Thursday, January 31, 2008

Background Check on One Man Dies (Jackson Donne) by Dave White

This time we get a background check on One Man Dies, Dave White's debut novel from the man himself...

1) How much time did it take you to write the novel?
--I never get this exactly right, but I think the first draft took about a year and then it took another year to rewrite it.

2) Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
I used Gerry in one of Donne's short stories and wondered what would happen if I killed him. That was the beginning. The rest kind of came about organically or through fluky luck, such as working a night with Vermont State Troopers only to have them decide to tell me how to make crystal meth. Yeah, I do get lucky sometimes.

3) Was it hard to find a publisher?
Another sign of luck and/or good timing. It only took me two weeks in the middle of the summer.

4) Did you encounter a lot of problems moving from short stories to writing a full novel?
Actually, no not really. I knew the story I had in mind would only fit a novel, and it wasn't difficult extending the length. What has been difficult has been trying to go back to writing short stories. Whenever I try to write a short now it feels a little hollow to me, and I'm not sure why. But I love the short story form an can't wait to find another one that works for me.

5) Why did you decide to use another view point (Bill Martin's) next to Jackson's?
This idea came from Sarah Weinman actually. After the first draft of the novel, when Sarah and my agent Al Guthrie read it, they both felt the story was too small. Bill was in the story, but his role was minor. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought I could weave him into the narrative, and raise the stakes of the novel at the same time. I just had to figure out what he was doing while Donne was out investigating.

6) Did you do a lot of research for the novel?
Most of it was incidental. Like I mentioned the Vermont State Troopers talking about how to make drugs. Or my friends in local law enforcement talking about their guns. I like to listen to people and that's where I got a lot of my facts. The second book, The Evil That Men Do, caused me to do a fair amount of research, mostly through the internet.

7) Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed writing the last third of the novel when things start to tie together. I was able to throw a lot of twists in there that even I didn't see coming. That was fun.

8) Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
I will always love Jackson Donne, but man Bill Martin was a fun character to write.

9) What are the best things people have said about the novel and which the worst?
One of the women I work with came up to me one day and said "I'm almost done with your book. But I'm not going to finish it yet. I'm enjoying it so much I'm going to slow down so it doesn't end. That's only happened to me one other time, reading Stephen King's The Stand."
As for worst? I don't know, no one's been overtly mean, though when people don't like it it's disappointing.

10) Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
It was a blast to write, but I'm hoping the second is even better, because in a way that was even more fun and a much more personal novel to me

Monday, January 28, 2008

Lover's Crossing (Roscoe Brinker) by James C. Mitchell

In this straightforward tale we meet Roscoe Brinker, ex-INS agent turned PI, who quit that job after he was shot. Brinker is hired find out who killed the wife of Moe Crain, a celebrity car salesman. She seems like such a likable character it is hard to believe anyone would want to kill her. During his investigations Brinker finds links between the corrupt INS agent who might have been involved in getting him shot and the Crain case. Aiding him is a Mexican criminal who is instrumental in solving the case in the end.
In a subplot we follow his troubles with his girlfriend Dolores, a TV reporter, who gets offered a job in New York. Something Brinker doesn’t like very much since that’s a long way from his Tucson home.
Brinker is a likable, very human character and by no means a superhero. In fact, he gets beaten up by bad guys and doesn’t take down any without help. That made some parts, especially the ending a bit unsatisfying for me. Also, at times the investigation seemed a bit slow. There just weren’t that many exciting revelations or feelings of danger along the way. A nice story, but no thriller. The location of the story is interesting however and Brinker seems like a good guy to share a beer with, so I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing Choke Point to see if James’ plotting gets a bit more exciting and see how Brinker’s life moves on.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Prodigal Sons: Terry Orr (by Jim Fusilli)

Jim Fusilli wrote four well-received novels featuring novice PI Terry Orr but since Hard, Hard City in 2004 we haven't read about him. Sons of Spade asked Jim to give us the low-down...

1) We haven't seen Terry Orr since 2004... Will he return?
I'm not sure. I enjoyed doing the four Terry Orr novels, but I'm not certain that the P.I. field is the best place for my writing.

2) Why haven't you written about Terry for some time now?
After writing "Hard, Hard City," I decided I wanted to explore new ways to tell my stories. I decided to withdraw, experiment and re-learn the craft. I wrote and published a dozen or so short stories in different voices, eras, first person, third person, dark, humorous -- just to find my own, distinctive voice. I did a non-fiction book on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys' album "Pet Sounds" and taught creative writing to undergraduate and graduate students at the State University of New York at Binghamton. (I'm also a journalist: I'm the rock and pop music critic of The Wall Street Journal.)

Two of those short stories are related to the Terry Orr series, by the way. One, which is posted on Amazon Shorts, is a kind of locked-room tale. The other, which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, is set in the early 1980s and features two characters from the series, Luther Addison and Sharon Knight.

