing Willy for the diamond. Beldon then retreats to his hideout in the mountains. With the police on their tail, Shaft and Willy track Beldon down to his hideout where he has a small army controlled by drugs. A car chase ensues and Beldon is killed. Lewis indicated the title, The Big Bamboo, was Jamaican slang for “Big prick” which had taken its cue from a calypso song to which Lewis was keen for MGM to secure the rights. This they did and the song was still used in the final film, despite the plot and setting being changed, when Rita Towne (Kathy Imrie) is heard singing it in her introductory scene.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

During this period there had been a breakdown in relations between Tidyman and his partners in Shaft Productions over development of the sequel. In his letter enclosing the script Lewis says, Speaking plainly and for myself, Ernest, I hate the kind of hassle we’re getting into—I would infinitely prefer co-producing the film with you—I expect a certain amount of healthy controversy—I just think it should be kept in the family and resolved in a fashion that moves us ahead…. The bottom line is we’re riding a winning horse and we’d be schmucks to start trying to knock each other off at this juncture.30

Tidyman, unhappy with Lewis’ script, wrote a letter outlining his reservations on 30 September 171: “My main criticism is that the script does not say anything—about Shaft as a character and a product of his time and place in contemporary society; nor about Jamaica and the fascinating and peculiar elements of this many-layered black society; nor about the sinfulness of profitability of crime on a grand scale.” He went on to say, quite prophetically, “By the time The Big Bamboo gets out every kid on the block out there is going to be producing a Shaft of one sort or another. And if ours does not do things better, faster and more entertainingly, that’s ball game.”31 The producers now looked into the possibility of the production relocating to Chicago—this would later be discounted due to the cool reaction from the mayor which caused a rumpus with the Union of Black Actors. There was also a dispute with MGM over shares in any potential profits, which led to James Aubrey, Jr., threatening to make an alternative non-Shaft film with Roundtree and Gordon Parks after Parks had initially been secured for the Shaft sequel. Tidyman eventually took over scripting duties and produced his own original outline on 21 October 171 under the temporary title Gang Bang. He set the story in Chicago and produced various drafts between 24 November and 13 December. Tidyman had undertaken a trip to Chicago to scout locations as had Lewis and production associate David Golden. In Tidyman’s initial 4-page outline there were notable differences to the final shooting script. Although the basic plot is the same Shaft has a relationship with Jane Asby, sister of Arna who is married to Cal and based in Chicago, not Queens. Arna and Cal’s kids have arrived on her doorstep and Shaft is there too. A bomb goes off at Cal’s house, but Arna survives. Mascola is a Chicago gangster and is involved in the loan shark syndicate with Bumpy Jonas of Harlem and Chicago mob kingpin Arthur Sharrett. A crooked cop named Jimmy Hagen is working with Cal’s partner, Johnny Kelly, and has planted the bomb. The character of Pete Bollin is a Chicago police lieutenant. Arthur Sharrett’s daugh ter, Gail, is also present in this treatment. Willy is playfully referred to throughout as Bundini. The final chase had been planned to take place in a decrepit

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is pursued by gus Mascola’s men in the finale chase from Shaft’s Big Score! (1972).

railway roundhouse, rail house and repair sheds, a location found by Lewis and Golden. Changes were made over the next couple of weeks and Tidyman submitted a revised 120-page screenplay, now titled Shaft’s Triple Cross, on 22 December, by which time location had finally been switched to New York, with a second revision on 5 January 172, a third on 10 January this time entitled Bury Me Deep, John Shaft then a fourth and final draft entitled Score on 31 January after shooting had begun. It was not until 2 March, well into the filming schedule, that MGM confirmed the final title change to Shaft’s Big Score! Richard Roundtree returned to the role of John Shaft—although he had been holding out for a significant pay rise. MGM offered $25,000, which was double his fee for Shaft. Reportedly this was doubled again after Roundtree initially declined the offer and Parks refused to shoot the film without him.32 Moses Gunn (as Bumpy Jonas) and Drew Bundini Brown (as Willy) also returned from the first film. Wally Taylor, a former stage actor who had impressed with his recent performance in Barry Pollack’s Cool Breeze, was signed to play Kelly. Julius W. Harris, a familiar face throughout the ’70s and


Part III: Shaft on Screen

notably in the James Bond thriller Live and Let Die (173), played Sergeant Pete Bollin. The female contingent was headed by Rosalind Miles as Cal Asby’s grieving sister, Arna and sexy actress Kathy Imrie was cast as Kelly’s mistress, Rita Towne. As well as the significant black cast, the roles of gangster Gus Mascola and his men were also filled. Joseph Mascolo took the key role of Mascola and was able to incorporate his love of the clarinet into his performance. Joe Santos, who would become a regular in film and TV throughout the decade, played Andy Pascal—Mascola’s right-hand man. Most of the production team from the first film were retained for the sequel. Interior and studio sets were again designed by Emanuel Gerard and shooting took place between January and April 172 at New York locations including Brooklyn Navy Yard, Manhattan and the Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens. The production again proved difficult due to the winter shoot and came in $178,383 over budget at a cost $2,472,661 including studio overheads.33 One notable absentee was composer Isaac Hayes, who was in dispute with the producers over his fee for the film and would further annoy MGM by missing meetings. The studio had wanted to retain Hayes from 24 April to 1 June in order to meet their target release date of 24 June. Eventually Hayes contributed the song “Type Thang” for the sequence at Mother’s nightclub—filming of the scene having been delayed until 30 March, the end of the schedule, to accommodate him. He later withdrew from the project leaving Gordon Parks to find a way of producing the music score in a little over two weeks. Parks got the solution from MGM’s studio head, “I only found out on very short notice that Ike wasn’t going to write the score. So Jim Aubrey asked me, ‘Gordon, why don’t you do it yourself!’”34 Parks was given assistance by composer Tom McIntosh, who had worked with Hayes on Shaft, in coordinating the musicians and arranging the music. Tidyman novelized his own screenplay and the book was initially set for release in May 172. But Tidyman delayed publication due to a disagreement over royalties with his partners, Lewis and Silliphant, and the studio, MGM. In the end a deal was struck and MGM is credited as holding the copyright to the novel, which was published a few weeks after the film’s release.

The Cast Moses gunn (Bumpy Jonas) See Shaft

Drew Bundini Brown (Willy) See Shaft

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Joseph Mascolo (gus Mascola) Joseph Mascolo was born on 13 March 12 in West Hartford, Connecticut. His parents were Italian immigrants who encouraged him to take up music. Mascolo became a keen clarinet player and earned a full music scholarship to West Point. While at the University of Miami he was spotted by a TV producer who saw some talent in him as an actor and offered him a role in a TV play. His performance was well-received and encouraged him to take up acting full time. He studied with Stella Adler in New York and mixed his time between playing clarinet for the Metropolitan Opera and his studies. He began receiving offers for acting roles and succeeded Robert Duvall in the off–Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. He continued to work extensively in the theatre on productions such as Born Yesterday and The Rose Tattoo opposite Olympia Dukakis. He moved to London for a short while working in the West End before moving back to NYC and Broadway to star with Charles Durning and Richard Dysart in That Championship Season, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Having successfully auditioned for the role of Gus Mascola (the surname is actually the feminine variant on his own) in Shaft’s Big Score! he had suggested he play clarinet in the film. Ernest Tidyman re-wrote the gangster’s introduction adding eccentricities, such as his love of cuisine and music thereby accommodating Mascolo’s wish. Mascolo also brought a certain amount of charm and elegance to the role—something that hadn’t been there in Tidyman’s original script or novelization—making the character much more interesting as a result, while retaining the violent and vicious streak. Later he appeared in Jaws 2 (178) and starred as hard man Stefano DiMera in the TV series Days of Our Lives (182–5). He also portrayed the powerful businessman Massimo Marone on CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful (2001–6). Mascolo is a keen supporter of a number of charities and lives in Lake Arrowhead, California.

Kathy Imrie (Rita) Kathy Imrie was born in Trinidad & Tobago, but moved to Canada in 163. In pursuit of an acting career, like so many of her contemporaries, she relocated to New York and joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 16. She also studied at the Warren Robinson Workshop Studio and Alvin Ailey Dance Studio. Shaft’s Big Score! was Imrie’s first major film role. She was cast as Kelly’s sultry mistress, Rita Towne, who seduces Shaft out of spite after she is slapped around by Kelly. Commenting on how she prepared for the seduction scene with Roundtree the actress said, “People should never be ashamed of the


Part III: Shaft on Screen

human body. Audiences forget that when you’re nude on screen, you’re still acting, and you have to make it believable. It’s personal when it’s a part of your personal life.”35 Rita returns to the plot later when she arrives at Shaft’s apartment and ends up driving him to the cemetery where the final shootout and chase takes place. Although given little else to do, Imrie delivers a confident and alluring performance. She made one more film—the ill-conceived Let’s Go for Broke (174), which was pulled from release after only four days. The film, which has never been screened since, is set to be remembered because of the tragic murder of its star, Christa Helm, some three years later. Imrie would take a break from the big screen until she resumed her acting career in Canada in 187 and has been working ever since, securing a role as Sister Corrine in the TV series ‘Da Kink in My Hair from 2007 to 200. She now resides in Toronto where she still works in acting, voice-overs and commercials and runs Imre Background Talent Agency, which she founded in 18.

Wally Taylor (Johnny Kelly) Wally Taylor was born in Maywood, Illinois, in 131. He was one of four brothers raised by a single mother. He scraped money together through taking any menial job he could find in order to raise enough money to fund his acting studies at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. His stage debut was in Riot in 168. He went on to make appearances in productions of The Blood Knot, No Place to be Somebody and The Great White Hope (he was understudy to James Earl Jones). He also took up roles in a number of TV series episodes in the late 160s/early 170s and had a bit part in the film Cotton Comes to Harlem (170). He later appeared in Cool Breeze (172). In Shaft’s Big Score! Taylor plays Johnny Kelly who is the business partner of Cal Asby in a funeral and insurance business, which also is used as a front for a numbers racket. When Kelly has his partner killed in order to use the money intended for a foundation to pay off a gambling debt to Gus Mascola, the loot is missing starting a race against time to find it. Taylor delivers a performance that highlights the increasing desperation of Kelly as he seeks to buy more time from Gus Mascola. The characterization, however, is lacking in depth. A sensitive man and fuelled by his frustration with the types of role he was being offered, Taylor dropped out of acting for an extended vacation in Spain in 173. “Hollywood is cramming down the world’s throat the message that all [blacks] are pimps and prostitutes,”36 he told Jet magazine. He later went on to appear in the 177 ground-breaking TV mini-series, Roots and guested on many popular series of the time. He remained busy on

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


the big screen too, appearing in films such as Escape from New York (181), Rocky III (182) and The Golden Child (186). He worked hard on promoting early detection for cancer after he successfully overcame prostate cancer. He later died of heart disease on 7 October 2012, aged 82, in San Antonio, Texas.

Julius Harris (Capt. Bollin) Julius W. Harris was born in Philadelphia on 17 August 123. His mother was a Cotton Club dancer and his father a musician. Prior to commencing his career in acting he served as a medic in World War II before working as a nurse and then as a bouncer at a New York nightclub, where his intimidating six-foot-three-and-a-half-inch frame was useful. He made his film debut in 164 in the critically acclaimed Nothing But a Man. Like many of his contemporaries, who went on to stardom, Harris was a member of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City. During this time he appeared on Broadway in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, No Place to Be Somebody. In Shaft’s Big Score! Harris plays police Captain Bollin, who has an antagonistic relationship with Shaft, as well as the white detectives in his own precinct. His scenes with Roundtree are amongst the highlights of the film. He is portrayed as a man who is proud of the rank he has gained in the police force and is seen to be firm, but fair and honest. As the Blaxploitation craze grew Harris remained in demand and went on to appear in Trouble Man (172), Hell Up in Harlem (173), Black Caesar (173) and Friday Foster (175). He was also a familiar face on TV, but is perhaps best known for his memorable film performances as the gangster Scatter in Superfly (172) and as the villain’s henchman Tee Hee in Roger Moore’s first James Bond film Live and Let Die (173). He also memorably played Ugandan President Idi Amin in the TV movie Victory at Entebbe (176). Harris remained busy in both film and TV until the late 10s. He died of heart failure on 17 October 2004, aged 81, in Woodland Hills, California, and was cremated in Philadelphia.

Rosalind Miles (Arna Asby) Rosalind Miles was born on 20 June 151 and spent her early career as a model for John Robert Powers based in Fort Worth, Texas. She made her movie debut in 171’s How’s Your Love Life? A year later she secured the prominent role in Shaft’s Big Score! of Cal Asby’s sister, Arna, who is also Shaft’s girlfriend. This is a change from the book and earlier drafts of the screenplay where Arna was Cal’s wife. Miles has little to do acting wise


Part III: Shaft on Screen

other than scream and act upset and while she features prominently in the first half of the movie, she all but disappears from the story once the action starts. Miles went on to star in low-budget movies including the feminist revenge tales Girls for Rent (174) and The Manhandlers (175). She also, like Julius Harris, had a role in the Pam Grier vehicle Friday Foster (175). Miles appeared in another Ernest Tidyman penned movie (this time for TV), To Kill a Cop in 178 then retired from acting after marrying actor Todd Davis. In 181 she worked on a production of Guys and Dolls for the Los Angeles community service with her husband.

Joe Santos (Andy Pascal) Joe Santos was one of the most popular and familiar faces on TV during the 170s and 80s. He was born Joseph Minieri of Italian descent on  June 131 in Brooklyn, New York City. After a short career in football, he turned to acting and had to take on a number of blue-collar jobs to maintain an income while studying. His cousin, Joseph W. Sarno, made cheap exploitation films and Santos made appearances in a few of these including Flesh and Lace (165), Moonlighting Wives (166) and My Body Hungers (167). Emerging star, Al Pacino, was a friend and got Santos a role in the 171 crime drama Panic in Needle Park, which proved to be a big break for him and led to other offers. One of these was as Gus Mascola’s right-hand man, Andy Pascal, in Shaft’s Big Score! Santos brought some wit and a certain worldweariness to the role providing a nice contrast to Mascola’s staged charm. He was also required to be action-orientated during the chase finale as he pursues Shaft by car and then on foot through the Brooklyn dockyards. Following Shaft’s Big Score! Santos went on to play Sergeant Cruz in the four-part TV drama The Blue Knight (173) and secure a regular role in the TV series The Rockford Files (174–80) as Jim Rockford’s LAPD buddy Detective Dennis Becker. He would often be typecast as the downtrodden police detective with later similar roles as Lt. Harper in Hardcastle and McCormick (185– 6) and Lt. Nolan Page in Magnum, P.I. (186–8). Although he never achieved top-billing, he was a reliable performer in supporting roles as evidenced by his portrayal of Consigliere Angelo Garepe in the TV series The Sopranos (2004). He has now retired from acting.

The Crew Roger Lewis (Producer) See Shaft

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Stirling Silliphant (Executive Producer) See Shaft

Urs Furrer (Director of Photography) See Shaft

Emanuel gerard (Art Director) See Shaft

Moe Howard (Film Editor) Moe Howard was credited as Harry Howard for most of his early work as a film editor, presumably to avoid confusion with his namesake from The Three Stooges. His first film had been 171’s Such Good Friends, directed by Otto Preminger. Gordon Parks then brought him on board for Shaft’s Big Score! when Hugh Robertson proved to be unavailable. His work did draw some criticism—notably the rather protracted chase sequence at the film’s conclusion, where tighter editing may have produced a more dynamic outcome. However, Parks was impressed enough to hire Howard to work on The Super Cops (174). He also edited Leadbelly in 176—a biographical account of the life of folk/blues singer Huddie Ledbetter.

Promotion Shaft’s Big Score! opened on 8 June 172 and went into wider release on 21 June 172 in New York and 28 June in Los Angeles. The movie grossed nearly $400,000 on its first five days of showcase engagements in 42 New York theatres. In total the movie grossed $10 million from a budget of $1,78,000, short of the earnings from the first movie but impressive enough to guarantee another healthy profit for MGM. Artist John Solie was responsible for the artwork for the movie poster, which emphasized the action elements of the film depicting Shaft’s speedboat being pursued by a number of helicopters (artistic license being used) amidst explosions. The tag line of “You liked it before, so he’s back with more…. Shaft’s back in action!” emphasized the approach. Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score! were re-released as a double-bill in 173 to capitalize on the popularity of the films and their influence over the Blaxploitation genre of film-making. A second sequel had already been commissioned by MGM, but Ernest Tidyman would not be on board for the production of Shaft in Africa.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Comment Shaft’s Big Score! was assembled very quickly—so much so that the cameras rolled within six months of the premiere of Shaft. With much of the same crew re-hired for another winter shoot on the streets of New York giving the film a very similar look. Tidyman’s script maintained the “Shaft vs. gangsters” approach of the first, while broadening the scope in both use of New York locations and the number of characters with a stake in the plot. There is certainly an increased confidence evident in the production helped by a bigger budget—notably in the admittedly over-extended chase finale involving cars, a speedboat and a helicopter. This action-packed finale also demonstrated some of the problems with the film—Moe Howard’s editing could have been tighter and Parks’ direction was a little lazy in places. For example, during the finale we see Shaft alternate between limping from a leg injury to full on sprinting and then back to limping again. The characters, however, are more interesting than in Shaft with a not able mention for Joseph Mascolo’s eccentric portrayal of Gus Mascola. He is seen enjoying the refinements of high cuisine and classical music (via his love of the clarinet) in his high-class apartment, while directing his organized crime operation from a flower shop. Contrast Mascolo’s characterization with the rather charmless and violent version Tidyman drew in his novelization and you can see what Mascolo brought to the part. Joe Santos—an almost permanent fixture in crime movies and TV series during the 170s—enjoys himself greatly as Mascolo’s right-hand man providing a contrast to Mascola’s pretentious elegance. Julius W. Harris is also impressive as black police Captain Pete Bollin, who has overcome racism in his own squad and is just as hard on Shaft as his detectives. He conveys a mix of toughness, dignity and pride. With Tidyman in sole charge of the screenplay the racial elements and hip dialogue, which were played up more in Shaft, have largely been consigned to the background here. Less impressive are Wally Taylor, as the greedy and sadistic Kelly and Rosalind Miles as the grieving sister of Cal Asby. Both performers fail to give their characters any real depth. Miles also disappears from the film through its later sections, thereby losing much of the motivation given to Shaft at the start of the story. The decision to leave out the characters of Arthur Sharrett and his daughter Gail from Tidyman’s earlier draft outline (they would be restored in Tidyman’s novelization) and increase the role of Rita Towne (well played by the gorgeous Kathy Imrie) was made to avoid complicating the plot with too many characters and to keep costs down. Also returning were Moses Gunn and Drew Bundini Brown as Bumpy Jonas and Willy. The difference here was both were played for increased

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


Shaft (Richard Roundtree) rounds up gus Mascola (Joseph Mascolo, in trench coat) and four of his men including Andy Pascal (Joe Santos, second from right) in Shaft’s Big Score! (1972).

comic effect, which detracted from the tension that had been built nicely between them and Shaft in the first film. Gunn was particularly underused, but the focus was probably rightly given to Mascolo’s Gus Mascola, who is the most interesting of the villains. The real glue across the film is Richard Roundtree, who had obviously grown in confidence in the role of John Shaft. While he became more of an action man here—again notably in the finale—there is a raw athleticism and tension to his performance. There could be no doubt that the character of John Shaft would now become more closely linked to Roundtree than to his creator, Tidyman. Urs Furrer’s cinematography again captured the bleakness of a New York winter, while Emanuel Gerard’s production design was helped by the increased budget. The key ingredient missing from the film was Isaac Hayes’ theme music. When terms couldn’t be agreed Parks took over scoring duties and delivered a more jazz-tinged score with elements of Hayes’ funk motifs. However, the opening song, “Blow Your Mind” with vocals by similarly deepvoiced O.C. Smith, closely mirrored Hayes’ original.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

The film is tough, violent and witty. While it lacks some of the intimate focus of the original, by broadening its scope Shaft’s Big Score! shows the potential for the future direction of the series. This challenge would be taken up in the third film by taking John Shaft out of his New York setting and placing him in Africa.

Critical Reaction The movie received a lukewarm reaction compared to Shaft, with reviewers pointing to its more polished production, but noting it was also a flabbier product. Reaction was typified by the following review extracts: “The movie is intended as mass-audience escapist entertainment, and works on that level better than Shaft did. There is also less baiting of white characters this time, and more humor.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 26 June 172 “…Gordon Parks keeps improving, as a technician, and Shaft’s Big Score! is far more ambitious and professional than the original Shaft. But it is also more mechanical and more exploitative of the material. And so it becomes less responsible, less detailed, less personal, less serious and less fun.”—Roger Greenspun, New York Times, 22 June 1972 “Despite a machine gun script, photographic direction and generally obedient acting, Shaft’s Big Score! will score—but only until word gets around.”— B.J. Mason Los Angeles Free Press, 30 June 172 “Compared with Shaft this is a very run-of-the-mill adventure saved from mediocrity by the visual excitements of the obligatory chase sequence at the end.”—Cinema TV Today, June 172 “Everything that made Shaft one of last summer’s surprise hits is present in Shaft’s Big Score!—plus a little more.”—George Anderson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 6 July 172 “Ernest Tidyman, who wrote the screenplay for the first of the Shaft movies, doesn’t do the second in the series justice. The plot is spindly and completely predictable and the dialogue (except for the several shocks of profanity) is stale. Hearing some of the lines in this kick-’em, kill-’em adventure could easily make us forget that Tidyman won last year’s Oscar for The French Connection.”—J. Oliver Prescott, St. Petersburg Times, 15 July 172 “This time around, there is a lot more production and nurturing of the project, not all of which is to the good, however…. The first Shaft had a running-scared excitement not only in the characters, but also throughout the whole picture. The new film seems more self-conscious, contrived, ambitious, and sluggish.”—Variety “Disappointing sequel to the likeable Shaft…. The film has developed an 007 complex, and instead of being Chandler in Harlem, threading its way through a maze of quirky characters and dark mysteries, it makes a dreary beeline for its prolonged climax: a duel between superman Shaft and a hovering helicopter.”—Time Out

10. Shaft’s Big Score! (172)


“Greed kills. It can clutch a good movie by the throat and choke it until it vomits out all the ingredients that made it worth filming in the first place. It can invade the system of casting and gnaw at the standards which give characters life. It can pummel the solar plexus of writing until a script falls dead in the hands of artistic vandals…. Somebody snuck up behind Shaft’s Big Score! for example, and stabbed it in the back with a blade of gross incompetence…”—B.J. Mason, Los Angeles Free Press, 30 June 172 “…a rousing and entertaining thriller, better than the original and far superior to all those imitations that Shaft’s success has spawned.”—Arthur Cooper, Newsweek, July 172 “Roundtree is an engaging and competent actor, but the character of Shaft lacks any depth.”—Norman Dresser, Toledo Blade, 15 July 172 “Pictures like Shaft’s Big Score! are supposed to appeal to black consciousness. What I really think this one does is appeal to the black man’s wallet. Indeed I’d go as far as to say that instead of fostering a sense of racial identify, it could well thwart it. It is simply a white man’s fantasy that happens to be colored black…”—Alexander Walker, Evening Standard, 10 August 172

Notes/Trivia • New York filming locations include: Laguardia Place 520; Laguardia Place/Bleecker Street; Brooklyn Navy Yard; Cypress Hills Cemetery in Queens. • When we first meet Rita Towne (Kathy Imrie) in the apartment she shares with Kelly (Wally Taylor) she is singing a calypso song about “The Big Bamboo.” This was used as the title for the script originally developed by Roger Lewis based on a story he had written with Stirling Silliphant. Lewis had purchased the rights to the song when he was preparing his original screenplay. Although his script was jettisoned in favor of a new one by Tidyman, Lewis made sure he got his money’s worth for the song. • Shaft’s firearms include: (1) Smith & Wesson Model 36 with pearl grips, which replaces his Colt Detective Special from the previous film. (2) High Standard Model HS-10B shotgun used during the Brooklyn dockyard chase sequence. The shotgun was designed circa 170 and was originally issued as a law enforcement firearm.

DVD Releases Region 1 (U.S.)—June 6, 2000 Extras: 3 theatrical trailers. Region 2 (UK)—March 5, 2001 Extras: As Region 1 release.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Soundtrack Released: 172; Recorded: May 172; Label: MGM Records 1SE 36st; Producer: Tom McIntosh Track listing: Blowin’ Your Mind–3:2 (vocal by O. C. Smith)/The Other Side– 1:47/Smart Money–2:11/First Meeting–1:58/Asby-Kelly Man–1:45/Don’t Misunderstand–1:48 (vocal by O. C. Smith)/Move On In–3:08 (vocal by O. C. Smith)/ Symphony for Shafted Souls (The Big Chase)–13:10 Take Off–Dance of the Cars– Water Ballet pt. I–Water Ballet pt. II–Call and Response–The Last Amen Musicians: conductor, orchestrated by Dick Hazard; guitar: Joe Pass; saxophone [alto]: Marshal Royal; trumpet: Freddie Hubbard; vocals: O.C. Smith.

