Monday, October 14, 2019

The Headstone Detective Agency (John Headston) by Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi has done so much for the private eye novel heading up among other things the Private Eye Writers of America for some time. Aside from that he's written some pretty good PI series. After treating us to the Nashville PI series he's now back with a brand new series.
It features John Headston, a 50 year old PI who used to have big agency but is now back to a one man operation.
In this first novel Headston is hired to find a missing stockbroker by his wife. As these cases often turn out he is drawn into a murder investigation. During this investigation he gets a new employee, a young girl with tattoos more or less his own counterpart.
The best thing about this novel is the tight writing. Never do we get bogged down by too detailed descriptions of furniture, houses or the weather. Instead the plot is moved forward by dialogue and short scenes, just how I like it. Aside from that Headston starts out as pretty standard PI but we get to see deeper layers of his character as the story continued. And you will fall in love with his female sidekick Ally for sure.
Randisi shows off what experience can bring you in this very solid tale that is bound to be loved by all PI fans who want the good old stuff instead of the fancy thrillers like Robert Crais seems to be writing these days or the Reacher novels.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Two (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the first part here.


Lenny decided the best place to start the investigation was at Janson’s place. Specifically, the neighbors. Janson might have thought they hadn’t seen anything, but Lenny figured it couldn’t hurt to double-check. He parked his Dodge Ram in front of Janson’s place, ending the Destruction album he was playing when he turned  off the ignition. He left his car and knocked on the door of Janson’s left door neighbor. The blinds in front of the window told him this was probably the pot-smoker’s place.
There was no answer. He decided to knock a little bit harder. Still nothing. Of course, you don’t earn a living as a private eye if you’re detained by such a little thing. He walked over to the window and banged on that.
The door opened. A lanky, pimply kid with a mullet and a Kyuss T-shirt opened the door. Lenny had to admit he approved of the kid’s taste in bands. He wasn’t sure about the mullet though.
“What the fuck man? You startled the living shit out of me, dude!”
“Sorry about that. I really want to talk to you,” Lenny said, holding up his hands apogolepticaly.
The kid squinted. “About what?”
“Your neighbor’s dog.”
“What about that stupid mutt?”
“It’s missing. And dear to your neighbor.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Maybe we can talk about this inside?” Lenny suggested.
“Well, you sure as fuck don’t look like a narc. Come the fuck inside. Nice battle jacket, by the way.”
“Thanks. Sowed it myself,” Lenny beamed.
“Good for you.”
Lenny followed the kid inside his home. “What’s your name?”
Cliff’s place reeked of marihuana. It was also very dark inside, the only light coming from a weak table-lamp. The floor was littered with pizza boxes and empty cans of beer. Lenny recognized the band playing on the kid’s stereo as Monolord. Fine riffage.
Cliff dropped down on a ratty chair and pointed to an old crate for Lenny to sit on. Lenny slowly lowered his ass, not sure the crate would hold his considerable weight. It creaked, but didn’t break.
Cliff lit a joint. “You want a hit, dude?”
“No, thanks. Haven’t smoked one since high school.”
“Shit, really? Can’t miss it, dude. Not that I’m hooked or something, you know? I just like the fucking way it makes me feel. A beer then?”
“I’m fine, thanks.  So, can you please tell me if you saw how Mr. Janson’s dog got out of his yard two weeks ago?”
“How the fuck should I know? It’s not like I sit staring at his yard, you know. Good fucking riddance too, that dog. Sometimes that fucking creature barks so loud I can’t even hear my tunes.” Cliff blew a huge amount of smoke to the ceiling. It was as yellow as egg yolk.
“Come on, Cliff… That animal means a lot to the old man. Don’t be a dick. Anything you saw or heard might help.”
“Why the fuck are you asking these questions anyway? Who are you?” Paranoia had struck the stoner.
“I told you. I’m Lenny.”
“Yeah, but why are you off busting your ass for the old man? I know he ain’t got no son.”
“Mr. Janson hired me. I’m a private investigator.”
“What the fuck? In that outfit? I would never have figured you for one dressed like that!”
“We don’t all wear trench coats or Hawaii shirts, Cliff. Now please, humor me… Is there anything you can think of that might help me track down the dog?”
“Sorry, dude. Really don’t. Maybe the hot chick next door to the old man.”
“The nurse?”
“Yeah, Janice. She usually works nights, though. But she likes the old man. And the dog. So you never know.”
“Guess I will try that, then. Keep on rockin’. I’ll let myself out.” With those words Lenny left the place before he got high from second-hand smoke.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Daughters and Sons (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

A new C.T. Ferguson book is always sure to be an enjoyable read. In this one the hacker/PI is hired to protect a hooker from a stalker. It turns out she's not the usual kind of woman who ends up in this business as he uncovers some dirty family secrets.
There's another case waiting for him though as he discovers his sister's death was not natural. Seeking out her killer and swearing revenge he has to do his best to juggle both cases.
The fact this one is personal gives this entry in the series a nice extra edge. We also see C.T.'s relationship with his girlfriend Gloria deepen a bit more.
A nice, fast-paced read.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Under Water (Duck Darley) by Casey Barrett

