Friday, December 30, 2011

Q & A with James Winter

James Winter has finally brought out his Nick Kepler novel Northcoast Shakedown out as an ebook. A nice time for an interview...
Q: How did you come up with the character?
When I started sketching the story that became Northcoast Shakedown, I worked for a large insurance company. A freelance claims investigator seemed like a good fit for the story, and Nick sort of evolved from there. I wrote a few shorts to get a feel for him: He’s a part time musician. He used to work for the company that gives him office space (a tip of the hat to Sue Grafton). He gets along fairly well with cops, but not with organized crime. All that came about as I worked on Northcoast Shakedown.

Q: What's next for you and Kepler?
When Northcoast Shakedown was originally published, I already had the second book in the can, so I plan to release Second Hand Goods in the new year.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Twitter. Other blogs. Beg. Whine. Plead. Mainly I count on word of mouth. I think when I get enough work out there, I’ll start offering books for free.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
It was interesting when Parker did it because no one had done it before, and for his first couple of appearances, you never knew whose side Hawk was on. Pike is an interesting character in and of himself. But beyond that, I’ve read too many PI novels where the psycho sidekick was there because someone told the author they had to have one. Beyond Hawk and Pike, Bubba Rugowski’s the only one that’s ever worked for me. I deliberately avoided using one in my work.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
Probably Michael Koryta, who can really craft a good story, and Sean Chercover, who didn’t really reinvent the PI novel. He just wrote a damned good one. We need more from Sean.

Q: Dennis Palumbo came up with the following question: what is it about those "mean streets" that make your character insist on going down them, regardless of what awaits?
The mean streets are actually something we don’t see very often in our day to day lives, unless you’re a cop or a criminal or someone on the fringes of society. We do our daily commutes, go to work, go to school, go home, go to the bar or to church or to the movies, and life functions, on a very basic level, by a certain set of rules. The “mean streets” are where those rules breakdown. It’s not that our daily life is a fallacy, but it’s what’s beyond it that’s where the conflict lies. And the guy going down those mean streets for some reason always has a need to put things right. His or her idea of right doesn’t necessarily conform to what we normally think it should be.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hurt Machine (Moe Prager) by Reed Farrel Coleman

With this novel Reed shows us again why he’s the crime writer’s writer.
Moe Prager has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, but that doesn’t hold him back from investigating the stabbing of his ex-wife’s sister.
There’s a lot of people out in NY that hated her, because she neglected her duties as a paramedic and let a man die in a restaurant. Uncovering her secrets Moe infiltrates into the macho world of the New York fire department. And it must be said, Moe might be getting old, he might be getting sicker and sicker but he can still be a pretty tough guy.
What makes this such a great PI novel is the fact it never strays from what makes the genre great but also adds more. The mystery is very satisfying but we also can read the story as social commentary, as a more literary view of a man fighting age and disease. Excellent work.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

White Knight Syndrome - now on Kindle!

It came out in paperback a few years ago, but is NOW available as an ebook for the low price of 2,99 bucks.

Noah Milano is a Los Angeles security specialist with more than a few family problems. Because, in his case, his family is the family. He's the estranged son of a mobster, which creates a big deal of tension and more than a few problems. Fiercely independent, and determined to sever all ties with his past, Noah has to adjust from being a spoiled mobster son to being an independent operator with little money.
When he's hired to bodyguard a beautiful and rich teenage girl he's drawn into a web of family secrets, homicide and the dangers of falling in love.It's not easy to be a White Knight in a world filled with betrayal and mob violence but Noah Milano is going to try anyway... Even if he has to die doing it...

Get it here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favorite Sons of 2011

As I do every year I want to share with you my favorite PI-stuff of the year.

BEST PI NOVEL: 13 Million Dollar Pop by David Levien
BEST DEBUT: Pocket-47 by Jude Hardin
BEST NEW PI: Conway Sax (in Purgatory Chasm) by Steve Ulfelder
BEST ACTION SCENES: Kiss Her Goodbye by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Honorable mentions go to Timothy Hallinan whose first novel featuring Junior Bender, Crashed, was my favorite book I read this year. It came out in 2010, so it didn't really belong on this list.