3) What's up next for you?
In June, Dutton will publish my first mystery for young adults. It's entitled "Marley Z and the Bloodstained Violin." I think fans of the Terry Orr stories will recognize characters reminiscent of Bella and Daniel Wu. I've just completed the first draft of a mainstream novel set in the late 1940s in a town not unlike Hoboken, N.J., where I was born. It has elements of a crime novel, but it also incorporates my passion for music and Italian-American culture. It's very promising, I think. My "Pet Sounds" book is coming out next month in Japan, translated by Haruki Murakami, so I'm excited about that. I edited (and contributed a chapter to) the audio serial-thriller "The Chopin Manuscript," which featured Jeff Deaver, Lee Child, David Hewson, Lisa Scottoline and others. There's been discussion of a sequel that I'll edit as well.

For more info about this author visit:

Q & A with Ray Banks

Q: What makes Cal Innes different from other fictional private eyes?
Well, technically, he's not a private eye. He's not licensed, and he doesn't really have much of a business. It's a label he puts on himself because it's a lot more glamorous than "drunk", "ex-con" or "hatchet man". I hope he's a little less heroic and a little more realistic. But that probably says more about me than him.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
It's cheap, unless the guy's name is Mouse.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
Enough to get the point across, but not too much that some pedant can pull me up on something niggly. I have a tendency to write about situations that I have some interest in and knowledge about anyway.

Q: Has your writing changed a lot over time?
I hope it's changed considerably for the better. I know I'm a lot more comfortable with certain nuts and bolts aspects of it now. I think I can plot better than I used to, in that I tend to have plots now. And I'm less inclined to witter on about nothing just because I like the way it reads. So it's definitely changed. It has to. As long as you keep learning, you keep changing.

Q: How do you promote your books?
Dropping fliers from a hot air balloon, sky-writing, spray-tagging public buildings, tattooing homeless people. Y'know, the usual.

Q: What's next for you and Cal?
The fourth book, Beast Of Burden. That needs some work right now. After that, we'll see what happens. I don't really talk beyond the next book if I can help it.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
C W Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch. Jack Taylor. Easy Rawlins. Lew Griffin. Derek Strange and Terry Quinn. David Brandstetter. Favourite Daughter of Spade: Tess Monaghan. I've probably missed a couple. They know who they are.

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 and in what way?
I think Ken Bruen is already a massive influence on newer writers, and not just stylistically. He's bringing emotion back to what is still primarily a chilly, investigative sub-genre. Laura Lippman, Walter Mosley and George Pelecanos bring in the sociological elements, without becoming either too preachy or too political. James Sallis deconstructs the mythology and the very idea of a fictional private investigator. And James Crumley happens to write some of the finest, meatiest prose I've ever read.

Really, the PI will never die. He or she will just evolve into something more meaningful for their time.

Q: David Fulmer came up with the following question:
Why did you want to write in this genre?

Because I don't have the time, patience or inclination to learn about the filth. PI novels also have a tradition of first-person narratives, which is my natural comfort zone, and I thought there was a lot of interesting stuff in the mythology of the PI, especially when it was applied to a British setting.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer? My question: When are you going to write a real book?
My answer: When I enjoy reading "real books".

For more info about this author visit:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Q & A with David Fulmer

Today we interview David Fulmer, author of the Storyville series and the just released novel The Blue Door, featuring Eddie Cero.

Q: What makes Eddie Cero and Valentin St. Cyr different from other fictional private eyes?
Their histories, for one thing. They are both orphans of a sort with tragedies in their backgrounds that affect the way they operate. They are both very quiet, both loners, unlike wise-cracking gumshoes. Both are capable of violence and yet they both hate using it. They are, of course, different from each other in many ways, too. I work very hard to give my characters lots of dimension, including full biographies, before I begin writing. I find it makes a huge difference in the story.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
There are two kinds of leading characters. Those who come to the page as heroes or anti-heroes. They proceed to do whatever heroee or anti-heroes do. This includes psychos of all stripes. They're colorful and active, but I find in most cases they're limited by their status. They have a few set responses to a situation and that's it. My characters are rather ordinary people who find themselves thrown into extra-ordinary situations and have to work through it, making it up as they go along. Eddie Cero in The Blue Door is a perfect example of this.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
I do research for every book. First of all, I read all the books on a time and place. I also do something different. I go to the libraries and read old newspapers. I'm not looking for anything in particular, just soaking up the news from the street. I find this helps me with the content and pace of speech from the day. So I can use that in dialogue. The books are for the big historical picture, the newspapers bring me down to the ground where average people are living.

Q: Has your writing changed a lot since the first novel?
I hope it's better! I have worked to refine the atmospherics: the characters, dialogue, and settings. I want to make these elements vivid and evocative. I changed styles for my fourth book because it had a new setting. The same for this most recent book. That goes back to the question above. The newspapers helped me set the scenes for the characters to work in. I learn new things every day, and am humbled by how much more I have to learn.