I don't know how this one has managed to elude me for two years, but I'm glad I found it now! It's probably my favorite read of the year. Part of it comes from the gritty story itself, a lot of it comes from the protagonist, pill-popping, Bulleit-swilling, ex-swimmer Duck Darley.
Darley could have been a contender, as an Olympic swimmer. However, like his dad he ended up in jail. After taking some aikido lessons he hires himself out as a self-proclaimed finder. He's more just an unlicensed PI though, specializing in catching married men cheating on their wives. He's not above accomodating the clients with some revenge sex as a bonus. He drinks too much, swipes pills wherever he can find them... Yeah, he's an anti-hero I guess. He really cares about his dog and sidekick, Cassie though. Now don't think she the Joe Pike / Hawk sort of psycho sidekick. Nope, she's a dominatrix and sometimes the real brains of the outfit.
In his first book he is hired to track down the missing sister of a former teammate. When her ex is murdered she's painted by the media as a killer. Digging deeper and deeper he uncovers several dark secrets and ends up in lethal danger.
The "fun" here is in how Darley managed to continue the investigation while drugged and drunk. How he manages to fight off thugs. How he stays in character as an asshole but also as an underdog to root for.
Writer Casey Barrett chose to write what he knows in part as he used to be an Olympic swimmer himself. That angle is however not needed at all. The book is written well, the mystery interesting and the characters lively and original. Top notch.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dead Man's Mistress (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

When some previously unknown paintings of a famous artist are stolen Rush McKenzie is asked to look for them. He ends up in a small town called Grand Marais and discovers a dead body. Tangling with some people who want to stop him from investigating and being hampered as much as well as helped by a young reporter the unofficial private eye is on one hell of a case again.
I always like McKenzie in every tale he's in. It's like meeting up with an old friend in every novel. I have to admit though this particular story was a bit dull at some times. It could have done with some more twists and turns or a higher degree of danger. Decent, but there have been better in this series.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part One (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture.


Lenny Parker shook the old man’s hand carefully. His hand looked brittle. The old man sat down at Lenny’s usual table at Mister Janpong’s Thai restaurant. Lenny had been using it as his office for a few years now.
“Can I get you something to drink, Mister Janson?” Lenny asked the old man.
“Some iced tea would be good,” Janson said. He was in his early eighties, dressed impeccably in a beige jacket and matching tie.
Lenny ordered the tea and a bottle of Singha beer for himself.
“What can I do for you?” he asked Janson.
“I want to hire you to look for my Ozzy. He’s been missing for weeks now,” Janson said.
“All right. How old is your son?”
“Ozzy is my dog, not my son.”
Lenny had to admit he didn’t see that one coming. “Eh… All right…”
Mister Janpong put the iced tea and beer on their table. Lenny and Janson nodded in thanks. Mister Janpong made a little bow and left.
“Ozzy is pretty much the only thing I have left. I want him found.”
“I can understand that, I guess. If I wasn’t on tour so often as a roadie I probably would want a dog as well. They’re pretty loyal creatures. But I must tell you I have no experience tracking down missing pets. Missing person, yes. Pets, no.”
“I haven’t got the stamina to go look for him myself. And I have no family left to help me. My daughter died in a car crash five years ago. She was all the family I had left. Now, Ozzy is the only thing I have. I’m afraid I can’t pay you much, but I once heard you took on a case for two bottles of Jack Daniel’s and a concert ticket.”
“Yeah. But it was a Slayer ticket.”
“I’ve got a collection of Black Sabbath albums. The original ones. I think they are worth quite some money. And I know you’re really into metal…”
“What gave me away, the battle jacket, the Megadeth T-shirt or the long hair?” Lenny said, smiling.
“Your reputation,” Janson said.
“Good to know I’m building one. Not sure if the fact I work dirt-cheap is one I want to spread around too fast. Did you name your dog after Black Sabbath’s singer?”
Janson nodded. “I used to enjoy some heavy metal back in the day. Can’t stand that new crap, though. You know with the grunging and all.”
“That’s what I said, yeah. So, can I hire you?”
The next tour would be a month from now and right now Lenny had no other cases. So he figured why not. And he was a big Black Sabbath fan. He shook Janson’s hand. “You just hired yourself a private eye, Mister Janson. Now tell me some more about Ozzy. How did he get lost?”
“That’s the bloody strange thing. He was in the backyard one moment while I was on the crapper. At my age that can take a while. When I came back from it he was gone, the gate unlocked.”
“Did you forget to lock it?”
“I’m old, not damned senile.”
“Any idea how it got unlocked then?”
“Hell if I know. It doesn’t unlock itself. And Ozzy can’t do it either.  Almost has me thinking someone dognapped him.”
That sounded a bit unlikely to Lenny. “What kind of dog is Ozzy?”
“A Rottweiler. Here, that’s him,” Janson said and took a picture from his jacket. It showed a huge Rottweiler lying in the grass.
“Nice animal,” Lenny said.
“You got that right.”
“Didn’t your neighbors see anything?”
“One of my neighbors is a pot-smoking kid who never opens his curtains, the other is a nurse who works nights. I’m afraid they haven’t seen anything.”
“Too bad. Well, I guess I can ask around, see if anybody saw Ozzy. Any distinguishing characteristics?
“What? Like a tattoo? He’s a big dog. That’s it.”
Sarcasm. Not Lenny’s favorite character flaw.  “It would be good if I had a way to make sure it’s Ozzy.”
“You call his name, and he will react,” Janson said.
Lenny shrugged. “Guess that might work. Okay, Mister Janson… I will see what I can do. Don’t get your hopes up, though.”
“After the life I’ve led I never do.”


