Shaft Among the Jews

© 1972 Ernest Tidyman
US: Dial edition published 29th June 1972 [hardcover]; 244pp
US: Bantam edition published June 1973 [paperback].
UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published 15th February 1973 [hardcover]; 244pp
UK: Corgi edition published 21st September 1973 (0-552-09309-2) [paperback]; 208pp
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 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.

Bantam US paperback cover - no moustache for Shaft
Bantam US paperback cover – no moustache for Shaft.

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

US hardback published by Dial Press.

NOTES

  • Original screenplay outline written in Winter 1970/1.
  • Draft novel manuscripts delivered between September and October 1971.
  • The novel is set in November/December 1970 – based on Shaft’s reference to the Knocks Persons case being almost two years ago and the timeline suggested by Shaft’s age given in SHAFT and SHAFT HAS A BALL.
  • The genesis of the book lay in an earlier outline Tidyman had provided to MGM for a sequel to Shaft. Producer Roger H. Lewis confirmed to Tidyman on 28 May 1971 that MGM had agreed to the rights, however the studio were pushing for an original screenplay.
  • Inspiration for SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS came from a 1968 New York Times report on the murder of three travelling diamond salesmen over a three month period. In the report executive secretary Arnold J. Lubin spoke on behalf of New York’s Diamond Dealers Club expressing fear of “Syndicate” involvement.
  • The character that became Morris Blackburn was initially named Mr. Sparkles – very James Bond.

OPENING LINE
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 QUOTES
“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.” (Chapter 2)

Corgi UK paperback cover - this time Shaft has a moustache.
Corgi UK paperback cover – this time Shaft has a moustache.

BOTTOM LINE
With SHAFT AMONG THE JEWS Tidyman fashions an exciting story centred on themes of greed and opportunism populated with a cast of colourful characters. Probably the strongest book in the series, it has strength in its characterisations, strong action scenes and displays a depth of feeling in Shaft’s character that would not be seen again.

REVIEWS
“. . .most damaging, the scenario approach leaches away Shaft’s furious blackness, which gave the earlier novel its vitality. . .” – Don Crinklaw. St. Louis Post Dispatch, 25th June 1972

“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

Original German Paperback published by Ullstein.

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