Q: How do you promote your books?
My publisher Harcourt has a publicist on staff who works with me. I do much of my own publicity, too. Since my books have much to do with music, I go after the music press: print, radio, and web. This is a way to reach people who are interested in the music subtext. Likewise, I came up with a list of the boxing publications and websites for this last book. I was a newspaper and magazine writer for many years, so I know what editors want in a story. Again, all this involves extensive research.

Q: What's next for you and Eddie Cero and Valentin St. Cyr?
Next I'll go back to Storyville with "Lost River." I have several other books on the shelf waiting to be published. I would like to do another South Philly book, too.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
James Lee Burke, Donald Westlake, James Sallis, to name a few. I love one-off books like The Name of the Rose.

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 and in what way?
That's a very difficult question. Because the media has changed more in the last ten years than it did in the prior fifty. I think that graphic novels might have an influence. Also programs like The Sopranos and The Wire. Also, there are just too many authors out there for any one to have major influence. It's a big field with a lot of fast horses.

Q: James Mitchell came up with the following question: are you making any money?
I'm doing all right. I supplement my book income with teaching and side media projects. As a single parent, I need to be careful about keeping the cash flow

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Why did you want to write in this genre?
My answer is I didn't pick the mystery genre, it picked me. When I approached my first book, (Chasing the Devil's Tail) I decided that the setting called for a mystery. Nothing else would work as well. So that's what I wrote. Without any intention of writing another one. Then Harcourt made me a deal I couldn't refuse and I became a mystery author. What I've found since is that genre fiction can be as transcendant as any other kind of writing.

For more info about this author visit:

Weekly Wisecrack

"I'm not hard to get. That's my jokes."

- Harry Rigby in Eight Ball Boogie by Declan Burke

Body Count part 2 (Joe Hannibal) by Wayne Dundee

Here's the concluding part of the Joe Hannibal short story by Wayne Dundee...