Shaft in Africa (173) Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)/Shaft Productions, Ltd.; Released: 14 June 173 (USA); Running Time: 112 mins; Budget: $2,142,000; Rentals: U.S.: $1,455,635 (at 1/3/175) Foreign: $1,07,615 (at 1/3/175) Director: John Guillermin; writer: Stirling Silliphant (based on the characters created by Ernest Tidyman); producer: Roger Lewis; associate producer: René Dupont; original music: Johnny Pate; cinematography: Marcel Grignon (35mm, Metrocolor, Panavision, 2.35:1); editor: Max Benedict; casting: Irene Howard, Jose Villaverde; production designer: John Stoll; art director: José María Tapiador; wardrobe: Frank Balchus; makeup: Mariano García Rey; unit production manager: Donald C. Klune; assistant director: Miguel Gil; second unit director: David Tomblin; sound: Peter Sutton, Hal Watkins (mono); special effects: Antonio Molina. Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Frank Finlay (Amafi), vonetta Mcgee (Aleme), Neda Arneric (Jazar), Debebe Eshetu (Wassa), Spiros Focás (Sassari), Jacques Herlin (Perreau), Jho Jhenkins (Ziba), Willie Jonah (Oyo), Adolfo Lastretti (Piro), Marne Maitland (Col. Gonder), frank Mcrae (Osiat), Zenebech Tadesse (The Prostitute), A.V. Falana (Ramila’s Son), James E. Myers (Williams), Nadim Sawalha (Zubair), Thomas Baptiste (Kopo), Jon Chevron (Shimba), Glynn Edwards (Vanden), Cy Grant (Emir Ramila), Jacques Marin (Cusset), Nick Zaran (Sadi), Aldo Sambrell (Angelo).

Synopsis John Shaft is hired by Emir Ramila, an Ethiopian tribal chief, to infiltrate a slave smuggling ring sourced in Ethiopia after his son’s cover is blown while tracking the operation to Paris. Shaft is taught the language by the Emir’s daughter, Aleme, then travels to Africa to make his connections. The slave ring is being run by Amafi, a wealthy businessman, from his Paris base. Amafi sends his mistress, Jazar, to meet up with the group and link up with Shaft, having become aware of Shaft’s presence amongst the slaves. Shaft is being shipped to Europe as part of a large human cargo where Jazar seduces then tries to help

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


him escape but is killed. Shaft and the slaves are then transported to and housed in the slums of Paris, where the men await their work details. Shaft escapes a fire at the house and then goes in search of Amafi and his slave prison.

Production Ernest Tidyman was keen to capitalize on the success of Shaft and while its sequel Shaft’s Big Score! was in early production he wrote to MGM head James T. Aubrey, Jr., outlining some thoughts about a third film. He again offered Shaft Among the Jews as a possibility: “I think it is a better book than the first one, has a stronger story line and contains exciting visual elements that would be new to the series and the screen.”37 Tidyman also suggested if this was not suitable having an original script, potentially set in a new locale. MGM would again pass on Shaft Among the Jews, preferring an original screenplay, but took up his suggestion of a change of locale. This was something that had been considered then discounted in the early stages of development of the first Shaft sequel when a Caribbean setting had been proposed. A press release announcing the production of a third film in the series was published in October 172, just four months after the premiere of Shaft’s Big Score! However, the relationship between Ernest Tidyman and his partners at Shaft Productions—Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant—had soured considerably during that film’s production leading to Tidyman distancing himself from this project. MGM had wanted Gordon Parks to direct the third film and Parks had wanted Silliphant to write the screenplay. Silliphant commenced his step outline on 14 August 172 and produced a 1-page draft along with a two-page synopsis on 15 September 172. Silliphant’s screenplay had been based on a real-life incident, which had taken place a year and a half earlier, exposing the use of young African blacks for slave labor in Europe. This had been revealed in a Newsweek article, also dated 14 August 172, entitled Africa: But is it Slavery. The article told how a truck crossing into France from Italy was found to hold 5 Africans who were being smuggled into the country to take on menial work for very low pay.38 Lewis and Tidyman continued to disagree about the direction of the film series as Lewis pushed Tidyman for decisions about whether he would act as producer. Tidyman stalled due to the lack of a useable script having offered comments to Silliphant on his original draft. A copy of Silliphant’s revised script was sent to Tidyman by Lewis on 1 September. The tone of the letter suggests Lewis had reached the end of his tether with Tidyman’s seeming lack of interest in the venture. Indeed Lewis had also submitted the


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Aleme (Vonetta Mcgee) and Shaft (Richard Roundtree) look over the dead African slaves, victims of a fire in the Paris slums in Shaft in Africa (1973).

script to MGM, who he reported as being enthusiastic. This time Lewis only asked Tidyman for any suggested revisions and assured him he had been acting on behalf of Shaft Productions saying he was as tired pressing Tidyman as Tidyman was of being pressed.3 Lewis and Silliphant presented Tidyman with an ultimatum to come on board by 26 September or leave them free to pursue the film without him. Tidyman withdrew from the project and it was confirmed on 10 October 172 that Roger Lewis would be the sole producer. A new 12-page shooting script was completed by Stirling Silliphant on 22 November 172 with further revisions submitted through to 2 December, just before the movie went into production. Richard Roundtree once again signed up to reprise his role of John Shaft, but was the only cast member to return from the first two films. He reportedly agreed a new contract for a $200,000 fee and 5 percent of the profits. Distinguished British stage and screen actor Frank Finlay was cast as the chief villain, Amafi. Vonetta McGee—who had been edged out in the casting auditions for Cleopatra Jones by Tamara Dobson—was given the role of the Emir’s daughter, Aleme, who becomes Shaft’s love interest. Nineteen-year-old Yugoslavian actress Neda Arneric secured the role of Amafi’s sex-hungry mistress, Jazar. The cast was filled out with veteran British and French actors taking most of the minor roles.

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


Most of the production crew was also new—comprising talent from the U.S., Britain and France. Initial negotiations with Gordon Parks to direct led to nothing with Parks withdrawing for “economic and artistic reasons.”40 Lewis, therefore, submitted a list of potential directors to MGM for consideration with Raymond St. Jacques, Gil Moses and Sid McCoy described as “interested, available and acceptable.”41 Parks’ son, Gordon Parks, Jr., who had worked on Superfly, was also considered. Ultimately, experienced British director John Guillermin was hired. Guillermin had previously worked in challenging locations having directed two of the better late Tarzan films— Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (15) and Tarzan Goes to India (162). He is also reported to have secured a deal for 5 percent of the profits with an initial fee of $75,000 with a further $25,000 deferred.42 Johnny Pate, who had recently worked on Superfly with Curtis Mayfield, was signed to write the music score, while soul group The Four Tops contributed the lively theme song “Are You Man Enough?” In fact Pate’s jazzfunk laden soundtrack proved so successful it has been sampled regularly by hip-hop artists since, including Jay-Z and Diddy. Lewis sought approval to shoot the film in Ethiopia via the Ethiopian Ambassador to France on 25 August 172. Lewis also suggested to MGM that Horace Jenkins be brought in to help on the script and act as a guide on the location reconnaissance. Jenkins was a very experienced location scout and knew the language and the locale, he also had a friendship with Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Salassie.43 Filming took place between 11 December 172 and late February 173 using locations in New York, Ethiopia, Spain and France. On arrival in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, the crew were surprised by the reception they received with the first two films having enjoyed much success there. The crew came across a Shaft’s Bar and Grill and found market traders selling Shaft Shirts. The desert scenes were shot near Massawa, a sea port bordering The Red Sea in the north of the country. The crew pulled heavily on the goodwill of the locals and when this was not forthcoming they did everything they could to keep the cameras rolling. An example was when there were delays in shooting a scene on the yacht with the captain holding out for an overtime payment before he let the cast and crew continue. In the end the crew paid him themselves out of their own pocket. It was also in Addis Ababa where Roundtree received lessons on riding a camel for the desert set caravan trek sequence. Roundtree and the filmmakers were granted two audiences with Emperor Haile Selassie in order to formally gain his approval for location shooting. They also dined with his grandson, Prince Paul. The crew worked hard on integrating with the local communities and the co-operation of both the Reshaida and Konsoos tribes was secured as a result. The crew were provided with protection (notably in the north where


Part III: Shaft on Screen

there was unrest) and assistance with transportation by the army, navy (who awarded Roundtree a special Ethiopian Oscar), air force and national airline. Much of the traveling was an unpleasant experience for the crew—notably airplane journeys across the continent, which were basic and often hazardous. One particular journey to Arba Mich saw the crew share a cargo plan with freshly skinned animal hides. MGM publicist, 26-year-old Dot Halley, tracked the production through the African shoot and wrote a diary which was published in The Afro American over the course of a few weeks during February and March 173. Richard Roundtree, who was, and still is, a keen photographer, employed a young Ethiopian boy to look after his camera equipment so it was readily available should a photo opportunity arise. Co-star Vonetta McGee also enjoyed exploring the local culture—attending the San Gabriel religious festival in Harrar and visiting game preserves in neighboring Kenya. Unfortunately, during shooting Roundtree received the sad news of the death of his grandmother, at the age of 103. He flew home especially to attend the funeral.

The Cast Frank Finlay (Amafi) Frank Finlay is a well-respected British actor of stage and screen. He was born on 6 August 126 in Farnworth, Lancashire, England. Initially he planned to follow in his father’s profession as a butcher. However, his side-interest in acting took over and he joined Farnworth Little Theatre where he met his future wife, Doreen Shepherd. He went on the graduate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and appeared in a number of stage productions at the Royal Court Theatre between 158 and 160. He made his Broadway debut in 15 in The Epitaph of George Dillon. He later received strong notices for his performance as Iago, opposite Laurence Olivier in Othello in 164. He made his film debut in 162’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and became a regular in British films throughout the 160s—notably in his recreation of Iago for the big screen production of Othello in 165, which earned him an Academy Award nomination. He attained further strong reviews for his BAFTA nominated portrayal of Casanova for the BBC in their 6-part TV adaptation. In 172, he again won plaudits for a BAFTA winning portrayal of Adolf Hitler in The Death of Adolf Hitler. His role as the slave trader, Amafi, in Shaft in Africa proved to be a change of pace for an actor used to more serious work. He adopted a South African accent to emphasize the character’s racist stance and played the role

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


refreshingly straight. This gave the audience an international villain in the traditional sense and one similar to those seen in the James Bond films, although lacking their larger-than-life charisma. Finlay went on to give a humorous portrayal of Porthos in Richard Lester’s film adaptation of The Three Musketeers (173) and its successors The Four Musketeers (174) and The Return of the Musketeers (18). He also continued to mix film, TV and stage performances including the controversial TV series Bouquet of Barbed Wire (176) and its follow-up Another Bouquet (177). He was awarded the CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 184 and is now semi-retired.

Vonetta Mcgee (Aleme) Vonetta McGee was born Lawrence Vonetta McGee (named after her father) on 14 January 145 in San Francisco, California. Her interest in acting began when she became involved in groups on campus at San Francisco State University. She moved to Rome in order to find work at Cinecittà film studios and made her film debut in 168 playing the title role in the Italian comedy Faustina and followed this with the Spaghetti western The Great Silence in the same year. She returned to the U.S. a year later where she was seen as a rising star despite losing out on the role of Cleopatra Jones to Tamara Dobson. She appeared in Melinda and Blacula in 172 before accepting the role of Aleme in Shaft in Africa. McGee was disappointed with changes made to the character, saying later, “The part was changed in subtle ways so that I was just a satellite around Shaft.”44 Her relationship with producer Max Julien earned her a role in his films Detroit 9000 (173) and the 174 western action film Thomasine & Bushrod. She was then hired by Clint Eastwood for his mountainclimbing spy thriller The Eiger Sanction (175). In her later career she mixed acting with her home life, having married actor Carl Lumbly. The couple met in 187 while filming episodes of the TV series Cagney & Lacey on which Lumbly was a regular at the time. Although McGee largely stayed at home to raise their son Brandon (born 188), she found time to appear on TV in the series Bustin’ Loose (187–8) and L.A. Law (18–0). Sadly Vonetta McGee died on  July 2010 following a cardiac arrest.

neda Arneric (Jazar) Neda Arneric was born on 15 July 153 in Knjaževac, SFR Yugoslavia (now Serbia). She was a child actress who was discovered by director Purisa Djordjevic and made her film debut at twelve-years of age.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

The multi-lingual Arneric worked largely in European cinema and was only nineteen when cast as the nymphomaniac, Jazar, in Shaft in Africa. She produced a memorably sensual portrayal of a young woman whose life is seemingly totally geared around her sexual exploration of men. Later in life Arneric became more deeply involved in politics, an interest she had throughout her career, and was elected for Serbian Parliament in October 2000. She later withdrew from politics following the “remote voting” scandal—as her votes had been registered in Parliament while she was on holiday in Turkey. She remains active in European cinema today.

The Crew Roger Lewis (Producer) See Shaft

John guillermin (Director) British film director, writer and producer John Guillermin was born in London on 11 November 125 to French parents. He served in the Royal Air Force until he was 22, after which he started to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking. His first feature film was 14’s High Jinks in Society, a comedy he codirected with Robert Jordan Hill. The following year he moved to Hollywood to further learn his craft. Initially his direction was considered overly flashy and too perfectionist, but between 156 and 158 he worked on two TV series—the sitcom The Adventures of Aggie and the drama Sailor of Fortune, which added a level of efficiency to his style. On 20 July 156 he married author and actress Maureen Connell. They had two children together but later divorced. Throughout the 150s and 160s Guillermin made many technically demanding films including two Tarzans (Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure in 15 and Tarzan Goes to India in 162) and three war films (Guns at Batasi in 164, The Blue Max in 166 and The Bridge at Remagen in 168). Guillermin was a notably impersonal and volatile director who struggled to build rapport with his crews. Producer David L. Wolper, who had worked on Remagen with him, noted in his biography that Guillermin was “the most difficult director with whom I’d ever worked.”45 In terms of subject Shaft in Africa proved to be a change of direction for Guillermin, although he had directed the George Peppard detective vehicle P.J. in 168. The production elements, however, drew on his experience of

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


filming in demanding territories with the African shoot proving heavy on logistics and employing a multi-national crew. Guillermin’s reputation for handling tough assignments led to him going on to direct two major blockbusters in the mid–170s—The Towering Inferno (174) and King Kong (176). He had also signed up for Midway (176), but was later replaced following a disagreement over budget and equipment. After making another jungle adventure in Sheena (184), the ill-advised sequel King Kong Lives (186) and a low-key made for TV western, The Tracker (188), Guillermin went into retirement.

Stirling Silliphant (Writer) See Shaft

Johnny Pate (Music Score) Johnny Pate scored both Shaft in Africa and the Shaft TV series that followed. He was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois, on 5 December 123. He learned piano and tuba as a child and was a self-taught bassist and musical arranger. He enhanced his skills with the AGF Army Band during World War II. From the late 140s, he worked through the jazz clubs as both a bassist and arranger working with such giants of the field as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Duke Ellington. During the late 160s and early 170s he branched out into R&B working with the likes of Curtis Mayfield and B.B. King. He arranged, orchestrated and conducted Mayfield’s influential music score for Superfly (172) and this led to him being hired for Shaft in Africa. Pate then employed The Four Tops to write the energetic theme song “Are You Man Enough?” Pate’s score for the film mixed jazz and funk rhythms with a hint of soul and the soundtrack album became a cult classic. Pate’s scores for the Shaft TV series were limited by the budget for orchestration and were largely variations based around Isaac Hayes’ original theme. He would later work on soundtracks for other Blaxploitation films such as Brother on the Run (173), Buckstown (175) and Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (176). Pate moved to Las Vegas in the 180s and went on to work with Joe Wil liams and his orchestra as arranger and conductor. He later hosted his own jazz radio shows. He now runs a jazz-dedicated website called Pate’s Place.

Marcel grignon (Director of Photography) French cinematographer Marcel Grignon, born on  November 114 in Paris, worked in the industry between 137 and 188 in mainly French films.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

His best known work included Fantômas (164), Is Paris Burning? (166) and Le Gendarme et les extra-terrestres (17). He would go on to work on well in excess of a hundred movies throughout his career. His versatile photography on Shaft in Africa captured the contrast between another cold New York winter and the heat of the African desert before moving to the slums of Paris and then the French countryside. Grignon died on 6 June 10.

John Stoll (Production Designer) John Stoll was born on 13 December 113 in London, England and worked on a number of low-budget films throughout the 150s. He was given his biggest opportunity working for David Lean on Lawrence of Arabia (160), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction. With much of Shaft in Africa being shot on location, Stoll’s work was largely focused on creating internal sets, such as Shaft’s new spacey apartment and Amafi’s base. He later gave further proof of his versatility by designing both the fantasy film The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (173) and the romantic comedy Shirley Valentine (18).

Max Benedict (Film Editor) Film editor Max Benedict was born in Vienna, Austria in 121. He worked for the British Government during World War II and later became a script researcher for legendary directors Roy and John Boulting. He worked uncredited on 147’s Brighton Rock as an assistant editor and had previously worked with Guillermin on a number of films including Tarzan Goes to India (162), Guns at Batasi (164) and The Blue Max (166). Although Shaft in Africa has the longest running time of the three Shaft films, it does not feel overlong and Benedict proves himself adept in cutting the action sequences. His output slowed after Shaft in Africa and he died in London on 20 April 186, at age 65.

Promotion Shaft in Africa opened in New York on 20 June 173 and then in Los Angeles on 27 June having premiered there on 14 June. Early pre-release posters consisted of hastily assembled photo montages framed around a central promo photo (from Shaft’s Big Score!) of Richard

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


Roundtree in leather coat aiming a shotgun. The final design for the poster again fell to artist John Solie, who provided a montage of sketches depicting scenes from the film behind a full painting of Roundtree in action as John Shaft dressed in African garb and wielding a fighting-stick. Unfortunately the film could not match the success of its predecessors at the box office. During a later interview Roundtree offered his explanation for the film’s relative failure, “By the third film, Shaft in Africa, I was becoming comfortable in front of the camera. It was one of the best but no one could relate to Shaft being in Africa at the time. Maybe Shaft in Detroit or Los Angeles…. You could probably do it in Africa now but not in 173.”46 The film was not novelized—due to Tidyman’s conditions not to let anyone else write a Shaft novel.

Comment The decision to take John Shaft out of his home turf and turn him into an international trouble-shooter proved to be the death knell for the series in the cinema. Despite its failure at the box office, the obvious references to James Bond—hidden cameras in fighting sticks, multiple international settings and villains with no redeeming qualities—were handled with some style and wit. The problem was Stirling Silliphant’s screenplay made Shaft even more of a cypher for the various action segments designed to show-off Round tree’s athletic moves. As such it robs the character of the core basis of Ernest Tidyman’s creation—the black man who seamlessly operates in the white man’s urban world. The slave trade plot is topical and the subject is handled well by Silliphant. It just doesn’t feel like Tidyman’s Shaft. The hero role could have been any character and the film would still have worked. What little essence of Tidyman’s Shaft is there is courtesy of Roundtree’s performance. He is at pains to point out he is merely Sam Spade and not James Bond. The script writer’s lines but delivered with John Shaft’s conviction. Shaft has been upgraded here to a swank midtown apartment from his Greenwich Village pad. As in Shaft’s Big Score! he drives a car rather than traveling the city by cab. He also dresses more stylishly. Where Shaft and Shaft’s Big Score! had a linking continuity in terms of look, feel and writing, Shaft in Africa is presented as a fresh take on the character. This is facilitated by the employment of a new crew and director, the lack of involvement of creator Ernest Tidyman and the change of location. Silliphant and producer Lewis were both involved in the earlier films, but here they look to put their own mark on the series. Somehow they managed to lose the interest of many fans of the first two movies along the way.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Jazar (neda Arneric) is held at gunpoint by Shaft (Richard Roundtree) in Shaft in Africa (1973).

Technically the film is polished, well directed and with a plot that maintains interest. The early scenes, set in New York, create a nice, albeit tenuous, link to the first two films. The bulky mid-section as Shaft tracks the slavers through Africa is well shot and the most violent. The use of real African locations certainly adds a sense of authenticity. The later scenes set on the streets and outskirts of Paris build nicely to the climax. The cast is good with the standout performances coming from Roundtree and the teenage Neda Arneric, who is beguiling in her nymphet role. Veteran Brit, Frank Finlay, is one-dimensional as the chief villain with the script giving him little to get his teeth into outside of his sadistic activities. Vonetta McGee features heavily early on and in the finale, but contributes little more to the role than the script gives her to work with, which isn’t a great deal—clumsy references to female circumcision notwithstanding. There is one outstanding scene between Roundtree and Jacques Herlin’s Parisian policeman, Perreau, where Shaft tears a strip off the policeman for the authorities seemingly turning a blind eye on the slave import trade. It is scenes like this that elevate the movie above much of the Blaxploitation output of the day and serve to demonstrate Shaft’s inner drive.

10. Shaft in Africa (173)


Composer Johnny Pate provides some excellent sequences based on a mix of funk, jazz and African rhythms. The Four Tops contribute the sprightly song “Are You Man Enough?” over the main titles and the soundtrack album remains keenly sought out to this day. Despite the film’s many strong qualities as an action thriller, the attempt to turn Shaft into a mainstream jet-setting hero left fans of the first two movies cold. As a result the series would be consigned to TV, where Shaft returned to his PI roots in New York. But that series would have its own problems.

Critical Reaction Like Shaft’s Big Score! this movie received a mixed reaction from the critics on release as typified by these review extracts: “We are now into the third instalment of John Shaft’s adventures. But if the original Shaft was Saturday night, the latest sequel, John Guillermin’s Shaft in Africa, has become by some benign process, inescapably Saturday afternoon.… It is still good—quite surprisingly good—fairly violent and very sexy. But it is less daring, less ethnically sophisticated, more antiseptic, more comfortably middle-class.”—Roger Greenspun, New York Times, 21 June 173 “Shaft in Africa is not as entertaining as the previous two, nor does Roundtree seem to have the same degree of black superdude personality, but the film looks nice, there’s an ample amount of action and the Four Tops provide the background music.”—Fred Wright, The Evening Independent, 7 July 173 “This Shaft film is the slickest, most international, and possibly least heavily ethnic-orientated of all the Shaft adventures. Like Bond, however, Shaft does not bear too close inspection or he will be found out to be the comic book hero he really is.”—J. Oliver Prescott, St. Petersburg Times,  July 173 “Shaft in Africa is boring at best, ridiculous at worst. The only redeeming feature in this colossally trite film by MGM is its potentially topical theme.”— Alex Angioli, The Montreal Gazette, 28 July 173 “Script, from the Ernest Tidyman character trove, is surprisingly good…. McGee is Grant’s daughter with whom Roundtree eventually connects, though her character is most awkwardly interwoven in the script.”—Variety “The wisecracks are still dutifully tripped out, and Shaft himself is obliged to fill the gaps between the action by furnishing the myth of black potency. It’s surprising that Roundtree, like Connery in the Bond films (and the similarities between the two series don’t end there, in spite of Shaft’s protests that he’s no James Bond), manages to conduct himself with some dignity through all the surrounding debris.”—Time Out “A beautifully paced intercontinental thriller that is very watchable and good fun, even with its extraneous dollops of kinky and clinical sex…. Like the original this sequel is ethnic rather than racist and is simply the stuff of entertainment.”—Judith Crist, New York Magazine


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Notes/Trivia • Filming locations include: Addis Ababa, Arba Mich, Harrar, Massawa, Eritrea in Ethiopia; New York City, New York, USA; Paris, France; Spain. • Shaft uses the following firearms during the course of the film: (1) Luger P08–After a hit-man is killed, Shaft takes his pistol and uses it throughout the rest of the film; (2) Star Z45–One of Amafi’s men in the Paris apartment fires at Shaft with a Star Z45 submachine gun. After killing him, Shaft takes the gun and uses it for the showdown with Amafi; (3) Arminius HW-4 Snub nose–Shaft uses the Snub nose in the opening to fire at Oziot (Frank McRae), with a bulletproof vest stopping the bullets.

DVD Releases Region 1 (U.S.)—June 6, 2000 Extras: 3 theatrical trailers. Region 2 (UK)—March 5 2001 Extras: As Region 1 release.

Soundtrack Released: June 173; Recorded: 173; Label: ABC Records ABCX 73 (U.S.)/ ABCL 5035 (UK); Producer: Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert, Brian Potter Track listing: You Can’t Even Walk in the Park–2:32/Are You Man Enough (Main Title)–2:12 (written by Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter, performed by The Four Tops)/Aleme Finds Shaft–1:33/Shaft in Africa (Addis)–3:03/Headman– 2:15/El Jardia–3:02/Are You Man Enough–3:22 (written by Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter, performed by The Four Tops)/Jazar’s Theme–1:35/Truck Stop–2:17/Aleme’s Theme–2:1/El Jardia (Reprise)–1:43/Are You Man Enough (End Title)–0:43 (written by Dennis Lambert/Brian Potter, performed by The Four Tops) Musicians: arranger, composer, conductor: Johnny Pate; vocals: Levi Stubbs, The Four Tops, Renaldo Benson, Abdul Fakir, Lawrence Payton; keyboards: Lawrence Payton; bass: Wilton Felder.

