Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

I was convinced Reed wouldn't take the easy way out with this series and he doesn't disappoint. You see, it would have been easy to take the premise Robert B. Parker left him with and just tell the same story over and over again, never changing the character. Reed however manages to make Jesse Stone grow with each novel. I feel like Reed understands, knows, the character almost better than Parker himself did.
Struggling with alchohol and the death of his great love Jesse still manages to act as police chief, although his friends frequently need to cover his ass.
When a bulgary ends up in murder Jess investigates and becomes involved with the search for a missing master tape of a folk singer's biggest record.
For fans of Spenser (and who reading this blog isn't) there's also a cool short scene with the wisecracking PI that makes the book worth your purchase already.
There is absolutely a nice mystery within these pages that is wrapped up quite neatly. We see Jess clash with several authority figures and there's some wonderful characters walking around.  The highlight, however is how Jess moves on with his life and his struggles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Courage Resurrected (Ray Courage) by R. Scott Mackey

College professor turned PI Ray Courage's wife was killed in an accident 13 years ago. Now he receives e-mails from her. Is she really still alive? When he investigates he becomes a suspect in her death. Evading the authorities he tries to find out who is sending them these e-mails and what the truth is behind the accident. He ends up tangling with an ex-MMA fighter who's now a succesful but ruthless business man.
Ray starts out as more or less an everyman character but ends up a bit more hardboiled in this story. It's pretty fast-paced and the villains are interesting. The mystery is solid enough too.
Absolutely good enough to have me interested in more.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Midnight Lullaby (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

I discovered this one via Kevin Burton Smith's awesome Thrilling Detective website. Kevin of course knows his PI's so if he says this is one to watch I take not. Man, was he right!
Former State Trooper Henry Malone is kind of a mix between Spenser and C.W. Sughrue or better yet, a darker version of Rafferty. He's not an official PI but does some favors for friends, aided by his buddy and AA sponsor Woody. That's the kind of team I've loved since Spenser.
In this first novel he is asked to track down a missing young mother. He gets involved with neo-Nazis, meth labs and sleazy lawyers.
What makes this one such a winner is the way Hannah walks the line between the action-packed and witty style of Robert B. Parker with the dark style of say James Lee Burke and Andrew Vachss. He manages to tick every box I like in PI fiction, making me probably his biggest fan.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Q & A with Ed Robinson

There's a long line of Florida adventurers that started with the great Travis McGee. I'm always interested in learning about new ones.  Ed Robinson introduced us to Meade Breeze in his Trawler Trash series that I wanted to know more about...

Q: What makes Meade Breeze different from other hardboiled  characters?  
He lives off the grid, on a boat. No cell phone or computer, no license, no bank account. He deals with the fringes of society, but somehow manages to get into trouble no matter where he goes. Additionally, he’s more often the criminal than the hero. 

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
There’s a lot of myself in Breeze. I live on a boat, mostly at anchor, and travel all over Florida and the Bahamas. Toss in a little Travis McGee and James Hall’s Thorn character, and you end up with a guy like Breeze.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I sell 100 ebooks for every paperback, so obviously I’m all for it. Convenience, price, and our ever-growing dependence on electronic devices tells me ebooks are the future. 

Q: What's next for you and your characters? 
I’m working on the tenth book in the Trawler Trash Series, and hope to keep Breeze alive for many more. Every time we travel on our boat, we meet new and interesting characters which become fodder for more story lines. 

Q: What do you do when you're not writing? 
Boat, beachcomb, and beer. 

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Almost exclusively through Facebook. My fan page has over 10,000 followers. 
https://www.facebook.com/quityourjobandliveonaboat/?ref=bookmarks

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
Anything and everything Florida. There’s a whole subset of Florida writers that I enjoy; Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey, Wayne Stinnett, etc. 

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?
Ed Robinson, of course! Actually it’s hard to say, but I think some of the current indy writers with big followings will change the future of writing and authorship. 

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Write what you know, right? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dead Man's Hand (Calvin Watters) by Luke Murphy

Calvin Watters used to be an NFL star but when he was forced to quit he became a debt collector in Las Vegas. When they try to frame him for the murder of a casino owner he sets out to prove he's an innocent man.
Detective Dale Dayton's marriage is going through a rough time as he is charged with solving this murder. As he investigates he becomes convinced Calvin didn't do it, even if a lot evidence seems to say he did.
Dale is pretty much your average crime novel hardnosed cop with a bad marriage and the police procedural aspect of things didn't appeal to me much. Calvin hower is a very unique character. He starts out as more of villain than hero and the sadistic ways he collects the debts make him a very unlikely protagonist. He's got some very good computer skills, is a good marksman and very intelligent. That makes him a pretty good detective which he shows here.
The story is in part a set-up as well for the second novel in which it seems there's a bad guy returning and Calvin will start a different career.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fox Hunter (Charlie Fox) by Zoe Sharp

Security specialist Charlie Fox (one of the reasons Noah Milano started out as one) is back! This time she is hunting down her former lover / boss Sean Meyer who seems to be killing the men that raped her in the past.
A huge part of this story plays out in the Middle East, full of private contractors and fixers. I was pretty impressed by how well this world was portrayed, obviously well-researched.
Fox is as ever one of the best female thriller protagonists as she is a very tough woman, yes maybe a female Reacher of sorts, though more human. She's not a quirky, witty kind of investigator nor is she a man with boobs. Although for me this one strayed a bit too much from the kind of hardboiled crime fiction into thriller territory for my tastes it does contain some great action scenes and good characters.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Dead Girl (Greg Owen) by Evan Ronan

This one has the same kind of feeling one of my favorite series, the Rush McKenzie series has. The main character isn't really a PI and although he is quite skilled at what he does has a very Everyman kind of feel.
Greg Owen is the owner of several small businesses and has PI license he doesn't really use. He's asked by an old friend to prove a young man went to jail innocent of killing his highschool sweetheart.  He ends up uncovering quite a number of old secrets while they try to warn him off the investigations. Besides that he's also got to deal with the fact his ex-wife and his daughter might be moving to a different city.
Greg is a guy that you might know and want to have a beer with. He's an ex-Marine but no macho tough guy. He's an okay investigator but no Sherlock Holmes. It's those facts and the easy, breezy style of the writing and not difficult plot and number of characters involved that make this one such a hoot to read.
I'll be sure to contact the author soon and tell him he's got a winner here. Author Evan Ronan is probably best known by his paranormal mystery series (featuring Eddie McCloskey), but I hope he'll be writing this series for a long time to come as well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Background Check on Fox Hunter (Charlie Fox) by Zoe Sharp

Zoë Sharp has been earning a living from words for almost 30 years. She left school at the age of 12 and has become an autodidact with a love of obscure words. When not writing or international pet-sitting, she renovates houses, crews yachts, and drives rather faster than she ought to. Find out more about her and Charlie Fox on www.ZoeSharp.com. With a new Charlie Fox novel coming out I wanted to know the details...

Q: Tell us what the novel is about.

A: The jacket copy really sums it up:

Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.
Now she doesn’t have a choice.
Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.
Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:
Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.
At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

For my own part, it’s a book about revenge, betrayal, and justice.

Q: How long did it take you to write the novel?

A: Far too long! I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from writing, and it was undeniably hard to get back into the mindset again. So, this probably took me well over a year to write, when normally I would complete a book in about 4-5 months.

Q: Did it take a lot of research?