I picked Myra up around seven and took her out for supper at a little steak house I frequent. Over two of the best sirloins in Rockford, I reported on my afternoon’s activities and then worked my way into some other things I had on my mind.
“A couple things have been bugging me,” I said. “For one, it’s obvious Mardix has had you under pretty close surveil¬lance ever since he swore he wouldn’t allow another man to touch you. Any idea why you were able to give him the slip this morning?”
She shook her head. “No. I never really thought about it.”
“Then it wasn’t anything you did intentionally. Did you change your regular routine in some way?”
“Well, sure. I went to meet you. Otherwise, I’m almost never up before noon.”
I nodded. “Okay, it’s probably as simple as that. He has to sleep and eat just like everybody else, and he’d have been doing it to fit your schedule. You changed your routine and threw him off.”
“What else? You said a couple things.”
“Any idea what made him fall so hard for you, become so possessive in the first place?”
She shrugged. “Because I helped him over his sexual hang-ups, I guess. When he first came to me, he had a lot of problems. It’s not uncommon for guys like that to fall in love with a hooker who has the patience and expertise to help them in ways a straight chick can’t—or won’t.”
“Sort of like falling in love with your psychiatrist or a doctor who’s saved your life.”
“You make it sound corny but, yeah, something like that.”
“Was he over his hang-ups completely, or just with you?”
“I’m not sure. If I had to guess, I’d say just with me.” Her mouth curved in a dubious little smile. “Is all this really necessary or are you being a teeny bit voyeuristic?”
I shook my head. “I’m just trying to get a feel for the guy, that’s all. We know so damn little about him. Where does he live? What does he do? Hell, Earl Mardix apparently isn’t even his real name. There’s no phone listing, published or private, for anyone by that name. And from what Mrs. Renman said it sounds as if her husband met him at a car dealership, yet there’s no vehicle registration or city sticker issued to a Mardix. The judge sure as hell hit it on the head when he called him a man of mystery.”
“There’s one thing that might help.”
“What’s that?”
“I think he was in the war. You know, Vietnam. He had a bad dream one night, and he called out some things in his sleep. I couldn’t make sense of what he said, but there were a lot of Asian-sounding names and phrases, you know? When I tried to ask him about it later, he got really uptight.”
I made a mental note to pass that bit of info along to the judge. It could be another angle for him to have checked.
“I’ll take you back to the St. George when we’re finished here,” I told Myra, “and then I’m going to spend the night at your place.”
“What on earth for?”
“If we’re right, if your change-up maneuver is what gave Mardix the slip this morning, then by now he’s got to know he lost you. It’s a safe bet that that will have him riled. With any luck it could rattle him enough to make him do something dumb. Like maybe break into your apartment and try to find some clue as to where you went.”
“And you’ll be there waiting for him?”
“Won’t that be dangerous for you?”
“Could be. But if I play it right, it’ll be a lot more dangerous for him.”
We finished our meal, passed on dessert, and I drove her back to the St. George. On the way she asked me to stop somewhere so she could pick up some overnight things.
When I turned into a K Mart, she commented dryly: “Gee, Hannibal, you take me to all the finest places.” I saw her to her room, and as we stood facing each other in the doorway, I was again acutely aware of her raw sexuality. I fantasized briefly about saying to hell with Earl Mardix, sweeping her up in my arms, carrying her into the room, and hanging out the “Do Not Disturb” sign for the rest of the week.
Instead I settled for a quick peck on the cheek from her and a huskily whispered, “For luck.”
Myra Caine’s apartment was on the third floor of a luxury condo just off East State. I went up the back way from the parking garage and used every trick I know to make sure I wasn’t observed. It was a little before nine when I let myself in.
I locked the door behind me and left the lights off. Guided by the thin beam of a pencil flash, I made a tour of the apartment, familiarizing myself with the layout. She lived very well. Elegance without extravagance.
By half past nine I was ready to take up my post. Early in my tour I’d noted the doors to a large walk-in closet just off the living room and had decided on that as a likely spot. It was centrally located without being readily visible to anyone entering the apartment. I plucked a couple sofa pillows from the couch and carried them over along with the thermos of coffee I’d brought. I slid the doors open.
He exploded out of the closet with a nerve-freezing combat cry. He threw three lightning kicks to my chest, knocking me back, then a fourth wiped my legs out from under me. I crashed down across the end of the couch. I rolled, trying to escape his stamping feet. An end table got in the way, and I turned it into splinters. His face was just a blur in the darkness, but I knew it had to be Mardix. The sneaky sonofabitch had gotten in ahead of me somehow and had lain in hiding all the while I was prowling. I could hear his grunts of effort and feel the breeze as his heels whistled past my face in near misses.
I managed to get my knees under me, then my feet, and lunged up into him. We bounced off the wall in a clinch. I tried to throw a knee into his groin, but he blocked it with his hip. He head-butted me in the face and jerked away. I swung a roundhouse right that hit nothing but air.
I lost him in the dark. I stood in the center of the room with fists balled and eyes watering from the head butt, and the only thing I could hear was the puff of my own labored breathing. I felt as if I were fighting a goddamn shadow.
And then he was behind me. The bloodcurdling cry again, and in the same instant a length of piano wire slipped down over my face and bit into my throat. He slammed a foot against the nape of my neck and pulled into it. I bridged and thrust back like a man hit by high voltage, but he moved expertly with me, never lessening the pressure. I sank to my knees with a strange sound filling my ears. I realized it was a roar of pain and rage and panic trying to escape from deep inside me.
I had only seconds before the piano wire did its trick. It was already embedded so deeply in my flesh that I could barely feel it with my clawing fingertips. I reached for the .45, but my hand found nothing but an empty holster. The big gun had fallen out sometime during the struggle. And the derringer was out of reach now with my legs pinned under Mardix as he rode me down. I sagged forward. My head felt ready to explode, and my throat burned like fire as the wire bit deeper and deeper.
On the carpet just ahead of me something glinted dully in the almost nonexistent light. My thermos. The one I’d brought along, filled with coffee to keep me awake through what might have turned out to be a long, uneventful night. I reached out and gripped it with rubbery fingers, slipping my right hand through the plastic handle. I had time enough and strength enough for one attempt. If it failed, I’d never get another chance.
I whipped the metal-cased cylinder up over my head, then back and down. I heard the sharp crack of metal striking flesh and bone and felt the shock of the impact vibrate through my wrist. Mardix emitted a different kind of cry this time as he released his grip on the wire ends and toppled off my back. I fell forward, flames flooding down through my chest as I sucked in great mouthfuls of air. I tore away the wire and spun to face him. We were both on our hands and knees. Dark blood ran down over his left eye, and he was poised catlike, as if ready to pounce on me. I lashed out with the thermos again. His reflexes were still good, and I managed only to graze the top of his head. I belly-flopped with the effort. He rolled away, scrambled to his feet, fumbled for a moment with the door lock, then ran out. Bright light poured in from the hallway, stinging my eyes as I lay there and listened to the sound of his retreat.
I hauled myself up, relocked the door, turned on every light I could get my hands on. I found the .45 amidst the rubble of the destroyed end table. I sat for a long time with it resting in my lap while I caught my breath and gently rubbed my scraped, bleeding throat.
It was well past ten when I killed the lights and quit the apartment. I walked down to the parking garage with my hands thrust deep in my jacket pockets, the right one firmly gripping the .45. I felt restless and angry. Angry with myself. I’d had Mardix right in my hands and let him get away. Damn it all. But at the same time a part of me was in no hurry to meet up with him again. Twice I jumped at shadows and silently cursed my skittishness.
The city was a kaleidoscope of rain-blurred neon, with cars hissing across the shiny pavement like darting reptiles. I drove without knowing exactly where I wanted to go, until, abruptly it seemed, I found myself in front of the St. George. I parked and went in with my collar flipped up to hide my bloodied throat. I called Myra’s room from the lobby to let her know I was coming up.
She was waiting for me in her doorway, wrapped in a powder-blue quilted robe. She hadn’t been to sleep yet, but her hair was pinned up and her only makeup was a touch of fresh lipstick. She looked more gorgeous than ever. I told her what had happened, coloring my narrative with plenty of four-lettered adjectives. When she saw my throat, she called down to the desk for a first-aid kit and, at my insistence, a bottle of bourbon.
When they arrived, I belted down some of the whiskey while Myra played Florence Nightingale. I don’t know exactly how what happened next came about, or even who made the first move. It wasn’t what I had gone there for. Or maybe, on some subconscious level, it was. I don’t know. But suddenly I had her in my arms. The robe slipped away, and beneath it she was even more splendid than I’d imagined. We fell back across the bed and, for a frenzied span of time, lost ourselves in each other and the immediate needs of our flesh.
“What was that?” Myra said afterward. “Reaffirmation of life after nearly dying in that dark apartment?”
“It was just sex,” I replied. “No need to read anything more into it.”
“Well, it doesn’t seem to have cheered you up a whole hell of a lot.”
I sat on the edge of the bed and reached for a cigarette. “That sonofabitch is still out there somewhere,” I said. “I know next to nothing about him, and the one chance I had to get my hands on him, I blew. I’m not likely to get real cheery until I rectify some of that.”
“That reminds me,” Myra said, sitting up behind me. “The judge called just after you left. He said he’d learned some things about Mardix that you should know. I explained to him that you’d be at my apartment with the phone switched off, so he said if I heard from you before he did, to have you get in touch with him right away.”
I smoked my cigarette. The restlessness and anger hadn’t abated much, not even with the help of booze and sex. The latter, in fact, had added a twinge of guilt to my already tangled emotions. I knew I wasn’t ready for sleep.
I got up and walked over to the phone, dialed Hugh Farrow’s number. A busy signal burped in my ear. I tried four more times in the next twenty minutes with the same results. A nagging fear crawled through me. It was past midnight, hardly the hour for lengthy phone conversations. I began pulling on my clothes.
“Where are you going?” Myra wanted to know.
“Out,” I told her. “Keep the lights low and stay away from the windows. Lock the door when I leave, and don’t open it for anyone but me.”
I pulled the derringer from my boot and handed it to her. Her eyes flicked down to the weapon, then back up, wide with uncertainty and a trace of fear.
I said, “Mardix is running scared now, maybe completely out of control. At best, there’s a fine line between love and hate. There’s a good chance he’s crossed that line, and that means his obsession for you may have changed from lust to fury.”
“You mean he blames me for the trouble he’s in?”
“I’ve seen it happen that way.”
“I’ll wake Grissom and put him right outside the door. I’ll be back as quick as I can. Try to relax, but remember everything I said.”

