John Shaft

John Shaft is a fictional New York City-based private detective created by United States author and screenwriter Ernest Tidyman.

The first novel about Shaft was published in 1970, and it inspired the 1971 movie Shaft where the no-nonsense detective was portrayed by Richard Roundtree. Roundtree also returned as Shaft in the four sequels: Shaft´s Big Score (1972), Shaft in Africa (1973), Shaft (2000) and Shaft (2019). In the 2000 and 2019 films, Samuel L. Jackson plays John Shaft´s son John Shaft II. The 2019 film also features Jessie Usher as John Shaft´s grandson John “JJ” Shaft III.

The first three Shaft films have strong blaxploitation characteristics, while the fourth is classified as a crime thriller and the fifth is more of a buddy-cop comedy.

John Shaft
John Shaft 2009

The character John Shaft

According to the blurb on the first Shaft novel, he is “Hotter than Bond, cooler than Bullitt.”

In addition to his excellent mystery solving skills, John Shaft is also exceptionally good at various forms of martial arts, including Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Shaolin Kung Fu, Kyokushin karate, Shotokan karate, and Wing Chun Kung-Fu. His ability to fight often proves necessary as he seeks to unravel the mystery.

Shaft´s weapons of choice are the Beretta 92FS semi-automatic, a Smith & Wesson Model 36 revolver and the M1911 pistol. (The M1911 pistol was the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces from 1911 to 1986.)

One of Shaft´s signature moves is to don a leather outfit fitted with a high-powered shotgun before entering the story´s final showdown.

Examples of recurring characters in the Shaft universe

  • Mildred, the phone operator who handles Shaft´s answering service.
  • Marvin Green, Shaft´s accountant and the husband of Helen Green.
  • Mrs. Klonsky, Shaft´s Polish-American housekeeper.
  • Lieutentant of detetctives Vic Anderozzi. He is Shaft´s main contact within the New York Police Department.
  • Rollie Nickerson, who owns the No Name Bar that Shaft often comes to.
  • Ben Buford. He grew up with Shaft and is now a revolutionary.
  • Bumpy Jonas, a gangster who is also one of Shaft´s allies.
  • John Shaft II. Shaft´s son, who left his job as a NYPD detective to become a private investigator after grewing frustrated with the deep corruption within the U.S. legal system.

The novels

Ernest Tidyman wrote a total of seven Shaft novels, which were published in 1970-1975. Shaft dies in the final book.

  • Shaft (1970)
  • Shaft Among the Jews (1972)
  • Shaft’s Big Score (1972)
  • Shaft Has a Ball (1973)
  • Goodbye, Mr. Shaft (1973)
  • Shaft’s Carnival of Killers (1974)
  • The Last Shaft (1975)

David F. Walkers book Shaft´s Revenge was published in 2016.

The comic books

  • Shaft: A Complicated Man (2014). Writer: David F. Walker. Artist: Bilquis Evely
  • Shaft: Imitation of Life (2016). Writer: David F. Walker. Artist: Dietrich Smith

The film series

Five Shaft films have been released between the years 1971 and 2019.

Year Title
1971 Shaft
1972 Shaft’s Big Score!
1973 Shaft in Africa
2000 Shaft
2019 Shaft

The CBS TV movies

Shaft is a series of TV movies broadcast every third week during the 1973-1974 season of The New CBS Tuesday Night Movies. They formed a continuation of the three first Shaft movies and had Richard Roundtree in the lead role.

A total of seven 90-minute movies were made before the series was cancelled after the first season.

Relationship to Django and Broomhilda

For his movie Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino gave Django´s wife the last name Von Shaft to suggest a relationship with the future John Shaft.

Her and Django will eventually have a baby, and then that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby, and that baby will have a baby … and one of these days, John Shaft will be born“. – Quentin Tarantino