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Four Years Gone (Carlos McCrary) by Dallas Gorham

Carlos McCrary is asked by his Aunt Carrie to again investigate the disappearance of her daughter. PI has little hope of being succesful. Still, he flies from Florida to Texas and finds some new clues that get him involved with a dangerous pair of psychopaths.
McCrary isn't the most original PI in the world. He used to be a Green Beret and has two sidekicks who he asks for help during the case. The sidekicks don't add much to the story and get very little time on the pages. Also, there's some chapters from the POV of the victims and criminals, a device that I'm not fond of.
The story is written professionaly enough, though. Also, there is enough action and danger to satisfy readers of PI novels AND thrillers. So, not a favorite, but good enough for me to pick up more books in the series.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Rag and Bone (Jay Porter) by Joe Clifford

Jay Porter has been on a crusade against the Lombardi family for some time (and three novels). He returns home after a year on the run. He sets out to investigate who set fire to his old friend Alison's farm. The thing is, Porter stories are never really about the crime but all about the man. Jay is such a strong and damaged character his life story is what makes the book great.
Smoking, drinking, getting beat up Jay Porter is a real anti-hero. He also has a desire to find out the truth, more as a way not to think about his problems than anything else though.
He's close to losing all ties to his son which for make some heartbreaking scenes as a father myself. They are written so powerfully I had to stop reading several times during those scenes.
Powerful, dark stuff. And a great farewell for this series.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Wrong Quarry (Quarry) by Max Allan Collins

He's not really a PI but a hitman. Still, in this novel of the series he does some investigating. Hired to put a hit on the hitman who intends to kill a dance instructor he also tries to find out who hired this hitman in the first place.
During this investigation he has sex with women of various ages and kills some people without any remorse. This is pure pulp, and I love it. It's pretty amazing how Mr. Collins can write about a cool and calculated killer who can think with his dick a bit too much and has no second thoughts about killing someone in cold blood and still make you like him in a way.
Pure, hardboiled fun. The influence of his Mr. Collins' idol Mickey Spillane is clear throughout this enjoyable crime story.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bad Guy Detective (Jake Hancock) by Dan Taylor

Private investigator Jake Hancock is hired to find out who the biological father of an actress is. As he does there seems to be some kind of mutual attraction going on, making for some fun scenes. The mystery behind the father is pretty surprising. Well, not to me as I figured it out. But still...
I'm not quite sure what I think of this one. I like the main character because he's a bit of an anti-hero (using drugs, being an asshole to women etc) which is fun. I like how he works for Hollywood stars as some kind of fixer. The dialogue is fun and the writing the way I like it, leaving out stuff people skip. The writer wrote something about it here and I totally agree, it's how I write.
However, I do think that although the mystery is nice enough I could have used a bit more danger posed to Jake or his friends. There is some danger involved near the end though, which reads like the ending of a Netflix episode. That's something I didn't like either. I like it when a book is really more standalone in a series.
So, I will be reading the second in the series to see if the story gets better. The writing and PI are enjoyable enough to give it a chance.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sins of the Sons (Keeper Marconi) by Vincent Zandri

What would happen if Spenser was written by Mickey Spillane instead of Robert B. Parker? That's kind of the feeling I had with this book.
Jack "Keeper" Marconi, former jailer and now PI is hired to prevent the old childhood friend of his new client to rat him out about a dark incident from their past. You see, they were involved with the death of a lawyer when they were young. When Marconi is asked by the cops to look into the case as well things heat up.
Aided by big and hunky black ex-con Blood (can you say Hawk?) he sleeps with an older woman, falls in love with a younger one and investigates the case until all secrets are uncovered.
There's a roughness to Marconi that reminds you of the old hardboiled days. However, in the use of technology it is clearly situated in the now.
It's pretty much an enjoyable story and although they reminded me a bit too much of Spenser and Hawk or Hardman and Hump main characters Marconi and Blood are entertaining guys.
I was expecting a bit more hardboiled fistfights and shootings though to spice things up, especially with the whole old pulp style.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sins as Scarlet (Inspector Iwata) by Nicolas Obregon

Former Japanese inspector Kosuke Iwata spends most of his time working divorce cases after his move from Japan to LA. When he sets out to investigate the murder of his wife's transgender sister he gets involved in a dangerous case that takes him to Mexico where he has to confront the dark ways of the people smugglers there.
A good private eye is somewhat of an outsider and Iwata as a Japanese detective is one for sure.His backstory is quite engaging and dark. In fact, this backstory, the number of flashbacks and the way of words make this quite a literary crime novel. This has two effects: one is that this is a thoughtful, haunting read. The other is that sometimes the flashbacks and background cost some of the pacing of the story.
The research that went in this one is very clear and you are taken to the world of LA or Mexico very effectively.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Free Fiction: On Bad Behavior (a Noah Milano serial) part 1

It's been a while since you last read about him, but here's a new serial featuring Noah Milano, security specialist and son of a mobster.


In the old days I could afford an office. Those days were long gone. That’s why I was as happy as a 14-year old who found his dad’s stash of Playboys when I got a new client. Well, that analogy is pretty outdated with the internet now, I guess. Shit, who knew I’d ever feel old?

The lady sitting at my table at Starbucks was pretty good looking. Even for LA-standards. She was tall, with long dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a body that would make a model envious. She was drinking one of those fancy-ass mocha-cookie-dough-tutti-frutti coffees. I just had a regular black coffee.

“Doesn’t that coffee hurt your teeth? I can almost hear the dentist rubbing their hands in glee.” I said.

She smiled. “You don’t like these kind of coffees?”

“I wouldn’t dare to call it coffee.”