It was a twenty-minute drive from the St. George to North Park. I spotted the Farrow house from six blocks away. Every light in it was on.
I slammed the old Mustang to a halt in the middle of the driveway, left it rocking back and forth on worn springs with headlights still on and the door hanging open as I raced through the stinging rain up to the front door. I went in with the .45 in my fist.
There was blood on the walls of the front hall, and Bottin lay at the foot of the open stairway with his throat slit open like a second mouth. He was beyond help. I leaped over him and went bounding up the stairs.
I found the judge in his bedroom, on the bed, feet and hands lashed to the cornerposts with torn strips of sheeting. His chest was a crisscross of black and red welts, and I could smell the burned flesh. A poker from the smoldering fire¬place lay nearby on a patch of singed carpet.
He rolled his head and looked up at me through pain-dulled eyes. “Jesus Christ, Joe,” he said hoarsely. “Jesus Christ.”
I knelt at the edge of the bed and began untying his hands. “Easy, old buddy,” I said. “Everything’s going to be okay. Don’t try to talk.”
But he had things he wanted me to know. “His real name is Evan Maddox,” he said. “He was a Special Forces war hero in Vietnam. He was part of an elite penetration team that specialized in assassination and subversive tactics behind enemy lines. He became an artist with silent weapons— garrote, knife, bow and arrow, bare hands, you name it. They thought they had him deprogrammed after the war and sent him home to his family in Michigan. Everything went okay for a few years, but then something snapped in the winter of 1980. He killed his parents and wife of six months and three neighbors before fleeing in a stolen car. The Army formed a special team to track him down. They came close a few times but never could close the lid. They learned he hired out for mercenary work, using aliases such as Earl Mardix. Nine months ago they lost all track of him. My inquiries came to their attention, and the team is on its way here now.”
“Swell,” I said. “They can take over this whole mess. Nobody’s better than those military boys when it comes to smoothing things over.”
The judge grabbed my sleeve. “You don’t understand. We can’t wait for them now.”
“Why not?”
“Don’t you see? Why do you think Mardix came here tonight and did this? He must have been following Myra when she first contacted me. After you spooked him at her place, he returned here and forced me to tell him where she is.”
“Damn!” I exploded.
“I tried to hold out, but I . . . I couldn’t.”
“Nobody can blame you for that. How long ago did he leave here?”
“I’m not sure. I think he left me for dead. I sort of . . . drifted in and out.”
“Listen, can you hang on long enough to make a phone call?”
“Damn right I can.”
“Call Bill Grissom at the St. George; he’s the house dick there. Tell him what’s coming down. Tell him to get Myra out of there if he can. Then call the cops and anybody else you can think of. I’m on my way, and I’ll take all the help I can get!”