11. The Shaft TV Series (173–4) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television Production; CBS (Tuesdays :30–11:00 p.m. ET); 7 episodes × 74 mins Regular Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft); Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi). Executive Producer: Allan Balter; producer: William Read Woodfield; based on the character created by Ernest Tidyman; music: Johnny Pate/theme music: Isaac Hayes; associate producer: Dann Cahn; production assistant: Fiseha Dimetros; music supervisor: Harry V. Lojewski; photography: Keith C. Smith, Michael Hugo (35mm, Metrocolor, 1.33:1); Art Directors: Bill Ross, Jack Poplin, Edward C. Carfagno; set decorators: Richard Friedman, Raymond Paul; sound: Bob Miller, Hal Watkins (mono); hairdresser: Billie Jordan; editors: George Folsey, Jr., Pete Kirby, Mark Hendry; make up: Jack Wilson; costumes: Norman Burza, Sylvia Liggett (Mr. Roundtree’s Clothes: Botany 500); unit production manager: Phil Rawlins; assistant directors: William McGarry, Robert Enrietto; casting: Shelley Ellison; property master: Fred Chapman; still sequences: John Bryson; © 173/4, MGM

EPISODES Title “The Executioners” “The Killing” “Hit-Run” “The Kidnapping” “Cop Killer” “The Capricorn Murders” “The Murder Machine”

Prod Code/Copyright

Broadcast Date

3807/LP43278 (3808?)/LP43275 (380?)/LP43276 3806/LP43277 3811/LP43268 3812/LP43271 (3810?)/LP43318

 October 173 30 October 173 20 November 173 11 December 173 1 January 174 2 January 174 1 February 174

“Shaft on TV makes Barnaby Jones look like Eldridge Cleaver,” was the verdict of critic Cecil Smith of the Los Angeles Times after viewing the opening of “The Executioners.” He followed with: “In the movies, Roundtree created a flamboyant black James Bond, whisking through exotic dangers draped by shimmering females like the stocking counter at a bargain sale. He was all fringed leather and gleaming ornaments. The TV Shaft by comparison is the private eye in the grey flannel suit.”1 18


Part III: Shaft on Screen

This is perhaps an overly harsh judgment on the series as a whole but was typical of contemporary critics’ comments on the TV version of Shaft. The series lasted only seven feature-length episodes as it rotated with James Stewart’s country lawyer show Hawkins and the standalone CBS TV movie on a Tuesday night over five months. The producers deemed that the toning down of the John Shaft character was necessary to make him palatable for a prime-time TV audience. Richard Roundtree, who received $30,000 per episode, commented at the time in an interview with Dick Adler for TV Guide, “The fans of the Shaft movies have got to realize you can’t put that John Shaft on TV. If you edited any of those three movies for television, you’d end up with about fifteen minutes.” Producer William Read Woodfield echoed Roundtree’s comments in the same article, “Our job was to make all of America accept a black leading man.” Executive producer Allan Balter added, “Everyone agreed from the start that Shaft had to win and keep a broad cross-section of the audience, only a very small percentage of which has ever seen the films.”2 Woodfield and Read were a successful writing and production partnership with a strong back catalogue on U.S. TV—most notably Mission: Impossible. They were, however, an unlikely duo to take on Shaft. They had mainly worked as writers in the fantasy arena with scripts for Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Balter would also later go on to produce episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man. Their pedigree suggested they were not the ideal choice to produce a hard-hitting show about a black private detective with attitude. News that Shaft was to move to TV started to circulate in October 172 with Roundtree initially reported as signing for a series of hour- long episodes.3 He committed to the series seeing it as an opportunity to command a stronger fee, which would ultimately help him pro gress into other roles. In the deal arranged with CBS, Shaft Productions (Tidyman, Roger Lewis and Stirling Silliphant) would receive 10 percent of MGM’s share of the net profits.4 CBS finally confirmed on 3 April 173 that they had commissioned Publicity photograph of Richard from MGM Television a series of TV mov Roundtree for the Shaft television ies. In a press release Harris L Katleman, series. vice-president of MGM Television stated,

11. The Shaft TV Series


“We intend the television series to have the same innovative elements that captured the imaginations of the films’ movie audiences.” 5 The statement showed good intent, but the TV censors would never allow the real John Shaft to impose himself on prime-time audiences across America. The earliest scripts developed were “The Kidnapping” and “The Executioners.” The scripts, which were both written by Woodfield and Balter as potential opening episodes, were readied in July 173. While “The Kidnapping” was the first script into production and indeed the episode was chosen to be previewed, it was “The Executioners” that actually became the premiere episode on  October 173. The story, concerning Shaft’s tracking down a group of respectable citizens acting as vigilantes, was chosen deliberately to warm TV audiences up to the character and therefore softened many of the elements that made the character a hit with movie audiences. Woodfield said “He had to be liked enough so that in our second show, where we had a white man say, ‘I don’t take orders from niggers,’ all of America could say, ‘Why is that man talking that way to my friend John Shaft.’”6 Indeed, later stories would see a slight shift back in tone toward the more abrasive side of John Shaft, but most of the underwhelmed critics only watched and critiqued the opener, so the damage was done. “The Executioners” was certainly tame compared to the three movies and Roundtree is dressed in a number of expensive suits throughout the episode rather than the more worn suits and the leather outfits seen in his movie portrayal. The lasting judgment of this sanitized TV version of Shaft made by many critics seems to be solely based on this episode. Roundtree himself finally voiced his concerns late in production in an interview with Variety: “What they did in TV was to strip him of all these characteristics that made him successful in films. They say ‘you have to calm him down.’ I say yes but you don’t have to castrate him…. I’m not satisfied with the TV Shaft. My only hope is that we will get closer to that movie Shaft. In the last couple of shows my character is changing. It’s a more relaxed character.”7 Almost as if to balance this “The Killing,” was pushed out to be the second broadcast episode and showed a much more abrasive portrayal from Roundtree and a script that pitches Shaft against two hardened pimps who have roughed up an ex-girlfriend. Themes of prostitution mixed with racist slurs being thrown at Shaft showed a more daring approach to the production. In general the scripts written by Ellis Marcus and to some extent Ken Kolb tended to be closer in spirit to the movies than those written by the producers. This showed Woodfield and Balter’s lack of understanding of what had originally made the character and Roundtree’s portrayal so popular. Shaft’s seductive skill with women is seen in “Hit-Run,” his arrogant attitude to authority in “Cop Killer” and his moral anger is well demonstrated in “The


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Killing.” By Woodfield’s series finale, “The Murder Machine,” one can accept Shaft’s dorky friend when his murder provides the basis for Shaft to set himself up as bait for the assassin on a mission of revenge. Even “The Capricorn Murders” could have been written from a template for one of the novels with its tale built around a failing businessman’s desperation and greed resulting in a series of shootings and murders. To merely write the TV version of Shaft off in the way most contemporary critics and TV historians have done based on that opening episode, therefore, does not reflect the relatively stronger quality of the series as a whole. Richard Roundtree’s confident portrayal gets sporadically close, albeit not often enough, to his big screen interpretation in a number of episodes. Yes, his close friendship with Lt. Al Rossi of NYPD’s 21st Precinct is warmer than the one he had with Lt Vic Anderozzi in both the books and in the 171 film. And yes, he seems to have a succession of white middle-class friends and clients. But he also has contacts and informants who are hookers, manufacture explosive bullets for handguns and run illegal gambling books or numbers rackets. In the early 170s U.S. TV was still highly conservative and the violence and sex had to be kept to a minimum and contained within the boundaries of what the broadcasters deemed as good taste. John Shaft in the books and movies has much casual sex and although this is hinted in the series—particularly in “The Kidnapping,” “Hit-Run” and “Cop Killer”—we only ever see him in bed alone. The shootouts are regular, but we never see much blood. The beatings are there too, but, as in “The Killing,” they are edited to be inferred rather than being graphically depicted as they were in the three films. Echoing Shaft in Africa, Shaft has moved to a swank high-rise apartment in midtown Manhattan—no. 1207 at 2160 East 67th Street according to the NYC telephone directory seen in “The Murder Machine.” The apartment seems to be based around a pool table and breakfast bar. He has no office in the series and sees his clients in his apartment—indeed, even in the three movies we only ever see Shaft’s office in the very first. He also owns a car here, a 173 Dodge Charger, which is something he didn’t have in the books or the first movie. Ernest Tidyman had no involvement in the development and writing of the series, despite continuing to write the books alongside it. He had quickly become disillusioned with the way his character had been portrayed on both the big and small screen and soon after announced he would kill off Shaft in The Last Shaft. There was one other regular character in the series—NYPD Lt. Al Rossi, played by Ed Barth (real name Ed Bartholetti). Born in Philadelphia and of Italian descent, Barth was more famous as a voice-over artist in TV commercials from the late 160s to the early 180s—notably in the Ajax cleanser, Miller-

11. The Shaft TV Series


lite beer, Alka Seltzer and Holiday Inn ads. He had embarked on his acting career aged 23 when invited by the director of the Abbey Theatre in Roxburgh to become part of the company. His first role was as the junkman, Harry Brock, in Born Yesterday. In 156 he moved to New York and worked with acting coach Stella Adler. There he mainly appeared in off–Broadway shows but failed to attract attention, so in 161 he moved to California. He took on a number of jobs, including bookmaker and gas station operator, but finally started getting regular acting jobs from 167. In 171 he appeared briefly as one of the hoods guarding the kidnapped Marcy Jonas in the original Shaft movie. Johnny Pate, who had provided an excellent score for Shaft in Africa, was hired to write the music for the seven TV movies. Original scores were written for the first three, partial scores for the next two, while cues from those episodes were used for the final two. “The one thing I remember about the Shaft TV scoring was the fun I had with Isaac Hayes’ original tune,”8 recalled Pate. The original scores were recorded as close as two weeks before transmission of the episodes. A sad note during filming of the series was the death of Roundtree’s stunt double and long-time friend, Richard Austin, in a car crash. Austin had also worked on Shaft in Africa. Initially hopeful of a second season, following a decent showing in the ratings, CBS finally announced on 20 April 174 that the show had been cancelled.

Critical Reaction The series received largely negative reviews from the press on broadcast and retrospective reviewers have been similarly dismissive: “Mr. Shaft has plenty to do, but somehow the people he does things to seem more interesting than he is. The only other regular on the show, Shaft’s friend, police lieutenant Al Rossi … is also on the stereotypical side. The result is that each episode must depend almost entirely on the guest stars and the plot. And so far the plots have been, at best, only fair to muddling.”—Cleveland Amory, TV Guide, 2 December 173 “It has two things in common with the movie. Richard Roundtree, a fine actor, still plays Shaft. And the theme music is the same. Any other resemblance to the original is purely coincidental.” —Jay Sharbutt, Gettysburgh Times,  October 173 “Someone had taken the funk out of the orchestration and erased the suggestive lyrics of the [original] theme. Richard Roundtree, the actor who had portrayed him in the films, was hired, but that was all. The skin was there but the soul was gone.”—Richard Myers, TV Detective, 181 “For the most part, the CBS Shaft is a typically slow-paced and procedureoriented ’70s mystery-drama, and rarely makes that big a deal out of its main character’s race, which is odd, given that Roundtree was the first black lead


Part III: Shaft on Screen of a regular prime-time detective show.”—Noel Murray, A.V. Club,  November 2011 “Sure, Roundtree was still Shaft, but it seemed like someone had stolen his edge and replaced it with cotton candy.”—Jason Serafino, The 10 Worst TV Shows Inspired by Movies, 28 June 2012

DVD Releases Region Free (U.S.)—Warner Archive. Burn-on-demand DVD-R was released on 13 September 2011.

Episode 1: “The Executioners” Production Code: 3807; Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday  October 173; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter; Director: John Llewellyn Moxey Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Robert Culp (Marshal Cunningham), Richard Jaeckel (Det. Sgt. Turner), Kaz Garas (Gerald Fell), Barbara Babcock (Jane Cunningham), Dean Jagger (Judge McCormick), Judie Stein (Laura Parks), Richard Lawson (Don Lewis), Noah Keen (Charles Dawson), Michael Gregory (Bobby), Charles Boyd (Gordon Dana), Maurice Hill (Walter Anderson), Harv Selsby (Stan Burgess), Jeanne Sorel (Dr. Connors), Diana Webster (Sister Elizabeth), Rafael Campos (Juan Otero), Peter Elbling (Numbers), Melissa Sue Anderson (Cathy).

Synopsis When a lawyer friend and his client are fished out of the river, Shaft discovers they are the latest in a line of similar murders that have stumped NYPD Lt. Al Rossi for months. In each case the victims, with the exception of Shaft’s friend, are individuals of bad repute who escaped prosecution. Shaft’s investigation leads him to Marshal Cunningham whose mentally affected wife’s rapist was murdered after being acquitted. After visiting Cunningham’s wife, Shaft is gunned down and briefly hospitalized. On release Shaft stakes out Cunningham believing that he and a group of vigilantes, made up of prominent citizens, are behind the deaths.

Production The premiere episode was the second into production. The first 81-page draft script was produced on 24 July 173, and in its portrayal of Shaft was perhaps the furthest away from Ernest Tidyman’s creation of any of the TV episodes. This was a deliberate strategy by Woodfield and Balter, who felt the

11. The Shaft TV Series


prime-time TV audience needed to warm to the character of John Shaft. As a result there was a considerable dampening of Shaft’s more abrasive personality traits. This toning down of the character led to criticism from fans and TV critics alike. The producers also hired a strong guest cast for this episode, perhaps a further attempt to create a feeling of familiarity for the viewers. These included veteran actor Dean Jagger—best known for the film Bad Day at Black Rock (155) and the TV series Mr. Novak (163–5). Robert Culp, who had been a regular on TV in the series I Spy (165–8), where he partnered Bill Cosby, played the leader of the vigilante group and is the only character provided with any motivation for his actions. Culp was a well-known and well-respected actor who also had a number of guest appearances on Columbo. Other familiar faces included Richard Jaeckel, Kaz Garas and Barbara Babcock. Another TV veteran, the trusted John Llewellyn Moxey (also a regular on Woodfield and Balter’s Mission: Impossible), was hired to direct.

Comment Many of the criticisms leveled at the TV series as a whole—notably the dilution of Shaft’s anti-establishment attitude, sexual appetite and violent approach to solving crimes—originate here. The trouble begins with Woodfield and Balter’s script, which is a generic and derivative vigilante tale—the twist here is the vigilantes are well-respected citizens. With the exception of Culp’s character, very little depth or motivation is given to the remaining members of this group leading the viewer to wonder how they all got together in the first place. The real problem, however, is the bland approach to the character of John Shaft. The script makes no reference to the character in the books or the one seen on the big screen. Richard Roundtree tries his best to make it feel like John Shaft—mostly through his physical portrayal—but the simple fact is he is given no material to work with and it could have been any detective hero tracking down the killers. Expensive suits, a swank midtown apartment, white middle-class friends and a relaxed attitude to the police are all designed to make John Shaft “respectable,” but they merely serve to dilute the characteristics that made the character popular. That said the episode does have some positives. Robert Culp is a consummate professional and brings some class to his portrayal of what is largely a two-dimensional character given simplistic motivations. The story moves along at a decent rate and despite a number of stretches of credulity—not least the premise that respectable citizens would set up a kangaroo court— it is moderately entertaining on its own terms, if not particularly original.


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It’s just not Shaft. Another plus is the hiring of Johnny Pate, who scored Shaft in Africa, to write the music for the episode and series. He liberally uses Isaac Hayes’ theme throughout the episode to good effect in trying to create a link to the original movie. As a premiere, however, the episode really is a summation of the compromise producers Woodfield and Balter spoke of in wanting to make the character palatable to a wide American audience. The part they wrote for Roundtree highlighted that compromise and attracted disapproval from fans and the critics alike.

Critical Reaction Being the premiere episode “The Executioners” garnered significant attention from expectant TV critics eager to see how the character would be treated on the small screen. The response was almost universally negative with most critics pointing to the dilution of the John Shaft character and the lackluster plot: “The dialogue is tepid, the plot tried and true; and the performances are one and all pure stereotype…. One wonders why Richard Roundtree allows himself to be so suppressed in his TV role.”—Fred Wright, The Evening Independent,  October 173 “The only redeeming element in the show, aside from Roundtree, is cast regular, Ed Barth…. Alas, he and the others are caught in brisk but very bad script that leaps about faster than a flute player’s upper lip during the William Tell Overture and with far less effect.”—Jay Sharbutt, Gettysburgh Times,  October 173 “Though bland, the story did have its good moments…. There were moments when Roundtree’s considerable charisma slipped through the TV code corset imposes on his character, and the only time he came close to his head-whipping screen self were in the closing scenes with a daring jump through a window. Besides that there was much mediocrity in the premiere.”—M. Cordell Thompson, Jet, 1 November, 173 “…a 14-carat ring-a-ding thriller…. But it is also undeniable that Red Skelton could have played Shaft and gotten away with it, given the same script, cast and production values.”—Wade H. Mosby, The Milwaukee Journal,  October 173 “It’s more than terrible, it’s a waste of time. There are lots more fun things to do with the 90 minutes—watch the grass grow, count dog hairs in the carpet, read a good comic book….”—The St. Petersburg (Florida) Independent,  October 173

Notes • The episode is also known as The Enforcers in some territories. • The episode achieved the highest rating for a new show in its season.

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Episode 2: “The Killing” Production Code: (3808?); Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 30 October 173; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: Ellis Marcus; Director: Nicholas Colasanto Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Ja’net Dubois (Diana Richie), Leonard Frey (Kyle Bruckner), Michael Ansara (Sgt. Duff ), Michael Pataki (Sonny Bruckner), Ron Soble (Archie McGill), Henry Beckman (Stanley Hollister), Jared Martin (Victor Perrine), Val Avery (Captain Rigano), Jack Bernardi (Judge Weinberg), Vito Scotti (Charley), Louis Guss (Jack Benjamin), Royce Wallace (Mrs. Richie), Albert Popwell (Logan), Jacque Lynne Colton (Selma Thomas), Michael Fox (Judge Graves), Lou Kane (Iggie).

Synopsis Diana Richie, an ex-girlfriend of Shaft, is badly beaten and ends up in hospital. She has become a prostitute and her pimp, Sonny Bruckner, and his strongarm brother, Kyle, are responsible for the beating. Shaft takes Diana under his protection and finds her a new job and apartment. Later when the pair are out for dinner they come across Sonny and in the car park Sonny confronts Shaft who retaliates with a heavy punch. When Sonny is later found murdered Shaft is arrested and his alibi, Diana, has mysteriously disappeared.

Production Following the negative reaction to “The Executioners,” the next problem for the show was that viewers had to wait three weeks for the second episode, with the series revolving with James Stewart’s courtroom drama Hawkins and The Tuesday Night Movie. “The Killing” was a much stronger episode and the story, which had elements of racial tension and a much tougher characterization of John Shaft in its script, may have been placed to counter-balance the premiere. Indeed this, or “The Kidnapping”—which had been moved to the fourth slot, would have made a far better premiere episode. Scripting duties fell to Ellis Marcus, who had worked with Balter and Woodfield on some episodes of Mission: Impossible and also wrote “The Capricorn Murders” later in the series. Initial scripts were developed under the title Murder One—referencing the charge against Shaft made in the episode. Experienced actor/director Nicholas Colasanto was hired to direct. The talented actress Ja’Net DuBois was the chief guest star. She had appeared in a number of plays on Broadway during the 160s and would later become co-founder of the Pan African Film & Arts Festival. She was also a


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talented musician and co-wrote and sung the theme tune to the TV series The Jeffersons in 175. Leonard Frey, who had appeared in the 171 musical movie Fiddler on the Roof, was the main heavy. Other guests included TV regulars Michael Ansara, Jared Martin, Michael Pataki and Val Avery. Also

Shaft (Richard Roundtree, right) and Lieutenant Al Rossi (Ed Barth) from the episode “The Killing,” which aired on 30 October 1973.

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appearing was Albert Popwell, a regular in Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films, in the role of a pimp.

Comment This episode is a big improvement on “The Executioners,” primarily because writer Marcus seems to have a better understanding of the Shaft character than the producers themselves. His script provides Shaft with a personal stake in the story—protecting an ex-girlfriend and then attempting to clear himself of a murder charge. Roundtree has much more to get his teeth into here and there are a number of times when the Shaft of the movies cuts through—notably in the exchanges with pimps Sonny Bruckman (played by Pataki) and his brother Kyle (Frey). There are also elements of racism to spice the pot—causing Shaft to use his fists leading to him being framed for Sonny’s murder. DuBois is well cast as the vulnerable and mentally fragile Diana Richie, Shaft’s ex-girlfriend, who has descended into alcoholism and life on the streets. There are even hints of a drug habit. The scenes involving Roundtree, DuBois, Pataki and Frey give the episode its edge. Unfortunately the courtroom scenes are pure standard TV fare and their blandness blunts the impact of the stronger scenes in the episode. Jared Martin is almost hysterical at times as the over-forceful prosecutor. Fortunately his performance is balanced by the more considered approach of Henry Beckman as Shaft’s defense counsel. The other strong, if brief, performance is that of Val Avery as Captain Rigano. His antagonism toward Shaft and Rossi adds some welcome needle to the scenes in the Precinct house, which for most of the series seem a little too cozy, and it’s a shame he would only appear in this episode. Rossi’s friendship with Shaft is challenged by Rigano and this does create some tension between him and Shaft. The plot itself is more believable than its predecessor and the script is more engaging as a result. The episode is not without its issues, however. Contrivances, such as Rossi bailing Shaft; the obvious trigger clue from the mention of plaster on the victim’s fingernail by the pathologist and the ease with which Shaft finds Diana by just happening to drive past as she is being abducted all seem a little convenient. But on the whole this is a commendable episode that repaired much of the damage done by “The Executioners.”

Notes • The episode retained its working title of Murder One in some areas.


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Episode 3: “Hit-Run” Production Code: (380?); Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 20 November 173; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: Ken Kolb; Director: Harry Harris Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Tony Curtis (Clifford Grayson), Howard Duff (Tom Oliver), Percy Rodrigues (Marcus Lowell), Judy Pace (Ann Lowell), Anthony Geary (David Oliver), Don Matheson (Paul Hanson), Nicky Blair (Harris), Jason Wingreen (Jacquard), Pat Delaney (Mona), Paula Shaw (Secretary), Ted Jordan (Pit Boss), Philip Chapin (Blair).

Synopsis Shaft is hired to help David Oliver, who is accused of killing debt collector Eddie Simmons in a hit-run with a stolen car. Shaft meets Eddie’s boss Clifford Grayson, who owns the private casino where Simmons worked and his interest is piqued when Grayson warns him off the case. Shaft also follows a lead to the owner of the stolen car, Marcus Lowell, but comes up empty of any clues. A witness later shows up claiming to have seen David driving the car that killed Eddie, but Shaft forces him to admit he has lied. Shaft, now suspecting Grayson to be the real killer, devises a plan to infiltrate Grayson’s operation.

Production The script for the third episode was written by Ken Kolb. He was a versatile and prolific writer for both small and big screen. His best known movie screenplay was the fantasy adventure The 7th Voyage of Sinbad in 158. He also contributed a number of episodes to the TV crime drama series Dragnet and the western series Have Gun—Will Travel. Directing duties went to Harry Harris, another veteran of TV who had worked with the Woodfield and Balter on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Guest heavy was screen-idol Tony Curtis, star of many of Hollywood’s biggest movies of the 150s and 160s and who had portrayed The Boston Strangler in the controversial 168 movie. Other guests included such familiar TV names as Howard Duff (best remembered for the series Felony Squad), Percy Rodrigues and Don Matheson (Land of the Giants). Judy Pace, who had appeared in 170s Cotton Comes to Harlem, was a brief love interest for Shaft in this episode. She went on to form the Kwanzaa Foundation with Star Trek actress Nichelle Nichols.

Comment The third episode broadcast falls somewhere between the first two in terms of approach and quality. Firstly the portrayal of John Shaft is again

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much closer to that seen in both the films and books than in the season opener. Roundtree has some good moments here that capture the essence of his no-nonsense characterization on the big screen. Notable amongst these are his barbed exchanges with Curtis’ Cliff Grayson. Curtis is an actor who likes to hog the screen, but Roundtree sparks off this and there is genuine tension in their scenes together. The plot is nothing special and there are some twists that are not hard to predict. The story loses some credibility toward its finale as we cannot buy Grayson’s sudden trust in Shaft as an employee, which leads to him showing Shaft the security system to his secret casino. This enables Shaft to set-up Grayson’s arrest through a raid by Rossi (posing undercover as a colorful gambler) and the NYPD. The episode, though, is well-directed on the whole and moves along at a decent clip. Rodrigues conveys the right amount of dignity and pride in his role and Judy Pace provides Roundtree’s Shaft with a doe-eyed love interest—Shaft’s regularity in exercising his libido was something that would be missing from most of the episodes. Other performances are standard TV fare with Duff and Geary particularly stiff as the father and son who are driven apart by the generation gap. Each of the first five episodes benefited from full or partial scores by Johnny Pate and they carry a stronger identity as a result. Again Pate uses Isaac Hayes’ theme to good effect throughout. In all this is a solid episode that showed the series had promise and that Roundtree was trying hard to create a link between his big and small screen portrayal of John Shaft.

Episode 4: “The Kidnapping” Production Code: 3806; Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 11 December 173; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter; Director: Alexander Singer Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Paul Burke (Elliot Williamson), Karen Carlson (Nancy Williamson), Vic Brandt (Leo), Timothy Scott (Hayden), Frank Marth (Sheriff Bradley), Nicholas Beauvy (Matthew Potter), Greg Mullavey (Beck), Jayne Kennedy (Debbie), Philip Kenneally (Deputy Waiter), Erik Holland (Deputy Daley), Frank Whiteman (Deputy Milton), Stephen Coit (Mr. Tolliver), Richard Stahl (father), Joseph Petrullo (cab driver), Robert Casper (Man in Bank).

Synopsis Three kidnappers, disguised as black men, break into banker Elliott Wil liamson’s house in a small upstate town then kidnap his wife and leave the


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banker bound and gagged. They demand a ransom of $250,000 be delivered by John Shaft the next day. Williamson contacts Shaft who uses Williamson’s car to drive out into the country and await telephone instructions to deliver the ransom money. A local deputy sheriff becomes suspicious and pulls Shaft over. He refuses to accept Shaft’s explanation, so Shaft overpowers him and goes on the run. In a race against time to meet the kidnappers and rescue Williamson’s wife, Shaft enlists the help of a farmer’s teenage son.