She laughed. “Maybe you’re right. And you’re joking to make me feel more at ease, aren’t you?”

“Me? No, I’m just a smartass all the time.” I tried to look as innocent as I could.

“Right. Well, thanks.”

“So, Miranda. What can I do for you?”

“It’s my husband. He’ll be out of jail tomorrow. And that worries me. You see, I testified against him to get him in there. He beat up my brother and abused me for years. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt me when he gets out.”

I couldn’t help but grit my teeth. “Shit. That sounds bad. So you need some protection?”

“Yes. I heard you’re the least expensive bodyguard in Los Angeles. I hope I can pay you.”

“I think I can charge my lowest rate for a case like yours. Say one dollar a day. Plus expenses. Which, if you make me coffee at your place will be a whole lot less.”

“A dollar a day?” She gave me an inquiring look, as if she wasn’t sure I was kidding her.

“I’ve got some good karma to earn,” I told her. “A case like yours might help. I’ll be there with you the day he gets out. After that I’ll see if I can do anything to keep him off your back. There’s a limit on how long I can pay my bills on karma alone, so I can’t be guarding your charming body forever.”

She blushed a little at that. I couldn’t believe a woman like that still knew how to blush. “How do you think you can reach that?”

“I can be very persuasive. If I sold girl scout cookies I’d be rolling in dough. And not the dough the cookies are made of. I meant money, you know?”

She laughed. I liked the way her eyes seemed to sparkle when she did. Miranda Shaw was definitely a very attractive woman.

“All right. But Max is a pretty savage guy. He used to be in the Marines. It took four cops to take him in.”

“Don’t worry about that. I can take pretty good care of myself.”

“Okay, thank you so much,” Miranda said.

“I’ll go get my stuff and will meet you at your place this evening, okay?”

“Yes. That would be good. Thanks.”

I shook her hand and left the Starbucks, thinking this would be a walk in the park. Just protecting a nice lady from some abusive asshole. Shit, would that turn out to be wrong.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Miami Midnight (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

I remember when Pete Fernandez was just a nosy reporter. During the course of this series he's turned into a hardnosed private eye who can disarms his enemies with a few quick moves like he's Elvis Cole or something. Considering the huge amount of misery and death he's been facing that doesn't come as too big a surprise. Just as it's almost natural that this one ends the series. There's only so far you can take a character through the wringer. And there's only so much backstory you can expand on.
Pete is hired by an aging mobster to track down the killer of his son and his missing daughter in law. That's just a catalyst though for a complex story that digs deep into the death of Pete's mother, has his old enemy Silent Death return and uncovers mysteries that go back to almost every other book in this series.
Also, Pete's complicated relationships with Kathy, the Gina to his Patrick (if you don't get the Dennis Lehane reference, buy Gone Baby Gone or watch the movie) moves in surprising ways. Those scenes are written with such a moving voice you understand Alex cares about his characters.
An engaging and complex read. I think this one is going to nab some awards.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Kill The Lawyers (Holland Taylor) by David Housewright

David Housewright manages the feat to write two good PI series at the same time. This one, the Holland Taylor series (versus the Rush McKenzie series) is the most hardboiled of the two probably. In one particular chaptere Taylor proves he doesn't need any psycho sidekicks.
Taylor and his partner Freddie are hired by a group of attorneys who are being blackmailed because their files have been hacked. When they investigate and try to track down the hacker they get involved with a rich, but strange family.
The story has a slightly slow start with many different characters to keep up with, but when the stakes get higher the story becomes quite thrilling. There's also some great secondary regular characters in this series, especially the female ones.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Red City Blues (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

Regular readers of my blog will know how much I love the novella. It's the best way to tell a really fast-paced PI story with all the fit trimmed off. It's a joy that Tom writes a lot of these.
C.T. Ferguson, hacker and PI is hired to find out who killed the son of Erma Johnson. He was found dead, wearing gang colors, but she's sure he wasn't in any gang. Aided by his police friend Ferguson investigates and uncovers several other killings.
Ferguson is a neat character because he's paid by his rich parents after solving a case, a concept that I like. His voice is nice to read, with some Spenser-like wit.
What did irk me a bit, as it did with other Ferguson stories, is how close the cops sometimes are willing to work with him. Also, the explanation Ferguson expected to do a lot detective work behind the computer but ends up in fights a lot was given a few times too many.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Atlanta Deathwatch (Jim Hardman) by Ralph Dennis

Too be honest this book wasn't what I was hoping for.
Ex-cop Jim Hardman, partnered with ex-NFL player Hump Evans is hired by the black mafia to investigate the murder of his white lover. There's a nice helping of action along the way and the prose is crisp enough. Jim and Hump are a good duo with some good banter, you can see the way they inspired guys like Hap & Leonard for sure.
However... At times the story seemed a bit too drawn out. The pacing sometimes slowed down for no good reason. I guess for an old mass market paperback I was expecting a bit more pulp and speed.
Still, good enough to pick up the rest of the series. Just not as good as I thought.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Five (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, every new part starting with a metal video. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. In the first episode of this new story he was hired to track down the girl who robbed an old buddy of his lottery ticket. See previous parts here.


“Okay, have a seat and tell me about your trouble,” Lenny said. He was prepared to hear some kind of bullshit sob story. But still, he felt obliged to listen to it. There was no harm in listening, right?

Janey sat down on the couch and started to cry. Her make-up ran down her face, reminding Lenny of the corpse paint his favorite black metal acts wore.