Guest Post: Out of the ordinary crime fiction

Sometimes a writer needs to look outside their comfort zone to find constructive inspiration for a story. When writers draw inspiration solely from within the confines of their own genre, writers run the risk of sounding repetitive, like their rehashing parts of someone else’s story. Hardboiled crime writers can lose their individual voice in the echo chamber of their genre just like any other fiction writer. It could be the case that a genre writer looking for inspiration could find it within unconventional stories that challenge traditional devices of the genre. Below are three books that manipulate traditional hardboiled crime fiction in ways that could reinvigorate writers and readers to the subject.

P.D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley
A crime writer for over twenty years, British-born P.D. James is no stranger to the genre. What sets her newest novel Death Comes to Pemberley apart from its peers is the subject matter and the narrative style. James sets her story in the same Victorian setting as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and by the same setting I mean the same characters, the continuation of the same storyline that ended with Austen’s novel. But don’t be scared away by the premise! James uses her skill as a crime writer to investigate the dark, gothic underbelly that belies the relatively sunny atmosphere of the British socialites in Pride and Prejudice. The novel playfully inverts the decorousness of its Victorian subject matter: bloodied corpses are discovered, shady characters sully the main characters’ decorous conventions, friends betrayed, and mysteries beget mysteries. It’s an entertaining and refreshing reinvention of the Victorian mystery fused with the best elements of contemporary crime fiction.

Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice
Thomas Pynchon might be called a lot of things in his illustrious career as a fiction writer, but “crime writer” is not usually among them. His huge and dazzlingly complex novels have garnered him decades of critical acclaim while the author himself remains shrouded in anonymity, a mystery novel unto himself. His relatively breezy 2009 crime novel Inherent Vice playfully engages the elements of hardboiled fiction in the drug-haze of early 1970’s Los Angeles. The story follows the main character, Private Investigator “Doc” Sportello, through a series of bizarre investigations begun with a small job taken on behalf of his ex-girlfriend. Follow Doc through a hilariously drug-induced fog of paranoia and half-baked mystery that plays out like a well-crafted Coen brothers movie.

Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me
Most recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2010, Jennifer Egan is a writer’s writer. Her prose is as florid as it is thought provoking and complex. Her 2001 novel Look at Me focuses her critical eye on the theme of identity, how people perceive of themselves and others. The story interweaves several narratives, but the main story concerns a spiritually lost private eye and a has-been fashion model trying to hunt down a mysterious figure known to them only as Z. As the story progresses and Egan reveals more background about every character, you start to gain a deeper understanding of the stereotypical private eye, their job, their lives, and the interconnectedness of the lives around them. It’s a compelling read well worth your time.

Byline: Jane Smith is a freelance writer and blogger. She writes about criminal background check for Questions and comments can be sent to: janesmth161 @

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Joe Hannibal novel out now!

Good news! There's a new Joe Hannibal novel coming out. If you like my blog you need to read this series, going strong for a long time now. A great traditional PI, Joe Hannibal's adventures are always a delight to read.

Following the life-altering events of THE DAY AFTER YESTERDAY, Joe Hannibal is back in action! Operating now out of the Lake McConaughy region in west central Nebraska, Joe still carries a PI ticket but doesn't solicit investigative cases like in the old days. This doesn't mean, however, that trouble doesn't still have a way of finding him, even when he doesn't go looking for it.
As a favor to a new friend from the lakeside community, Joe agrees to do some discreet checking on the pal's ex wife who seems to have gone missing from her digs in nearby Cheyenne, Wyoming. In no time at all, Joe finds himself at odds with a shady local businessman, on the radar of a bloodthirsty Mexican crime boss, and in the crosshairs of a rogue bandito who won't hesitate to take down not only his primary target but also anybody/everybody else who tries to get in his way.
Before he can find the answers he set out after, Joe must endure the fight of his life and in the process learns that the dusty back roads and wide open spaces of the high plains can be every bit as dangerous as the meanest streets from the cities of his past.

