Jack Webb Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Jack Webb’s principal series of mystery novels, the Father Shanley and Sammy Golden books, features a Catholic priest with a church in a Hispanic neighborhood of Los Angeles who teams up with a Jewish police detective. As a result, Webb places heavy emphasis on ethnic characters and their attitudes and problems, an unusual approach that ran against the grain of the culturally cautious 1950’s, when all but the last book in the series appeared. Even more unusual than the characters who appear in Webb’s novels are his warm approach to human problems (even criminals are sometimes sympathetically viewed as victims of forces beyond their control), his emphasis on higher moral issues (usually raised by Father Shanley), and his frequent references to music, art, and literature.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Brean, Herbert, ed. The Mystery Writer’s Handbook. New York: Harper, 1956. Guide to writing mysteries with examples of successful writers, including Webb.

Breen, Jon L., and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. Synod of Sleuths: Essays on Judeo-Christian Detective Fiction. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1990. Discusses important Jewish and Christian religious figures in detective fiction; provides perspective from which to understand Webb’s works.

Erb, Peter C. Murder, Manners, and Mystery: Reflections on Faith in Contemporary Detective Fiction—The John Albert Hall Lectures, 2004. London: SCM Press, 2007. Collected lectures on the role and representation of religion in detective fiction; sheds light on Webb.

Keating, H. R. F. Whodunit? A Guide to Crime, Suspense, and Spy Fiction. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1982. General overview of the conventions and practitioners of British and American crime fiction; provides background for understanding Webb.

Penzler, Otto, et al., eds. Detectionary: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Characters in Detective and Mystery Fiction. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1977. Reference work by detective-fiction editor contains information on Webb’s Father Shanley.