He sat down next to her. He couldn’t help but be moved. Her teams seemed genuine. And he’d always been a big soft-hearted sap. He patted her back. “Just go ahead and tell me.”

“It’s terrible. So terrible… You see, for years I’ve been a junkie. I just recently got clean. But five months ago, when I was still using… I kind of sold my baby…”

“You what?” Lenny wondered if all that heavy music had damaged his ears.

“I sold my baby. You see, I didn’t have the money to pay for my drugs anymore. And my dealer told me he would take my baby as collateral until I could pay him back for the drugs.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I told you it was terrible. I’m so fucking ashamed of myself…”

“Relax. I’ve seen what drugs can do to people while I was on tour. I know it makes you do crazy things.”

“So, now I’m clean and I want my baby back. But my dealer wants me to pay a lot of interest before I get my baby back.”

“So he hung on to your baby like a fucking watch at a pawnshop?”

“I guess you could put it like that. But I must admit I’m afraid my baby isn’t alive anymore. Or that he just sold it to some rich folks who can’t have babies of their own.”

“I’m afraid that sounds somewhat likely. A drug dealer doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of person to spend the time taking care of a baby. Haven’t you seen any recent proof your baby is okay?”

She shook her head. “No, no I didn’t. But that’s why I’ve been stealing from guys I slept with. To get the money to pay to get my baby back.”

“I guess I understand that. How old is your baby?”

“Ryan is sixteen months old now.”

“We’ll get him back,” Lenny decided. “Did you already cash in the ticket?”

“Not yet. I figured it would be wiser to wait just a little while and not cash it in in San  Diego.”

“That’s better thinking then when you used your baby as collateral,” Lenny said.

“Fuck! I know I’m terrible! I hate myself for what I did!” Janey said and dug her nails into her cheeks, drawing blood.

Lenny grabbed her wrists, pulling her hands away from her face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m going to help you get Ryan back and then you give Keith back his ticket.”

With large eyes Janey looked at Lenny, like a dying man hearing he is going to live anyway. With the make-up all over her face and the blood on her cheeks she looked so terrible it made Lenny’s heart ache. “You think you can get my Ryan back? Really?”

“I think I have an idea how to do that, yeah. I’m just going to call some friends and see what I can do.”

“Thank you… I’m really not a bad person, I hope you can understand that.”

“I try not to judge,” Lenny said. “Tell me more about that dealer of yours.”

“His name is Anthony Roth. He’s one of the biggest coke dealers of San Diego. He’s got a bunch of three henchmen doing his dirty work.”

“Can you reach him?”

“Yeah, I have his number. For when I get the money together.”

“Good. I will call some friends. Then you call him, set up a meeting with him. Tell him you want to exchange the money for Ryan,” Lenny said.

“What do you have planned?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure together with my friends I’ll come up with something. We’ll get you your kid back. Whatever it takes.” Lenny thought he almost sounded like a real hero. Too bad he wasn’t so sure about his success as he made her believe. Still, he felt he had to try.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie (Nashville PI series / Auggie Velez) by Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi is of course a real pro when it comes to PI fiction. He wrote a lot of PI stories and series in the past (like the Miles Jacoby books) and even served as president of the Private Eye Writers of America. So, it should come as no surprise he hands in a solid little story here.
In nicely paced short chapters we are introduced to Auggie Velez, a session guitarplayer in Nashville who is also a PI. He reminds me just a little bit of my own roadie/bassplayer/PI Lenny Parker in that regard. Auggie is hired by a record producer to deliver a suitcase. When the recipient of the suitcase is murdered Auggie sets out to find the killer.
What makes this story great is that Auggie really feels like a real person, not a two-dimensional action hero. I was just a bit sorry he’s a war veteran as I thought his charm is that he doesn’t seem like a real tough guy. Also, the whole Nashville music setting is interesting and the writing very tight.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Friend of the Devil (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

Woody, ex-State Trooper Henry Malone's buddy asks him for help when the husband of an old flame is in trouble. They need to get him out of a biker bar. That seems to go fairly well, but when one of the bikers end up killed the husband is the main suspect. Woody and Henry set out to investigate who the killer is and encounter some nasty bikers and the Russian mob.
This series is what the Elvis Cole & Joe Pike series would have been when it was written by James Lee Burke. That is, it is a fast-paced and often funny PI series but with a hidden darkness and elegantly beautiful prose that sets it apart from the rest.
The way James  describes people is great, for instance: "The woman was somewhere in her fifties, blond via aisle 11 of CVS, and tanned to the color of cinnamon toast. I would have bet she had cancer cells rattling around inside her like coins in a piggy bank." Absolutely brilliant and a huge inspiration to my own writing.
There's a great number of underrated PI writers these days, but in my book James D.F. Hannah is the one earning way more success.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Four (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, every new part starting with a metal video. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. In the first episode of this new story he was hired to track down the girl who robbed an old buddy of his lottery ticket. See previous parts here.
This time the video is Alice Cooper's big hit Poison. Read the story and it will make sense.


“That was good,” Janey said and handed Lenny the glass back. “Wouldn’t mind another one.”

“You got it,” Lenny said and ordered a new one. He handed it her, this time she sipped it more slowly. Good thing too, this case would be getting expensive otherwise and he didn’t have that much cash. Not until he finished the case successfully and managed to get Keith’s lottery ticket back.

“Haven’t seen you around before, baby… You look pretty rock ‘n’ roll. I dig that. You in a band?” Janey asked.

“Yeah, I’m a bassplayer,” Lenny said.

She moved closer to him, running a finger across his chest. “Those are usually the most sexy.”