A: Oh yes. Although I did travel to the Middle East a couple of years ago, obviously there were places I was not inclined to go. Nevertheless, I worked hard to get the right atmosphere and feel without over-describing any particular location. I worked very hard, also, on the cultural aspects of the book, and was enormously pleased, when I read out a section at Noir At The Bar in Toronto, just before Bouchercon, to have a guy from Saudi Arabia come up to me afterwards, shake my hand, and tell me I had it nailed. I also had a former CSI from the UK tell me she had seen numerous similar cases during her career. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: I learned that the smuggling of ancient artifacts from the Middle East was a major source of terrorist funding, and that little or no provision had been made to prevent looting in Iraq—often perpetrated by the Iraqi people themselves—of important archaeological sites after the US-led invasion. I wanted to write about the abuses against women in all countries, and Charlie’s search for answers concerning her past. The book opens with fears that Sean has gone off the rails and may be on a mission of bloody revenge on Charlie’s behalf against one of the men who raped her when she was in the army. I wanted to put her in the position where she might possibly be called upon to protect one of those men. There were a lot of interesting psychological and emotional elements to give depth to what was also a fast-paced thriller.

Q: Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

A: I always like openings, because the start of the book is never the start of the story—it is where you choose to introduce the reader into the story. And I bear in mind that if the reader has looked at the jacket copy, they will already know something of the backstory to the plot, so why waste time telling them something they already know? For this reason, Charlie is already in Iraq as the book opens, in the morgue, looking at the corpse of one of her former comrades and trying not to be too grateful that he’s dead, because at the same time she’s worried that her former lover and boss, Sean, might be responsible. Setting that scene was one of my favourites.

There are others, too—the ambush of the military contractors’ vehicle in Basra, the second-hand story of the Iraqi woman in the clinic in Kuwait City, the stand-off in the remote farmyard on Saddleworth Moor and the conversation that follows with one of the other men who raped Charlie, her meetings with ageing Balkan gangster Gregor Venko in his Bulgarian stronghold, her clashes with Sean throughout the novel, and the denouement. In fact, there had to be something I enjoyed about every scene, or why include it?

Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?

A: That again is a hard question. There are a few returning characters in this novel, as well as the usual ones like Charlie, her boss Parker Armstrong, and of course Sean. I’ve revisited one guy from the second book, and another couple from book three, as well as Madeleine, who took over Sean’s old close-protection agency in the UK and has popped up from time to time along the series. Perhaps more than previously, Charlie is surrounded by strong women. I really liked the military contractor Charlie meets, Luisa Dawson, who developed very clearly on the page. I liked Najida, the Iraqi woman who only appeared briefly but still sticks in my mind. And Aubrey Hamilton, the CIA agent fighting a losing battle—Aubrey’s name, incidentally, came from a charity auction where she bid to be included in the novel. Finally, I grew really fond of Moe, the kid Charlie and Dawson hire in Kuwait City to be their fixer and guide into Iraq.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Invisible Dead (Dave Wakeland) by Sam Wiebe

For anyone thinking the USA is the only place where real good hardboiled private eyes are from... This one proves you wrong.
Dave Wakeland is an ex-cop and former boxer who runs  PI business in Vancouver with his partner Jeff Chen. Chen is the one with the business sense, Wakeland the one with a soft spot for lost causes and hard cases. Hired to look for a missing prostitute he gets involved with an old classmate who seems to have fallen from grace and clashes with a motorcycle gang.
Wakeland is partly the standard tough guy with some great oneliners, good with his fists and has a troubled past. What makes him more original is his involvement with a serious, bigger PI firm.
But hey, I don't read PI novels because I want the protagonist to be totally unique. I like the archetype, that's why I read them.
The story is dark, the social commentary never overblown but written with just the right amount of anger to make it work.
Definitely a new series I will be following.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What The Dead Leave Behind (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

As fans know Rush McKenzie isn't a PI because of the money. In fact, he isn't an official licensed one. He's an ex-cop now millionaire who sometimes does favors for friends which end up with him solving crimes. I'm a fan of this series and gladly review every book.
As always we slowly follow how he further deepens his relationship with his girlfriend and her daughter. In fact, the daughter is the reason he starts an investigation in an unsolved murder in this book. He ends up investigating corporate espionage and fraud and a different cold case.
After a few books that had Rush go undercover and a bit less traditional sleuthing it's nice to see him really investigate a murder cause again. I must say I had a bit of trouble keeping all the female characters apart that pop up in this one.  The way all kinds of secrets pop up seemed a bit overdone at times.
Mostly though I enjoyed the book, happy to ride along with one of my favorite PI's again. Never too dark but too hardboiled for a cozy by far a nice, enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Skull Meat: A Paignton Noir Mystery (Joe Rey) by Tom Leins

This is a pretty dark novelette. Joe Rey is a PI in Paignton who really is more of a thug / fixer. We follow him kicking the crap out of people and wielding a pigknife. There is no honest or nice person in the book and that includes Joe. The prose is very fast and to the point, which I absolutely loved. The violence plays out in your mind very vividly without spending a huge amount of description, not an easy feat.
I must admit I sometimes got lost in the plot, the chapters almost a series of short stories.
All in all I liked the writing style but wasn't 100% sure I liked the plot. Eager to read more though.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Down & Out: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 1 - edited by Rick Ollerman

Lately I've been reading a LOT of books from publisher Down & Out. They have been responsible for the return of old favorite PI's like Nick Polo and have been publishing work by favorite writers like Dana King, Steve Lauden and many others. When they announced a digest magazine I was excited as hell, especially once I learned one of my favorite writers (and nicest ones as well) Reed Farrel Coleman would be contributing an original Moe Prager story. But there's more goodness besides that!
The magazine starts out with a punchy Ron Shade tale by Michael Black. Ron Shade is a personal favorite of mine who I haven't seen in action for way too long so that was a treat right away.
Then editor Rick Ollerman serves up a PI tale with a surprising POV. Terrence McCauley writes a dark espionage tale . Eric Beetner writes a prequal of sorts to one of his crime novels while Thomas Pluck does what he does best with his dark crime story featuring everyday men. And of course Jen Conley shows that she can write really believable and moving characters with her story.
An article pays tribute to great pulp writer Frederick Nebel, reprinting one of his stories as well.
Those stories alone would make this a very good magazine. Add to this mix the dark and moving Moe Prager story that deals with concentration camp survivors and you just have the best crime fiction magazine since Black Mask.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rafferty's Rules (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan

This book was first published in the late eighties. Rafferty can be seen as a Texas version of Spenser. He's got a slightly psycho sidekick, a significant other who can be both cute and annoying, knows his wisecracks and has his own rules and sense of honor. As a huge fan of Spenser I don't see those things as bad. In fact, I cannot deny my own Noah Milano series owes a lot to Spenser.
With the news that the author's son will be writing a new Rafferty story it makes sense this series is reissued.
In this first book in the series Rafferty tracks down the biker gang that raped the daughter of a wealthy family.  What follows is not a challenging mystery nor a dark character study. What does follow is one heck of an action-packed and fun ride! I loved Rafferty's rules, his wisecracks, the great pacing and action scenes.
I will be reading the rest of the series for sure and very eagerly await Duncan Jr's first Rafferty novel

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Lost Ones (Nora Watts)

