Goodbye, Mr. Shaft

© 1973 Ernest Tidyman
US: Dial Press edition published 28 December 1973, First Printing [hardcover]; 186pp
UK: Weidenfeld & Nicolson edition published June 1974 (0-297-76724-0) [hardcover]; 186pp
UK: Corgi edition published September 1976 (0-552-10263-6) [paperback]; 158pp

Story: Ernest Tidyman
Manuscript: Phillip Rock
Final Edited Manuscript: Ernest Tidyman

Dedication: For May Jane Nelson. The only girl who left Shaft for a better man.

Dial Press US hardback

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.

JOHN SHAFT, Private Investigator
DAVE CLAYTON, minder to Stovall’s boys
D.I. ROGER WILKINS, Scotland Yard
CREIGHTON STOVALL, Republican senator
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
WINSTON MARSH, Kidnap organiser
“OLD” PARTRIDGE, Underworld go-between
BARNABY STOVALL, Senator Stovall’s son
REGGIE STOVALL, Senator Stovall’s son
BERT JARVEY, Fallon’s minder
ALGERNON PIKE, head at Griffin’s
MRS. BANE, governess to the Stovall boys
ROLLIE NICKERSON, part-time actor/barman
SHEILA, air hostess
SIR KITTS, razor gang member
WILLIAM, razor gang member
JOE THATCHER, Stovall’s security
ANGUS HEPBURN, Stovall’s advisor
DANNY, Fallon’s minder
SEAN, Gates’ assassin
LINDA BARR, Shaft’s date in New York
MILDRED, Shaft’s answering service

Original German paperback published by Ullstein.


  • Based on a story treatment by Ernest Tidyman the writing was commenced by Phillip Rock in September 1972.
  • As research, Tidyman referred Rock to a book by Peta Fordham, THE VILLAINS: INSIDE LONDON’S UNDERWORLD.
  • Rock’s manuscript was delivered on 22 December 1972 with Tidyman’s final version readied on 7 February 1973.
  • The novel is set in January 1973. Although Shaft references a 10-month gap between meetings with Stovall, the time-line suggests this is in fact is only 5 months since SHAFT HAS A BALL.
  • 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 two books.
  • May Jane Nelson, to whom Tidyman dedicated the book, was an employee at Ernest Tidyman International who transcribed manuscripts.
  • The use of a British private school prompted the title switch from Shaft’s Last Goodbye to GOODBYE, MR. SHAFT. This is in reference to James Hilton’s 1934 novella, GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS.
  • Originally intended as the last of the Shaft books.
Corgi UK paperback

Shaft ached. He felt like a rusty radiator in an abandoned tenement with the January wind blowing through the cracks in the wall.

(Stovall displays his obvious disappointment in Shaft for not being around when his sons are kidnapped) “You won’t do anything, period.” A cold, angry voice filled with pain – and disappointment. The click of the phone sounded final. Good-bye, Shaft, and thanks for nothing. (Chapter 11)

GOODBYE, MR. SHAFT is an 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 and showing a more human fallibility. A return to form in many respects for Tidyman.

“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 October1973

“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 1974

Leave a Reply