Production Although broadcast fourth in sequence, this was actually the first episode filmed for the TV series. The 77-page script had an original draft dated 18 July 173 with revisions of 26 July through 6 August. Additionally, the outof-town location filming was completed ahead of the studio inserts. This is confirmed by the length of Roundtree’s afro, where it is consistent with the rest of the series for the early scene with Rossi set in Shaft’s apartment compared to the shorter version seen in the location footage—Roundtree had gone into the filming of the series shortly after the completion of promotion work for Shaft in Africa. The edited reprise of the Brooklyn dockyard helicopter chase from the end of Shaft’s Big Score! provided an overt link to the movie series. This sequence gives the episode a dynamic opening, which the rest of the story would never be able to match due to the limitations of its budget. The episode was also issued in advance of the series broadcast date as a preview for reviewers at TV Guide, America’s major TV magazine. A later decision was made to switch the running order and move “The Executioners” up to become the premiere episode. The guest cast is drawn from familiar seasoned TV regulars such as Frank Marth, who guested on many major shows through the 160s and 170s, and Paul Burke—a regular in Naked City and 12 O’Clock High. The lovely Karen Carlson, who had appeared opposite Robert Redford in 172’s The Candidate and more recently has become a documentary filmmaker, was cast as Burke’s kidnapped wife. Nicholas Beauvy, who had appeared in the John Wayne western The Cowboys, played the teenage Matthew Potter, who helps Shaft evade capture. Vic Brandt, who had starred in the TV series Gomer Pyle: USMC from 166–8, was cast as the leader of the kidnappers. The lithesome Jayne Kennedy (a former Miss Ohio) provided some brief love interest for Shaft at the beginning of the episode, but unfortunately was not seen again. Alexander Singer was hired to direct. Singer was a highly respected and versatile TV director who had worked with Balter and Woodfield on five

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episodes of Mission: Impossible. He also directed numerous episodes of The Fugitive, The Monkees, Run for Your Life and Alias Smith and Jones.

Comment This is a lively episode and despite the criticisms leveled at the series as a whole there is much here to suggest Shaft is not too far removed from his big screen and literary equivalent. The reprise of the helicopter chase from Shaft’s Big Score! as the episode’s opening sequence provides a clear link to the film character, despite the fact it is used in a different context here. Shaft is also in the process of seducing the shapely young Debbie (Jayne Kennedy) when the call from Williamson comes through—although the screen and literary John Shaft would more likely have simply ignored the phone or hung up rather than go to meet the banker. Where we do start to see differences are in Shaft’s relationship with the NYPD. In the books his relationship with Lt. Vic Anderozzi is one based on mutual respect, but is never seen as anything other than a necessity on both parts. Their verbal duels were based on competitive one-upmanship. However, Shaft’s relationship with Lt. Al Rossi is much warmer. Shaft has even attended the annual police dance—something he would never have done in the books—winning a set of golf clubs in the raffle, which he duly lets Rossi have. Rossi says to Sheriff Bradley that Shaft is one of the best PI’s he knows— something Anderozzi would never have admitted. Another criticism leveled at the series is that it is merely a black actor reading a white man’s part. That criticism ignores the racial undercurrents in this story. There is Williamson’s obvious mistrust of blacks fuelled by the fact he believes his wife’s abductors to be black. The mere fact that Shaft is black is what pulls him into the case in the first place. Then there is the bigoted small-town deputy who tries to take Shaft in, not believing his story that he has permission to drive Williamson’s car. These elements are central to Woodfield and Balter’s plot. The accusations of toned down violence ignore the use of the dockyard shootout footage from Shaft’s Big Score! The case is also resolved with another shootout, this time on a golf course—although it is admittedly less impressively staged with the scenes shot at night proving difficult to follow, but they do manage to create a certain amount of tension. The episode is well directed by TV veteran Alexander Singer and while Woodfield and Balter’s script is also solid, much more so than “The Executioners,” it also contains a number of plot conveniences—such as Shaft finding the walkie-talkie and the out of town APB bulletin for Shaft just happening to land on Rossi’s desk. There is liberal use of Isaac Hayes’ ground-breaking


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theme and Johnny Pate provides a strong original score—at this stage relying less on the standard cues that would be used more extensively in later episodes. The scoring of the reprise Brooklyn shipyard helicopter chase is different to Gordon Parks’ original score from the movie and is particularly strong. Then there is Richard Roundtree himself, reprising his signature role. Obviously on prime-time TV in the early 170s, profanity was a “no go” area, but there is still a swagger to Roundtree’s performance that lifts Shaft above many of the staple TV detectives of the time. There is even time for Shaft to reflect on a relationship gone wrong. Although there is no further detail on this, it potentially refers to Diana Richie—the old flame we meet in “The Killing.” While “The Kidnapping” is little more than standard TV fare, individual elements lift it above other more modest entries in the TV series and it is frequently shown as the opening episode in syndicated runs in Germany.

Episode 5: “Cop Killer” Production Code: 3811; Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 1 January 174; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: Ken Kolb; Director: Lee Phillips Cast: Richard Roundtree (John shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), George Maharis (Larry Doyle), James A. Watson, Jr. (Officer Jerry Tyler), Richard Schaal (Tom Donegan), Arch Johnson (Brock), Kim Hamilton (Marcia), Talyn Ferro (Eve), Darren McGavin (Capt. Brewster), Mitzi Hoag (Helen Rossi), Eugene Elman (Dr. Meyer), Maxwell Gail, Jr. (Tony), Joe George (Marks), Peter Cannon (Cargill).

Synopsis Shaft is asked by a former high school classmate to help her husband, Police Officer Jerry Tyler, who has been accused of taking bribes. Although Shaft accepts Tyler’s story of being framed by bar owner Larry Doyle and his stooge, Brock, he declines the case but offers to seek help from the police. Shaft manages to persuade Lt Al Rossi to look into Tyler’s case by taking a temporary transfer to internal affairs. When Rossi is later badly wounded in a drive-by shooting, Shaft makes the case personal. Information supplied by former cop, Tom Donegan, helps Shaft to infiltrate Doyle’s car theft ring in order to find the answers.

Production For this episode Balter and Woodfield again used Ken Kolb, the writer of “Hit-Run,” to write the script. Kolb produced his 80-page final draft under

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the working title of The Meat Eaters on 2 October 173. Actor turned director Lee Phillips, another seasoned TV veteran, was brought in to direct the episode. The guest cast featured two big names in George Maharis and Darren McGavin. The charismatic Maharis, who was cast as the slimy villain Larry Doyle, was best known as the drifter Buzz Murdock from the TV series Route 66 (160–3). McGavin was one of the best actors working regularly on TV at the time and had starred in a number of hit series including Crime Photographer (151–2), Mike Hammer (158–), Riverboat (15–61) and The Outsider (168–) before enjoying a renaissance in the highly regarded Kolchak: The Night Stalker (174–5). Busy actor Richard Schaal was cast as the undercover cop Tom Donegan, while another familiar face, James A. Watson, Jr., portrayed the wrongly accused police officer, Jerry Tyler.

Comment This second episode scripted by Kolb is of similar quality and theme to his earlier “Hit-Run” and again has Shaft going undercover to expose the bad guys. This time Roundtree takes the opportunity to do some character acting, which lends the episode more depth. The plot itself is again fairly basic and suffers from occasional lapses in logic, but there is much to enjoy in the performances—notably Maharis’ charming heavy and McGavin’s prickly police captain. Roundtree and McGavin trade insults particularly well and it is good to see the tension they have in their early scenes together when Shaft is caught going through Rossi’s files after the lieutenant has been hospitalized by an attempted hit. Similarly, Shaft’s goading of Maharis and his humiliation of Maharis’ foot soldiers is amusing. Watson, Jr., makes for a sulky and sometimes annoying client, while Talyn Ferro is underutilized as the sexy singer at Maharis’ club, which is used as the front for his car theft operation. The rest of the support cast is adequate at best. Kim Hamilton’s character is interesting in that she physically resembles Ernest Tidyman’s description of Helen Green, Shaft’s friend and the wife to his accountant in the books. Her character, Marcia, is introduced as an old school friend of Shaft’s. Shaft comments on his struggle with algebra, conjuring up images of an upbringing that does not fit with his being passed around Harlem foster homes. This highlights the continued restrictions the producers set the writers in their attempt at trying to make Shaft appealing to a TV audiences. Roundtree again struggles manfully to get elements of his big screen characterization out, but is hampered by generic scripting and flat direction. That said, the warehouse finale in which Shaft rounds up the villains using


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a fork-lift truck amuses and is fairly nifty. It’s also good to see Shaft in a leather jacket again—despite the tailoring that went with it. In summary, this is an episode which ultimately fails to rise above the routine, but is enlivened by elements within the performances.

Episode 6: “The Capricorn Murders” Production Code: 3812; Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 2 January 174; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: Ellis Marcus; Director: Allen Reisner Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Don Knight (J.L. Teague), David Hedison (Gil Kirkwood), Arthur O’Connell (Frank Lucas), Cathy Lee Crosby (Joanna Kirkwood), Robert Phillips (Harry Praeger), Candice Rialson (Myrna), Thelma Pelish (Carol), Gil Perkins (Gunther), Jo Ella Deffenbaugh (Nicky), June Dayton (Bank Clerk), Dean Harens (Bank Officer).

Synopsis Hoping to escape to South America with $3 million in diamonds from his wife’s safe deposit box, Gil Kirkwood, a financier in deep corporate trouble, fakes his own death in a fire which was also meant to kill his wife. But when Joanna is rescued from the fire she hires Shaft, who has previously worked for her father, to investigate. J. L. Teague, Kirkwood’s business associate, uses a hitman named Harry Praeger to track down and kill Joanna, but the attempt fails when Shaft intervenes. Shaft is now on Teague’s trail but is suddenly confronted with three more homicides as the gang’s greed begins to consume them.

Production This episode saw Ellis Marcus provide his second contribution as writer, his earlier “The Killing” being one of the best of the series. The final draft of the script was delivered on 15 October 173. Another TV veteran, Allen Reisner, was brought in to direct. Reisner had worked on a number of episodes of Gunsmoke, The Green Hornet and Lancer. The guest cast included many familiar faces. David Hedison, who played the desperate Gil Kirkwood, was best known for his four-season stint in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, on which Balter and Woodfield also worked on a number of episodes as producer and writer. Hedison had just come off the back of his first appearance in a James Bond movie as Felix Leiter in Live and Let Die, which itself had been influenced by the Blaxploitation films that

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immediately followed Shaft. He went on to reprise the role in 18’s Licence to Kill. English actor Don Knight, cast as J.L. Teague, had guested on numerous series through the 60s and 70s and had a recurring role in the TV series The Immortal (16–71). Ex pro-footballer Robert Phillips, another TV veteran who had worked with the producers on some episodes of Mission: Impossible, was cast as the hit-man Praeger. Former athlete Cathy Lee Crosby played Hedison’s wife, Joanna Kirkwood. Crosby would later become the first Wonder Woman in a failed TV pilot, which was broadcast in March 174 and scripted by John D. F. Black, who had written the final screenplay for Gordon Parks’ Shaft. Crosby also dated Roundtree for the next four years, with whom she shared a love of tennis. They had previously met at a party hosted by Sidney Poitier. Finally, Candice Rialson has a brief role as Hedison’s mistress, Myrna. Rialson became well-known for her roles on the low-rent B-movie circuit in productions such as Mama’s Dirty Girls, Summer School Teachers and Candy Stripe Nurses—all in 174—and Hollywood Boulevard (176). She also took on minor roles in A-list movies such as The Eiger Sanction (175) and Logan’s Run (176).

Comment The final episode into production was also one of the better episodes in the series with a good balance of action and intrigue. While Marcus’ script may suffer from some illogical plot progression devices—most involving Phillips’ attempts to kill Crosby—it does also make the most of a familiar premise and introduces a stronger set of characters than most of the other episodes in the series. Indeed, despite the limitations imposed by the network and producers, this plot could easily have fit in with the book series had it been novelized and toughened up. The guest cast list is one of the best in the series and on the whole they give game, if inconsistent, performances—most memorable being Don Knight as the shifty Teague. David Hedison is solid as the greedy, but desperate financier, Gil Kirkwood. However, Cathy Lee Crosby as his rich wife lacks the finesse to get the best from her character. Robert Phillips manages to convey the necessary villainous qualities of a hit man, but struggles to rise above the material he is given to work with. Roundtree, though, is again closer to his big screen interpretation of Shaft and has the opportunity to demonstrate the athletic energy he initially brought to the role. It is also good to see him again don a leather jacket, albeit complemented with designer wear, and get involved in shootouts with the


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villains. Reisner’s direction is solid and makes the most of the limited resource at his disposal. Johnny Pate’s score is primarily made up of cues from previous episodes, potentially indicating that either time pressure or cost was a concern. As such the action scenes don’t quite have the punch they could have had with a dedicated score. Most of the key characters are killed off through the story, providing a convenient resolution to several plot points. The finale at the airport with a kidnapped Crosby at the hands of Knight could have been better thought out instead of merely having the convenience of a nearby hunting party for Shaft to borrow a long-range rifle for Rossi to use on Teague. Despite these faults the episode has enough strong moments to give viewers hope that had the series been extended better results may have followed in a second season.

Notes • In the original script Shaft was disturbed in the middle of a poker game when he receives the call from Joanna Kirkwood. For filming this scene was changed to him being in bed, alone.10

Episode 7: “The Murder Machine” Production Code: (3810?); Airdate: CBS as “The New Tuesday Night Movie”; Tuesday 1 February 174; :30–11:00 p.m. ET; Writer: William Read Woodfield; Director: Lawrence Dobkin Cast: Richard Roundtree (John Shaft), Ed Barth (Lt. Al Rossi), Clu Gulager (Richard Quayle), Judie Stein (Laura Parks), Fionnuala Flanagan (Louise Quayle), Mills Watson (Kassner), Joe Warfield (Gerald Wallace), Sheldon Allman (Higget), Bill Walker (Moon), Danny Wells (Bookie), Janice Durkin (Girl), John Garwood (Plainclothesman #1), Glenn Robards (Plainclothesman #2).

Synopsis Shaft accompanies his friends, Laura Parks and Gerald Wallace, to City Hall for their wedding. As Shaft lets them off at the entrance, a police escort, including Lt. Al Rossi, arrives with a witness whose successful testimony before a grand jury can convict an underworld crime lord. A grenade is tossed into the group by a man who was supposedly one of the police guards, but who is actually Richard Quayle, a professional killer. The witness is killed and so is Gerald Wallace. Rossi is wounded. Shaft encounters the escaping assassin and

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empties his gun in futile at the fugitive’s car. Shaft vows revenge and goes about setting himself up as a target by spreading the word he can identify the killer.

Production Final drafts of the script for what was to be the season finale were prepared on 20 November and 3 December 173. The episode went into immediate production and the episode was broadcast on 1 February 174. Production notes confirm an early title was “The Killing Machine.”11 This is a reference to a line by Shaft in Woodfield’s script describing Gulager’s character. Woodfield’s story is essentially a character study of a hit man who is leading a double life and it provided a change of pace for the series, making its placement as the final episode a little odd. Lawrence Dobkin was hired to direct. Dobkin had made his name on radio as an actor before moving to television as both an actor, where he largely portrayed villains, and director. His experience made him a good choice for this particular episode which would focus heavily on the villain’s motivations. He became one of the busiest and most versatile of his profession and as a writer he later created the title character for the 174 film The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, which was followed by a TV series in 177–8 for NBC. Clu Gulager was cast as hit-man, Richard Quayle. Gulager had a reputation for being a difficult actor, but was a frequent face on TV from the 150s onward with regular roles in series such as The Tall Man (in which he played Billy the Kid), The Virginian and San Francisco International Airport. As he got older he would revitalize his career in cult horror movies such as 185’s Return of the Living Dead. Irish actress Fionnuala Flanagan, best known now for her portrayal of six different women in 185’s James Joyce’s Women, played Gulager’s wife. TV stalwarts Sheldon Allman and Mills Watson played crooked businessman, Higget, and the witness for the prosecution, Kassner, respectively. Judie Stein returned as clerk Laura Parks in a bigger and more fundamental role and Joe Warfield was cast as her equally insipid fiancée, Gerald Wallace. This episode would be Roundtree’s last screen appearance as Shaft until he reprised the role in John Singleton’s belated attempted re-launch in 2000.

Comment The final episode broadcast is an uneven but interesting departure for the series in that it is basically a study of the dual life led by Richard Quayle, a hit man masquerading to his family as an insurance salesman. Clu Gulager


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gets the most screen time as Quayle who is hired by Higget (Allman), a crooked businessman, to kill Mills Watson’s Kassner, whose evidence could put Higget in jail. Flanagan also gets some good scenes as Quayle’s wife, who becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband’s real profession when the hit gets publicity and brings Shaft on his trail. The start of the episode is a little too cozy with Shaft seemingly having a pair of dorky friends to whom he will be best man at their wedding. One of these is Stein’s Laura Parks who helped out Shaft in “The Executioners.” The build-up to the professional hit at the court building is slowly paced but successful in creating tension with the stripped-down, doom-laden music score effectively leading us to the death of Stein’s fiancée and Shaft’s vow of revenge. The pace continues to be deliberate as Shaft sets himself up as bait and plays a waiting game. The material is very thin and a little too drawn out. As a result not much seems to happen once the hit has been performed and what does happen happens very slowly. Roundtree has one really effective moment that recalls his big screen characterization when he tangles with Allman’s partner. It’s a moment that adds a brief spark of tension that unfortunately is not further explored. Instead we spend much of the episode waiting in Shaft’s apartment for Gulager’s Quayle to make his move on Shaft. When he does it is incredible that the police, led by Barth’s Rossi, let him go without checking out his story. We therefore understand Shaft’s temper as he throws Rossi and his men out and takes the law into his own hands. Shaft tracks down Quayle at the same time as Flanagan has discovered the nature of her husband’s true profession. The climax at Quayle’s house and then on the road enables Shaft to extract his revenge. Again this is presented in a low key manner draining the scenes of any tension thereby making it an unsatisfactory conclusion to the episode. While Woodfield’s tinkering with the format was a bold departure for the series, the episode’s lack of action and momentum may have been the final straw for the network who decided to axe the series after just seven stories.

12. Shaft Returns Shaft (2000) Production Company: Munich Film Partners & Company (MFP)/Shaft Productions/New Deal Productions/Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions; Released: 16 June 2000 (USA); Running Time:  mins; Budget: $46,000,000; gross: $70,334,258 (USA) $107,16,48 (worldwide) Director: John Singleton; writer: Richard Price, John Singleton, Shane Salerno (based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman); executive producer: Paul Hall, Steve Nicolaides, Adam Schroeder. producer: Mark Roybal, Scott Rudin, John Singleton; co-producer: Eric Steel; original music: David Arnold; cinematography: Donald E. Thorin (35mm, DeLuxe, Panavision, 2.35:1); editor: Max Benedict; casting: Ilene Starger; production designer: Patrizia Von Brandenstein; art director: Dennis Bradford; set decorator: George Detitta, Jr.; costume designer: Ruth E. Carter; makeup: Allan A. Apone, Don Kozma, Christine Leiter; unit production manager: Joseph E. Iberti; assistant director: Bruce Franklin, Julie A. Bloom; second unit director: Nick Gillard; sound: Skip Lievsay, Paul Urmson, Joe White (DTS/Dolby Digital); special effects: Steven Kirshoff; visual effects: Randall Balsmeyer. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (John Shaft), Vanessa Williams (Carmen Vasquez), Jeffrey Wright (Peoples Hernandez), Christian Bale (Walter Wade, Jr.), Busta Rhymes (Rasaan), Dan Hedaya (Jack Roselli), Toni Collette (Diane Palmieri), Richard Roundtree (Uncle John Shaft), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Jimmy Groves), Josef Sommer (Curt Fleming), Lynne Thigpen (Carla Howard), Philip Bosco (Walter Wade, Sr.), Pat Hingle (Hon. Dennis Bradford), Lee Tergesen (Luger), Daniel Von Bargen (Lt. Kearney), Francisco “Coqui” Taveras (Lucifer), Sonja Sohn (Alice), Peter Mcrobbie (Lt. Cromartie), Zach Grenier (Harrison Loeb), Richard Cocchiaro (Frank Palmieri), Ron Castellano (Mike Palmieri), Freddie Ricks (Big Raymond), Sixto Ramos (Bonehead), Andre Royo (Tattoo), Richard Barboza (Dominican), Mekhi Phifer (Trey Howard), Gano Grills (Cornbread), Catherine Kellner (Ivy), Philip Rudolph (Uniform Sergeant), Angela Pietropinto (Mrs. Ann Palmieri), Joe Quintero (Assistant D.A. Hector Torres), Lanette Ware (Terry), Stu “Large” Riley (Leon), Mark Zeisler (D.A. Andrew Nicoli), Capital Jay (Golem), Bonz Malone (Malik), Henry G. Thomas (Malik’s Crew), Brian Oswald Talbot (Malik’s Crew), Preston Thomas (Malik’s Crew), Marshall T. Broughton (Malik’s Crew), Ann Ducati (Aunt Toni DeCarlo), Lisa Cooley (News Anchor), Elizabeth Banks (Trey’s Friend), Scott Lucy (Trey’s Friend), Christopher Orr (Walter’s Friend), Evan Farmer (Walter’s Friend), Will Chase (Walter’s Friend), Jeff Branson (Walter’s Friend), Jerome Preston Bates (Desk Sergeant),



Part III: Shaft on Screen

John Elsen (Uniform Cop in Metronome), Nadine Mozon (Abused Woman), Lawrence Taylor (Lamont), Caprice Benedetti (Karen), John Cunningham (Judge), Louie Leonardo (Pistolero), Tony Rhune (Pistolero), Fidel Vicioso (Pistolero), F. Valentino Morales (Enforcer), Myron Primes (Young Blood), Universal (Young Blood), Travis Brandon Rosa (Fighting Boy), Matthew Wallace (Boy), Luis Torres (Fat Man), John Wojda (Construction Worker), Ahmed Al-Khan (Bystander at Metronome), Rashid Feleyfel (Bystander at Metronome), Gordon Parks (Mr. P).

Synopsis John Shaft, the namesake nephew of the legendary private eye, is a streetsmart NYPD detective who, with his partner Carmen Velez, has been assigned to a racially motivated murder case. A black college student has been killed outside a restaurant by Walter Wade, Jr., the sociopathic son of a construction tycoon. When, after receiving bail, Wade Jr. flees the country rather than face prosecution Shaft hunts for the only witness, waitress Diane Palmieri who has disappeared. Two years later, Wade Jr. is forced to return to New York, but without Diane’s testimony, the city doesn’t have a case. As Shaft once again hunts for Diane, Wade Jr. enlists the help of drug lord Peoples Hernandez to do the same. Shaft gets frequent advice along the way from his uncle, with whom he ponders the idea of quitting the force and opening a detective agency having become disillusioned with the system.

Production There had been two failed previous attempts to bring John Shaft back to the big screen. Tidyman himself had attempted to do so in the late-170s, once MGM’s 5-year option rights to his books had expired, having proposed a re-launch with a new lead. He wanted a tougher looking and less handsome Shaft, and suggested an actor named Nathan George—best known for appearances in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (175), Klute (171) and Serpico (173)—for the part, and was looking to use his book Shaft Among the Jews as the basis with a proposed budget of $2.5m. The second was shortly after Tidyman’s death, in 185. Initially Sylva Romano, acting on behalf of Chris Clark-Tidyman, approached MGM on 23 April 185 out of courtesy due to the options rights to the books they had previously purchased.1 When MGM passed a proposal was then made to the Golan-Globas team at Cannon Films offering the remaining books in the series. However the venture did not get off the ground and Shaft had seemingly disappeared into film history. In the mid–10s John Singleton pitched the idea of resurrecting the franchise, initially proposing a relatively low-budget and sexy update. He

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intended to have Richard Roundtree reprise his role of John Shaft and have him mentoring his son. He estimated a budget of around $25 million, but MGM—who still owned the movie rights—were not interested. However, MGM agreed to release the rights to Singleton if he could gain support from another studio in return for a refund of its initial development costs toward Singleton’s proposal. Singleton then developed the story further with Shane Salerno and Richard Price completing a 128-page screenplay on 28 November 18. In a statement echoing Vincent Canby’s review of the original Shaft in 171 he said: “What I wanted to do was make something that was just a good Saturday night movie.”2 Finally he received a call from producer Scott Rudin indicating Paramount’s interest. Rudin had tapped into the potential of a Quentin Tarantino styled cult movie—the Blaxploitation inspired Jackie Brown having been a success in 17. As the project developed Rudin took a stronger hand in development of the script and the feel of the movie. Singleton had initially wanted Don Cheadle for the role of the young Shaft, but Rudin overruled him stating he needed a star name to keep the movie alive for a mainstream audience. It was here the compromises and tangles around the production commenced. The casting of the new John Shaft saw many name actors considered with Wesley

Left to right: Samuel L Jackson (John Shaft), Richard Roundtree (Uncle John Shaft) and Busta Rhymes (Rasaan) in John Singleton’s Shaft (2000).


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Snipes initially offered the role. Snipes however declined as he was critical of the approach Singleton and his writers had taken: “I was offered the film and the script was terrible, horrible, and it was an insult not only to the African American cultures, but an insult to the icon of what Shaft was.”3 The producers’ desire to secure a big name for the lead role meant the cool and in-vogue Samuel L. Jackson, who had memorably featured in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (14) and Jackie Brown, seemed destined for the part. With Jackson’s casting the father-son dynamic was changed to uncle-nephew due to the six-year age gap between Jackson and Roundtree. Jackson proved a popular choice with his mix of attitude and cool. He was a huge fan of the original and of Roundtree’s performance, having first seen the original Shaft when he was at college in Atlanta. He was keen to stress, however, that his John Shaft was a different Shaft: In the beginning a lot of people said, “we hear you’re doing a remake of Shaft” and I’d say, “no, we’re not remaking it, it’s an updated story.” But that made me realize that if they thought I was doing a remake, then they thought I was pretending to be Richard Roundtree and the best way to kill that idea was to get Richard Roundtree in this movie as John Shaft. Once we got Richard on board, it was OK for me to go out and create whatever it was I actually needed to create to be this new Shaft for the millennium.4

Richard Roundtree was brought back as the original John Shaft, still running a private investigation business and still with an eye for the ladies. The decision to make him an uncle to Jacksons’ same-named NYPD detective was a break in continuity from the books in that firstly Tidyman’s John Shaft is still alive and secondly the Shaft of the books has no siblings. However, Roundtree’s role would be reduced to little more than two or three sequences. He would later voice his disappointment saying, “The only thing positive I have to tell you about the film is all the checks cleared.”5 The movie had two strong actors playing the bad guys. Christian Bale played the rich, but unbalanced and racist Walter Wade, Jr. Bale was fresh from American Psycho and had no real desire to play another bad guy, but was persuaded when helping Toni Collette with read-throughs. He also cited a promised tussle with Shaft at the airport, which was later cut from the film. Jeffrey Wright was eventually cast as Peoples Hernandez after original choice John Leguizamo dropped out to take a role in Moulin Rouge. Wright’s role in the story was increased when rushes of his eccentric performance gained approval from the production team. Wright would later go on to take the role of Felix Leiter in the re-booted James Bond franchise and Bale would go on to play Batman in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Rap star Busta Rhymes provided some comic relief as Rasaan, who helps Shaft track down Diana Palmieri. Rhymes is said to have applied his rapping skills as a technique for remembering his lines.