Lenny swallowed. He wasn’t exactly used to getting hit on by women that hot. It’s not like his band had any groupies yet. He had to force himself to keep his head clear and on the case.

“Good to hear. You come here often?”

Janey smiled mischievously. “I come as often as I can anywhere.”

That girl had some lines. Lenny couldn’t help and feel a slight stir in his jeans. “That’s a good way to think, I guess.”

Poison, by Alice Cooper started playing. That got her excited. “I love that song. Come dance with me, sugar.”

What she called dancing was more rubbing herself up and down Lenny’s rotund body. Not that he minded. He could see Casey at the bar, shaking her head in disbelief. Dancing, she move her lips closer to his and tasted his lip. Tongues interacted and he loved the way the whiskey taster on her tongue. This wasn’t a bad case to be on, really.

“How’s about you take me to your place, sugar?” she whispered in his ear.

“That sounds really good,” Lenny admitted. “We’ll have to call a cab though, a friend drove me over.”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m going to the little girl’s room while you call one,” she said and walked off.

Lenny joined Casey at the bar. “Looks like I hit paydirt.”

“You’re right on the dirt-part. What a cheap whore,” Casey said.

“You almost sound jealous,” Lenny noted.

“Fuck you, heterosexual.”

“Right. I’m going to take her home. I gotta call a cab. Thanks for taking me over here.”

“Sure, enjoy. And watch your dick. You only got one.”

“I won’t be sleeping with her. I’m a professional. I’m just going to try and find out where she has the lottery ticket.”


Janey returned from the toilet and put an arm around Lenny. “Ready to go, baby?”

They walked outside, the cab just arriving. They got in the car and as soon as they were seated Janey put her tongue in Lenny’s ear. He saw the driver looking at her lecherously. Lenny gave him his address and they drove off.

Lenny barely had time to pay the driver as Janey pulled him along, out of the car to his apartment building. They walked over to his place, Lenny somewhat fumbling with the keys as Janey was now rubbing his crotch. Man, he wasn’t used to that.

The door opened and they went in. Janey looked around the place. “Nice bass guitars.”

“Thanks,” Lenny said. He was pretty happy with them as well, they looked pretty cool on his wall he thought. “I would have cleaned up the place if I knew I would have female company though.”

“Never mind. Just take me to your bedroom, baby. I want you.” She threw her jacket off, then pulled her top off, displaying a lacy black bra and small but firm breasts.

Lenny felt eager to take her to the bedroom and enjoy all of the good things her body seemed to offer. Then he decided he was a professional and locked the door of his apartment.

“No, we stay here,” he told her.

“What do you mean, here?” Clearly she wasn’t used to that.

“In the living room. You stole something from a buddy of mine. I want it back.”

“I don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.”

“The lottery ticket you stole. He wants it back.”

“You’re creeping me out. I’m outta here.” Janey walked to the door, but Lenny blocked it with his rotund body, arms crossed.

“Just get me the ticket and you can go.”

“This is kidnapping! I’m calling the cops!” Janey said.

“I’m pretty sure you won’t do that,” Lenny said.

She charged him like a bull. She crashed into him, Lenny bouncing with his back against the door. She tried to push him away from the door, but Lenny was just to steady on his feet. She tried to knee him in the balls, but he saw it coming, twisting his hip and taking the knee on his leg. Then she went for his eyes, long nails like claws. He grabbed her wrists and pushed her away from him. She fell down on his couch.

“You bastard!” she said.

“I’m really sorry, but I really want you to give the lottery ticket back. I’m not going to hurt you, but I’m also not going to let you leave until you do.”

“I know some nasty people, asshole. They will really enjoy killing you.”

Lenny really didn’t like being threatened. He didn’t want to die and was no hero. Still, he took on Keith’s case and couldn’t just back down. So he tried to act as much as a tough guy as he could.

“Many have tried. As you can see no one has succeeded.”

Then she started to cry. “It’s not as cut and dried as you think. I need the money. I’m in trouble.”

Q & A with A.J. Devlin

A.J. Devlin surprised me this year with a great, fast-paced PI novel featuring a fun new private eye. Of course that made me eager to learn more about the writer and his work.

Q: What makes "Hammerhead" Jed different from other hardboiled characters?
A: I would say what makes Jed different first and foremost would be his professional wrestling pedigree, followed by his sense of humour. While he has several trademarks of a hardboiled detective in that he's emotionally damaged and drinks too much, he also has a really big heart and cracks wise in a way that I hope comes across as unique due to his wrestling history.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: I conceived of the character at a time when I had come across professional wrestling documentaries and biographies and was concurrently reading lots of books from what I like to call the "hybrid-athlete detective" mystery novel sub-genre. I've read mysteries about private eyes / amateur detectives who balanced sleuthing with their backgrounds and careers in boxing, surfing, hockey, basketball, working as a sports agent -- but as far as I could tell no one had ever cooked up a wrestler detective before. So that along with my longtime passion for professional wrestling was definitely my inspiration. I also sort of set out to write a classic Chandler / Spillane style story set in Vancouver, but by the time I finished the book it had morphed into a mystery-comedy. Since professional wrestling is rife with comical in-ring theatrics but also has a real life dark underbelly, it felt like the only way to accurately reflect the world of sports entertainment was to embrace the over-the-top action while also showcasing the behind the scenes drama.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: I think anything that gets people reading more is a great thing. COBRA CLUTCH was my debut novel and only came out last Spring, so I'm still navigating my way through this new career as I go and am learning lots about the publishing industry along the way. But since I know of so many people whose amount of reading has significantly spiked due to the advent of eBooks it's hard not to see it as something very beneficial to authors overall.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
A: ROLLING THUNDER, book two in the "Hammerhead" Jed series, is set to be released in Spring 2020 by NeWest Press and I'm currently working on book three.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
A: I keep pretty busy as a stay-at-home dad for my 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter. I also really enjoy going on long walks or runs with our family dog and tend to do a lot of outlining in my head for the "Hammerhead" Jed series when it's just the two of us alone on a trail or out in nature. And of course I try to read as much crime fiction as I can.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
A: I'm very fortunate that my publisher has the most awesome and tireless Production & Marketing Coordinator and GM who do so much to get the word out about the "Hammerhead" Jed series. Also, due to my stay-at-home dad lifestyle, I have a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to attending author events or arranging in-store signings at bookstores. And of course having a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has been invaluable.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
A: Interesting question! Although at this point I pretty much exclusively read crime I would have to say I enjoy a good sci-fi story for sure.