This one got quite some praise, comparing it to the best Scandinavian Noir while it comes from Canada. Not sure why those comparisons, because it's just as much an American hardboiled detective / noir story. Maybe it's the fact the protagonist is a broken rape victim/survivor like Lisbeth Salander?
Nora Watts used to be in the Army, was raped and birthed a daughter from that traumatic event. She had the baby adopted, not ready to take care of a kid then.
As the novel starts we find her working as a researcher for a PI firm. She gets hired by the people who adopted her child to find her. Yes, her own daughter ends up missing. When she investigates she ends crawling back into the bottle she swore off and basically goed down the deep end, however never stopping to look for the girl. When a link is discovered between the rape and the fact her child is missing things get even more personal and dark.
This is not a light novel. While the first hundred or so pages read like just a nice take on the female PI story what follows is a very dark and sometimes depressing story. It sometimes hurt to see Nora alone, hurt and drunk. That's good writing there!
Yep, this one will be nabbing the Shamus this year and other awards for sure. A literary but absolutely hardboiled detective story that will be sure to win over all critics.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Occult Detective Quarterly (by Various authors) # 1

As much as I love the PI genre I have a soft spot for the occult investigator, a nice mix of the PI genre and horror.  This magazine presents a lot of great stuff with and about these monsterhunters. I was quite surprised I liked the story with an occult investigator / gorilla so much. It sounds outlandish, but it worked. I'm a big fan of the Royal Occultist, so I was happy to see another story with him appear. I was intrigued by "The Baron of Bourbon Street" which managed to find an original use for voodoo deity Baron Samedi.
On the non-fiction front there's an interesting article about comic's occult investigator Dr. Spektor and one about writing Victorian occult investigators.
All this and some cool illustrations too! A must for fans of this genre!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Beholder (Zac Hunter) by Steven Hague

It's been almost eight years since the last Zac Hunter, but I haven't forgotten about him. I liked the character because he liked rock music and because he was more of a vigilante than a regular PI. I liked the writer because like me he lives in Europe but writes about LA like I do in the Noah Milano series.
I was thrilled to find out there was  new book in the series, finally. Hunter is back, hired to track down a missing girl he gets knee-deep in the people smuggling and prostitution in LA and Mexico. Aiding him is cool Native American sidekick Stone and his awesome dogs. When they investigate they clash with a serial killing mastermind. And that's where the part is that makes this latest Zac Hunter novel less enjoyable to me. I don't like serial killer stories in general, especially when there's scenes written from his POV. This novel was also very much more full of blood and gore than the first ones, a bit too much for my taste for this kind of book. I like horror, but usually in a horror book, not a crime story.
Apart from those dislikes the characters (especially the Mexican girls involved with the people smuggling) are very well written, the duo of Hunter & Stone are almost as cool as Cole & Pike and there's enough of tough guy action to satisfy fans of pulpy hardboiled action & adventure books.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Q & A with Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal is a fast-rising star with her excellent debut The Lost Ones featuring Nora Watts. This Canadian researcher for crime investigation reporting will be picking up all the awards this year. So I was happy to interview her...


How did you come up with the character?
I was working as a researcher for a television crime drama series and was compelled by stories of gender violence in Canada. An idea came to me, of a complicated woman with a dark past. Her voice was present almost immediately, and it's through this voice that the rest of the story fell into place. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
However a reader connects with a book is fine by me. I read both ebooks and physical editions, so it's really about how books fit into the reader's lifestyle. As long as people are reading and finding books that excite them, I'm happy. 

Q: What’s next for you and your characters?
I'm working on the sequel, and planning the third instalment of Nora's story. For the time being, I'm completely immersed in her world, so to keep things fresh I use different settings to create new challenges for Nora to work against. It's research-intensive, which I enjoy immensely. 

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
I've taken to running in the woods. I'm not happy about it and I don't know exactly why I'm compelled to do it all of a sudden, but this is what I do when I'm not writing these days.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Badly, and after much self-recrimination. I wish I was better at it, but I do try my best. I have a website. 

Q: What other genres beside crime do you like?
I read just about everything and what I choose depends largely on my mood. These days, however, I'm all about shameless escapism and books that will give me a laugh. The news cycle these days is brutal-- and what I write is quite dark, as well, so I'm getting my fun in my fiction. 

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?
Hmm, good question. I'm not sure. I personally hope that genre boundaries are being erased and that there is so much crossover that you never know who the influencers may be. There's something exciting about that.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I think a story presented itself to me this way and I was pulled more by this particular character and her journey, rather than deciding to write crime fiction and then figuring out how to do it. Dark suspense is how The Lost Ones took shape-- and I followed where it led rather than allowing the genre to lead me. It felt organic and that feeling is something that now I work hard to hold onto. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bad Penny (Frank Shaw) by John D. Brown

This is an action-packed book, more action/adventure than hardboiled crime fiction. Ex-con, Army Special Forces vet Frank Shaw gets into trouble when some old prison ''buddies'' show up asking for a favor and his nephew gets kidnapped. Trying to get him back he clashes with his old prison ''buddies'' and encounters a ring of people smugglers. Luckily he is aided by some unexpected heroes.
Basically, this is one long action movie. Frank shoots, flies, drives and fights his way into and out of trouble. Along the way there's some buddy movie style banter to lighten the mood and to give some moments of rest between the action scenes.
I'm not a big fan of this kind of book, preferring just a bit more mystery to the mix but I have to admit that John Brown knows how to write an action scene. You can just see the bullets flying in your head.
Good reading for fans of Lee Child, Matt Hilton and action blockbusters of the nineties.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Exit Strategy (Nick Mason) by Steve Hamilton

I absolutely loved the first book in this series. The original premise, the whole coolness of it all were so great I really was waiting for this novel to come out. I got a little bit worried reading it as it seemed to go to a definite end. Would it be only two books? That couldn't be the case! Come on, it's going to be a movie I read! Or would the direction change so much I wouldn't enjoy it as much anymore? Wrong! I won't spoil things, but the ending WILL make you eager to read the third book and only takes the idea of the first books to an even stronger direction.
Like the first novel ex-con Nick Mason has to do a mission for the man who got him out of jail, Darius Cole. This time he has to kill some enemies of Cole who are in the witness protection program. There's some very strong action scenes that take place because of this mission sometimes taking this novel even beyond Lee Child / Jack Reacher territory. It's not all shooting and car chases, though! We get into Nick's relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, with the woman he is sharing a house with and his own conscience.
It's full of twists and turns, it's very dark and it's very action-packed. Reacher meets Parker I would say. You simply need to read this series.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Q & A with Sam Wiebe

It's not just the guys from the USA writing good PI fiction. Sam Wiebe is a Canadian example of that. Here's a little talk with the author of the Dave Wakeland series

Q: What makes Dave Wakeland different from other hardboiled characters? 
He's young, in his late twenties, and successful--he and his partner Jeff Chen run a growing security company. This causes Dave some unease, as he's more comfortable taking a hands-on, street-level approach.  Wakeland has a social conscience, but like all of us he must temper that with the dictates of making a living, and trying to make ethical choices that he can live with.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
 When I finished grad school I was buried in student debt and searching for my niche, a way to make money in an ethical manner. When I started the book I'd gotten a job at a private college teaching, and was falling back in love with the city of Vancouver. At the same time, there was a major judicial hearing, the Oppal Conmission, looking into the many disappearances of at-risk women in the city. I wanted to write about that doubleness, that sense of not really knowing a place that you've lived all your life, and not quite knowing your place in it. Wakeland was born out of those tensions.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
If you prefer reading on a tablet or phone, that's great; I prefer paper, but ultimately it's about the story.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
The second Wakeland novel, CUT YOU DOWN, will be out February 2018 from Random House Canada and Quercus USA.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Hang out with my girlfriend and watch NYPD Blue reruns, or take walks around East Vancouver.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
 As well as I can. I'm on twitter, @sam_wiebe, on Facebook at facebook.com/wiebesam, and at samwiebe.com.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I'll read pretty much anything, if it's good and if I'm in the mood.