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Female leads were Vanessa Williams, cast as Shaft’s partner Carmen Vasquez and Toni Collette who played the witness on the run, Diane Palmieri. Williams would become better known through TV series such as Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives. Collette was fresh from her Oscar nominated performance in The Sixth Sense. The production was notorious for the constant disagreements between Jackson, Singleton, writer Richard Price and producer Scott Rudin on the direction of the film. Rudin had not liked Singleton’s original script, which he had developed with Shane Salerno, deeming it too risqué. He brought in Price, who had helped out Rudin on the Ron Howard directed Ransom. Price re-worked Jackson’s Shaft as an NYPD detective, but at Jackson’s insistence had him leave the force during the story. Price also successfully introduced the added element of Peoples Hernandez. Shooting commenced on 21 September 1 and ran through to 24 January 2000 with Singleton and Jackson often re-writing the re-write as they shot, feeling the new script had de-ethnicized the new Shaft character. Singleton said, We had battles. A lot of battles. And when Richard Price rewrote my stuff…. Like, where the waitress says to Shaft, “You coming home with me?” Price had him say, “Oh, I’m tired. I don’t wanna do anything tonight.” Like what? This is Shaft! He should say, “It’s my duty to please that booty.” So I’d go up to Sam’s trailer and say, “Here’s what you’re gonna say.” And he’d say, “Let’s go.” And the studio would complain that we weren’t shooting the script. Well, fuck you. The script is wack.6

David Arnold, who had successfully taken John Barry’s mantle as composer for the James Bond films, was hired to provide the score, which he wrote in a hectic two-week period. The opening titles utilized Isaac Hayes’ new recording of his original 171 theme. The remainder of the score was a mix of a traditional score and hip-hop music, providing an up to date technourban setting for the film. Conscious he was neither black, nor familiar with the original Arnold said in an interview: I spoke to Isaac Hayes and the film’s director John Singleton. I was upfront with them, pointing out the obvious cultural difference, that I wasn’t Isaac Hayes and that I wasn’t around when the original Shaft came out. However I assured them that I understood the film and I thought I knew what would make it work musically. Something contemporary, but with a 70s vibe.7

Promotion Shaft opened on 16 June 2000 in the USA and grossed $70,334,258 in the domestic box office and $107,16,48 worldwide, proving it to be a considerable success.


Part III: Shaft on Screen

In 2000, McFarlane Toys released a Shaft (Samuel L. Jackson) action figure as part of their Movie Maniacs series three toy line. Amongst the accessories are a handgun, sunglasses and a replica of the film’s poster with a skulls and bones base. The soundtrack album, which contained a mix of hip hop and R&B music was released on 6 June 2000 by LaFace Records. It peaked at #22 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. The DVD followed 6-months after the film’s initial release and the film was transferred to HD for Blu-Ray release in 2013.

Comment While Singleton’s Shaft is an entertaining enough movie in its own right, it does take liberties with the Shaft legacy for the sake of convenience. Singleton’s stated intention was to make an action movie for the Saturday Night crowd and he was not too hung up on continuity or references to Tidyman’s books to let them get in the way—this despite the credit stating: Based on the novel by Ernest Tidyman. Instead Singleton created a new John Shaft as an NYPD detective, but gave him similar characteristics to Tidyman’s creation. Samuel L. Jackson was perhaps the best choice of actor to play the role of Shaft’s nephew, however the relatively small age gap between Roundtree (then 57) and Jackson (then 51) makes you wonder why the producers just didn’t plump for Roundtree to continue as the lead if they were not considering a much younger actor for the part. That said, Jackson makes a good fist of this new John Shaft and is always watchable. Making him a police detective rather than private eye is important to the story set-up with his subsequent disillusionment fuelling his one-man crusade against Bale. The finale shows Jackson, having quit the force, joining Roundtree’s private investigation business, a definite sign of the baton having been passed. Bale and Wright also perform well in their respective roles with the former losing screen time to the latter as the script became subject to re-writes in order to give more focus to Wright’s character, drug dealer Peoples Hernandez. Hernandez is much more interesting as a character and is given further eccentricity by Wright’s idiosyncratic portrayal—indeed his accent is often impenetrable. By contrast Bale’s Walter Wade, Jr., comes across as an unhinged spoilt brat and it is to the actor’s credit that the character did not descend into caricature. Vanessa Williams gives sturdy support playing Jackson’s female partner, Carmen Vasquez, who continues to assist Shaft once he has been suspended from the force. Dan Hedaya and Ruben Santiago-Hudson play two crooked cops who help Peoples Hernandez track down Toni Collette’s waitress witness. Collette has little to do other than look scared in her

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few scenes. Some comic relief is provided by Busta Rhymes as Shaft’s Rastafarian sidekick and while the rap star is obviously no actor, he brings a roughedged charm to the role of Rasaan. There are nods to Gordon Parks’ film, not least in his cameo (along with Singleton) in the sequence shot at Harlem’s Lenox Lounge. Jackson wears a wide range of leather jackets and coats as well as turtleneck sweaters. But whereas those worn by Roundtree in Parks’ film had an oft-worn look to them, Jackson’s wardrobe was provided by Giorgio Armani and looked like it had come straight off the peg—not to mention how an NYPD police detective was able to afford such clothing. Additionally the sequence where Jackson’s Shaft strides up the center of the street through the night time traffic with Isaac Hayes’ theme playing, after striking the arrested Wade Jr. at the crime scene, recalls the opening sequence of Parks’ film in its attitude. The main problem with the film is the script. The plot is both perfunctory and uninspiring. The early scenes are interesting and serve well to set up the characters, but as the film progresses it abandons character interaction and the underlying themes of racism for a series of admittedly well-filmed action sequences—notably a stakeout early in the movie which results in a chase on foot and then later the car chase finale. The big disappointment, however, is Richard Roundtree’s reduced involvement as the original John Shaft. At this point in his career Roundtree still has enough charisma and screen presence to carry a lead role and it is disappointing his continuation of his iconic role was reduced to little more

Samuel L Jackson (John Shaft), nephew of the original Shaft in Shaft (2000).


Part III: Shaft on Screen

than a few brief cameo appearances. He stays on the periphery of the action and acts more as a mentor to his nephew than a protagonist. There is little opportunity, therefore, for Roundtree to revive the spark he gave the character in the original trilogy. Ultimately the film makes too many compromises brought on by firstly, studio whims; secondly, pandering to an audience brought up on action blockbusters; and thirdly the producers’ lack of ambition. As a result if you take away Isaac Hayes’ theme music, this does not feel like a Shaft movie, merely another solid major studio big-budget action thriller, with little to distinguish it from the crowd outside of its charismatic black hero.

Critical Reaction The movie received a mixed reaction following its release as typified by these review extracts: “What becomes immediately clear when comparing the two films is the tone Singleton strikes throughout—anger has become bemusement, the bite of injustice has mellowed, the previous film’s rampant sexuality has been neutered into a more benign, intangible state.”—Christopher Smith, Bangor Daily News, 1 June 2000 “Is this a good movie? Not exactly; too much of it is on automatic pilot, as it must be, to satisfy the fans of the original Shaft. Is it better than I expected? Yes. There are flashes here of the talent that Singleton has possessed ever since Boyz N the Hood, and strong acting and efficient action.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 1 June 2000 “Shaft is really just a series of slickly filmed action sequences dangling off a thin plot and held together by the force of Jackson’s charisma.” —James Berardinelli, Reel Views, June 2000 “Don’t freak because John Shaft, the black private dick, has been re-grooved as an NYPD cop. Samuel L. Jackson, in leather threads by Armani and with an attitude all his own, is the quintessence of cool. Shaft scores by lacing bada-boom action with social pertinence.”—Pete Travers, Rolling Stone, 16 June 2000 “Samuel L. Jackson instantly takes the mantle from Mr. Shaft himself, Richard Roundtree, and runs with it on pure style and charisma.”—Robert Keohler, Variety, 12 June 2000 “The trouble is that in 1971 Shaft stood alone, while today he’s just another guy bucking the corrupt system.”—Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide, June 2000 “This may be the first movie that runs under two hours and yet has no attention span. Characters are abandoned and picked up; narrative threads dissolve before your very eyes.”—Elvis Mitchell, New York Times, 16 June 2000 “Throughout, Singleton never seems sure whether he wants a high-style spectacle or down-at-heels realism in the 70s tradition, so the film lacks not only a consistent visual tone but a well-defined sense of time and place.

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Instead, Shaft simply ends up looking cheaper than any big-budget Hollywood entertainment should.”—Sight & Sound, October 2000

Notes/Trivia • Isaac Hayes, Gordon Parks and John Singleton, director of this version, all have cameos in the Lenox Lounge sequence. • Singleton had planned a sequel where Shaft battled drug lords in Jamaica. But the film’s lack of significant box-office earnings and Jackson’s reluctance to be involved led to the plans being scrapped. • A fight sequence between Shaft and Walter Wade, Jr., when Shaft arrests him at the airport was cut from the final film. Bale expressed his disappointment suggesting the scene was one of the reasons he accepted the part. • New York filming locations include: Broadway & 20th Street; Broadway between 18th & 23rd Streets; Brooklyn Navy Yard, Brooklyn; College Point, Queens; Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn; Harlem, Manhattan; Jersey City, New Jersey; Lenox Lounge–288 Lenox Avenue, Harlem; Metronome–18th & Broadway; River Diner–452 11th Avenue; Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA.

DVD Releases Region 1 (U.S.)—12 December 2000. Extras included “Reflections on Shaft” cast and crew interviews; “Shaft: Still the Man” making-of featurette; “Theme from Shaft” music video with Isaac Hayes; “Bad Man” music video with R. Kelly; Theatrical trailer. Region 2 (UK)— April 2001. Extras as Region 1 release.

Blu-ray Releases • Region Free (U.S.)—13 August 2013. Extras as DVD release. • Region Free (UK)—5 November 2013. Extras as DVD release.

Soundtrack Original Soundtrack: Music from and Inspired by Shaft; Released: 6 June 2000; Label: LaFace Records


Part III: Shaft on Screen

Track listing: Theme from Shaft (Isaac Hayes) Isaac Hayes–4:38/Bad Man (R. Kelly)/R. Kelly–4:03/Up and Outta Here (R. Kelly) R. Kelly–4:25/Do What I Gotta Do (Donell Jones) Edward Ferrell–4:46/Rock wit U (Alicia Keys)Lellow–5:46/We Servin’ (Big Gipp) Rondal Rucker–3:24/Tough Guy (OutKast featuring UGK) Earthtone III–5:44/2 Glock ’s (T.I.P. featuring Beanie Sigel)PA–4:03/Summer Rain (Carl Thomas)/Heavy D, Warryn Campbell (co.)–4:57/Automatic (Sleepy Brown featuring Backbone and Big Rube)/Organized Noize–4:14/Pimp Shit (Too Short) DJ Silk–4:12/Cheatin’ (Liberty City) Larry Rock Campbell, Timmy Allen– 3:54/Fix Me (Parle featuring Eve and Jadakiss)/Chad Dr. Ceuss Elliot–3:45/How You Want It? (Mil) The Legendary Traxster–4:00/Ain’t Gonna See Tomorrow (Mystikal) Earthtone III–4:33/My Lovin’ Will Give Your Something (Angie Stone) Gerry DeVeaux–4:42/Serenata Negra (Fulanito)/Dose, Win–3:37.

Epilogue— Shaft Back in Print “When I first discovered Shaft, both in films and then the books, I fell in love with the character. As I got older, and started writing, I realized that I loved the potential of the character most of all. Shaft is an interesting guy, with the potential to be even more interesting, which is what I’m trying to bring to the table.” 1—David Walker

On 2 May 2014 Dynamite Entertainment announced it had purchased the rights to Ernest Tidyman’s John Shaft character for intended use in a new series of comic books and prose novels. In its statement Dynamite also outlined its intention to reprint each of Ernest Tidyman’s original Shaft novels. Dynamite has a growing reputation for buying the license rights for many iconic characters including Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Red Sonja, and The Six Million Dollar Man. Shortly after its announcement of its acquisition of John Shaft it later revealed, on 7 October 2014, that it had purchased the rights to James Bond. Nick Barrucci, CEO/Publisher of Dynamite said, John Shaft is an American Icon, with feature films starring Richard Roundtree and Samuel L. Jackson. Shaft has resonated in popular culture because he’s such a cool, compelling character. We couldn’t be more happy that we’re getting a chance to tell new stories in multiple mediums, with all new prose in addition to Original Graphic Novels, and create a publishing program that will bring Shaft back to the forefront of pop culture, where he belongs!2

Dynamite had initially been approached by writer David Walker, who had obtained rights to the character from Ernest Tidyman’s estate with a view to adapting the novels into comic books. Walker is a long-time fan of the books in particular and of the Blaxploitation genre of films in general, having made the documentary film Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered & Shafted in 2004 and co-written the 200 book, Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak, which contains interviews with many of the genres filmmakers and stars. In an interview ahead of the launch of the Shaft comic book he said, 221



As much as I fell in love with the character of Shaft from the movies, it wasn’t until I’d read Ernest Tidyman’s original novel that the character really came to life for me…. He became much more real as a character, and that was when I first really started thinking about writing a character like him.3

Walker is a respected journalist and writer in the world of popular culture and runs the website BadAzzMofo under which banner he has published a number of pop culture books. He is also a prolific comic book writer with his work including The Army of Dr. Moreau for Monkeybrain Comics and Number 13 for Dark Horse Comics (as co-writer). He also embarked on a prose series of novels under the arc title of The Adventures of Darius Logan series commencing with Super Force Justice in 2013. Walker signed an initial six-comic book deal for the first story arc for Shaft, but has stated he had enough material for twenty-four. He also had material mapped out for some prose novels—the first of which was Shaft’s Revenge, a novella initially released as a free download in six parts with each of the comic books. Walker’s initial intention to adapt Tidyman’s novels as comic books was postponed following discussions with Dynamite, who were looking for original stories, leading him to work the first six-part story arc as a prequel to Shaft set in 168/. The Shaft #1 comic book went on sale on 3 December 2014 with the remaining five parts following on a monthly cycle. It would be classed, in comic book parlance, as an “origins” story, designed to lead us into the Shaft world we know from Tidyman’s books. Dynamite had wanted to set the first story entirely in Vietnam to establish the background to Shaft’s characteristics, but eventually a plot was developed that picked up Shaft’s story to cover the reasons for him becoming a detective. Walker did include references to Shaft’s orphan childhood in Harlem and his service in Vietnam and how they shaped his personality and outlook on life. He had also been keen to depict John Shaft as Tidyman had described him in the books and worked with artist Bilquis Evely to achieve this. “Bilquis is killing it with the art,” said Walker. “I really liked her work on Doc Savage, but this is some next level stuff. I’ve kept the scripts lean and mean, so there is room for her to bring her talent to the table, and like I said, she’s killing it.”4 In the first story arc Shaft gets involved in a twisted case of blackmail and murder in which the devastating murder of a friend leads to him being caught up in a brewing gang war as he seeks revenge. “I wanted to try and set up many of the essential character elements introduced by Tidyman, as well as explore aspects of Shaft that had never really been addressed,” said Walker. “In this era, I don’t think it is enough that a character be portrayed as a womanizing sex machine. Readers want a glimpse at what makes a person that way. The same is true with Shaft’s violence. In the books, the guy is a killing machine. I wanted to bring some humanity to his violent side—explore what makes him tick.”5



The scenario is also tied into to the construction of the original World Trade Center—Walker was keen to introduce elements of New York history into the story’s 168/ setting. It also uses Shaft’s boxing ability, which is referenced in Tidyman’s novels where Shaft is said to have boxed at light heavyweight in the army. Walker builds on this to set Shaft up as an urban legend in Harlem as he defies the Mafia and loses everything he has. This story strand is the catalyst for him commencing his detective career with a large agency. Walker’s novella, Shaft’s Revenge, is set in the Shaft continuity just after the events of Shaft’s Big Score! This is the first book to feature the character since Tidyman’s The Last Shaft. In this story Knocks David F. Walker, the man responsible for bringing Shaft back into Persons is killed by a new crime lord look- print via a new comic book series ing to take over the scene in Harlem and and novella (courtesy David F. Shaft goes in search of the killer. The story Walker). introduces the character Linwood “Red Linny” Morton, a former childhood friend of Shaft’s who has gone bad. He has been created by Walker as an ongoing nemesis for Shaft. Walker’s immediate plans beyond the initial comic books series and novel extends to working with writer Gary Phillips on compiling an anthology of short stories written by themselves and other writers to be published through Dynamite. I can’t say for sure what the future holds for Shaft and I. I’d like to be around as long as Dynamite will keep me. I have several other comic stories I’d like to tell, and I’d like to adapt the first novel into comic format. I also have another novel that I really want to write, which takes place after The Last Shaft, and serves to bring him back from the dead. But I’ve already met my biggest goal, which was to introduce the character back into the world of pop culture via the medium of comics.6

Walker’s commitment to stay true to Ernest Tidyman’s vision is commendable and this well-received new series of comic books and prose novels is an unexpected treat for Shaft fans around the world.

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A: Ernest Tidyman Credits Bibliography 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

The Anzio Death Trap. U.S.: Belmont Books, 11 March 1968.—factual Flower Power. U.S.: Paperback Library, 1 March 1968. UK: Mayflower, 1969. Shaft. U.S.: Macmillan, 7 April 1970. UK: Michael Joseph 4 June 1971. Absolute Zero. U.S.: Dial Press, 8 July 1971. Shaft Among the Jews. U.S.: Dial Press, 9 June 197. UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1 February 1973. Shaft’s Big Score! U.S.: Bantam Books, 7 August 197. UK: Corgi, 0 October 197. Shaft Has a Ball. U.S.: Bantam Books,  April 1973. UK: Corgi, 0 July 1973 High Plains Drifter. U.S.: Bantam Books, 7 May 1973. UK: Corgi, 19 October 1973. Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. U.S.: Dial Press, 8 December 1973. UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, June 1974. Dummy. U.S.: Little Brown & Co,  February 1974. UK: W.H. Allen, 7 March 1974.— factual Line of Duty. U.S.: Little Brown & Co, October 1974. UK: W.H. Allen, 11 November 1974. Shaft’s Carnival of Killers. U.S.: Bantam Books, September 1974; UK: Corgi, 4 January 197 The Last Shaft. UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 7 March 197. Starstruck. UK: W.H. Allen, 18 August 197. Table Stakes. U.S.: Little Brown & Co, 1978. UK: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  January 1979. Big Bucks: The True, Outrageous Story of the Plymouth Mail Robbery… and How They Got Away With It. U.S.: W. W. Norton & Company, 17 May 198. UK: 6 January 1983.—factual

Filmography (Writer) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Shaft (1971) The French Connection (based on the book by Robin Moore) (1971) Shaft’s Big Score! (197) (and Producer) High Plains Drifter (1973) Ghost in the Noonday Sun (1973) (uncredited contribution to screenplay) Report to the Commissioner (based on the novel by James Mills; with Abby Mann. Aka: Operation Undercover) (197)



Appendix B

7. The Sicilian Cross (Aka: Gli Esecutori, The Executioner, The Executors, Street People and Uomo del’organizzazione) (1976) 8. A Force of One (with Pat E. Johnson) (1979) 9. Last Plane Out (1983)

Television Movies/Mini-Series (Writer) 1. 2. 3. 4.

To Kill a Cop (based on the book by Robert Daley) (Columbia; 1978) Dummy (Warner; 1979) (and Producer) Power: An American Saga (Columbia; 1980) Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (based on the book by Charles A. Krause) (Columbia; 1980) (and Producer) 5. Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (based on a story by Clarence Carnes & Don DeNevi) (NBC; 1980) (and Producer) 6. Stark (with David H. Balkan) (CBS; 198) 7. Brotherly Love (based on the novel by William D. Blankenship) (CBS/Columbia; 198)

Television Series (Story Consultant) 1. Walking Tall (Columbia; 1981)

Awards 1971: Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay—The French Connection. 1971: NAACP Image Award—Shaft. 1972: Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay—Motion Picture—The French Connection. 1972: Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Drama—The French Connection. 1972: Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay—The French Connection. 1975: Nominated—Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime—Dummy. 1979: Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special—Dummy. 1980: Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special–Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. 1983: Nominated—Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime–Big Bucks.

B: Gordon Parks Credits Bibliography 1. Flash Photography (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1947) 2. Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture (New York: F. Watts, 1948) 3. The Learning Tree (New York: Harper and Row, 1963) 4. A Choice of Weapons (New York: Harper and Row, 1966)

Appendix C 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.


Gordon Parks: A Poet and His Camera (New York: Viking Press, 1968) Born Black (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1971) Gordon Parks: In Love (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1971) Gordon Parks: Whispers of Intimate Things (New York: Viking Press, 1971) Moments Without Proper Names (New York: Viking Press, 197); Flavio (New York: W.W. Norton, 1978) To Smile in Autumn (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979) Shannon (Boston: Little, Brown, 1981) Voices in the Mirror: An Autobiography (New York: Doubleday,. 1990) Arias of Silence (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1994) Glimpses Toward Infinity (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996) Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective (Boston: Bulfinch Press, 1997) A Star For Noon: An Homage to Women in Images, Poetry, and Music (Boston: Bulfinch, 000) 18. The Sun Stalker (New York: Ruder-Finn Press, 003) 19. Eyes With Winged Thoughts (New York: Atria, 00) 20. A Hungry Heart (New York: Washington Square Press, 00)

Filmography 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.

Flavio (1964, short) Diary of a Harlem Family (1968) The World of Piri Thomas (1968) The Learning Tree (1969) Shaft (1971) Shaft’s Big Score! (197) The Super Cops (1974) Leadbelly (Paramount, 1976) Solomon Northup’s Odyssey (1984, TV) Moments Without Proper Names (1987) Martin (1989, TV)

C: Richard Roundtree Credits Filmography 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? (1970) Shaft (1971) Shaft’s Big Score! (197) Embassy (197) Shaft in Africa (1973) Charley-One-Eye (1973) Earthquake (1974) Man Friday (197) Diamonds (197)

8 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54. 55. 56. 57. 58.

Appendix C Escape to Athena (1979) Game for Vultures (1979) Day of the Assassin (1979) Portrait of a Hitman (1979) Gypsy Angels (1980) Inchon (1981) An Eye for an Eye (1981) Q—The Winged Serpent (198) One Down, Two to Go (198) Young Warriors (1983) The Big Score (1983) City Heat (1984) Killpoint (1984) Opposing Force (1986) Jocks (1986) Maniac Cop (1988) Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988) Party Line (1988) Night Visitor (1989) Crack House (1989) The Banker (1989) Miami Cops (1989) Bad Jim (1990) A Time to Die (1991) Bloodfist III: Forced to Fight (199) Sins of the Night (1993) Deadly Rivals (1993) La vendetta (1993) Mind Twister (1994) Ballistic (199) Once Upon a Time…When We Were Colored (199) Se7en (199) Original Gangstas (1996) Steel (1997) George of the Jungle (1997) Shaft (000) Corky Romano (001) Antitrust (001) Hawaiian Gardens (001) Boat Trip (00) Al’s Lads (00) Vegas Vampires (003) Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (004) Brick (00) Wild Seven (006) All the Days Before Tomorrow (007) Speed Racer (008) Set Apart (009) 1 a Minute (010)

Appendix C 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67.

The Confidant (010) Vixen Highway 2006 It Came from Uranus! (010) Collar (011) Go Beyond the Lens (011) Retreat! (01) This Bitter Earth (01) Duke (013) Whatever She Wants (014)

TV Movies 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22.

Firehouse (1973) Freedom Is (1976) The Baron and the Kid (1984) The Fifth Missile (1986) Cadets (1988) Black as the Heart (1991) Christmas in Connecticut (199) Bonanza: The Return (1993) Moscacieca (1993) Shadows of Desire (1994) Bonanza: Under Attack (199) Cop Files (199) Any Place But Home (1997) The Big Score (1997) Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years (1999) Joe and Max (00) Painkiller Jane (00) Final Approach (007) Point of Entry (007) Ladies of the House (008) Being Mary Jane (01) Chicago Fire (01)

TV Series (as regular) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Shaft (1973–4) Roots (1977) A.D. (198) Outlaws (1986–7) Buddies (1996) 413 Hope St. (1997) Rescue 77 (1999) Soul Food (000–1) Diary of a Single Mom (009–11) Being Mary Jane (013–1)



Appendices D and E

D: Robert Turner Credits Bibliography Short Story Collections 1. Shroud 9. U.S.: Powell Publications, Inc., 1970. (“Field of Honor”; “What Do You Want?”; “The Two Candles”; “A Life for a Life”; “Fight Night”; “A Living from Women”; “Who’s Calling”; “Shy Guy”; “Business Trip”; “Everyman’s Woman”; “Accident”; “Don’t Go Away Mad”; “Repeat Performance”; “Vacation Nightmare”; “Everything Has to End”; “Movie Night”; “The Onlooker”; “Room Service”).