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: For me personally I was heavily influenced by the works of current master storytellers like Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Connelly, Carl Hiaasen, and Robert Crais — and they are all still consistently publishing outstanding crime novels. However what I've found most exciting is the recent surge of top notch mystery novels set Vancouver, led by award-winning authors like Sam Wiebe and Sheena Kamal, who are fearless in depicting what a unique and rich city my hometown truly is, and something I aspired to emulate in COBRA CLUTCH.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
A: Probably because I've been a massive fan of crime fiction since I was a boy and once spent a summer tearing through the entire HARDY BOYS series, so it definitely got into me early. And also because I grew up on movies like THE GOONIES, BACK TO THE FUTURE, and DIE HARD, and I believe that crime fiction lends itself beautifully to escapist entertainment, which is ultimately the thing I hope people take away if they give COBRA CLUTCH a read.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Miami Storm (Titus) by John D. Patten

This one has a pretty original, very high concept triller start. Ex-cop Titus wakes up in a hospital with a tarnished memory. When he manages to leave and some of his memory returns he discovers the lawyer he threatened to kill has been murdered, making him the prime suspect. With old and new enemies he takes on various bad guys as he unravels the mystery behind his memory loss and the murder.
I have to credit John D. Patten for creating an original story while still giving fans of the genre all they need. Titus is still the ultimate tough guy, but he seems just a bit more vulnerable this time, emotionally and physically.which gives the story something extra.
I read this one in two days, the story was that engaging and fast-paced. I have to warn you that, especially in the end, it pays to have read the first two novels in this series to get the most out of it.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Flea Flicker (Burnside) by David Chill

A football coach who likes to drink a bit too much is missing and his wife asks Burnside to find him. As you might expect it turns into a murder investigation. I still like the very human investigator Burnside and so far his domestic life with his wife and kid doesn't annoy me. Slowy though, the football angle is getting a bit stale.
Another comfortable enough read, but the story was a bit slow for my taste this time. Also, I guess I would have enjoyed a bit more action and a different environment.

Crimson Blood (Max Sawyer) by Douglas Pratt

If you visit this blog often you know I prefer fast-paced books with easy to read, spare prose. Well, that makes this book a winner.
Max Sawyer is a former reporter who has enough money to basically live well. When he meets an attractive woman at a bar who is murdered that same night he sets out to find out who killed her. Together with his ex-Marine buddy Leo he uncovers a nefarious child pornography ring and dispenses some vigilante justice.
I was a bit surprised how hardboiled a killer Max could be. He didn't really seem the type at the beginning, coming over like  a laid-back kind of guy who liked to drink and have a good time. Also, as he had no background as a cop or soldier I didn't figure on it. Leo is of course, the traditional psychotic sidekick we all love.
I really liked how the story flowed and was always eager to read the next chapter. I liked how the scenes with the casual love interest were written and the tight way the action scenes were written.
Really going to read more of these. Yeah, it's pulp I guess, but I love that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cobra Clutch (Hammerhead Jed Ounstead) by A.J. Devlin

Now this is what I like. A fast-paced and funny ride with a great new PI.
Jed "Hammerhead" Ounstead walked away from professional wrestling when he hurt a friend. Now he works as a bouncer and for his PI father.
When an old partner asks for his help in tracking down his kidnapped pet snake he gets involved in a murder investigation. Luckily he's getting some help from an attractive female cop, his Irish buddy Declan (who has some very funny lines) and his dad.
What makes this book so cool is that Jed is a fun character with a painful past. That is, shit happened but there is some lightheartedness to him, his wit and his love of banana milkshakes. There's also a lot of fast-paced action and with 250 pages it never gets boring.
A great, enjoyable modern PI novel.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Nighttown (Junior Bender) by Timothy Hallinan

Two things set this series apart for me. One is the original idea of a burglar working PI jobs for other criminals. The other is some of the colorful characters populating it. Number one of these characters is the hitwoman that carries a pink gun, Eaglet. She steals every scene she is in with her strange combination of killer toughness and girly tenderness.
When Junior Bender breaks into to steal a valuable doll he ends up investigating the murder of a fellow burglar he has a soft spot for. Things get a little bit literary when it turns out there's an autographed copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes involved.
While I thought some scenes moved a bit slow Timothy Hallinan excels in writing witty characters and he is to be lauded to put a literary spin on a pulpy premise so this book will be enjoyed by hardcore PI fans and the more mainstream mystery fans as well.
But hey, I tell you... The scenes with Eaglet are worth buying this book alone.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Three (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, every new part starting with a metal video. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. In the first episode of this new story he was hired to track down the girl who robbed an old buddy of his lottery ticket. See previous parts here.
This time the video is Slipknot's People = Shit but with a very different video. It will make sense when you read this episode.