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?
That list is great, but leaves off Walter Mosley, John D MacDonald, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippmann, Sara Paretsky and others. I think the future of PI fiction will have to be diverse, but will stay working class. I hope it keeps a little philosophical and sociological insight, because that's what I love about those authors--they have something to say.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I'm fascinated by work, and ultimately that's what the PI genre is about--not trenchoats or fistfights, but the ethical dilemmas of running an independent business, testing your ethical boundaries while trying to get ahead. As Chandler put it, "How to be in business and stay reasonably honest." That's the heart of the genre, to me, and that's something that applies to everyone.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Promise (Elvis Cole) by Robert Crais

The Elvis Cole series is without a doubt one of my favorites. I loved how Crais managed to take the Spenser template and breathe some youth into it and without him there probably would be no Noah Milano. Lately they have read more like thrillers than PI novels and I haven't loved them as much. Still, it is always a joy to read about Cole and his buddy Pike. This one also stars Scott James and K-9 Maggie from the earlier novel, Suspect.
Cole is hired to find a missing, grieving mother and finds himself encountering a suspect at a house in Echo Park. Scott James and Maggie are there as well, trying to track the fleeing suspect. The suspect turns out to be a dangerous killer who now targets Scott.
While Cole investigates he finds out the grieving mother was quite a complex person and discovers links to terrorism. He needs the help of mercenary Jon Stone to get through to things.
The scenes written through the eyes of Maggie are pretty amazing and they helped me understand my own dog better! Those scenes and those that shine a different light on Jon Stone save this novel. I thought the plot could get too confusing and a bit too unlikely. Also, often Cole seems to be an almost passive character in a plot and has only a very small part to play in the conclusion.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Q & A with John D. Brown

John D. Brown writes, besides a fantasy series, a series about ex-con, Special Forces vet Frank Shaw. The series is doing pretty good, so I figured I'd ask him all about his series and his view on our favorite genre.

Q: What makes Frank Shaw different from other hardboiled characters? 
Frank is an ex-con who is out of prison and trying to fly straight. Yes, he has skills. He is a Special Forces veteran and worked for a private contractor afterwards. But the thing that distinguishes Frank from many other characters is his down-to-earth appeal. There are some action thriller characters who never make a mistake and always seem to have the upper hand. Not Frank. I also enjoy his sardonic wit.

 Q: How did you come up with the character?
Frank was inspired by a fine old brother in my church in Ohio who was one of those salt of the earth folks who also happened to have at one time been a bank robber. When he got out of prison, he determined his life would change. He married a good Methodist girl he met at a church dance, went into the laundry business, and never looked back. It was my privilege to record his life history. At the time, it struck me that I rarely saw stories about ex-cons who actually make it out of the recidivism cycle. I thought, I’m going to write one and have a ball doing it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love it. My debut was with a big New York publisher, and I learned a lot working with them. But there’s so much freedom with indie ebooks.

 Q: What's next for you and your characters?
Frank’s nephew Tony makes a reappearance in the third book, which is called Gray Hat. I’ll be working on that in the coming months. Tony and a group of his nerd friends have stumbled onto a crime and have gotten way in over their heads. And Frank comes in to work with them to save the day. After that, I was invited to co-author a book with New York Times bestselling author Larry Correia. That one will be a big, fun, high-action science fiction story about gun runners in space.

 Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Teach, hike, and enjoy my time with my wife and children. And have a blast researching the next book. For example, some of that recent research included shooting carbines, riding horses, taking a class from those who have trained our special operations forces on how to disable an attacker, and traveling to Southern Utah where my second novel is set.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
The most effective promotions I’ve found are advertisements on social media and discount book services.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I like almost all genres. What I’m looking for is a good story.

 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?
I have no idea. In the last century you had a small set of publishers effectively controlling which stories and authors made it to the market. With the ebook revolution those constraints are gone. And so you will have thousands of authors inspiring thousands of other authors. As for who the next biggie will be, that’s like predicting who will win the lottery.

 Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Because it’s fun. Really, it boils down to that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Down Solo (Charlie Miner) by Earl Javorsky

This one is a little more out there than the PI books I usually read. Charlie Miner is a PI who is in fact... Dead! He's trying to solve his last case and save his daughter while he faces drug dealers and Mexican gangs. Taking place in Southern California and with a cool and dark sense of humor this one might well do good as a Netflix show.
It's an original, genre-bending romp which will appeal to crime fans looking for something a bit different.

Polo's Long Shot (Nick Polo) by Jerry Kennealy

How cool is it to see Nick Polo back in action? He was one of those cool PI's in the nineties when the PI novel was pretty popular. Nick is an ex-cop and ex-con who likes to unwind by watching the bubbles go from a bubble machine. He's also very believable in his investigations, due to the fact his creator is an actual PI himself.
In his return he is hired to track down a stolen antique knife. During this investigation he meets rich folks, other private eyes, gangsters and a femme fatale. The prose or story aren't ground-breaking. There are no huge twists to the archetypical PI character either.
What we do get is a solid PI tale that is easy to read with an engaging protagonist. I applaud Down & Out Books for getting him back on the streets and hope they will do that with more PI's from the nineties.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Shallow Grave (Pete Fernandez / Jackson Donne) by Alex Segura and Dave White

I used to love those special times characters like Superman and Spider-Man teamed up. Two great heroes from two creators, together. Showing their differences and what they had in common. So of course I was excited about this crossover between two other beloved characters, Alex Segura's Peter Fernandez and Dave White's Jackson Donne. Both writers love their comic books, so I was sure they would do a good job.
Fernandez is hired to find a missing person. During that investigation he asks Donne for help, as he was the PI who was hired before for the job. The catch here is that Donne is in prison but he still manages to do some more hands-on work than you'd think.
Extra cool points go to the fact the missing person is a musician. As an amateur rock journalist I love the music scene so with the added crossover thing this was the sort of read I love. Add to that it's a novella which form I absolutely adore as well this is a personal favorite.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Guest Post: Marked for Life by Emelie Schepp

I haven't done any guest posts in awhile but I couldn't refuse this one by Scandanavian bestselling author Emelie Schepp, whose Jana Berzulius is a very interesting character. Although a public prosecutor she has some of Spade in hter. Emelie explains why.

In MARKED FOR LIFE a man has been found brutally murdered in his own home. The victim, Hans Juhlen, had no shortage of enemies. But the case stalls when a child's handprint is found inches from where the dead man fell. Hans Juhlen had no children. Public prosecutor Jana Berzelius has perfected the art of maintaining a professional distance from her cases. But when the body of a small boy is found - and with him, the weapon that killed Juhlen - Jana's impenetrability is tested to its limits. Berzelius is drawn more deeply into the case for as she attends his autopsy, she recognizes something strangely familiar in his small, scarred, heroin-riddled body. Cut deep into his flesh are initials that scream child trafficking and trigger in her a flash of memory of her own dark, fear-ridden past. Her connection to this boy has been carved with deliberation and malice that penetrate to her very core. 

Because of an accident as a child, Jana lost her memory and she doesn’t know anything about her childhood. But she realizes that the small boy can lead her to the truth. So, in parallel with the investigation, and off the record, Jana tries to understand who the boy is and where he is coming from. The more she finds out about the boy’s background, the more she finds out about her own. And to protect her own hidden past, she must find the suspect behind these murders, before the police do. 