Novels/Novelizations 1. The Girl in the Cop’s Pocket. U.S.: Ace Double D-177, 196. (c/w Violence Is Golden, by C. H. Thames (Stephen Marlowe)) 2. The Mystery of Jan Gant’s Treasure. (Gunsmoke aka Gun Law). UK: World Distributors Ltd., 198. 3. Wagon Master (Wagon Train). U.S.: Pocket Books, 198. 4. Wagons West! (Wagon Train). U.S.: Pocket Books, 199. 5. The Night is for Screaming. U.S.: Pyramid Books, 1960. 6. Operation Porno (with Allan Nixon as Don Romano). U.S.: Pyramid Books, 1973. 7. Operation Hit Man (with Allan Nixon as Don Romano). U.S.: Pyramid Books, 1974. 8. Operation Cocaine (with Allan Nixon as Don Romano). U.S.: Pyramid Books, 1974.

Factual Books 1. Pulp Fiction: The First Manual of Modern Pulp Writing. U.S.: Quality House, 1948. 2. Some of My Best Friends are Writers…but I Wouldn’t Want My Daughter to Marry One. U.S.: Sherbourne Press, 1970.

E: Phillip Rock Credits Filmography 1. Escape from Fort Bravo (193) (story with Michael Pate) 2. Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961) (story “The Steel Monster” with Michael Pate and screenplay with James Leicester) 3. The Extraordinary Seaman (1969) (screenplay based on his novel)

Bibliography 1. The Extraordinary Seaman. U.S.: Meredith Press, September 1967; UK: Souvenir Press, 1967. 2. The Dead in Guanajuato. U.S.: Meredith Press, December 1968.

Appendices F and G


3. Tick…Tick…Tick (novelization of the movie). U.S.: Popular Library, February 1970. 4. The Cheyenne Social Club (novelization of the movie). U.S.: Popular Library, July 1970. 5. Dirty Harry (novelization of the movie). U.S.: Bantam, Dec 1971; UK: Star, 1977. 6. A Gunfight (novelization of the movie). U.S.: Bantam, Jun 1971; UK: Corgi, September 1971. 7. Hickey and Boggs (novelization of the movie). U.S.: Popular Library, November 197. 8. High Plains Drifter (by Ernest Tidyman; novelization of the movie). U.S.: Bantam, May 1973. 9. Flickers. U.S.: Dodd, Mead, Sep 1977. 10. The Passing Bells. U.S.: Seaview Books, 1978 [Mar 1979]; UK: Hodder & Stoughton, April 1979. 11. Circles of Time. U.S.: Seaview Books, Jun 1981; UK: Hodder & Stoughton, March 198. 12. A Future Arrived. U.S.: Seaview Books, Jan 198; UK: Hodder & Stoughton, April 198.

F: Shaft’s Publishers The following is a list of all worldwide publishers of Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft books. Aldo Garzanti Editore (Italy) Bantam Books, Inc. (USA—paperback) Civilizacao Brasileira SA (Brazil/Portugal) Corgi (UK—paperback) The Dial Press (USA—hardback) Editions Gallimard (France) Elsevier (Holland) Hayakawa Shobo Ltd. (Japan) Macmillan Publishing Co. (USA—hardback) Michael Joseph Ltd. (UK—hardback) Tammi Publishers (Finland) Ullstein Buchr (Germany) Weidenfeld and Nicolson (UK—hardback)

G: Shaft’s Openings In each of his Shaft books Ernest Tidyman opened the novel by taking the reader straight into Shaft’s frame of mind. Here are the opening lines from the novels:


Appendix H

Shaft felt warm, loose, in step as he turned east at Thirty-ninth Street for the truncated block between Seventh Avenue and Broadway. It had been a long walk from her place in the far West Twenties. Long and good.—Shaft, Chapter 1 Shaft regarded his office with sympathy, sorrow and some anger. An old friend had been murdered in his sleep. It was the same thing.—Shaft Among the Jews, Chapter 1 Shaft was bored, sleepy. Some people felt like eagles at thirty-nine thousand feet, rushing across a curly blanket of cloud cover. They felt free, excited. He only suffered a pain in the ass from sitting three and a half hours in the same place.—Shaft’s Big Score! Chapter 1 Shaft felt like a paper bag full of bruised peaches, soft and squishy, ready to spoil. The sun did it. And three large tumblers of Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks.—Shaft Has a Ball, Chapter 1 Shaft ached. He felt like a rusty radiator in an abandoned tenement with the January wind blowing through the cracks in the wall.—Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Chapter 1 Shaft felt mean, miserable and tight. He hadn’t been able to unwind his big black body or the mind that made it move—not with beds, broads or booze. So he had come to this place. Alone.—Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Chapter 1 Shaft felt like a stale peanut butter sandwich some kid had discarded under a plastic table in favor of a second popsicle.—The Last Shaft, Chapter 1

H: A Character Named Willie Throughout his books, Ernest Tidyman has a fixation with using the character name of Willie and variants thereof: Billie Yeats is a bellhop at Hotel Armand where Shaft is protecting Senator Stovall in Shaft Has a Ball. Billie gives a rough-trade thug known as Cowboy access to the lifts so he can deliver a beating to Stovall. Willie is the desk clerk at Chelsea Hotel in The Last Shaft who is studying to be a detective. He owns an arsenal of weapons which he stores in a van and helps Shaft in his war against the Mafia. Willie J. Scott is a porter at Jackson Bean tailors in Shaft Among the Jews. He meets up each lunchtime with porters from other stores in Morris Blackburn’s establishment and has come up with a heist plan. He meets Shaft who is working undercover and fears Shaft is trying to muscle in on his plans. Willie Joe Smith is Knocks Persons’ right-hand man in Shaft. Willie Joe assists Shaft in his rescue of Beatrice Persons and the novel’s conclusion. William is a member of the razor gang who are hired to attack Shaft in London in Goodbye, Mr. Shaft. Willy is also Knocks Persons’ bodyguard in Shaft’s Big Score! It seems this is a different character to the Willie Joe Smith in Shaft—the name is spelt differently. The character is that portrayed on screen by Drew Bundini Brown (in a bigger role than the book), who was the same Willy seen in Shaft the movie.

Chapter Notes Chapter 1 1. The Black Panthers would be the inspiration for Ben Buford’s gang of militants in Tidyman’s novel Shaft, Tidyman referenced an article by Earl Caldwell entitled “Black Panthers Growing, but Their Troubles Rise,” printed in the New York Times on 7 December 1968. 2. Stirling Silliphant would go on to work with Ernest Tidyman on the Shaft films, forming Shaft Productions, Ltd., with Tidyman and producer Roger Lewis, He would also write the screenplay for the third film, Shaft in Africa (1973). 3. Ernest Tidyman, “Closing the Gap,” The Milwaukee Journal, 10 September 1968. 4. Alan Rinzler, E-mail to author, 13 February 014. 5. Tidyman’s 7-page outline for Shaft (a mystery-detective novel), 1969, Box 79, Folder: Manuscript File: 1971, Shaft, outline for a book, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Chapter 2 1. Michael A. Gonzales, “Shafted: On Ernest R. Tidyman and the Makings of Shaft,” Mulholland Books,  February 011, 2. Carmie Amata, “The Importance of Being Ernest,” Cleveland Magazine, March 197. 3. William Wolf, “Cleveland Drop-Out Makes Hollywood Scene,” The Plain Dealer, 7 September 1970. 4. Outline for The Further Adventure: The Autobiography of Ernest Tidyman, Box 1, Folder: Ernest Tidyman Biog 194–79, 1973, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 5. Carmie Amata, “The Importance of Being Ernest,” Cleveland Magazine, March 197. 6. Outline for The Further Adventure: The Autobiography of Ernest Tidyman, Box 1, Folder: Ernest Tidyman Biog 194–79, 1973, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 7. Llewellyn King, “I Mourn the Weekly World News Because My Hands Are Not Clean,” 7 August 007, 8. Ernest Tidyman: Flower Power, 9. Donal Sexton, The Western European and Mediterranean Theaters in World War II: An Annotated Bibliography of English-Language Sources (New York: Routledge, 011), 37. 10. Ernest Tidyman, “How I Made a Million Dollars, Learned to Love the Smiling Cobra and Gave Hollywood the Shaft,” 197, Box 139, Folder: Newspaper & Magazine Clippings, 1974, Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 11. “Black Hero by White Author,” Lakeland Ledger, 3 March 197. 12. William Wolf, “Ernest Tidyman: The White Master of Black Violence,” The Pittsburgh Press, 14 January 1973. 13. Alan Rinzler, E-mail Interview, 13 February 014.



Notes. Chapter 

14. Diane Lanken, “Tidyman’s Energy Gets Things Done,” The Montreal Gazette, 31 January 1976. 15. Letter from Tidyman to Leon Mirell at Columbia Pictures, 1 December 1969, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Film, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 16. William Wolf, “Ernest Tidyman The White Master of Black Violence,” The Pittsburgh Press, 14 January 1973. 17. Arthur Cooper, “Black Eye,” Newsweek, July 197, p. 78. 18. Typed Press Release/Biography, 197, Box 1, Folder: Ernest Tidyman Biog 194–79, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 19. Agreement between Ernest Tidyman and Bantam Books, 7 May 1970, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Book Contracts, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 20. Letter confirming agreement between Ernest Tidyman and Bantam Books (signed by Victor Temkin, President), 9 March 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Big Score 1971–74, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 21. Agreement between Bantam Books (signed by Victor Temkin, President on 6 July 197) and Editors and Writers, Inc. (signed by Tidyman on 0 July 197), 6 July 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Book Contracts, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 22. “Ernest Tidyman Forms Film Company; Lines Up Deals for Five Projects,” Variety, 18 August 1971. 23. Army Archerd, “Just for Variety,” Variety, 0 January 197. 24. New York Times,  July 1971. 25. Kirkus, 8 July 1971. 26. William Wolf, “Ernest Tidyman The White Master of Black Violence,” The Pittsburgh Press, 14 January 1973. 27. Letter from Ernest Tidyman to Phillip Rock, 8 November 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 28. Letter from Sylva Romano to Michael Legat on Tidyman’s behalf, 17 November 197, Box 4, Folder: Correspondence Files: Corgi Books, 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 29. Joe Eszterhas, Hollywood Animal (New York: Random House, 008), 46. 30. Letter from Ernest Tidyman to Phillip Rock, 17 August 197, Box 13, Folder: Correspondence: 197–7, Phillip Rock, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 31. Letter from Ernest Tidyman to Allan Barnard, 1 December 197, Box 3, Folder: Correspondence: 1971–8, Bantam Books, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 32. Letter from Ernest Tidyman to Marc Jaffee, 0 March 1973, Box 3, Folder: Correspondence: 1971–8, Bantam Books, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 33. Letter from Tidyman to Phillip Rock, 8 March 1973, Box 13, Folder: Correspondence: 197–7, Phillip Rock, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 34. L.A. Times, 4 March 1974. 35. Kirkus, 4 March 1974. 36. Kirkus, 1 October 1974. 37. Albert Watson, “The Man Who Killed Super Cop Shaft,” Thames Valley Evening Mail, 13 December 1974. 38. Michael A. Gonzalez, “Shafted: On Ernest R. Tidyman and the Makings of Shaft,” Mulholland Books,  February 011, 39. Letter from Tidyman to Janet Pate, 17 December 197, Box 14, Folder: Correspondence Files: Shaft 197–81, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Notes. Chapter 3


40. Letter from Sylva Romano to Rob Cohen of Motown Productions, 10 June 1976, Box 14, Folder: Correspondence Files: Shaft 197–81, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 41. Letter from Rob Cohen to Sylva Romano, 10 August 1976, Box 14, Folder: Correspondence Files: Shaft 197–81, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 42. Letter from Ernest Tidyman to Fred C. Haayen of Polydor Inc., 8 February 1978, Box 14, Folder: Correspondence Files: Shaft 197–81, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 43. Letter from Ernest Tidyman International, Ltd. (signed by Tidyman) to Bantam Books (attn. Victor Temkin),  October 1976, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Book Contracts, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 44. Nora Sayre, Washington Star, 9 March 197. 45. Barbara Holsopple, Pittsburgh Press, 6 May 1979. 46. Kirkus,  October 1978. 47. Time Out, 48. Todd McCarthy, “Ernest Tidyman, Alfredo Leone Deal for at Least Two Features,” Variety, 9 October 1979. 49. Todd McCarthy, “Ernest Tidyman, Alfredo Leone Deal for at Least Two Features,” Variety, 9 October 1979. 50. Robert Ross, “Big Bucks by Ernest Tidyman,” Times-News,  March 1983. 51. William Wolf, “Ernest Tidyman, the White Master of Black Violence,” The Pittsburgh Press, 14 January 1973. 52. George Condon, Lakewood Sun Post, 1 February 198. 53. Lakeland Ledger, 16 June 000. 54. Woody Haut, Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood (London: Serpent's Tail, 00). 55. Chris Clark, “Remembering Tidyman and His Work on ‘Shaft,’” L.A. Times, 7 January 1991.

Chapter 3 1. Dereck Williamson, “Pocket Violence,” New York Times, 10 March 1974. 2. Dynamite Entertainment, “Dynamite Announces Shaft Publishing Deal,” 9 May 014, 3. Robert Allen Baker and Michael T. Nietzel, Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights: A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922–1984 (Bowling Green, OH: Popular Press, 198), 30. 4. Chris Clark, “Remembering Tidyman and His Work on ‘Shaft,’” L.A. Times, 7 January 1991. 5. Kirkus, 1 October 1970. 6. Kirkus, Unknown date 1968. 7. Kirkus, 1 March 1979.

Book 1: Shaft (1970) 8. Alan Rinzler, E-mail to author, 13 February 014. 9. Alan Rinzler, E-mail to author, 13 February 014. 10. Charles Champlin, “Ernest Tidyman Lifts the Curse,” L.A. Times, 1 January 197. 11. Agreement between Macmillan and Company and Ernest Tidyman, 18 October 1968, Box 148, Folder: Shaft File: Shaft Paperwork, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 12. Diane Lanken, “Tidyman’s Energy Gets Things Done,” The Montreal Gazette, 31 January 1976.


Notes. Chapter 3

Book 2: Shaft Among the Jews (1972) 13. Barnard Collier, “3 Murders Bring Fear to Gem Area,” New York Times, 1968. 14. Letter from Donna Schrader, Publicity Director at The Dial Press, to Tidyman, 3 May 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 15. Letter from Richard Marek, editor at The Dial Press, to Tidyman,  June 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 16. Letter from Tidyman to Richard Marek of The Dial Press, 6 June 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 17. Letter from Tidyman to Don Hutter at The Dial Press, 4 October 1971, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 18. Letter from Tidyman to Jane Toonkel, Permissions Editor at Bantam Books, 13 February 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 19. Letter from Sylva Romano to Marc Jaffee at Bantam Books, 3 April 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 20. Letter from Tidyman to James Lynch of the New York Times, 8 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Among the Jews 1971–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Book 3: Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) 21. Tidyman’s novelization of his own eventual screenplay starts with Shaft returning from a vacation in Jamaica, wondering why he ever went there in the first place—possibly a small dig at Lewis’ screenplay, which Tidyman disliked. 22. Paul S. Nathan, “Tidyman’s Big Score,” Publishers’ Weekly,  May 197, p. 44. 23. Paul S. Nathan, “And in This Corner…,” Publishers’ Weekly, 9 May 197. 24. William Wolf, “Ernest Tidyman, the White Master of Black Violence,” The Pittsburgh Press, 14 January 1973. 25. Letter from Daniel Sklar of Sklar, Kornblum & Coben to Tidyman, 1 May 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Big Score 1971–83, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 26. “‘Compromise’ Re Tidyman Brothers Authors, Attys,” Variety, 14 June 197.

Book 4: Shaft Has a Ball (1973) 27. Letter from Robert Turner to Tidyman, 14 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Has a Ball 197–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 28. Letter from Tidyman to Robert Turner, 11 September 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Has a Ball 197–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Book 5: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (1973) 29. Letter from Sylva Romano to Mary Jane Nelson (Tidyman’s secretary), 9 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Book Contracts, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 30. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 18 September 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Notes. Chapter 3


31. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 18 September 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 32. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 18 September 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 33. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 8 September 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 34. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 7 October 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 35. Tidyman letter to Phillip Rock, 8 November 197, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 36. Letter from Sylva Romano to Phillip Rock, 9 January 1973, Box 7, Folder: Correspondence: Goodbye, Mr. Shaft, 197–77, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 37. Letter from Tidyman to Richard Marek of Dial Press, 0 March 1973, Box 148, Folder: Shaft File: Shaft paperwork, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Book 6: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (1974) 38. Ernest Tidyman, “Jamaica: Black Economy at Work and Jamaica: A Nation Grows Up,” The Milwaukee Journal, 13–14 April 1970. The articles reference prominent politicians, Sir Alexander “Busta” Bustamante, who was the first prime minister of Jamaica, and the then current PM Hugh Shearer. It was the then current (November 197) PM Michael Manley who was the likely the final inspiration for the character of Sir Charles Lightwood with Turner having watched him on TV while carrying out research in Jamaica. 39. Letter from Tidyman to Robert Turner, 6 October 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 40. Letter from Tidyman to Robert Turner, 7 November 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 41. Letter from Sylva Romano to Robert Turner, 4 December 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 42. Letter from Tidyman to Robert Turner, 11 September 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 43. Letter from Robert Turner to Tidyman, 9 November 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 44. Letter from Robert Turner to Tidyman, 11 December 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 45. Letter from Tidyman to Robert Turner,  April 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 46. Letter from Allan Barnard, Associate Editorial Director at Bantam Books to Tidyman, 0 June 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 47. Letter from Tidyman to Karen Weitzman at Bantam Books,  July 1974, Box 14,


Notes. Chapter 4

Folder: Shaft’s Carnival of Killers, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Book 7: The Last Shaft (1975) 48. Letter from Tidyman to Sondra Lee Ogelsby, 1 October 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Fan Letters 1971–77, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 49. Agreement between Bantam Books and Tidyman, 6 July 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Book Contracts, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 50. Letter from Tidyman to Phillip Rock, 6 November 1973, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 51. Letter from Carl Bennett, story editor at MGM, on behalf of Daniel Melnick to Sylva Romano at Ernest Tidyman International, 1 May 1974, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 52. Letter from Rosemary J. Legge at Weidenfeld & Nicolson to Tidyman,  June 1974, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 53. Letter from Tidyman to Rosemary J. Legge at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1 June 1974, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 54. Letter from Tidyman to Allan Barnard at Bantam Books,  July 1974, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Ernest Tidyman Papers, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 55. Letter from Tidyman to Rosemary J. Legge at Weidenfeld & Nicolson,  August 1974, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Ernest Tidyman Papers, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 56. Letter from Sylva Romano of Ernest Tidyman Productions to Rosemary J. Legge at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 3 February 197, Box 10: Folder: the Last Shaft 1973–78, Ernest Tidyman Papers, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Chapter 4 1. Letter from Sid Jacobson to Sylva Romano, 11 December 1971, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 2. Memo from Sylva Romano to Tidyman, 1 December 1971, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 3. David Russell, E-mail to author, 7 December 014. 4. Letter from Sylva Romano to Dan Sklar enclosing copy of agreement between Editors and Writers Inc., and David Russell, 1 January 197, Box 148, Folder: the Shaft File, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 5. David Russell Biography 014, Prepared by John Clooney and e-mailed to author on 7 December 014. 6. Agreement for both Don Rico and Robert O. Smith with Editors and Writers Inc.,  June 197, Box 148, Folder: the Shaft File, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 7. Tidyman’s handwritten notes on Don Rico’s character sketches, Undated, Box14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 8. Letter from Sylva Romano to Don Rico, 7 November 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft

Notes. Chapters 5, 8 and 9


Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 9. Letter from Sylva Romano to Don Rico on Tidyman’s behalf,  November 197, Box14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 10. Letter from Don Rico to Sylva Romano, 11 November 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 11. Letter from Sylva Romano to Henry Raduta of Chicago Tribune,  January 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 12. Letter from Don Rico to Sylva Romano,  February 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 13. Letter from Thomas E, Peoples of Newspaper Enterprise Association to Sylva Romano,  March 1973, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Comic Strip 197–73, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Chapter 5 1. William Foster, “The Black Private Eye from America,” The Scotsman, 17 February 1973.

Chapter 8 1. “American History Through an African American Lens,” Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 2. Ella Watson was a cleaning woman at the federal building in Washington, D.C., whom Parks met in 194. Watson wage supported a large family, including her grandchildren, as well as her local church. Parks took a series of photographs based upon Watson’s life and work. 3. Oral history interview of Gordon Parks by Richard Doud, 30 December 1964. 4. Darlene Donloe, Gordon Parks: Photographer, Writer, Composer, Film Maker (Los Angeles: Melrose Square Publishing Company, 1993).

Chapter 9 1. Industry Central Profiles: The Working Actor—Richard Roundtree,, accessed 7 December 013. 2. “From Model to Movie Star: Richard Roundtree Stars in Harlem Detective Story Shaft,” Ebony, June 1971. 3. Chester Higgins, “‘Shaft’ Spotlights Newest Black Stars,” Jet, 8 July 1971. 4. “From Model to Movie Star: Richard Roundtree Stars in Harlem Detective Story Shaft,” Ebony, June 1971. 5. Donald Bogle, Blacks in American Films and Television (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988). 6. Colin Dangaard, “Roundtree Feels He Hasn’t Broken the Shaft Barrier,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1 December 1978. 7. Roger Ebert, “Richard Roundtree: He’s Learning to Live with Success,” Chicago SunTimes, 10 December 197. 8. “Roundtree Set to Marry ‘Lovely Blonde Actress,’” Jet, 11 September 1980. 9. “Richard Roundtree: Catching Up with the Original Shaft to DISCUSS Career Choices New and Old,” EmpireOnline,


Notes. Chapter 10

Chapter 10 Shaft (1971) 1. Grant Hank, “The Rambling Reporter,” Hollywood Reporter, 14 February 1970. 2. William T. Noble, “Ex-Detroiter Ernest Tidyman Tells Why and How He Created the Black Super-Sleuth…Shaft,” The Detroit News: Sunday News Magazine, 30 September 1973. 3. Letter from Ossie Davis to Sylva Romano, 18 May 1970, Box 148, Folder: Shaft File, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 4. James Morrison (and Jans Wager on Richard Roundtree), Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 010). Citation noted: Gordon Parks memo to John D.F. Black, 16 November 1970, Coll 1, Joel Freeman Papers, The Margaret Herrick Library, University of California. 5. Charles Champlin, “Ernest Tidyman Lifts the Curse,” L.A. Times, 1 January 197. 6. Letter from Mary Dorfman, Credits Administrator at Writers Guild of America to Tidyman, 1 April 1971, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Movie 1970–80, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 7. “From Model to Movie Star: Richard Roundtree Stars in Harlem Detective Story Shaft,” Ebony, June 1971. 8. James Morrison (and Jans Wager on Richard Roundtree), Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s. Citation noted: MGM Production Budget for Shaft, 13 January 1971, Coll 1, Joel Freeman Papers, The Margaret Herrick Library, University of California. 9. James Morrison (and Jans Wager on Richard Roundtree), Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s. Citation noted: Stirling Silliphant letter to MGM boss Jim Aubrey, 9 March 1971 and memo from Joel Freeman to MGM assistant productions manager Lindsley Parsons, Jr., April 1971, Coll 1, Joel Freeman Papers, The Margaret Herrick Library, University of California. 10. James Morrison (and Jans Wager on Richard Roundtree), Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s. Citation noted: Martin Bell letter to Joel Freeman, 19 April 1971, Coll 1, Joel Freeman Papers, The Margaret Herrick Library, University of California. 11. Gordon Parks, Voices in the Mirror (New York: Doubleday, 1990). 12. Shaft Pressbook, MGM, 1971. 13. Walter Kerr, “God on the Gymnasium Floor,” New York Times, 9 June 1970. 14. Jet, 14 December 197. 15. Paul S. Clark, “Talented Black Actor Pays High Price for Success,” L.A. Times, 19 November 1973. 16. Milton Jordan, “‘Shaft’ Is His Name, Shafting His Game,” Star News, 3 July 1971. 17. Chester Higgins, “‘Shaft’ Spotlights Newest Black Stars,” Jet, 8 July 1971. 18. Chester Higgins, “‘Shaft’ Spotlights Newest Black Stars,” Jet, 8 July 1971. 19. Martin Kasindorf, “Critics Deny Silliphant Has Talent,” Newsweek, May 197. 20. Joel Freeman at UCLA Film and TV Archive screening of Shaft, October 010. 21. Rob Bowman, Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records (New York: Schirmer Trade, 1997), 30. 22. Lana K. Wilson-Combs, “‘Shaft’ returns with Isaac Hayes on Board,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, 1 June 000. 23. “Advertising Agency Helped Make ‘Shaft’ Box Office Hit,” The Afro American, 3 August 1971. 24. “Shaft Sets Record at London Theatre,” Variety, 6 November 1971. 25. Publishers’ Weekly, 3 May 1971, –3.

Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) 26. New York Times, 9 May 1971. 27. Letter from Roger Lewis to Tidyman,  May 1971, Box 81, Folder: Manuscript File: 1971, Shaft Among the Jews, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Notes. Chapter 11


28. Variety, 3 July 1971. 29. Variety, 11 August 1971. 30. Letter from Roger Lewis to Tidyman, 1 August 1971, Box 80, Folder: Manuscript File: 1971, Shaft II, First Draft by Roger Lewis, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 31. Letter from Tidyman to Roger Lewis, 30 September 1971, Box 14, Folder: Shaft in Africa 1971–74, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 32. Judy Spiegelman, “Shaft Overtakes Richard Roundtree…Sometimes,” Soul, 14 August 197. 33. Shaft’s Big Score! Weekly Production Cost Breakdown, 4 June 197, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 34. Lukas Kendall, Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More! (Booklet accompanying CD), Film Score Monthly, 008 35. Jet, 10 August 197. 36. Jet, 1 November 1973.

