Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Writer Under the Influence - A Guest Post by Ben Solomon

Aside from being a swell guy, Ben Solomon had a story in the Shamus Sampler and writes the kind of hardboiled PI fiction in the style that started it all. Because his stories are now being collected in a handy volume I figured it might be nice to have him tell all of you about his influences...

A Writer Under the Influence
By Ben Solomon

The Great Edgar with his great head propped upon a scarecrow frame, awash in absinthe or opium or both. Dylan Thomas spitting and slurring poetry through sprays of whiskey at the White Horse Tavern.
Romantic images, after a fashion. Bleak and dark, stark takes on the artistic life. The stuff of sickness, ill spirit, madness. The stuff of creative myth and bloated legend.
A pathetic panorama of writers and painters sprang to mind when Sons of Spade suggested I riff on my influences. My reflection pales and runs and hides behind vast quantities of coffee, an over-indulgence in vaping. Tame egresses by anyone's comparison.
Of course they had in mind the influences behind my latest book.  What inspired me, moved me and otherwise sparked the fire behind "The Hard-Boiled Detective 1"? It sure wasn't no contract with Doubleday. No Helen of Troy, either. Chalk it up more to the likes Rocky Sullivan and Cody Jarrett.
You could say I grew up with James Cagney. The golden age of Hollywood, presented on late night TV, dazzled and captivated me throughout my childhood. Fairy tales, King Arthur and other bedtime stories gave way quick to "Angels With Dirty Faces," "I was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" and "Flash Gordon." I'm not talking about glitz and glamour or sheer spectacle. What got me most were rough and tumble characters telling a hard-nosed tale, larger than life performers dominating the silver nitrate, their patter and manner and dress. The energy and spirit of those flicks captured me like nothing else.
For a crash course in narrative form, you can't do any better than the Warners gangster cycle. Plotting, pacing, character arcs and dramatic arcs, comic relief and the big finish—those movies had it all, with plenty of action and sex thrown in, too.
The work of Bogart, Huston and Hawks led me to books. S.S. Van Dine, Hammett and Chandler led the way, the simplicity and strength of Chandler making the greatest impact on me.
Funny thing, it took a bad boy writer of the form to impel my taking a crack at it. My first read of a trio of Mike Hammer stories by Mickey Spillane knocked my socks off. Sure, this wasn't no Dashiell Chandler, no great shakes in the literature department. But Spillane was like Black Mask grown up. Adult comic books in words. For me, this work translated that hard-boiled spirit from the cinematic screen to the page.
It's awful subjective when a piece of creative razzle-dazzle knocks the stuffing out of you. But I saw plenty in Spillane's work. I could taste Edward G. Robinson's cigar, feel Bette Davis's stiff swagger, run with George Raft down the sidewalk.
Those yarns made me want it, to capture the zest of those films, to interpret and reinvent every flavor I got from those movies into the black and white combination of letters on the page.
Call it homage. Call it a valentine. Short stories on mugs and molls and murder, a celebration of a vanished era, a world where losers outnumber winners, where right and wrong spar like some two-headed jack-in-a-box. Call it "The Hard-Boiled Detective 1."


Ben Solomon, a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, lives and writes in Chicago.  He launched his ongoing, short story series in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology "The Shamus Sampler II." Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.

"The Hard-Boiled Detective 1," the first collection from Solomon's series is available in paperback from Amazon.

The eBook is available from many distributors, including:
Untreed Reads
OmniLit.com
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
and coming soon to Apple iBooks, etc.

Subscription info about his series and samples can be found here:
http://thehardboileddetective.com/

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Hollow Girl (Moe Prager) by Reed Farrel Coleman

The swansong of Moe Prager is here...
His bad luck never ends, after surviving a battle with cancer his girlfriend Pam is killed in an accident, sending Prager on a bender, crawling into the bottle to hide from his pain. Then a woman from his past shows up, asking him to track down her missing daughter, who used to be some kind of internet hype. Prager walks the streets of New York city, trying to find out where she is, encountering all sorts of people who loved and hated her. Finally, the stakes are raised when he has to race against a ticking clock, trying to save the girl where the FBI is failing.
This is a tragic book. You have to feel for Prager for who life is always so unfair. There's people who lose their soul when they try to improve their outer looks. There's guys getting paid for sex by lonely people. And there's madness of internet hypes.
In the end though, there seems to be some kind of happy end for Prager in sight. The only sad thing about that of course, is that we won't be seeing him around anymore. Luckily, by now we now we can look forward to more of Reed Coleman's hardboiled but poetic writing with a new series coming soon and the Jesse Stone series he's taking over.

Phantom Limb (Daniel Rinaldi) by Dennis Palumbo

Daniel Rinaldi is a more two-fisted version of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware and is a bit more of a Son of Spade because of that.
In this novel the psychologist and police consultant / ex-boxer gets involved with a kidnapping case when one of this patients is snatched from his office. The patient is an ex model and B-movie star, married to a guy who can really spare the ransom money. Time and time again the kidnappers manage to get Rinaldi involved with the case, resulting in some plot points that belong in a Hollywood movie but at times seem a bit too comic book like for a mystery like this one. In fact, this is absolutely more of a thriller than previous books in this series which made me like it less, but might appeal to a whole new group of readers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Poverty Bay (Thomas Black) by Earl Emerson

I bought this one years ago and finally got around to reading it... I got the original paperback copy but it is available for Kindle now as well.
Thomas Black is hired to find the son of an old racist who has inherited a lot of money. It is obvious the father is more interested in the money than the kid. Thomas discovers the son had a relationship with a beautiful black woman and had been living among the homeless for a long time.
As he delves deeper into the young man's life he encounters some dangerous people that want the money and gets closer to his friend, Kathy.
An enjoyable, well write, slightly standard PI novel. It was first published in 1985, a time where a lot of good PI novels were published. What makes this one rise out above the competition is the many interesting characters that are far from the usual stereotypes we often meet in these kind of books.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jeremiah Healy (1948-2014)

Like many other writers I was shocked to learn Jeremiah Healy passed away recently. I loved his work, having picked up the first John Francis Cuddy books because I had read most Spenser books and was looking for something similar. Of course, besides the Boston PI thing there's little they really had in common. The Cuddy books had their own style and Cuddy wasn't the superman Spenser was.
So sad that now both Robert B. Parker and Jeremiah Healy have passed away.
I will always be grateful for the blurb he provided for my Noah Milano books:
 "J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private."

That goes to show you what a wonderful man he was and how friendly he was to his fellow writers, always ready to help them along.


He will be missed by readers, writer and family.