I would consider Jana a private investigator. She is focused in trying to understand herself, who she is, why she is capable to doing things no one would be capable of. She has a personal connection to the case, and so is investigating it separately from, and in competition with, the police. Her motivations are not purely for legal justice so she is not committed to following procedure and the investigation becomes her own.

Emelie Schepp’s Marked for Life is out 6th July (HQ, £7.99)
www.emelieschepp.com
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Friday, May 26, 2017

Crossed Bones (Tommy & Shayna) by S.W. Lauden

I never figured Tommy Ruzzo or Shayna would be making an appearance after Crosswise, but here they are in a tale that is even more offbeat than their first one.
Shayna is in New Orleans, running shady enterprises when she learns of a true treasure map.  Tommy Ruzzo, in Florida is still longing for Shayna and when manages to track her down just when she's in a lot of trouble.
This is one crazy novella, I tell you. Shayna flaunts her fake boobs, runs around with drugs and has sex with her employees, all pirate impersonators. Every character here can easily be in a Tarantino movie. In fact, I guess the wild and crazy, depraved and funny ride here would fit very well in one. The whole style is so breezy and full of adventure you never know what or who to expect on the next page. I guess that will turn a lot of people off, but I really enjoyed the unconventional style. I can recommend it to fans of Elmore Leonard and Tarantino!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Subtle Art of Brutality (Richard Dean Buckner) by Ryan Sayles

If you thought Mike Hammer was more of a vigilante than a PI, get a load of Richard (''don't call him Dick) Dean Buckner. Buckner is hired to track down a missing daughter, that's standard PI fare right there. But Buckner is not the Spenser-type... He's got tattoos, drinks way too much, smokes a lot, and he just kills the guys he feels like need killing during the investigation.
I loved this approach! It might sound like pulp but in the beautiful richness of the poetic prose there is a lot more, as are the stories of broken people and dreams Buckner encounters, not to mention the flashbacks into his life.
That's the way PI fiction should be, never afraid to dish out the sex and violence but alway with a deeper meaning. Buckner is now one of my favorite new PI's!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interviewed at One Bite At A Time

If you didn't already, check out the interview awesome writer Dana King had with me at his blog here. We talk about my main character Noah Milano and the PI genre in general.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Blind to Sin (Matt Herrick / Jackson Donne) by Dave White

Dave White cites both Richard Stark and Robert B. Parker as his main influences for his latest novel. Considering those are very important influences to my own Noah Milano stories (like the new Serving Justice) I was already sure to like this book, not to mention the earlier entry in this series was awesome.
As much, or even more, of a heist story than a PI story the Stark influence is obvious. Though, it is not just the plot that shows that influence. Also the prose, especially in the Donne scenes has the same feel to it.
In this novel Jackson Donne is freed from prison together with the son of basketball coach / PI Matt Herrick. Herrick's dad, along with a group of criminals intends to steal from the Federal Reserve together with Matt and Jackson. With this money Matt's mother could be saved from cancer.
Unfortunately, everybody has a secret agenda and there's lots of double-crossing and not much honor among crooks.
Meanwhile Jackson Donne makes the journey from PI to psychopathic sidekick as he comes to the conclusion he needs to become more pro-active. I loved the muscular prose of those Donne scenes and loved the way Dave managed to AGAIN breathe some fresh air in the PI genre without using dinosaurs, zombies or paranormal stuff.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Finally the new Noah Milano novella is out!

Finally the new Noah Milano novella is out! Get it here.

FOR FANS OF ROBERT B. PARKER, ROBERT CRAIS AND GOOD OLD-FASHIONED PULP FICTION

When security specialist and son of LA's biggest mobster, Noah Milano, moonshines as a process server and manages to piss off a MMA fighter and stumble on a corpse. He's enlisted to prove a beautiful woman didn't killer her husband, the corpse Noah found. Caught in a dangerous web of deception where danger lurks around the corner and it can be very unclear who is friend and who is foe Noah Milano fights for redemption... And to serve justice

PRAISE BY OTHER AUTHORS:
"Noah Milano is all too human, which makes him more appealing." Les Roberts, author of the Milan Jacovich series.

''Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I.'s, but leaves his own tracks.'' Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award.

Jochem's deep and abiding love for classic pulp fiction comes through on every page, and his stories continue the time-honored tradition of the hardboiled American PI." Sean Chercover, author of Trigger City.

''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." James W. Hall, author of Silencer.

''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Q & A with J.T. Brannan

I always love it when writers put some kind of fresh spin on the PI job. J.T. Brannan created a cool spin of his one with  Colt Ryder, The Thousand Dollar Man. Here's what he had to tell us.

Q: What makes Colt Ryder different from other hardboiled characters?

He’s motivated by a deep-rooted sense of justice, it controls who he is as a person; and even though he charges a thousand dollars a job, he is not motivated by money at all. The money is only a symbol, to ascertain the seriousness of his potential clients. In this way, he’s not really tied to the things which define a normal person, or even a normal detective/PI/hardboiled character – money, property, personal relationships, and so on. He owns nothing except the clothes on his back, and his only friend is his dog, Kane. He is kind of like a monk, someone who has divested himself of the normal concerns of life and dedicates himself entirely to his cause. Although he is perhaps not quite as well-behaved as a monk!

Q: How did you come up with the character?

When I was planning the series, I was reminded of the old A-Team TV show – combat vets from Vietnam roaming America, helping people in trouble. I thought it might be fun to come up with a ‘one-man A-team’, which is how Colt Ryder was born. And I thought that if he’s just one man alone, wandering the United States, he could do with a friend, which is why I came up with Kane, his half-Alsatian, half-Mastiff buddy. I love dogs, so I was very happy to have one as a character in the series; he keeps Colt company, and often helps him out when he needs it!

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?

I’m a bit of a traditionalist really, so initially it took me by surprise. But it’s an amazing thing, it brings the joy of reading to a lot more people than may have been the case in the past. It’s also great from an author’s perspective, it has enabled writers to break free from the yoke of the big publishers and given everyone a relatively equal chance to be discovered. It’s democratized the industry to a large extent, and that can only be a good thing, for both writers and readers.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?

Colt Ryder is up to his neck in trouble next month, when THE THOUSAND DOLLAR BREAKOUT sees him uncovering an illegal fight club in San Quentin prison. I’ve got a new Mark Cole thriller out at the end of the year too, but before that, I’m also launching a new series called THE EXTRACTOR, which will definitely be interesting – watch this space!

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?

Take my children to all of their activities! But other than that, I teach Karate and enjoy working out at the gym, playing tennis and walking the dogs. I also read at pretty much any opportunity I can get.

Q: How do you promote your work?

I often do interviews, and I am active on Twitter and Facebook. Through Grey Arrow Publishing, we also do certain sales promotions – sometimes we offer my eBooks for free for a limited period, or for a lower cost using tools such as Kindle Countdown, and so on, whilst with paperbacks we do prize giveaways. But mainly it’s through word of mouth and positive reviews, which help to create a loyal readership.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 

I’m a big fan of political, military and espionage thrillers. Any sort of thriller, really!

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?

It’s got to be Lee Child, really – almost everyone has read a Jack Reacher novel at some stage, and with the added exposure from the recent movies, I think he’s going to leave an important legacy that will continue to influence writers in this genre for years to come.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?