Shaft in Africa (1973) 37. Letter from Tidyman to James T. Aubrey, Jr., President at MGM, 9 February 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft Television 197–76, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 38. Shaft in Africa production files, Stirling Silliphant Papers, UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library. 39. Letter from Roger Lewis to Tidyman, 19 September 197, Box 8, Folder: Manuscript File: 197, Shaft in Africa, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 40. Letter from Roger Lewis to Tidyman, 10 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft in Africa 1971–74, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 41. Memo from Roger Lewis to Dan Melnick at MGM, 3 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft in Africa 1971–74, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 42. Letter from Daniel M, Sklar of Sklar, Kornblum & Coben, Inc., to Tidyman, Box 14, Folder: Shaft in Africa 1971–74, Coll 09178, 7 December 197, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 43. Memo from Roger Lewis to Dan Melnick at MGM, 3 August 197, Box 14, Folder: Shaft in Africa 1971–74, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 44. William E. Berry, “Vonetta McGee Meets New Male Star in New Film,” Jet, 0 September 1973. 45. David Wolper, Producer: A Memoir (New York: Scribner, 003). 46. Chicago Tribune, 30 May 199.

Chapter 11 1. Cecil Smith, “Review of Shaft: The Executioners,” L.A. Times, October 1973. 2. Dick Adler, “You Can’t Put That John Shaft on TV,” TV Guide, 0 April 1974. 3. “Roundtree to Star in ‘Shaft’ TV Series,” Jet, 9 November 197. 4. Letter from Barry L. Hirsch of Schiff, Colton, Wolf, Hirsch and Levine to Stirling Silliphant, 31 October 197, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 5. CBS Press release, 3 April 1973. 6. Dick Adler, “You Can’t Put That John Shaft on TV,” TV Guide, 0 April 1974.


Notes. Chapter 1 and Epilogue

7. Dave Kaufman, “Richard Roundtree Not Satisfied with Character of Shaft on TV,” Variety, 1973. 8. Lukas Kendall, Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More! (Booklet accompanying CD), Film Score Monthly, 008.

Episode 5: Cop Killer 9. Shaft: The Meat Eaters script by Ken Kolb,  October, 1973, Box , Folder: Shaft, Coll 117, William Read Woodfield Papers, UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Episode 6: The Capricorn Murders 10. Shaft: The Capricorn Murders script by Ellis Marcus, 1 October 1973, Box , Folder: Shaft, Coll 117, William Read Woodfield Papers, UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Episode 7: The Murder Machine 11. Shaft: The Killing Machine script by William Read Woodfield, 0 November, 1973, Box , Folder: Shaft, Coll 117, William Read Woodfield Papers, UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Chapter 12 1. Letter from Sylva Romano to Pat Sonsini at MGM, 3 April 198, Box , Folder: Shaft Contracts, Coll 09178, Ernest Tidyman Papers, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. 2. Douglas J. Rowe, “Old Shaft Passes the Torch,” Beaver County Times, 19 June 000. 3. “Snipes Slams Shaft,” WENN, 17 August 000. 4. “Samuel L. Jackson: Shaft? Who Me?” Urban Cinefile, 6 October 000, www.urban 5. Anthony Heyes, “Roundtree at the Garde for Screening of ‘Shaft,’” The Day, 9 July 001. 6. “John Singleton: Shaft, the Melodrama,” The Guardian,  September 000. 7. Sandi Chaitram, David Arnold—Shaft, BBC Films, 10 June 000, films.

Epilogue 1. David Walker, E-mail to author, 0 November 014. 2. “Dynamite Announces Shaft Publishing Deal,” Dynamite Entertainment Press Release, 9 May 014, 3. “Walker Promises a ‘More BadAss’ Shaft in the Character’s Comic Debut,” Comic Book Resources, 16 September 014, 4. “‘I grew up watching the movies and reading the books’—David Walker Talks Shaft,” Bleeding Cool, 9 September 014, 5. David Walker, E-mail to the author, 0 November 014. 6. David Walker, E-mail to the author, 0 November 014.

Bibliography Archival Ernest Tidyman Papers. Coll 09178. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming. Gordon Parks Papers. Coll mm 96083761. Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita State University. Joel Freeman Papers. Coll 1. The Margaret Herrick Library, University of California. Ronald Hobbs Literary Agency records 1964–199. Coll MS#166. Columbia University Libraries. Stirling Silliphant Papers. Coll 134. UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library. William Read Woodfield Papers. Coll 117. UCLA: Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Books Alleman, Richard. New York: The Movie Lover’s Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. New York: Broadway Books. 00. Baker, Robert Allen, and Michael T. Nietzel. Private Eyes: One Hundred and One Knights: A Survey of American Detective Fiction, 1922–1984. Bowling Green, OH: Popular Press. 198. Barboza, Craigh. John Singleton Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 009. Berrett, Joshua, and Louis G. Bourgois, III. The Musical World of J.J. Johnson. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. 18 December 001. Berry, S.L. Gordon Parks. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. 1990. Bogle, Donald. Blacks in American Films and Television. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1988. Bowman, Rob. Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records. New York: Schirmer Trade. 1997. Brady, Susan Doukas. Tales, Observations and Notes: Bob An Actor’s Mentor. Susan Doukas Brady. 01. Brookman, Philip. Gordon Parks: Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective. Boston, MA: Bulfinch. 1977. Brown, Jeffrey A. Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 001. Bush, Martin H. The Photographs of Gordon Parks. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University. 1983. Cheung, Harrison, and Nicola Pittam. Christian Bale: The Inside Story of the Darkest Batman. Dallas: BenBella Books. 01. Covington, Jeanette. Crime and Racial Constructions: Cultural Misinformation About African Americans in Media and Academia. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. 010. Donalson, Melvin. Black Directors in Hollywood. Austin: University of Texas Press. 010. Donloe, Darlene. Gordon Parks: Photographer, Writer, Composer, Film Maker. Los Angeles: Melrose Square Publishing Company, 1993.




Eagan, Daniel. America’s Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide to the Landmark Movies in the National Film Registry. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing. 010. Eszterhas, Joe. Hollywood Animal. New York: Random House. 008. Gough-Yates, Anna, and Bill Osgerby. Action TV: Tough-Guys, Smooth Operators and Foxy Chicks. New York: Routledge, 013. Harnan, Terry, and Russell Hoover. Gordon Parks: Black Photographer and Film Maker. Champaign, IL: Garrard Publishing Company, 197. Haut, Woody. Heartbreak and Vine: The Fate of Hardboiled Writers in Hollywood. London: Serpent’s Tail, 00. Howard, Josiah. Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide. Godalming, Surrey: FAB Press. 008. Kapsis, Robert E., and Kathie Coblentz. Clint Eastwood: Interviews. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 1 December 01. Koven, Mikel J. Blaxploitation Films. Harpenden: Oldcastle Books. 010. Lev, Peter. American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions. Austin: University of Texas Press. 010. Lombardi, Frederic. Allan Dwan and the Rise and Decline of the Hollywood Studios. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. 013. Morrison, James (and Jans Wager on Richard Roundtree). Hollywood Reborn: Movie Stars of the 1970s. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 010. Parks, Gordon. A Hungry Heart: A Memoir. New York: Atria. 00. _____. Voices in the Mirror. Doubleday, New York. 1990. Parr, Ann, and Gordon Parks. Gordon Parks: No Excuses. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 006. Pate, Janet. The Book of Sleuths. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 1977 Pitts, Michael R. Famous Movie Detectives II. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. 1991 Powell, Steven (entry by J. Kingston Pierce). 100 American Crime Writers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 01. Quinlan, David. The Illustrated Guide to Film Directors. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 1983. Reid, Mark A. Redefining Black Film. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1993. Rubin, Martin. Thrillers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999. Server, Lee. Encyclopedia of Pulp Fiction Writers. New York: Infobase Publishing, 009. Sexton, Donal. The Western European and Mediterranean Theaters in World War II: An Annotated Bibliography of English-Language Sources. New York: Routledge. 011. Sims, Yvonne D. Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. 006. Stange, Maren. Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks. Milan: Skira, 006. Tidyman, John H. “Gimme rewrite, sweetheart—”: Tales from the Last Glory Days of Cleveland Newspapers. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company. 009. Turk, Midge, and Herbert Danska. Gordon Parks. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1971. Van Deburg, William L. Black Camelot: African-American Culture Heroes in Their Times, 1960–1980. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 008. Walker, David, Andrew J. Rousch, and Chris Watson. Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. 009. Wolper, David. Producer: A Memoir. New York: Scribner. 003.

Newspaper, Magazine and Web Articles/Interviews/Reviews Adams, Scott. “Exploring the World of Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft Literature.” Teleport City. 7 June 00. (



Adler, Dick. “You Can’t Put That John Shaft on TV.” TV Guide. 0 April 1974. Alexander, Michael. “First Black to Produce Major Work.” Newsday. 11 June 1976. Amata, Carmie. “The Importance of Being Ernest.” Cleveland Magazine. March 197. Anderson, George. “Shaft’s Big Score Successful Sequel on Stanley Screen.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 6 July 197. Anderson, Polly. “American Visionary: Gordon Parks—An Appreciation.” Toledo Blade. 9 March 006. Angioli, Alex. “Shaft Is in Africa; It’s Not Far Enough.” Montreal Gazette, 8 July 1973. Archerd, Army. “Just for Variety.” Variety. 0 January 197. Beale, Lewis. “Samuel L. Jackson: From Addict to Hollywood Star.” New York Daily News. 1 June 000. Beck, Marilyn. “Roundtree Says John Shaft Is Dead.” The Evening News.  February 1976. Beifuss, John. “Ladies Be Warned: Shaft’s Back.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 1 June 1999. Berry, William E. “Vonetta McGee Meets New Male Star in New Film.” Jet. 0 September 1973. Boyd, Bob. “‘Chauvinistic’ Is Word for Shaft.” Boca Raton News. 3 April 197. Buck, Jerry. “Joe Don Baker Heads Cast of ‘Eischeid.’” Daytona Beach Sunday News. 16 September 1979. _____. “Silliphant Won’t Sell New Book to TV or to the Movies.” The Times-News. 9 June 1983. Burger, Mark. “Getting the ‘Shafts.’” Star News. 8 June 000. Canby, Vincent. “‘Shaft’—At Last, a Good Saturday Night Movie.” New York Times. 11 July 1971. Cerone, Daniel. “Silliphant Back but Not Quite as He Had Planned.” L.A. Times. 9 March 1994. Chaitram, Sandi. “David Arnold—Shaft.” BBC Films. 10 June 000. ( Champlin, Charles. “Ernest Tidyman Lifts the Curse.” L.A. Times. 1 January 197. Chelminski, Rudolph. “Richard Roundtree’s Big Score.” Life. 1 September 197. Clark, Chris. “Remembering Tidyman and His Work on ‘Shaft.’” L.A. Times. 7 January 1991. Clark, Paul S. “Talented Black Actor Pays High Price for Success.” L.A. Times. 19 November 1973. Condon, George. Lakeland Sun Post. 1 February 198. Cooper, Arthur. “Black Eye.” Newsweek. July 197. Crinklaw, Don. “Bond in Blackface: Shaft Among the Jews.” St. Louis Post Dispatch.  June 197. Crist, Judith. “Bloody but Not Unbowed (Shaft in Africa Review).” New York Magazine.  July 1973. Critchell, Samantha. “Fashion Is Key to ‘Shaft’s’ Cool Look.” Reading Eagle. 19 June 000. Crow, Kelly. “Cafe Borgia, Like Its Beat Heyday and Lucrezia Herself, Is History.” New York Times. 14 January 001. Dangaard, Colin. “Roundtree Feels He Hasn’t Broken the Shaft Barrier.” Sarasota Herald Tribune. 1 December 1978. Dinicola, Dan. “One Cool Cop (Shaft Review).” The Daily Gazette. 16 June 000. Dresser, Norman. “‘Shaft’s Big Score!’ a Glossy Film.” Toledo Blade. 1 July 197. Dretzka, Gary. “There’s Much More to Richard Roundtree Than ‘Shaft.’” Chicago Tribune. 18 June 199. Dudek, Duane. “Incomplete and Humorless ’Shaft’ Finds Its Voice in Violence.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 1 June 000. Ebert, Roger. “Richard Roundtree: He’s Learning to Live with Success.” Chicago Sun-Times. 10 December 197. Farhi, Paul. “People Still Dig Sassy, Vibrant Theme Song from ‘Shaft.’” Washington Post.  June 000. Farrow, Charles. “Richard Roundtree Interview. “The Afro American. 7 June 197. Foster, William. “The Black Private Eye from America.” The Scotsman. 17 February 1973. Germain, David. “Jackson Is Ideally Cast as Shaft.” Ellensburg Daily Record. 14 June 000.



Gonzales, Michael A. “Shafted: On Ernest R. Tidyman and the Makings of Shaft.” Mulholland Books.  February 011. ( Grant, Hank. “Ernest Tidyman’s Received a Monsoon of Protests.” Hollywood Reporter. 18 October 1973. _____. “The Rambling Reporter.” Hollywood Reporter. 14 February 1970. Green, Theophilus. “The Black Man as Movie Hero.” Ebony. August 197. Greenspun, Roger. “Something Happened on Way to the Sequel.” New York Times.  June 197. Haber, Joyce. “Silliphant Doesn’t Indulge in Anything but Writing.” Sarasota Journal. 9 December 1971. Hailey, Dot. Diary: “Richard Roundtree in Ethiopia ‘Shaft in Africa.’” The Afro American. February/March 1973. Hansen, Ben. “Little Known Actors Fight Plot Boost ‘Shaft.’” The Spokesman. 8 August 1971. Haynes, Monica L. “New ‘Shaft’ Recalls Defiant Message of Blaxploitation Films.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 1 June 000. Heffernan, Virginia. “Julius Harris, 81, Pioneering Black Actor, Dies.” New York Times. 3 October 004. Heyes, Anthony. “Roundtree at the Garde for Screening of ‘Shaft.’” the Day. 9 July 001. Higgins, Chester. “‘Shaft’ Spotlights Newest Black Stars.” Jet. 8 July 1971. Hope, Andrew. “The Last Shaft Review.” Evening Standard. 8 April 197. Jordan, Milton. “‘Shaft’ Is His Name, Shafting His Game.” Star News. 3 July 1971. Kasindorf, Martin. “Critics Deny Silliphant Has Talent.” Newsweek. May 197. Kaufman, Dave. “Richard Roundtree Not Satisfied with Character of Shaft on TV.” Variety. 1973. Kerr, Walter. “Moses Gunn Is Master of Words in Kahn’s ‘Othello’ Production.” New York Times. 9 June 1970. King, Llewellyn. “I Mourn the Weekly World News Because My Hands Are Not Clean.” 7 August 007. ( Kipp, Gordon. “‘Shaft’ Puts Emphasis on Black Pride.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 4 September 1971. Kleiner, Dick. “His Voice His Fortune (Ed Barth).” The Morning Record.  November 1973. _____. “Richard Roundtree Outgrew the Shaft Ego.” The Ford Scott Tribune. 14 October 1976. _____. “‘Shaft’ Making Big Time Bid.” The Sumter Daily Item. 8 June 1973. Kloss, Gerald. “A Black Bond.” The Milwaukee Journal.  July 1971. Koltnow, Barry. “Shaft Sightings.” The Spokesman. 0 June 000. Kriesberg, Louisa. “Black James Bond Shaft Makes Money.” The Evening Independent. 7 October 197. Lanken, Diane. “Tidyman’s Energy Gets Things Done.” Montreal Gazette. 31 January 1976. Lewin, David. “Ernest Tidyman: The Man Who Made the Black Connection.…” Cinema TV Today. 14 October 197. Mann, Bill. “Shaft’s Score Not So Big.” Montreal Gazette,  August 197. Mason, B.J. “Shaft’s Big Score!” Los Angeles Free Press. 30 June 197. McCarthy, Todd. “Ernest Tidyman, Alfredo Leone Deal for at Least Two Features.” Variety. 9 October 1979. McLellan, Dennis. “Vonetta McGee Dies at 6; Film Actress During 1970s Blaxploitation Era.” L.A. Times. 1 July 010. Melton, William. “Author Writes of Black as Human First.” Santa Ana Register. 7 September 1970. Miseler, Stanley. “Black Africa’s James Bond Is Named Lance Spearman.” L.A. Times. 9 November 1968. Mooney, Joshua. “Richard Roundtree Gets Beyond ‘Shaft.’” The Hour. 1 August 1997. Mosby, Wade H. “‘Shaft’s’ Big Score Appears to Be TV.” The Milwaukee Journal. 9 October 1973. Nathan, Paul S. “And in This Corner….” Publishers’ Weekly. 9 May 197. _____. “Tidyman’s Big Score.” Publishers’ Weekly.  May 197.



Noble, William T. “Ex-Detroiter Ernest Tidyman Tells Why and How He Created the Black Super-Sleuth ... Shaft.” the Detroit News: Sunday News Magazine. 30 September 1973. Norman, Tony. “Shaft’s Big Score?” Zero. Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 0 June 000. O’Donnell, Maureen. “Prominent African-American Film and TV Actor (Wally Taylor Obituary).” Chicago Sun-Times. 4 October 01. Owanao, N. “Nothing Less Than a Man (Shaft Review).” The Village Voice. 8 July 1971. Phillips, Gary. “Richard Roundtree Is Still the Man.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. 3 September 000. Prescott, J. Oliver. “Separate but Equal (Shaft in Africa Review).” St. Petersburg Times. 9 July 1973. _____. “‘Shaft’ Sequel Scoreless on Screen.” St. Petersburg Times. 1 July 197. Riley, Clayton. “A Black Movie for White Audiences?” New York Times.  July 1971. Ross, Robert. “Big Bucks by Ernest Tidyman.” The Times.  March 1983. Rowe, Douglas J. “Old Shaft Passes the Torch.” Beaver County Times. 19 June 000. Ryfle, Steve. “UCLA Archive Revisits ‘Cotton Comes to Harlem’ and ‘Shaft.’” 1 October 010. Seymour, Gene. “Role of Shaft Author Is Often Overlooked.” Lakeland Ledger. 16 June 000. Sharbutt, Jay. “New ‘Shaft’ TV Series to Make Debut.” Gettysburgh Times. 9 October 1973. Sheffield, Skip. “Jackson Stars as the ‘Shaft’ of 000.” Boca Raton News. 16 June 000. Silverman, Jennifer. “Richard Roundtree: Shaft Returns.” Vibe. March 000. Smith, Christopher. “‘Shaft’ Update Angry but Less Political, Complex.” Bangor Daily News. 19 June 000. Smith, Scott W. “Screenwriter Ernest R. Tidyman.” Screenwriting from Iowa. 7 June 01. ( Tate, Greg. “The Wright Brother (Interview with Jeffrey Wright).” Vibe. April 000. Thien, Alex. “Shaft Back in Black Film Sequel.” The Milwaukee Sentinel. 4 July 197. Thompson, M. Cordell. “TV’s Shaft: Is He Still a Tough Guy?” Jet. 1 November 1973. Tidyman, Ernest. “Closing the Gap.” The Milwaukee Journal. 10 September 1968. _____. “Jamaica: Black Economy at Work.” The Milwaukee Journal. 13 April 1970. Walker, Alexander. “How the Black Playboy Turns Grey.” Evening Standard. Thursday, 10 August 197. Watson, Albert. “How Shaft Woke Up America’s Filmland.” Luton Evening Post. 7 October 197. _____. “The Man Who Killed Super Cop Shaft.” Thames Valley Evening Mail. 13 December 1974. Webster, Ivan. “Blackness Exploited in Novel.” L.A. Times. 10 June 1970. Williamson, Dereck. “Pocket Violence.” New York Times. 10 March 1974. Wilson-Combs, Lana K. “‘Shaft’ Returns with Isaac Hayes on Board.” Sarasota Herald Tribune. 1 June 000. Winfrey, Lee. “Eddie Barth: Chance Encounter Brought Acting Career Aided by TV Commercials.” the Evening Independent. 4 August 1981. Wolf, William. “Cleveland Drop-Out Makes Hollywood Scene.” The Plain Dealer. 7 September 1970. _____. “Ernest Tidyman, the White Master of Black Violence.” The Pittsburgh Press. 14 January 1973. Wright, Fred. “‘Shaft’ Entertains, Sort Of.” The Evening Independent. 7 July 1973. _____. “Television ‘Shaft’ Is Colorless.” The Evening Independent. 9 October 1973.

Promotional Material Kendall, Lukas. Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More! (booklet accompanying CD). Film Score Monthly. 008 Shaft. Pressbook. MGM. 1971 Shaft’s Big Score! Pressbook. MGM. 197 Shaft in Africa. Pressbook. MGM. 1973



Websites The David Walker Site (—David F. Walker’s official website with links to his offshoot sites. Dynamic Images (—Storyboard and concept artist David Russell’s website. Internet Movie Database (—resource for movie information. Isaac Hayes (—official website. Joel Freeman (—official website. Joseph Mascolo (—official website. Kirkus (—Book reviews. Nana Camille Yarbrough (—official website. Pate’s Place: A Jazz Lover’s Paradise (—Johnny Pate’s site on jazz music. The Rap Sheet (—Jeff Kingston Pierce’s blog site covering crime fiction, TV and movies. Jeff has been kind enough to publish a couple of articles by myself. Turner Classic Movies (–resource for movie information, including essays.

Index Small Capitals indicate book titles and italics indicate all other media titles. Numbers in bold italics indicate pages with photographs.

Aaron Loves Angie 149 Absolute Zero , 4 Addis Ababa 179, 188 Adler, Stella 193 The Adventures of Aggie 18 The Adventures of Darius Logan  The Afro American 16, 180 Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story 30 Ali, Muhammad 149 Alias 141 Alias Smith and Jones 03 Allman, Sheldon 09–10 American Psycho 14 Another Bouquet 181 Ansara, Michael 198 The Anzio Death Trap 18 Arba Mich 180, 188 “Are You Man Enough?” 179, 183, 187 Armani, Giorgio 17 The Army of Dr. Moreau  Arneric, Neda 178, 181–18, 186, 186 Arnold, David 1 Aubrey, James T., Jr. 19, 143, 14, 148, 164, 166, 177 Austin, Richard 193 Avery, Val 198–199

Barnard, Allan 6, 80 Barrett, Rona 18 Barrucci, Nick 1 Barry, John 1 Barth, Ed 160, 19–193, 196, 198, 10 Batman 1, 14 Beauvy, Nicholas 0 Beckman, Henry 199 Belafonte, Harry 143 Bell, Martin 14 Benedict, Max 184 The Best of Everything 149 The Big Bamboo 3, 9, 6, 163–164 Big Bucks: The True, Outrageous Story of the Plymouth Mail Robbery… and How They Got Away with It 30 Black, John D.F. 144–14, 13, 17–18, 07 Black Belt Jones 13 Black Caesar 13, 169 Black Eye 13 Black Panther Movement 10, 36; see also Black Power; Civil Rights Movement Black Power , 10–11, 1; see also Black Panther Movement; Civil Rights Movement Blackboard Jungle 13 Blackenstein 13 Blacula 13, 181 Blaxploitation 6, 13–14, 4, 36–38, 9, 136, 140–141, 13, 169, 183, 186, 06, 13, 1 The Blood Knot 168 “Blow Your Mind” 173 The Blue Knight 170 The Blue Max 18, 184 The Bold and the Beautiful 167 Born Yesterday 167, 193 The Boston Strangler 00 Boulting, John 184

Baba, Sai 148 Babcock, Barbara 19 Bad Day at Black Rock 13, 19 Baker, Joe Don 9 Bale, Christian 14, 16 Ball, John 11–1, 4, 1 Balter, Allan 190–191, 194–197, 00, 0– 04, 06 Bantam Books 6, 1, 6–8, 36, 46, 3–, 9–60, 6, 67, 71, 73–74, 78–81, 79, 8, 87–88


0 Boulting, Roy 184 Bouquet of Barbed Wire 181 Brandt, Vic 0 Brewer, Sherri 10, 18 The Bridge at Remagen 18 Brighton Rock 184 Broadway see New York Bronfman, Edgar, Jr. 10 The Bronx see New York Brooklyn see New York Brother on the Run 149, 183 Brotherly Love 31 Brown, Claude 4 Brown, Drew Bundini 149–10, 18, 16– 166, 17 Brown, James 10 Brown, Jim 8, 138, 141, 14 Buckstown 183 Buddies 141 Burke, Paul 0 Burton, LeVar 9 Bustin’ Loose 181 Cagney & Lacey 181 The Californians 13 Camelot 13 Candid Camera 138 The Candidate 0 Candy Stripe Nurses 07 Cannon Films 1 “The Capricorn Murders” 139, 19, 197, 06–08 Caribbean 14, 78, 81, 16, 177; see also Jamaica Carlos, John 10 Carlson, Karen 0 Carmichael, Stokely 10 Carter, Terry 14 Casey, Bernie 14 Cassavetes, John 13 CBS see Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) Central Park see New York Chamberlain, Richard 31 Chandler, Raymond 3, 43, 48, 90, 174 Chaplin, Charles 40 Charley One-Eye 139 Cheadle, Don 13 Cherry, Bill 137 The Cheyenne Social Club 41 Chosen Survivors 149 Cioffi, Charles 147–148, 157, 18 Circles of Time 41 City Heat 140 Civil Rights Movement , , 9–10, 13; see