Read about it here and buy it here.

Mike Dalmas 3 is out now!

Husband, father, vigilante... Mike Dalmas left Special Forces to become a dedicated family man, but when his daughter gets molested he had his revenge, killing the pervert who committed the crime.
Now the Bay City cops keep him out of jail if he takes care of their dirty work. The things their badge won't allow them to do but for which Dalmas has the right skill set.
When the gangs of Bay City plan to join forces Dalmas is asked to sabotage this merger. He seems to be successful, but is the solution worse than the problem?

Read all about it in the newest digital short featuring Mike Dalmas: COLOR OF BLOOD!

Crashed (Junior Bender) by Timothy Hallinan

Junior Bender is a burglar and works as a PI for other crooks. In this first in the series, an e-book original, he is hired to babysit Thistle Downing. Thistle is a former teenage TV star that gangster boss Trey Annunziato contracted to star in a porn movie. Everything's not all right with drug addicted Thistle and Junior starts to feel very protective of her. To protect her he will have to clash with some very dangerous people.
Thistle is a wonderful character, a true modern lady in distress and Junior a great white knight.
The dialogue is the fastest, wittiest since a Kevin Smith movie. The characters are unique and well fleshed out. Junior is a fantastic, likable character that shows a real hardboiled side to him in the end.
All in all, this one served up everything I need in a hardboiled crime story and more. One of my favorite books... ever!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ranger (Quinn Colson) by Ace Atkins

As a fan of the Nick Travers series I was excited to hear Ace Atkins had a new series coming out.
In this first novel of the series we follow Ranger Quinn Colson as he returns to his hometown because of his uncle's death. What he encounters is a large cast of redneck villains and some great Southern Belles. He's aided by one-armed sidekick Boom and deputy sheriff Lillie. Especially Lillie is a great, likable character. Quinn is a cool, cigar-smoking tough guy but not the superman Jack Reacher is.
There's a strong subplot about a teenage girl who got herself pregnant by a piece white trash that comes to a violent conclusion in the end.
It all reminded me a bit of Lori Armstrong's No Mercy and people who enjoyed that one will surely enjoy this one. More Southern noir than a straight mystery novel Ace shows how to make the best use of a setting.

Q & A with Dennis Palumbo

I interviewed Dennis Palumbo, therapist an author of the Daniel Rinaldi series.

Q: What makes Daniel Rinaldi different from other (unofficial) PIs?
A: Even though he's a psychologist who consults with the Pittsburgh Police, he's not even unofficially involved in investigations. As a trauma expert, his job is to treat victims of violent crime---people who've been robbed, assaulted, raped, kidnapped, whatever---and for whom these experiences have left them with classic PTSD symptoms. By that, I mean anxiety, hyper-vigilance about potential dangers, nightmares, depression, etc. But, as often happens with series characters, even this tangential connection to the various cases soon gets Daniel in hot water. Which means constantly warring with homicide detectives, the District Attorney, and even his clinical colleagues as he doggedly tries to uncover the truth.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: A lot of Daniel's background is similar to my own: Italian-American, born and raised in Pittsburgh, and a Pitt grad. I've always wanted to create a series character, and one to whom I could really relate. So I made him a therapist, like me--though he's a lot braver and more resourceful than I am! Plus, as a former amateur boxer, he's able to survive the occasional physical scrape he finds himself in. (Kirkus Review calls him "Jack Reacher with a psychology degree.") Again, very unlike me!

