Cheap Detectives

Philip Marlowe got $25 a day plus expenses. That was a fair amount of money in 1946, when Humphrey Bogart portrayed Raymond Chandler's fictional private eye in The Big Sleep. Marlowe would be stunned by what inflation has done to the price of detective work. Today, the typical gumshoe charges at least $35 an hour for snooping and stakeouts.

Thinking that the public must be in great need of cut-rate sleuths, Deanna Short, a former policewoman, opened the Cheap Detective Agency a year ago in Anaheim, Calif. She borrowed the name from the title of a 1978 Neil Simon movie in which...

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