Index also Black Panther Movement; Black Power Clark, Chris see Clark-Tidyman, Chris Clark-Tidyman, Chris 7, 7, 30–33, 38–39, 1 Clay, Cassius see Ali, Muhammad Cleopatra Jones 13, 78, 181 Cleveland, Ohio 1, 17, 7 The Cleveland News 1, 17 Cobb, Lee J. 147 Coffy 13 Cohen, Rob 8 Colasanto, Nicholas 197 Cole, Nat King 3 Collette, Toni 14–16 The Color Purple 149 Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) , 14, 9, 40, 139, 13, 16, 160, 167, 190, 193 Columbo 19 Conan Doyle, Arthur 7, 90 Condon, George 33 Connery, Sean 139 Cool Breeze 16, 168 “Cop Killer” 191–19, 04–06 Corgi Books 6, 4, 6, 44, 46, 52, 4, 60– 61, 61, 66, 72, 74, 86, 88 Cosby, Bill 137, 19 Cotton Comes to Harlem 143, 1, 19, 168, 00 The Cowboys 0 Crime Photographer 0 Crosby, Cathy Lee 139, 07–08 Crosby, Mary 30 Crosse, Rupert 14 Culp, Robert 19 Curtis, Tony 00–01 Curtis Brown Agency 38 ’Da Kink in My Hair 168 Dafoe, Daniel 140 Daley, Robert 9 D’Antoni, Philip 0, 4, 14 Dark Horse Comics  Davis, Miles 10 Davis, Ossie 143, 1 Davis, Todd 170 Days of Our Lives 148, 167 The Dead in Guanajuato 41 The Death of Adolf Hitler 180 The Defenders 11 de Laurentiis. Dino 9 Desperate Housewives 141, 1 Detroit 9000 181 Dial Press 4, 74 Diamond Blacc 91

Index Diamonds 140 Diary of a Single Mom 141 Diddy 179 Dirty Harry 13, 6, 30, 41, 1, 199 “Do Your Thang” 16 Dobkin, Lawrence 09 Dobson, Tamara 178, 181 Doc Savage  Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde 183 Donat, Robert 3 Dragnet 00 Dresner, Hal 40 DuBois, Ja’Net 197, 199 Duff, Howard 00–01 Dufty, William F. 31 Dummy (book) 4, 6–7, 41, 8 Dummy (TV film) 1–, , 9 Dukakis, Olympia 167 Durning, Charles 167 Duvall, Robert 167 Dynamite Entertainment 3, 7, 8, 38, 9, 1–3 Dysart, Richard 167 Earthquake 140 Eastwood, Clint , –6, 140, 1, 181, 199 Ebony magazine 137, 139, 14 Egan, Eddie 0, 9 The Eiger Sanction 181, 07 Eischeid 9 Ellington, Duke 183 Embassy 139 The Enforcer 1 The Enforcers see “The Executioners” Enter the Dragon 6, 14 The Epitaph of George Dillon 180 Escape from Fort Bravo 40 Escape from New York 169 Escape to Athena 140 Essence magazine 136 Eszterhaus, Joe  Evely, Bilquis 9,  The Executioner 88 “The Executioners” 191, 194–197, 199, 0, 03, 10 The Extraordinary Seaman (book) 40 The Extraordinary Seaman (film) 40 Fantômas 184 Farmer, James 9 Faustina 181 Felony Squad 00 Ferro, Talyn 0 Fiddler on the Roof 198 Finlay, Frank 178, 180–181, 186


Firehouse (TV film) 139 Firehouse (TV series) 139 Fitzgerald, Ella 183 Flanagan, Fionnuala 09–10 Flesh and Lace 170 Flickers 41 Flower Power 11, 18, 4, 43 Fly Away Home 1 For Love of Ivy 148 A Force of One 9 Fordham, Peta 73 Forst, Don 33 The Four Musketeers 181 413 Hope St. 141 The Four Tops 179, 183, 187 Foxy Brown 13 Francis, Dick  Frankenheimer, John 40 Freeman, Joel 143–146, 1–14, 16 Freeman, Morgan 141 The French Connection 13, 0–1, 3, 9, 3, 4, 7, 11, 1, 174 Frey, Leonard 198–199 Friday Foster 169–170 Friedkin, William 0–1 Friedman, Bruce Jay 18 The Fugitive 03 Funt, Allen 138 Furrer, Urs 13, 14–1, 171, 173 A Future Arrived 41 Game for Vultures 140 Garas, Kaz 19 Geary, Anthony 01 Le Gendarme et les extra-terrestres 184 George, Nathan 8, 1 Gerard, Emanuel 1, 166, 171, 173 Gerber, David 9 Girls for Rent 170 Golan-Globas 1 Golden, Dave 14, 164–16 The Golden Child 169 The Golden Voyage of Sinbad 184 Gomer Pyle: USMC 0 Goodbye Columbus 1 Goodbye, Mr. Chips 73 Goodbye, Mr. Shaft 1, , 8, 37, 41, 6, 67, 69–76, 72, 78, 8, 87–88, 100, 103, 104, 106, 109, 113–116, 118, 1 Gordon, Leo 40 Gossett, Louis, Jr. 9 The Great Silence 181 The Great White Hope 138, 14, 147, 168 The Green Hornet 06 Greene, Joe 3, 9, 78, 16



Greenwich Village see New York Grier, Pam 141, 170 Gries, Tom 143 Grignon, Marcel 183–184 Guillermin, John 179, 18, 184, 187 Gulager, Clu 09–10 A Gunfight 41 Gunn, Moses 110, 144, 147, 18, 160, 16– 166, 17 Guns at Batasi 18, 184 Gunsmoke 39, 06 Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones 30 Guys and Dolls 170 Gypsy 10

Hobbs, Ronald A. 11, 18–19, , 43, 46 Holden, William 40 Holiday, Billie 31 Hollywood Boulevard 07 Hooks, Robert 138, 14 Hopkins, Telma 160 Hopper, Dennis 31 Horne, Lena 163 Hot Buttered Soul 14 Hot Pants Holiday 148 Howard, Moe 171–17 Howard, Ron 1 How’s Your Love Life? 169 Hyman, Kenny 13

Halley, Dot 180 Hamilton, Kim 0 Hammer 13 Hammett, Dashiell 43 Hardcastle and McCormick 170 Harlem see New York Harrar 180, 188 Harris, Harry 00 Harris, Julius W. 16, 169–170, 17 Harrison, Robert 17–18 Harvey Middleman, Fireman 1 Haut, Woody 33 Have Gun—Will Travel 00 Hawkins 14, 190, 197 Hayes, Isaac 1, 13, 3, 8, 46, 49, 13, 141, 146, 13–14, 16–17, 19–160, 166, 173, 183, 193, 196, 01, 03, 1, 17–19 The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter 13 Heartbreak Ridge 147 Hedaya, Dan 16 Hedison, David 06–07 Hell Up in Harlem 169 Hello Dolly! 10 Helm, Christa 168 Henner, Marilu 31 Herlin, Jacques 186 Heroes 141 Hershey, Barbara 140 Hickey & Boggs 41 High Jinks in Society 16 High Plains Drifter (book) 6, 41, 71 High Plains Drifter (film) , –6, 31, 41 Highway Patrol 13 Hill, Robert Jordan 18 Hilton, James 73 Himes, Chester 33, 143, 1 Hirsch, Judd 31 Hit-Man 13 “Hit-Run” 191–19, 00–01, 04–0 Hitchcock, Alfred 40

I Spy 19 The Immaculate Misconception 149 The Immortal 07 Imrie, Kathy 163, 166–168, 17, 17 In the Heat of the Night 11, 4, 1 The Incident 1 Is Paris Burning? 184 Jackie Brown 13–14 Jackson, Jesse 11, 12 Jackson, Samuel L. 141, 213, 14–19, 217, 1 Jacobson, Sid 91 Jaeckel, Richard 19 Jagger, Dean 19 Jamaica 37, 9, 6, 76, 78–83, 9, 109, 113– 114, 163–164, 19; see also Caribbean James Bond 1, 6, 14, 4, 3, 7, 76, 8, 139, 147, 16, 163, 166, 169, 181, 18, 187, 189, 06, 14–1, 1 James Joyce’s Women 09 Jaws 14 Jaws 2 167 Jay-Z 179 The Jeffersons 198 Jenkins, Horace 179 Jet magazine 137, 139–140, 147, 149, 168, 196 The Joe Louis Story 1 Johnson, B.B. see Greene, Joe Johnson, Ellsworth “Bumpy” 110, 144, 18, 160 Johnson, Lyndon B. 9–10, 10 Jones, James Earl 143, 168 Katleman, Harris L. 190–191 Keach, Stacy 9 Kelly, Jim 14 Kennedy, Jayne 0–03 Kennedy, John F. 9 “The Kidnapping” 191–19, 197, 01–04

Index The Killer Elite 1 “The Killing” 6, 161, 191–19, 197–199, 198, 04, 06 King, B.B. 183 King, Llewellyn 18 King, Martin Luther, Jr. 9, 10, 13 King, Tony 8 King Kong 183 King Kong Lives 183 King Lear 147 Kirby, Jack 91 Klute 13, 148, 1 Knight, Don 07–08 Kolb, Ken 191, 00, 04–0 Kolchak: The Night Stalker 0 Kotto, Yaphet 14, 19 Ku Klux Klan 10 L.A. Law 181 Lacy, Ed 1 Lady Sings the Blues 31 Land of the Giants 00 Lang, Donald 6, 9 Lansbury, Angela 10 Laredo 13 Last Plane Out 30 The Last Shaft 7, 1, 7, 38, 41, 83–90, 86, 101–106, 109, 113–114, 117, 119–10, 13–14, 19, 3 Laurel, Stan 40 Lawman 13 Lawrence of Arabia 184 Lawson, James 9 Leadbelly 13, 171 The Learning Tree 134–13, 143 Ledbetter, Huddie William 13, 171 Lee, Bruce 14 Lee, Stan 91 Legat, Michael 4 Legge, Rosemary 87 Leguizamo, John 14 Leon, Joseph 157 Leone, Alfredo 30 Lester, Richard 181 Let’s Go for Broke 168 Lewis, Roger 13, 0, –, 37, 3, 9–60, 6, 78, 143–144, 11–1, 16–166, 170, 17, 177–179, 18, 18, 190 The Liberation of L.B. Jones 19 Licence to Kill 07 Life magazine 134, 136, 143 The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams 09 Lincoln Heights 141 Line of Duty , 4, 7 Live and Let Die 14, 166, 169, 06


Logan’s Run 07 London 4–6, 3, 37, 6, 70–76, 78, 80, 100, 114, 11, 1, 131, 16, 167, 18, 184 The Los Angeles Times 6, 0, 9, 98, 189 Lost in Space 190 Loth, Judith 84–8 Louis, Joe 133, 1 Louis, Marva 133 Love, American Style 1 Love at First Bite 13 Lucidi, Maurice 9 Lumbly, Carl 181 Lynch, James  Macked, Hammered, Slaughtered & Shafted 3, 1 Macmillan Publishers , 7, 11, 18–19, 1–, 36, 43–46, 4 The Mafia 1, 9, 38, 40, 47–48, 68, 8, 88– 89, 99–101, 104–10, 109–11, 114, 117, 119– 1, 14–16, 18, 130–131, 148–10, 16– 17, 160, 3 Magnum, P.I. 170 Maharis, George 0 Malcolm X 10 Mama’s Dirty Girls 07 A Man Called God 148 Man Friday 140 Manchild in the Promised Land 4 The Manhandlers 170 Mann, Abby , 8 Maracaibo 1 Marcus, Ellis 191, 197, 199, 06–07 Marek, Richard 4 Marth, Frank 0 Martin 13 Martin, Jared 198–199 Marvel Comics 9–93 Mascolo, Joseph 61, 166–167, 17–173, 173 Massawa 179, 188 Massey, Raymond 113 Matheson, Don 00 Mayfield, Curtis 179, 183 McCoy, Sid 179 McGavin, Darren 0 McGee, Vonetta 178, 178, 180–181, 186–187 McIntosh, Tom 146, 166 McLain, Chuck 31 Melinda 1, 181 Melnick, Daniel 73, 87 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) , 13–14, 19, 1, 3–, 8, 36–37, 4, 49, 3–4, 9–60, 6, 73, 87–88, 143, 14–146, 148– 149, 1–14, 16, 16–166, 171, 177–180, 187, 190, 1–13



Michael Joseph Ltd. 36, 46 The Mickey Mouse Club 1 Midnight Cowboy 1, 160 Midway 183 Mike Hammer 39, 0 Miles, Rosalind 166, 169–170, 17 Miller, Arthur 167 Mills, James  Mirell, Leon 19 Mirisch, Walter 3 Mission: Impossible 149, 190, 19, 197, 03, 07 Mr. Novak 19 Mitchell, Gwenn 149 Mitchell J. Hamilburg Agency 78 The Monkees 03 Monkeybrain Comics  Moonlighting Wives 170 Moore, Robin 0, 4 Moore, Roger 9, 169 Moriarty, Michael 8 Morton, Jelly Roll 104 Moses, Gil 179 Most Dangerous Man Alive 40 Motown 7–8, 30–31 Moulin Rouge 14 Moxey, John Llewellyn 19 “The Murder Machine” 19, 08–10 Murder One see “The Killing” My Body Hungers 170

Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored 141 One Down, Two to Go 141 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 10, 1 O’Neal, Ron 138, 141, 14 Operation Breadbasket 11 Oppenheimer Loth, Judy see Loth, Judith Original Gangstas 141 Orlando, Tony 160 Othello 147 O’Toole, Peter 73, 140 Outlaws 140 The Outsider 0 Over the Top 1

Naked City 1, 0 Naughty Nurse 148 Negro Ensemble Company 137, 14, 147, 149, 167, 169 Nelson, Mary Jane 71 The New Adventures of Robin Hood 13 New York , , 7, 11–14, 17–0, 4, 9–30, 36–39, 4–43, 49, 3, , 6, 68–69, 74– 76, 8, 90–91, 93–9, 97, 103–104, 106– 107, 114, 117–131, 118, 122–123, 127, 134– 13, 137, 143, 14–1, 14–18, 160, 163, 16–167, 169–17, 179, 184, 186–188, 19– 193, 19, 3; Broadway , 46, 14, 131, 146–147, 10, 17, 163, 167, 169, 17, 180, 193, 197, 19; The Bronx 111, 1; Brooklyn 6, 111, 11, 1, 18, 13, 1, 166, 170, 17, 0, 04, 19; Central Park 47, 117, 10, 14–1, 130; Greenwich Village 6, 10, 117, 1–13, 18, 130, 13, 160, 18; Harlem 11–1, 14, 19, 4, 47–49, 6, 90– 91, 96, 98–100, 10, 109–111, 119, 134–13, 144, 146, 16, 18, 160, 164, 174, 0, 17, 19, –3; Queens 63, 111, 10, 1, 18–130, 13, 164, 166, 17, 19; Riverdale

Pace, Judy 00–01 Pacino, Al 170 Panic in Needle Park 170 Paramount 13 Paris 73, 178, 183–184, 186, 188 Parks, Gordon , –7, 1–13, 1, 33, 36, , 110, 133–136, 134, 138–139, 141, 143–146, 148, 13–160, 164–166, 171–174, 177, 04, 07, 17, 19 Parks, Gordon, Jr. 13–136, 179 Passing Bells 41 Pataki, Michael 198–199 Pate, Johnny 179, 183, 187, 193, 196, 01, 04, 08 Pate, Michael 40 The Pawnbroker 11 Payne, Freda 139 Pearl 1 Peckinpah, Sam 1 Pendleton, Don 88 Pendragon Publishing House 38 Penitentiary III 149 Peppard, George 18 Perry, Frank 9

11, 1; Times Square 36, 49, 97, 117, 119, 13, 160; World Trade Center 117, 3; Yonkers 67, 149 The New York Post 17, 33 New York Times 17–18, 0, , 38, 43, 3, , 76, 147, 18, 174, 187, 18 Newman, Floyd 14 Newton, Huey 10 Nichols, Nichelle 00 Niven, David 40 No Place to Be Somebody 148 Nolan, Christopher 14 Norris, Chuck 9 Nothing but a Man 169 NYPD 11

Index Phillips, Gary 3 Phillips, Lee 0 Phillips, Robert 07 Pigs Ear Plus Caviar Equals Murder 149 Pitt, Brad 141 Pitts, Charles 146, 160 P.J. 18 The Plain Dealer 1, 17 Poitier, Sidney , 11, 3, 4, 143, 07 Pollack, Barry 16 Popwell, Albert 199 Porter, David 14 The Poseidon Adventure 1 Power 9 Price, Richard 13, 1 Principal, Victoria 140 Pulp Fiction 14 Puzo, Mario 18 Q—The Winged Serpent 140 Queens see New York Ragtime 147 Ransom 1 Recess 149 Redford, Robert 0 Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak 3, 1 Reisner, Allen 06, 08 Report to the Commissioner , 8 The Reporter 13 Rescue 77 141 Return of the Living Dead 09 The Return of the Musketeers 181 Reynolds, Burt 140 Rhymes, Busta 213, 14, 17 Rialson, Candice 07 Rico, Don 4, 6, 93–9, 97, 108 Riesner, Dean  Rinzler, Alan , 7, 11, 13, 18–19, 43–4 Riot 168 Riverboat 0 Riverdale see New York Robbins, Rex 10 Robertson, Hugh A. 1, 160, 171 Robinson Crusoe 140 Rock, Phillip 14, –7, 37–38, 40–41, 6, 6, 67, 71, 73, 76, 8, 87, 89–90 The Rockford Files 14, 170 Rocky 3 169 Rodrigues, Percy 00–01 Roll Out 1 Romano, Sylva 0, 1, 4, 6, 8, 3, , 73, 80–81, 87–88, 91, 9, 1


Roots 140, 147, 168 The Rose Tattoo 167 Roundtree, Richard 1, –7, 13–14, 36–37, 49, 4, 94, 13, 137–141, 144, 14–146, 148–149, 14, 17–19, 157, 164–16, 165, 167, 169, 173, 173, 17, 178–180, 178, 184– 187, 186, 189–196, 190, 198, 199, 01–0, 04–0, 07, 09–10, 13–14, 213, 16–18, 1 Route 66 1, 0 Rudin, Scott 141, 13, 1 Run for Your Life 03 Russell, David 4, 91–9, 101 Ryan, Paul 31 Sailor of Fortune 18 St. Jacques, Raymond 138, 14, 179 St. John, Christopher 148, 18 St. John, Kristoff 148 Salassie, Haile 179 Salerno, Shane 13, 1 San Francisco International Airport 09 Santiago-Hudson, Ruben 16 Santos, Joe 166, 170, 17, 173 “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud” 10 Schaal, Richard 0 Schrader, Donna 4 Seale, Bobby 10 Sellers, Peter  Serpico 1 Se7en 141 The Seven-Ups 1 The 7th Voyage of Sinbad 00 Shaft (book) , 6, 1–13, 19–, 4, 8, 3, 36, 38, 41–0, 44, 1, 3–7, 60, 63, 6, 67–68, 71, 89, 96–100, 103–104, 106–107, 109–113, 11, 119, 11–1, 14, 16, 18– 131,  Shaft (comic book) 3, 7, 9, 1–3 Shaft (comic strip) 4, 91–9, 92, 93, 94, 97, 101, 108 Shaft (film; 1971) 1, 6, 1–13, 1–4, 3–33, 36, 46, 3–4, 9, 61, 78, 110, 13, 138–139, 141, 14–161, 144, 157, 16, 164–166, 170– 17, 174–17, 177, 18–183, 18, 187, 193, 07, 13–1, 18 Shaft (film; 000) 38, 97, 140–141, 09, 11– 0, 213, 217 Shaft (TV series) , 7, 14, 7, 37, 139, 160– 161, 183, 187, 189–10, 190, 198 Shaft Among the Jews 13, 1, 4, 8, 36, 43, 0–60, 52, 6, 8, 94, 97, 100, 10, 103, 10–106, 108, 113–114, 118–119, 13–14, 16, 18–130, 163, 177, 1 Shaft Among the Sandwiches 94



Shaft Has a Ball 6, 1, , 37, 40, 43, 49, 1, 63–69, 66, 71, 73–74, 76, 78, 81, 94, 96, 100, 103–104, 106–107, 109, 111–11, 118, 14–1, 130–131 Shaft in Africa 13–14, , 7, 37, 89, 139, 11–1, 161, 171, 176–188, 178, 186, 19– 193, 196, 0 Shaft Productions Ltd. 13, 0, 36–37, 9– 60, 143–144, 11–1, 164, 177–178, 190 Shaft’s Big Score! (book) 1, 4, 36, 46, 49, 8–63, 61, 6, 67, 8, 97, 100, 104–106, 109, 111, 113, 10–1, 19–130, 166, 3 Shaft’s Big Score! (film) 13, 1, –3, 36, 4, 9, 68, 13, 139, 147, 149, 11–1, 14– 1, 161–176, 165, 173, 177, 184–18, 187, 0–03 Shaft’s Carnival of Killers 6, 1, 7– 8, 36–38, 40, 74, 76–83, 79, 8, 90, 97, 10, 104, 106, 109, 113–114, 163 Shaft’s Revenge 3, –3 Shaw, Robert 140 Sheena 183 Shirley Valentine 184 The Sicilian Cross 9 Siegel, Don  Silliphant, Stirling 11, 13, 0, –, 37, 9, 143–14, 11–1, 16–163, 166, 171, 17, 177–178, 183, 18, 190 Singer, Alexander 0 Singleton, John 38, 97, 140–141, 09, 1– 19 The Six Million Dollar Man 190 The Sixth Sense 1 Skloot, Steven P. 160 Slaughter 13 Smith, Martin Cruz 18 Smith, O.C. 173 Smith, Robert O. 93 Smith, Tommie 10 Snipes, Wesley 13–14 Soapdish 13 Solie, John 171, 18 The Sopranos 170 Sorvino, Paul 9 Soul in Cinema: Filming Shaft on Location 1, 160–161 Spillane, Mickey 1, 33, 3, 48, 8 Stallone, Sylvester 1 Star Trek 1, 13, 00 Star Wars 6, 14 Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi 9 Stark 31 Starstruck 9 Stax Records 14 The Steel Monster 40

Steel Tiger 1 Steiger, Rod 11 Stein, Judie 09–10 Stewart, James 14, 190, 197 Stoll, John 184 Storck, Dorothy 6 Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) 10, 4 Sturges, John 40 Such Good Friends 171 Sudden Impact 30 Summer School Teachers 07 The Super Cops 13, 171 Super Force Justice  Superfly 13, 136, 169, 179, 183 Surovy, Nicholas 31 The Swarm 1 Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song 18 Table Stakes 9 The Tall Man 09 Tarantino, Quentin 13–14 Tarzan Goes to India 179, 18, 184 Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure 179, 18 Taylor, Wally 16, 168–169, 17, 17 Temkin, Victor 88 Thacher, Russell 3 That Championship Season 167 “Theme from Shaft” 13, 49, 13, 141, 146, 14, 16–17, 19, 173, 183, 193, 196, 01, 03–04, 1, 17–19 Thief 13 Thomasine & Bushrod 181 The Three Musketeers 181 Tidyman, Benjamin Ralph 1 Tidyman, Ernest Ralph –3, –8, 11–14, 1– 33, 16, 23, 31, 3–39, 41, 43–0, 3–7, 9–6, 6–69, 71–76, 78–89, 91–99, 106– 108, 110, 114–11, 117, 119–11, 13–16, 18–130, 13, 138, 143–14, 147–148, 11– 13, 16–18, 160, 16–167, 170–17, 177– 178, 18, 187, 19, 194, 0, 1, 14, 16, 1–3; Academy Award 3, 23, , 3; big business 3–8; children 17, 0, 3; companies 13, 0, 1, 8, 3, 36–37, 9– 60, 71; death 3; early career and the army 1–17; from page to screen 0–3; impressions of Ernest Tidyman 3–33; John Shaft is born 18–0; journalistic career 17–18; life after Shaft 8–3; parents 1, 3; wives 17, 18, 0, 7, 30–31, 38; Writer’s Guild Award 30 Tidyman, Kathryn Kascsak 1, 3 Tidyman, Robert 1, 1 The Time Tunnel 190

Index Times Square see New York Titus Andronicus 147 To Be a Somebody 168 To Kill a Cop 9, 170 Together Brother 163 Tony Orlando and Dawn 160 Toonkel, Jane 4 Top of the Heap 148 The Towering Inferno 1, 183 The Tracker 183 Trouble Man 13, 13, 169 Truck Turner 14 Turner, Morris 9 Turner, Robert 14, , 7, 37, 39–40, 6, 6, 67, 69, 71, 74, 76, 78, 80–81, 8 12 O’Clock High 0 Two Faces for a Traitor 6, 94 “Type Thang” 166 Ugly Betty 1 Underground Fire 91–9 The Untouchables 13 Van Peebles, Melvin  Van Dyke, Dick 31 Variety 1, , 30, 19, 174, 187, 191, 18 Vaughan, Sarah 183 Victory at Entebbe 169 Vietnam , 9, 96–98, 100, 10,  Vietnam War see Vietnam A View from the Bridge 167 The Villains: Inside The London Underworld 73 Vincent, Jan Michael 30 The Virginian 09 Vogue magazine 134


Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea 190, 00, 06 Wagon Train 39 Walker, David F. 1–3, 7, 38, 9, 1–3, 223 Walking Tall 30 Warfield, Joe 09 Warner, Jack 13 Warner Brothers 13, 143, 11, 13 Watson, Ella 133 Watson, James A., Jr. 0 Watson, Mills 09–10 Weidenfeld & Nicolson 74, 87–88 What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? 138, 14, 14 When Time Ran Out… 1 Where the Heart Is 148 White, John 14 Williams, Billy Dee 14 Williams, Vanessa 1–16 Williamson, Fred 141 Wilson, Joyce Vincent 160 Wolfers, Charlotte 46 Wolper, David L. 18 Wonder Woman 149, 07 Woodfield, William Read 190–19, 194– 197, 00, 0–04, 06, 09–10 World Trade Center see New York Wright, Jeffrey 14, 16 WUSA 147 Yarbrough, Camille 10–11 Yonkers see New York Young, Whitney 9 The Young and the Restless 148