“What the hell happened to you?” Casey asked Lenny as he walked into her apartment. “You didn’t go into a moshpit again, did you? You’re getting too old and slow for that shit.”

“I ran into a fist leaving a bar,” Lenny told her, wiping some blood from his nose.

“Shit, sit down. Let me clean that up a bit,” Casey said.

Lenny sat down on the ratty couch in her apartment. There wasn’t much furniture but the walls were covered with old concert flyers. Casey used to go to nursing school before dropping out so she seemed to be the best person to visit after his little encounter at the Tower Club.

Casey wet a cloth and washed his face with a tenderness he really hadn’t seen her exhibit before. As she did he told her exactly what happened.

“Leave it up to you to get beaten up within hours after taking on a case. Philip Marlowe has nothing on you.

“If only I was as good an investigator. Or as witty,” Lenny said and winced when the cloth hit a painful part of his nose.

“Right. You’re lucky. Nothing broken. Won’t even need stitches. Must hurt like hell, though. Let me give you some medicine,” Casey said and offered him a bottle of Jack.

Lenny took a long pull, making an aaaah sound as the booze made the familiar slightly burning but pleasant sensations it does.

“Let me put on a band-aid on that snozzle of yours. I only have My Little Pony ones left. Hope you don’t mind.”

“Right,” Lenny said. “Nothing says metal better than a pink horse.”

“Prog-metal perhaps? Or stoner metal?” Casey suggested.

Lenny shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. We haven’t got any gigs lined up in the next few weeks anyway.”

“True. First time you seem happy about that. So, now what? Are you continuing your investigation or do you choose to keep your teeth?”

“Hey, you should see the other guy. I won the fight. So yeah, I’m continuing my investigation. What kind of private eye would I be when I dropped the case as soon as some dude gets a bit physical.”

Casey chuckled. “You don’t look like you were the winner of the fight.”

“What do you know about fights, you’re a girl?”

That wasn’t Lenny’s smartest choice of words. Casey pinched his nose, causing him to go down on his knees, howling in pain.

“I’m a fucking woman, Lenny. Not a girl. And you know I know all about fights,” Casey said.

“Yeah, yeah. Just kidding. Ow man…” Lenny wiped some tears from his eyes.

“Take another one from the bottle to take care of that pain,” Casey offered.

“I can’t. I’m driving. And imagine that bartender calls that Janey is there. I will have to get behind the wheel right away.”

“Well, it’s not legal already now.” Casey put the bottle against Lenny’s mouth. “Now drink your medicine, I will drive you when it’s needed.”

Lenny had to drink or drown, some whiskey running down his goatee.

As Casey removed the bottle he said, “Thanks. I guess.”

“I’m your pal, Lenny. You know that. You just have to learn to watch your mouth.”

“But wait, you had a few drinks after our show. Are you allowed to drive?”

“I can handle my liquor better than you, tubby. You know that.”

That’s when the openings riff of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man played, Lenny’s ringtone. He answered it.

“She’s there. Great. Buy her a drink on me. I’m coming over right away,” Lenny said in the phone. He disconnected and told Casey, “I’m in luck. Janey showed up at the Tower Club already.”

“Awesome, let’s roll then,” Casey said. “Give me your keys.”

So a few minutes later they were driving. Lenny prayed no cops would have them stop over, because he had to admit Casey was driving okay, but he figured legally she still had too many an alcohol percentage in her blood for sure.

Casey told him as she was driving and he was shotgun he had to shut his mouth and let her choose the music. Some screaming punkrock girl was shouting about Cosmic Bullshit through his speakers. Not his thing.

Before the third song had set in they were already at the Tower Club. Casey parked the car pretty neatly and they got out.

When they walked in the room, KISS singing about their Love Gun they spotted her right away. She was dancing all by herself, more sensual than any stripper. Short, leather skirt. White tank top. Tattoos of geisha’s, dragons and koi fish all over her slender arms. Lipstick red as blood. Almond eyes. Flawless skin. Bleach blond hair. A beauty.

“Wow, she’s hot. That her, right?” Casey whispered to Lenny.

“Seems to be,” he said.

The bartender nodded to Lenny who gave him a wink.

“What is she drinking?” Lenny asked.

“Jack, on the rocks.”

“Of course,” Lenny said. “Okay, give me two of them.”

“What happened to your face, man?” the bartender asked.

“Walked into one of your customers.”

The bartender nodded. “Think I know which one. Alex. Sorry about that, dude.”


“That’s a pretty hot babe you got tagging along. If you can arrange a date with her for me, I don’t need the backstage pass to any rockband, dude.”

Casey leaned over the bar, smiling her sweetest smile at the bartender. “You could just ask the hot babe herself. She’s not deaf.”

The bartender blushed a bit. “Sorry.”

“You can buy me dinner anytime, but you won’t be getting my pussy unless you develop one yourself. Sorry, buster,” Casey told him.

Lenny walked over to Janey with his glass of Jack. “Here, for you.”

She glanced at him like he was some kind of amusing novelty. Then she said, “Sure, why not.” She drained the Jack like a longshoreman. Or someone from an eighties glamrock band.

Lenny smiled. The game was afoot.