I think it offers great scope for creating exciting stories which are rooted in a gritty reality that people like to read about. You can use real events, things that you read about in the papers – whether it’s the Mexican drugs trade, or government corruption scandals, or countless other examples – and develop exciting fictional stories out of them, darker stories with real atmosphere. It’s a fantastic genre, and I always hope that my passion for it shows through in my work.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Dark Fissures (Rick Cahill) by Matt Coyle

Matt Coyle's first two novels in this series were pretty well-received, and I enjoyed them a lot as well. The third one is good follow-up to those two, still having a bit different and a bit more action-packed feel than the first one. That action-packed feel comes from the fact the case Rick Cahill takes on in this one involves Navy SEALS.
Hired by country singer Brianna to find out if her husband's suicide wasn't really a murder he tangles with both Navy SEALS and the local cops.
Falling for the lady the case starts to get personal and Cahill has to prove just how tough he is.
Cahill is not the most unique or original character but he is engaging and feels real. The same goes for the plot. There's parts we've read before but Coyle ties it all together in such an enjoyable tale it is very satifsying.
Pretty fast-paced, well narrated but absolutely true to the legacy Raymond Chandler left this is the stuff dreams are made of if you're a PI fan.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Snitch (Shea Stevens) by Dharma Kelleher

I liked the first novel in the Shea Stevens a lot because of the original protagonist and the rock 'n' roll vibe of the whole thing. I was less happy with the prose and the pacing sometimes. In this second Shea Stevens story Dharma Kelleher shows us what she has learned from writing that one. The pacing this time is excellent and fast-moving and the prose is tight and a pleasure to read. The protagonist is just as cool!
Forced to go undercover with a feminist group of bikers as part of a Criminal Informant contract she has to face off against some old biker enemies and her ex. Shea is taken to the edge of depression and death but manages to keep riding, shooting and punching her way out of trouble.
With trangenders, lesbians and gays as characters you might mistake this book for one catering to the LBGT-niche but that's absolutely not the case. While the sexual orientation of the characters carries some importance to them their main roles are not defined by this.
This is just a great, hardboiled en very action-packed mystery novel. In fact, I think Dharma did a fantastic job in writing easy to read but exciting action scenes.
Looking forward to Shea Stevens # 3!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Descending Memphis (Tommy Rhodeen) by Robert Moss

Like SW Lauden, Robert Moss is a punk rocker turned crime novelist. That little fact peaked my interest immediately when I was asked to review Descending Memphis. The music scene involved in this tale isn't the 1980s punk rock when Robert Moss was actively playing. Instead we find ourselves in the rock 'n' roll of the Fifties. Tommy Rhodeen is a PI who recovers stolen property for his clients, a bit like Travis McGee (or the later Lucas Spero) and plays guitar. Two cool things for a private investigator character. But when Tommy gets hired not to track down stolen items but a missing teenage girl, his life gets complicated. To solve his case, Tommy must deal with crooked cops, politicians and thugs as well as the racism that existed during the time the story takes place. Yet Tommy not only solves the mystery, he gets in some recording studio time.
There is a nice historical fiction undertone to the story and Robert captures the era perfectly. Above all Descending Memphis is a solid hardboiled mystery with a cool protagonist. The prose is tight and easy to read and the pacing excellent. Guess there's still some punk rock roots bleeding through on the page. Nice one!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Dangerous Ends (Pete Hernandez) by Alex Segura

Pete Hernandez is back! Now sober and with a life more or less back together things seem to be looking up for the reporter-turned-PI. When his friend Kathy is asked to write a book about a murder case where the cop was imprisoned for the killing of his wife he is hired to help. The cop and his daughter say he is innocent and they hope Pete and Kathy can prove it.
Soon things get very dangerous as both Pete and Kathy's lives are endangered frequently. Even their ex-FBI agent friend Harras and ex-criminal Dave can't protect them fully.
Every Hernandez novel seems to shake up the status quo of the character and while this one starts out as a pretty standard mystery novel soon Pete get personally involved, especially when we find out there might be a link with the murder case and the death of his grandfather.
Lively characters, clear prose, a good mystery and a satisfying amount of action make this one another winner and the last chapter made me very eager to read the next one in the series.
The first two novels reminded me of George Pelecanos but this one and the Pete-Kathy duo reminds me of the McKenzie - Genarro series by Dennis Lehane. So, if you like those authors, be sure to pick up this one.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Still Among the Living (Matt Jacob) by Zachary Klein

Matt Jacob doesn't want to be a PI. He just wants to smoke dope and watch TV. When his shrink hires him to find out who stole her files he gets involved in a complicated investigation however which forces him to take his job seriously.
Matt is a vulnerable protagonist and quite the anti-hero. He uncovers enough dirty family secrets to make Lew Archer blush in this dark mystery story.
Finally back in print thanks to Polis Books this classic is still very relevant and readable today.

Bad Boy Boogie (Jay Desmarteaux) by Thomas Pluck

After 25 years in prison for killing the school bully Jay Desmarteaux is released from prison. When he comes back home he sets out to find his parents and get some revenge. Helped and endangered by the mob he has to deal with bad cops, his old love and his old friends and enemies while wielding his trusty Vietnam war hatchet.
It's clear Thomas loves Andrew Vachss and Richard Stark. There's a lot of Burke and Parker in the character in the cold and professional way he breaks into houses and takes out his enemies. It also has some of the direct but haunting prose of those greats. There's also a strong theme of sexual violence that reminded me of Vachss.
Don't expect a breezy Robert B. Parker kind of tale. There's a lot of darkness in here and Jay is probably a sociopath. There IS a lot of good characterization, a surprising amount of action scenes and nice tributest to rockband AC/DC, in fact the title of the chapters and of the book itself are lifted from AC/DC songs.
Brutal, dark and engaging. Worth your time.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Q & A with Bob Kroll

Author Bob Kroll is doing a blog tour for his latest novel The Hell of it All, featuring TJ Peterson. I was happy to have him visit over at my blog for a nice set of questions.

Q: How did you come up with the character TJ Peterson?

In one form or another, Peterson has been following me around for most of my adult life. He has been like a shadow, both literally and figuratively. He is a tragic figure seeking to find purification for a failed life. He is everyman.


Q: What's next for you and your characters?

As he seeks retribution for criminals, Peterson must further descend into his own living hell before he can climb from its sordid depths. Will he make it, and if so how? That intrigues me, and drives me to keep writing.


Q: What do you do when you're not writing?

I have been making a living as a writer since the 1970s. I write everyday, from 8 am to noon. When I’m done writing, I spend time with my wife, and now my grandchildren. I also make furniture.


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?

I think Richard Price will leave a mark, as will those writing cutting edge crime dramas for television and film. Steven Knight comes to mind for his writing in “Peaky Blinders,” “Taboo”, and “Locke”.


Q: Why do you write in this genre?

Writing crime novels allows me the freedom to explore the depths of human degradation, as well as the righteousness of retribution. The world I create is a dark one, but there is always some light that penetrates the darkness. Also, I don’t believe people are good all the way through, and it is the veins of badness that fascinate me.



Monday, February 20, 2017

Wicked Is the Whiskey (Sean McClanahan) by Tom Purcell

World-famous Pittsburgh resident John Preston jumps off a bridge and dies. PI Sean McClanahan investigates the death while also working in his own bar.
Sean is a nice enough, but tough when necessary kind of guy in the Spenser vein. He's also fond of describing exactly how he makes his sandwiches. The whole story has a kind of breezy vein and it never gets very dark. The prose is easy to read and the characters are fun.
One gripe is that sometimes the progress of the story leans a bit too hard on coincidences and Sean gets away with too much too easily like breaking into cars but also escaping capture. It makes this story fun, but never very thrilling.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Q & A with Glen Erik Hamilton

The series featuring ex-con Van Shaw by Glen Erik Hamilton seems to be quite popular, winning several awards and good reviews. Time for me to interview Mr. Hamilton...

