Thursday, May 21, 2015

Serving Justice - A Noah Milano flash fiction

Every now and then I start a novel but I decide to go in another direction. Still, the first chapter I was writing makes for a nice little short flash fiction tale that shows how tough our man Noah Milano is... So here it is...

Business was exceptionally slow. You’d think the crisis would make more people go out and steal or kidnap folks, resulting in a higher demand for a security specialist like myself. I had been forced to dabble in private investigations as a result before, but even that wasn’t really paying the bills these days. I guess that kind of work went to investigators with nicer offices or that didn’t have the reputation of being the son of a mobster following them around. Anyway, that’s why I was forced to add process serving to my services. Noah Milano, Security, Investigations and Process Serving. Soon I’d have to add housekeeping and gardening to the list.
I’d been sitting in my Dodge Charger for hours now, listening to the new Drowning Pool record and an audiobook by Michael Connelly. I’d eaten three donuts and downed three coffees. I hated peeing in empty bottles but also had a hard time staying awake without caffeine. I was just hoping my target would show up soon.
My target’s name was Julian Brooks, who makes his living as MMA fighter. That’s why it was hard for his agent to find someone willing to serve him. Personally, I’m not as intimidated by guys who break people’s bones in the ring. I’ve been honing my skills on the streets, where stuff gets a lot rougher than in the ring. My dad’s hitman / bodyguard Kane taught me to fight and I have been forced to keep up with my fighting skills ever since, either because of guys coming after me because of my father or during my work as a security specialist. You come after me with a gun, I get worried. You try to take me on with just your fists, I’m pretty sure I can get things under control. Of course, I was still hoping I would be able to serve Brooks without any fisticuffs.
I found out where Brooks’ girlfriend lives and I’d been parked across from her apartment waiting for Brooks to exit. I figured there wasn’t a better time to catch him unaware than in post-coital bliss.
And there he was. Big, muscular guy, shaved head, goatee, black leather jacket costing more than my entire wardrobe and lots of gold around his neck and fingers. Some of that gold came from deals he made with other agents, breaking his contract with the guy who hired me. That’s why he was being asked to appear in court. He walked out the door of his girl’s apartment and headed over to his Cadillac.
I got out of my car and walked over to him. “Julian Brooks?”
“I ain’t in the mood for no autographs, man,” he told me.
“That’s not what I’m here for,” I said and shoved the serving papers into his jacket pocket. “You’ve been served.”
“What? Asshole!” Brooks said and pushed me in the chest. I managed to stay on my feet, but it was one hell of a push.
“Sorry, man. Just doing my job,” I said.
“Yeah? I’m gonna take you apart for that, motherfucker!” Brooks yelled and his fist travelled to my face. Those rings on it were going to hurt if they hit me.
I blocked his fist with my left arm, kicking his knee as a follow-up. He was pretty quick though and twisted his knee enough for me to barely graze it.
His elbow hit me in the chest with dazzling speed. It was like getting hit by a truck. Then there was a foot against my chin before I could think of a counter. I had to admit, this guy was fast and sure as hell could fight.
I was beginning to think I shouldn’t have left my Glock in the car. That thought was confirmed with a fist to my breadbasket. I wheezed. I was starting to understand why this guy was such a successful MMA fighter. Still, if he was going to kick my ass to the hospital my mentor Kane was going to visit me and kick my ass again, angry because he taught me better than getting beat up by someone who fought as a sport.
“Fuck this!” was my battle cry as I spin-kicked him in the face. That got him woozy enough for me to grab his jacket and smash him into his Cadillac. He hit the closed door with his face and sank down on the concrete. He tried to get up but I opened the car door right in his face two times. Blood ran down the door. Brooks sat against the car with his eyes closed and his lights out.
That all got a hell of a lot uglier than I’d planned. And to think I had another document to serve. Luckily that sounded like an easier job.
I walked to my car, ignoring the people coming out of their homes or cars, daring to take a closer look now the fight was finished. I had to get out of there before someone called the cops. I’m not exactly the best of friends with LA’s finest. Something to do with them not liking the son of known mobster.
I wasn’t happy with what I saw in my rearview mirror. My chin was looking pretty bruised. Good thing Brooks’ other hits were in the gut and chest of course, if they had landed in my face it would have been even worse. I wouldn’t want to turn off the ladies. Well, I sure as hell got even with him.
I started the Dodge and drove off, making my way over to the next address on my list...


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Friday, May 8, 2015

Sign Wave (Aftershock/Dell) by Andrew Vachss

All fans of Vachss know that his books are less about the narrative and more about the messages and characters. This novel in the Dell/Aftershock series is no exception and I was eager to see the ex-mercenary return. Dell's history as a mercenary is very interesting as are his views on the world. His methods are very inventive and hardboiled.
Dell can be even more ruthless than Burke used to be, even though he has a wife. In fact, that relationship is the one who gets him involved with the bad guys most of the time. Here his wife, Dolly, gets a veiled threat that sends Dell after prominent local figure and his plans with the environment.
As always the prose style is very engaging and hardboiled, the story nice and dark. What I really enjoyed was the return of some characters from the second novel, like Mary Lou.