On the return trip, I cut my previous time in half. The Mustang’s half-bald tires wouldn’t grip the rain-slick pave¬ment, and the front end jumped the curb in front of the St. George before the brakes held. I bailed out, repeating my door-left-open-and-lights-on routine, plunged into the lobby with the .45 drawn and ready.
The desk clerk was sprawled half in, half out of his chair with his neck twisted in an impossible way. Déjà vu. I pounded up the stairs and down the second-floor hall toward Myra’s room. Grissom lay on the floor outside the shattered door. An old revolver lay beside him and I could smell the stink of cordite, so at least he’d gotten off a shot. But it hadn’t done him much good. He was as dead as the plaster on the walls.
I went into the room with my heart thumping up in my throat. I was half afraid of what I would find and half afraid of what I wouldn’t.
Nothing. The room in shambles but nobody there.
And then I spotted the open window.
They were out there, on the flat, tar-papered roof that stretched out over the hotel’s single-storied dining and kitchen unit. Myra, naked except for satiny briefs, was backing up with the derringer, gripped in both hands, held at arm’s length in front of her. I could hear the repeated snap of the firing pin falling on an empty chamber. Mardix was moving slowly but relentlessly toward her. He seemed slightly unsteady on his feet. I guessed that at least one of those bullets—either from the derringer or from Grissom’s old revolver—had found its mark.
I went over the window sill and cat-footed across the roof, moving to a point where Myra was out of my line of fire.
Mardix was talking. The wind caught his words and tossed them around, but I could hear most of what he was saying.
“All I wanted was to love you,” he told Myra. “Do you know how long it’s been since I felt love? Why couldn’t you try to return it? . . . Why make me do those things?”
“Mardix!” I called out.
He spun to face me. I could see the crimson stains on the front of him now. He’d taken two slugs and was losing a lot of blood.
“She’s not the one who made you do those things,” I said. “You’re sick, you need help. It has to end right here. One way or another.”
“I shouldn’t have left you alive,” he snarled.
“Maybe not,” I replied evenly. “But I won’t make the same mistake. This is a .45 in my fist. Take a good look at it. One wrong move and it will blow you in half.”
I could hear the whine of sirens now, not far off. Mardix heard them, too. His eyes flicked around, scanning the rooftop.
“You don’t have a prayer,” I warned.
The eyes came back to me. And then he did a strange thing. He smiled. And in a flat, emotionless voice he said, “Yeah, I know.”
Even with two bullets in him, his speed and reflexes were incredible. His right hand blurred up, reaching behind his neck, and the arm snapped down in a throwing motion. I caught the glint of the blade as it whirled from his fingertips, and in the same instant I fired. I saw his body jerk and hurtle backward as if yanked by invisible wires before the knife thunked into my shoulder and spun me around.
I went to one knee with fiery pain boiling down across my back and through my left arm. My head swam, and for a minute I thought I was going to black out. Myra’s screams gave me something else to focus on, helped me cling to consciousness. When my head cleared, I stood up.
Mardix lay in a heap near the edge of the roof. I walked toward him with the knife handle jutting out ahead of me like the jib boom of a listing schooner. The .45 was still in my hand, and I kept it trained on him every step of the way. He’d nearly killed me twice this night; I half expected him to leap up and try again. But the gaping hole over his heart convinced me I had nothing more to fear from him. No one did.
Myra’s screams had deteriorated to ragged sobs. I put my good arm around her. “It’s okay,” I said. “It’s over.”
We stood there leaning on each other until the cops arrived.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Eight Ball Boogie (Harry Rigby) by Declan Burke