But in terms of developing a psychologist character who could be the lead in a mystery series, I felt it important to create a unique specialty for Daniel. One that would give him reasonable access to the police and their investigations. I also wanted to use our shared Pittsburgh childhoods and experiences as a vehicle to talk about how the city has changed since I grew up there. How it's gone from being an industrial, shot-and-a-beer town to a modern, white-collar city. Gone are the steel mills and factories. Now it's all about medical breakthroughs at its world-class hospitals and cutting-edge research in nanotechnology. Yet, at the same time, Pittsburgh still boasts venerable old neighborhoods and broad-shouldered pride in its football team. Even with all the changes, it's a tale of two cities. As is true with me, Daniel's life spans both the old and the new Pittsburgh.

Q: How has your background as a therapist influenced your writing?
A: In the most obvious way, I suppose, it's in how Daniel Rinaldi sees the world, the particular way he understands and relates to the emotional experiences of both his patients and the other characters in the books. Since the novels are written in the first person, the reader gets to be inside the head of a therapist as he struggles to help traumatized crime victims. And, with a therapist's curiosity (and a stubborn streak all his own), he's apt to get more and more involved in the actual case.

As happens in MIRROR IMAGE, the first in the series, when the brutal murder of one of his patients plunges him into the investigation. Or in FEVER DREAM, the latest novel, in which Daniel is summoned by the cops to treat the sole hostage released from a deadly bank robbery in progress. The police need Daniel's help in getting the traumatized young woman to give them vital information about what's going on inside the bank. As one reviewer said, Daniel's like a psychological Columbo, using his understanding of feelings and motivations to unravel the mystery, to see things about the case from a different perspective than that of the police.

Q: What's next for you and Daniel?
A: In the third novel, called NIGHT TERRORS, Daniel is asked by the FBI to help a retired serial killer profiler who has become terrorized by nightmares relating to his twenty year career. Not only is he traumatized by his years living inside the heads of the worst kinds of murderers, but he's tormented by guilt when he realizes that one of the guys he put away, who has since died in prison, wasn't the real killer. And that the real killer is still out there, about to kill again.
Naturally, Daniel soon finds himself involved in bringing the bad guy down.

Q: How do you promote your work?
A: Poorly, I think! I mean, I try to give interviews like this one, I blog regularly for the Huffington Post, and I make the rounds of mystery-writing conferences.
I also have a website, and send out a mass email newsletter every three of four months. But I'm a licensed therapist with a full private practice, so my time for PR work is limited. However, I do radio interviews whenever I have the opportunity, and have been lucky enough to have appeared on CNN, NPR and PBS. I must admit, I envy the mystery writers who have hours every day to blog, to participate in blog tours, to contribute to dozens of genre websites and message boards.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
A: Parker and Crais are wonderful writers, and I enjoy both of their sidekick characters very much. With lesser writers, though, such "psychotic" characters are often used merely to provide mindless violence. This is particularly troublesome to me because, having worked with psychiatric populations for many years in a variety of settings, I can say that so-called psychotic patients are rarely violent. What injury they occasionally do cause is usually leveled at themselves.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
A: Good question, since so many of the best writers in the genre now are still using characters with official police status. Writers like Stephen Jay Schwartz, CJ Box, T. Jefferson Parker, and Michael Connelly. I guess you could point to Sue Grafton or Sara Paretsky, with their female private eyes. Or Kate Atkinson with Jackson Brody. Among the men, Robert Crais' Elvis Cole certainly stands out, I think. Not to mention the unofficial PI's, like Randy White's Doc Ford and, of course, Lee Child's Jack Reacher.

Q: Larry Block came up with the following question: How do you keep the series from running out of steam?
A: Luckily, I'm still early enough in my Daniel Rinaldi series not to have to deal with that issue. But I'm sure that, if I'm fortunate enough to be able to maintain the series through six or seven books, I'll bump up against the problem. I suppose then I'll just keep exploring new facets of the continuing characters, the changes coming about in their lives. As both a mystery reader and a mystery writer, it's well-rounded characters and how they deal with the stresses of life that keeps me coming back to series books.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: The question would be: what is it about those "mean streets" that make your character insist on going down them, regardless of what awaits? And the answer, borrowed from Mallory, is quite simple: Because they're there.