High Lie (Miami Jones) by A.J. Stewart

Miami Jones is a PI working in Palm Beach together with his partner Ron. Miami is more or less a PI in the Elvis Cole mode, that is he owes a lot to Spenser. He's got a lot of Cole's laidback style and a psycho sidekick like Cole and many private eyes that came after Spenser have.
He's not the most original PI to come along, but surely one of the most enjoyable ones. Both very human but tough enough to face the baddies Jones is one to watch for.
I must say his partner Ron seemed a bit dull to me and I really don't think there's much for him to do that sidekick Lucas (Australian ex-SAS) wouldn't be able to do. Jones' significant other is a likable character, she's a deputy sheriff so she can take care of herself better then, say, Susan Silverman.
When a young boy is fished out of the water by Miami's pal Lucas he sets out to investigate who and why dumped the kid in the water. He gets involved with some shady characters involved with gambling and the kind of forgotten sport Jai Alai.
The story flows nicely, without too much fluff / scenes to just fill the pages. The mystery is good enough and the action is well-written and easy to follow.
Will be reading more in this series.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Background Check on Circling the Runway (Jake Diamond) with JL Abramo

JL Abramo is back with a new novel featuring Jake Diamond (Circling The Runway) after quite some years... I was eager to find out about it...

Tell us what the novel is about.
Circling the Runway is about how the personal greed of one man can impact the lives of so many others, about how common cause can make for unlikely partnerships, about how long trust can outweigh suspicion, and about 260 pages.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
Usually when I get started, with an opening scene I find intriguing and hope will capture the reader’s attention, it goes very quickly out of the gate.  But since I never know how it will end when I begin, I eventually reach what I would call a turning point.  When I finally decide where I want the story to ultimately arrive, and realize I can’t get there from here, I usually need to backtrack to find the path I need—and that can be time consuming.  Generally, a Jake Diamond mystery will take at least six months of writing and editing before I feel it is ready to show my publisher.  This book took a bit longer because I was bringing Jake and his gang back after a hiatus of nearly a decade, and I needed to become reacquainted with Diamond, Darlene, Vinnie, Joey and the other North Beach regulars.

Did it take a lot of research?
Jake Diamond turns forty in Catching Water in a Net, which appeared in 2001.  Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity soon followed.  I made a decision in writing the new book.  I chose to keep Jake and his sidekicks from aging too quickly.  Therefore, I set the novel in 2004.  This required researching the cultural period—films, music, sports, and politics of the time.  San Francisco and Los Angeles are familiar ground by now, but I had to do a lot of research on Oakland, where much of the action takes place.

Where did you come up with the plot; what inspired you?
The idea from the start was to have a series regular—a well liked and respected police lieutenant—act very suspiciously with regard to a murder which kicks off the story.  And then have her partner, Sergeant Johnson, so concerned he is forced to turn to Jake Diamond for help—and Diamond and Johnson have not shared an amiable history.  Inspiration?  I think it developed from considering classic duos and their varied dynamics—Liston and Ali, Holmes and Watson, Frollo and Quasimodo, Felix and Oscar.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most? 
I always particularly enjoy the interactions between Jake Diamond and his associate Darlene Roman—who keeps Jake honest and keeps the business afloat.  Developing their relationship and their special rapport over the course of the series has been great fun—and, from what I hear, keeps readers guessing about where it may lead.

I can do no better than to provide an example.

Judging by the sound that woke me, I expected to find myself sitting beside Quasimodo atop the cathedral tower; him pulling the rope with one hand and punching me in the side of my head with the other.  Another peel of the deafening bell and another sock in the ear and then another.  When it happened the fifth time, I realized at last it was the telephone.  I struggled to grab the receiver and hit the talk button; it reduced the buzzing in my head by fifty per cent.
“Since when does my name have five syllables?”
“Give me a break, Darlene. I’m not doing very well.”
“I’ll say. I’ve heard myna birds with better diction.”
“Did you call this early to torture me?”
“I called this early because Joey tried calling you and when he couldn’t reach you he called me.”
“I was outside smoking and must have missed the call.”
“Well, I was having a very pleasant dream featuring Hugh Jackman.”
“What’s so special about Hugh Jackman?”
“You’ll never know until you see the X-Men movies.”
“And what is it with grown women dreaming about movie stars?”
“It’s probably a bit like a World War Two G.I. keeping a photo of Betty Grable in his locker; or like the picture of Rachel Weisz you keep in your wallet.  Are you going to ask why Joey called, or do you want to continue trying to beat the subject of idol worship to death?”
“Why did Joey call?” I asked.
“Tony Carlucci called Joey so Joey called you.”
“I’m having some difficulty putting the two actions together.”
“The way you’re slurring your words makes me wonder if you could manage to put your two hands together,” Darlene said, without a hint of sarcasm. “Call Joey.”
“Are you going back to sleep?”
“Too late for that, Hugh’s gone.  I may as well go for my morning run and get ready to go to the office.  Pay some bills, stare at a silent telephone, and calculate the odds that you will show up there before noon.  Call Joey.”
The line went dead.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Aside from Jake, who is like a stepbrother to me, it would have to be Darlene.  She is the perfect foil for Diamond.  Darlene can match wits, be as smartly humorous, set Jake straight, cover his back, challenge him to show his good side, and prove that with all of his faults Jake Diamond is at the end of the day an admirable character.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
It was both challenging and rewarding to resurrect Jake and the recurring cast after so long.  It was truly like a reunion with old friends.  I hope it will please and satisfy the many fans who have been asking for ten years if and when the gang would return.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Nick Forte) by Dana King

Dana King sure knows how to start a novel. The violent opening shows us very clearly that his Nick Forte is one tough customer. He has plenty of opportunity during the course of this novel which seemed just a tad more action-packed than the first one (A Small Sacrifice).
Hired to bodyguard an actor who is quite an annoying pig Forte ends up hunting for the Maltese Falcon! That's one Macguffin that is appropiate to a PI story, right?
King really knows his hardboiled prose. I really enjoyed the lean and mean writing style and the great use of Chandlerisms that never got stupid, annoying or forced.
Forte might not be the most original of the PI's but he is sure as hell one of the most satisfying ones.
Solid PI stuff.