Q: How did you come up with the character Van Shaw?

I started with the idea of writing a character raised with a different set of moral standards than mainstream society.  Given my love of crime thrillers, that quickly progressed to the world of lawbreakers, in particular independent thieves unaffiliated with organized crime or gangs.  I wanted Van to have broken away from that life on the cusp of adulthood, only to revisit it with a different outlook years later.  Simply having him move away seemed weak, and it was logical that a tough young man with no job prospects might enter the military to build a new life.   That's where we find Van at the start of the first book, having served with distinction -- accumulating scars both physical and emotional -- for ten years.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?

Anything that gets books into the hands of readers is a plus.  Ten or fifteen years after the first rush to market, eBooks have never quite gained momentum into the anticipated revolution to overthrow the old world of publishing.   They became a new frontier all their own.  While eBooks have opened huge new opportunities for authors, readers, and publishers, evidence shows the reading public still has a serious hunger for physical copies, and for independent booksellers.   That's all to the good.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?

My third Van Shaw novel will be out in July.  With each book, I invest a lot of thought into where Van is at the start and how the book's events -- often violent, often morally challenging -- leave him at the end.  I'm not interested in having Van remain status quo.  The concept of families, both blood and chosen, is a running theme.  Van thought he could do without that for a long time, with the exception of his brothers and sisters in the Army.  Now, he has people around him he loves, and that means new responsibilities.  And new risks.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?

In those precious hours that aren't taken up by the day job or writing, I'll play with my family (Legos and re-enacting scenes from the Harry Potter books are current favorites), get in some reading (see below), and exercise (boxing, mainly, with no delusions of being a bad-ass).

Q: How do you promote your work?

I'll invest time in the usual social media platforms, and often write guest articles or do interviews when a book launch is nigh.  There's also attending conventions, which can be a great way to meet readers as well as other authors.  But in truth, I'm not certain if all of that really helps book sales to a large degree (a small degree, yes -- and careers can be built on small degrees).  Mostly, being part of the writing community is fun -- and if it's not fun, why do it?

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?

Leaving aside other branches of mystery fiction -- I enjoy everything from cozies to espionage thrillers -- I like history, biographies, and the occasional how-to manual.  It's amazing how often real life is far more bizarre and magical than we could ever get away with in writing fiction.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?

Your examples are solid evidence that it's been done, and done well.  Ideally, the sidekick gives a reflection on the main character -- the limits of what he or she is willing to do -- and provides complications.  Mouse might get Easy Rawlins out of trouble, or just make the situation immeasurably worse by murdering people.  Unfortunately, the tough sidekick can also become a weak cop-out, killing off the villains while letting the main character retain the moral high ground.

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?

Lehane of course is still producing great work to influence the newest generation, including me.  Looking at private eye writers who have broken out in the last decade or so, and who are likely to have long and influential careers ahead, there's Julia Dahl, Duane Swierczynski, Alison Gaylin. And my friend Ingrid Thoft, writing the Fina Ludlow series set in Boston.  All award winners, and all superb at making a reader turn the next page.   There's no shortage of serious talent out there.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?

Crime is endlessly fascinating.  It exists in every society, for many reasons: greed, power, protest, or simple survival.  The kinds of crimes that flourish or wither are reflective of that society.  And the individuals who choose crime, fight crime, or are victims of crime have their own motivations and their own viewpoints.  Viewpoints make characters, and characters make a book more than just a recounting of what happens next.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Grizzly Season (Greg Salem) by S.W. Lauden

I was a huge fan of the first Greg Salem novel by Mr. Lauden, Bad Citizen Corporation. Especially because I'm a big fan of punkrock and the main character played in a punkband which gave that one a lot extra.
In this second one in the series Greg (ex-cop and former frontman for punkband Bad Citizen Corporation) is still recovering from the events of the first novel, more or less hiding in the forest. When he and his friend stumble across a marijuana farm they are captured. Greg manages to escape, but his friend Marco doesn't.
As he tries to find back Marco Greg also gets involved with people from his punkrock past and tries to keep a kid on the straight and narrow using punkrock while he gets into a serious relationship with a young woman who fled the drug dealers along with him.
There's a lot happening in this book, but it never becomes unreadable. Lauden keeps the prose tight and the action coming at just the right moments.
Cherry on the pie are the mentions of great punkrock songs that Greg plays in his car. I would love to see a Spotify list for that.
Yep, this is gonna be one of my favorites this year for sure.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea (various) by various writers

I love PI short stories! I was overjoyed when I learned about this great anthology. I was even happier when I found out most stories were fairly traditional PI stories. That is exactly the reason why some readers might not like it, but most loyal readers of my blog will.
We've got experienced PI writers like Robert J. Randisi (with a Ratpack tale), new popular PI writers like Matt Coyle (introducing a new PI) and a short story debut by a new series PI (Stephen Nicholson as written by Thomas Donahue). There's a PI in the Wild West (by John M. Floyd) and a team of PI's by Gay Totl Kinman. Michael Bracken served up a very noir little tale.
Personal favorites were the Nick Ventura story by J.L. Abramo and the almost softboiled but witty PI who isn't really a PI story by Art Taylor. I'd also like to see more of the PI introduced by Andrew McAleer in King's Quarter.
Although the concept was pretty cool and would make a great TV show I cared less for the almost journalistic writing of Gay Totl Kinman and the clue that gave away the killer that was a bit too cliche.
A great anthology for any fan of this blog. Also, if you like this kind of stuff don't forget about the two PI anthologies I edited, The Shamus Sampler and The Shamus Sampler II.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Background Check on: Communion of Saints (John Ray) by John Barlow

It's been five years since the last interview I had with John Barlow, writer of th John Ray / LS9 thriller series. With a new book coming out I thought it was about time I interviewed him once again, all about his new novel THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS.


Tell us what the novel is about.

THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS is the third novel in the John Ray / LS9 crime thriller series. It’s a stand-alone novel, like the others in the series, although once again it features John Ray as the main character. He’s a reluctant amateur investigator, and is dragged into murder cases because of his family background (his father was a crime boss in Northern England), which means he sometimes has the sort of access to the criminal world that a police detective would not have. The novel deals with the issues of historical abuse and blackmail, but in fact it’s more about the twin themes of what it means to belong somewhere (a family, a home, etc.) and what happens when this is taken away. It’s about belonging, essentially, and the destruction of the sense of belonging.

Where did you come up with the plot? What inspired you?

I was playing around with plots involving blackmail. Historical abuse is so prominent in the news at moment, and I can think of no more destructive accusation against someone than that. But I wanted the accusations to be aimed at something rather than someone, and the sense of destruction to be more wide-reaching than simply a person’s reputation. So in the plot we have a religious home for boys and, in parallel, a large business run by someone connected to the Home. Rather than the plot focussing on abuse, it explores the opposite: people who have tried to achieve something good in life (the ‘saints’ of the title) and what happens when this is attacked.

How long did it take you to write THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS?

A year. Books always seem to take me a year! I don’t mind writing slowly. In fact it took two years in total, since I was working on a few other projects at the same time. One thing that happens when you give yourself more time with a story is that broader themes become clearer, in this case ideas about religious devotion, the importance of domestic stability, and, of course, the motivations behind violent crimes. They fall into place in a way which is sometimes very gratifying indeed. I’m happy that I let this one emerge slowly.

Did the writing require a great deal of research?

Not as much as in previous books in the series, which involved researching counterfeiting (money, perfume), the second hand car business, terrorism, off-shore finance… This one was far more a matter of thinking deeply about what certain things actually mean in our lives and the emotions they arouse, especially the notion of a home, a place to which you can always return, a safe haven.

What scenes did you most enjoy writing?

When I began to explore ways of bringing religion into the characters’ lives more clearly, I saw how the plot began to tighten up. It was quite sudden, just a couple of scenes, but from those scenes came not only the title (which is from the Catholic communion mass) but also a lot of backstory and motivation for the characters. It was as if the spiritual themes were there all along, and about two thirds of the way through I discovered them.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?

John Ray’s ‘partner’ this time around is Detective Chief Superintendent Shirley Kirk, of the West Yorkshire Police. She was in the previous books, but as a peripheral character. Here she is involved in the investigation, and also develops a personal relationship with John. That’s not much of a spoiler, they’re getting drunk together by chapter two… Her role in the plot turns out to be more complex than I had at first intended, not least because I came to enjoy writing her character; she’s not easy to understand, and she has her own agenda. She’ll be back in future novels!

Is there anything else you would like to say about the book?

Looking at three John Ray / LS9 books, I think with this one the whole the series really settles down and finds itself. There seems to be less authorial intrusion on the page, no stylistic tricks, and the plot is more rounded and satisfying as a mystery. Finally, the artwork, by American artist Carl Grimes, is wonderful! I think Carl really captured the atmosphere of the series perfectly.

Monday, January 30, 2017

What You Break (Gus Murphy) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Anyone who was worried when the Moe Prager series came to an end can stop worrying now for sure. The first one in the new Gus Murphy series wasn't just a lucky strike.  The second one is just as good.
Former Suffolk county cop Gus is hired to investigate why the adopted daughter of a wealthy businessman, uncovering a dark past. Meanwhile, he also gets involved with the dark past of his friend Slava, having to face a dangerous Russian mercenary. Gus' relationship with his ex-wife has some important developments as well his relationship with his new girlfriend deepens.
The writing is as solid as ever. There's enough investigating going on, the characters are lively, their dark pasts interesting. There's also a fair bit of action, more than in the Prager books.
This is really shaping up to be a solid new series, a hardboiled story that has firm roots in the pulp tradition but adds a haunting dark poetic style to it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Q & A with Nichole Christoff

There's not just Sons of Spade... There's also a healthy amount of Daughters of Spade. Nichole Christoff created one, Jamie Sinclair. I asked her all about the character and her thoughts on PI fiction...

Q: How did you come up with the character?
In many ways, the character of Jamie Sinclair has been with me all my life. Even as a young girl, I gravitated toward stories with a strong female protagonist in the lead, so I’m not surprised that that kind of character is at the forefront of my own work as an adult. As for Jamie specifically, I would go to events at embassies and official residences during my days as a military spouse, and among the members of the security teams, there would be plenty of highly-trained men keeping us safe, but there would be highly-trained women, too. These professionals’ deep-seated desire to take on what, traditionally, hasn’t always been considered a woman’s cup of tea stayed with me. By the time I began work out the crime at the crux of my first Jamie Sinclair novel, THE KILL LIST, I knew that for my protagonist to come out on top, she would need to embody the professional capabilities of those interesting women I’d met. I also knew there needed to be a vulnerability and even fallibility to Jamie—not because she’s a woman, but because that’s what it means to be human.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
eBooks have come a long way since their inception. Distribution and discoverability are certainly not the hurdles they once were, though they can still be a challenge, especially for authors who go the independent or small e-press route. On the bright side, however, I think readers now regard eBooks as high quality works. Years ago, as you may remember, eBooks were often regarded as the books of authors who weren’t very good writers. That has definitely changed. In every genre, talented writers have authored eBooks and eBooks have found a new appreciation among readers. They’ve also found a new appreciation among publishers. Many major publishers have e-original imprints now and I think that’s indicative of eBooks coming into their own as a respected form.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?

The fifth Jamie Sinclair novel will hit the virtual bookshelves in late 2017 or early 2018, with more to follow. Jamie continues to be challenged by hard circumstances and tough characters, and readers can count on that. I’m also working on a brand-new project, which should be finished later this summer.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I don’t know any writers who aren’t thinking about writing, reading for writing, or talking about writing when she isn’t actually writing. I definitely do those things, too. Also, I live in an old house, so I always have a do-it-yourself home improvement project going on. I love to get outside with my dogs and clear my head, too. The trouble with clearing your head, of course, is that you’ve made room for so many more ideas pop into it.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Fortunately, I have a terrific publisher who is very interested in promotion. In addition to their efforts, I’m always open to invitations to guest blog or to write articles. Also, I give presentations and workshops for students and writers’ groups. I belong to a number of writers’ groups as well, and while attending conferences or networking isn’t strictly promotion, connection with others is never a negative, in my opinion. Further to that, I’m on social media and I’m quite active on Twitter. If you follow me there, the person you get to know is very much who I am, and I think it’s this sense of getting to know me, as much as getting to know the Jamie Sinclair novels themselves, that has opened the door for readers to promote me to their family, friends, and coworkers.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I appreciate any genre that holds up a mirror to our society and asks us tough questions we normally may be too skittish to answer, and that means I love really good Science Fiction. William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition continues to be one of my favorite novels. I re-read it nearly every year.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I’m not sure I’d consider Hawk and Joe Pike to be clinically psychotic, but maybe I’m an optimist. I’d rather think Hawk and Joe live closer to true justice than the rest of us. Joe Pike is one of my favorite characters because he also lives closer to honor and mercy than many of us can or do. Robert Crais’ L.A. REQUIEM, where I first met Joe Pike, had a profound impact on me as a developing writer for a number of reasons, but mainly for the depth Crais creates in Joe. Joe Pike is not a one-dimensional sidekick. With that being said, sidekicks can add extraordinary richness to a novel. I do think a PI protagonist can benefit from a sidekick, and the best sidekicks, in my opinion, are more than a reflection of the protagonist. They may be foils, or they may be something else altogether. I’m often asked about “old soldier” Matty Donnelly, Jamie Sinclair’s sidekick in my first novel, THE KILL LIST. He echoes Jamie or enables her in that book, but he hasn’t made a come-back so far in the series. Rather, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett has become a recurring character, because as a sidekick, he’s uniquely positioned to bring out Jamie’s best traits, and her worst ones, sometimes in the same scene. On some level, Barrett is always challenging Jamie even as he supports her. It’s that dynamic that can make a sidekick an integral part of the PI’s story.

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?
I hope we all will. I hope the next generation will not just define our work as “good” or “bad,” but rather in us discover a multitude of ways to approach the PI story, and that this discovery will prompt them to find a new style or approach of their own. As for specific writers, I definitely think the coming generation should look to Steve Hamilton, not just for his Alex McKnight series and great novels like THE LOCK ARTIST, but also for the way he chooses to approach the writing life in a way that’s personal, and true to his vision and goals. I also see Sue Grafton and Walter Mosley as writers who’ll continue to influence the future of the PI novel. The out-of-order storytelling of Lisa Lutz should be on the next generation’s reading list, and that’s a list that’s very long.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
At my very first writers’ conference, Bloody Words in Ottawa, Canada, I attended a panel which discussed that whether mystery and thriller writers write because they need to see justice in this unjust world of ours. And I think this theory may be true. I’d never go as far as Joe Pike or Hawk in righting wrongs, but in a small sense, writing novels may be a way of seeing some good come about, at least in fiction.