Harry Rigby is a research consultant (of course another name for PI really) doing jobs for newspapers as well as regular clients. He’s got a girlfriend and a kid, a psycho brother and a knack for wisecracks. As often is the case in PI stories he’s involved in two cases that finally converge; one in which he tries to find out if a housewife is cheating on her husband and one in which he tries to get the dirt on the death of a politician’s wife. When they try to take him out with an Uzi and his friends and family are endangered Harry show his balls and turns out to be pretty hardboiled when he has to, taking on a femme fatale, dealers and bent cops.
It could take you some time to get used to the Irish slang and setting but if you do you’ll enjoy this, edged with humor as black as the plot itself. Harry is a Guinness-soaked Philip Marlowe who gets in so many great wisecracks and oneliners this novel would’ve been the one to win the Best Wisecracks 2007 if it hadn’t come out years earlier. A lot of the charm from this book comes from the fact Harry feels like such a ‘regular’ kind of guy. He shows enough grit and smarts to be a satisfying protagonist, making sure you won’t mistake him for a cozy amateur sleuth but the entire reading you’re not quite sure if he’s really going to make it out alive. A great book if you dig Ken Bruen’s stuff!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Background Check on Shallow Grave (Julie Collins) by Lori G. Armstrong

We talked to Lori G. Armstrong about our favorite PI novel of 2007, Shallow Grave...

1) How much time was there between writing your Hallowed Ground and Shallow Grave and how long did it take you to write it?
I started SHALLOW GRAVE, which had a different title, a couple of months after I'd turned in HALLOWED GROUND. Without getting into too much detail, there was an issue with my publisher, and the contract negotiations fell through. So, at that point there was no third book. I'd submitted on a partial, and I had about 16 chapters done. I started working on other things. Then two things happened six months later: a big shake up at my publishing house and I was nominated for a Shamus for BLOOD TIES. The CEO of Medallion contacted me about why I wasn't contracted for a third Julie book and negotiations ensued. All told, it probably took me 5 months to write it total.

2) Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
We're in the middle of a draught in western South Dakota. The stock dams (where the cattle drink) are either completely dried up or really low with very little water. I got to thinking...what if human bones were found in a stock dam? How old would they be? How could law enforcement tell who they belonged to? Who would care? And I was off and running.

3) There's an awful lot of characters and plotlines in the book. How did you keep track of them?
I honestly don't know. I knew I wanted to wrap up the issue with Ben's murder with the third book. I knew I wanted parallel story lines. Did I have everything plotted to the nth degree? No. It just sort of happened, in one of those "magic" moments we as writers hope for. And it seems to be the way I write. I can't have just one thing going on, I have to have multiple issues and plot threads, because in my mind, in real life, we're all dealing with more than one thing at a time. Case in point - last week, our refrigerator died, my husband broke his toe, and our middle daughter had a mini-accident...this was all within 2 days. So the things that happen to Julie aren't so far fetched, in that we all have those "what else can go wrong" days, hers just involve murder and mayhem, not appliance breakage.

4) Do you have the hots for Martinez yourself? ;-)

5) We saw less of 'psycho sidekick' Jimmer this novel. Was that a conscious decision?
I don't really consider Jimmer much of a sidekick. He's her loyal friend, and he does play a crucial role at the end of the book. I don't know how much of that was conscious. I tread very lightly on having Julie be a female who needs rescuing from anyone. Jimmer is a bit more visible in SNOW BLIND, the 4th book I'm finishing up now.

6) The visits to the biker bars, the use of the taser etc. seemed very real… Did you do a lot of research for that?
Yes. And no. The biker bars are not real places, although some local people always ask me if Fat Bob's is based on "so and so" but alas, they only exist in my imagination. And because we live so near Sturgis, SD, there is a large biker contingent all over, so there are always bikers in all the bars. Real time research for the strip club (and yes, my husband did a big WAHOO! when I said, "Hey, honey, wanna go to a strip club tonight?") because in some instances you just have to get a feel for the atmosphere before you can twist it to fit your scene. Ditto for the taser. I looked at them, held them, researched them but didn't go as far as to shock myself just so I knew what it felt like to be zapped.

7) Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
Obviously the scene between Martinez and Julie in the strip club :) The hardest scene for me to write was when Julie discovered who'd killed her brother. I'd been leading up to that point in all three books, and when I finally reached it, it was very emotionally draining.

8) Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Julie is always my favorite. Period.

9) What are the best things people have said about the novel and which the worst?
Not pandering here, but the best thing was getting picked as your top book of 2007. I haven't had a lot of reviews. The ones I've had have been very positive, especially from readers. I get the comment a lot that it is a "thick" book and the page count might scare people off. But I do think as a whole the novel moves fast.

10) Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
I think because of the multiple plot lines I really stretched my boundaries as a writer while maintaining a highly readable and - I hope - enjoyable book.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Big Cable, Bad Blood: Ray Dudgeon visits the small screen

I read some amazing news today! Ray Dudgeon, a Favorite Son of Spade and star of my favorite PI debut of 2007 is coming to the small screen. Usually I'm pretty wary of PI novel to TV translations but with the people involved and the medium (cable) I've got a good feeling about it.
Maybe, together with the well received movie adaption of Gone Baby Gone, this will result in a popularity boost for the fictional PI to make sure we fans and writers will all profit from it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Chainsaw Ballet (Mike Duncavan) by Thomas J. Keevers

Mike Duncavan is a PI that deserves to be better known. He's a flawed character that drinks a bit too much Stoli, just can't stick to one woman and is angered too quickly. A disgraced cop and disbarred lawyer he of course has a few reasons to be angry. He doesn't take shit from anybody which leads him to beat up a thug with a sap and leave his bloody pants on the car of the thug's boss in this novel.
Mike is hired to investigate the murders of 2 Serbian club owners by the insurance company. You see, there's a 3rd club owner left, and if he dies the insurance company has to pay a lot of cash so Mike needs to find this killer to prevent that from happening. Along the way he uncovers a white slavery operation. Helping him is a former priest-turned-cop (an interesting character) and various strippers.
In a subplot we see how Mike can't let go of his ex-wife but als has to face up to the fact he knows he's not likely to stay faithful to her.
There's quite a bit of unflinching violence and some sex which gives the book a nice pulpy feel. The character is interesting and the fact the writer has experience as a cop and lawyer himself gives it all a nice authentic feel to go with it, preventing it all goes to far into Men's Adventure territory.
I've got the first two Duncavan novels on my To Review Pile as well and I'm looking forward to doing so.

Q & A with James Mitchell

In this Q & A we talk with James Mitchell, author of the Brinker novels like Choke Point.

Q: What makes Brinker different from other fictional private eyes?
Brinker lives in Tucson, Arizona, about an hour's drive from the U.S. border with Mexico. He's very much a product of the American southwest. He is Anglo; his girl friend and his best friend since childhood are Mexican-Americans. Brinker is a former Border Patrol agent. His P.I. cases reflect the region. They deal with problems of immigration, drugs, and missing persons who might be on either side of the border. In the new one, "Queen of the North," all those things come into play.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
They're like most literary devices. In good hands, they work. Otherwise, snore.... The closest to "psycho" that comes to my mind is Bubba Rugowski in Dennis Lehane's Kenzie-Gennaro novels. He's pretty entertaining. So is Joe Pike in Robert Crais's Elvis Cole novels, although he's much darker and more complex than Bubba. Joe is no psycho, nor is Hawk in Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. But hard guys like these do allow some bending (or breaking) of the rules in a P.I.'s pursuit of justice. Brinker knows a drug kingpin in Nogales. The guy is not psychotic, but he obviously operates by a different moral code. He can know things and do things that would never occur to Brinker.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
"Research" is too fancy a description for what I do. My pawing around in information isn't formal or scholarly. I use the news for ideas, and that may lead me to look more deeply into some element. For example, "Choke Point" was inspired by the many murders of young women in Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican city across the border from El Paso, Texas. I moved the murders to Nogales, Sonora, which borders Arizona, and connected them to maquiladoras, the factories run by foreign companies in Mexico. I had to learn something about how the maquiladoras work. I just came back from a day trip to Nogales, Sonora. I try to get down there every so often to refresh myself on local atmosphere and to see how customs and immigration services are working now. One of the characters in my new novel is a helicopter pilot, so I asked my friend Chuck Street, "Commander Chuck" of Los Angeles TV and radio fame, to fly me around in his JetRanger and tell me about choppers. I also toured the Robinson Helicopter factory in Torrance, California.

Q: Has your writing changed a lot since the first novel?
I have found myself willing to look more deeply into the characters, especially Brinker himself. The third Brinker, "Queen of the North," is a bit longer than the others. There's a danger of becoming self-indulgent, though, so I try to keep things moving along. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that every word in a book should give life to a character or advance the story. I like to keep that in mind, along with Elmore Leonard's famous rule about leaving out the parts that people tend to skip.

Q: How do you promote your books?
Any which way I can. I have a web site. I go to conferences. I answer every e-mail from any correspondent who's not obviously insane. I grovel for and happily accept virtually any speaking invitation. I try to arrange signings at independent bookstores. Independent booksellers are crucial to us non-famous crime writers, because they know which of their customers would like to read our stuff. They really believe in books and they genuinely like writers. I'm nominating them all for sainthood. Barbara Seranella said that the best thing she did as a writer was spend her first advance on a great publicist. Barbara was very smart and that was surely a good idea. So far, I have been too cheap.

Q: What's next for you and Brinker?
I have finished the third Brinker novel. A high school friend of Brinker's has become a prominent immigration attorney in Los Angeles. She calls him for help investigating murders of clients. My agent has the manuscript now. He always makes wonderful suggestions, so I expect another round of changes before he submits it. If the publishing gods are on my side, it should be out in late 2008.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
The first crime fiction I read was "The Underground Man" by Ross Macdonald. There were some anachronisms Macdonald's language, even in the 1960's, but I find that the Archer books hold up remarkably well. I admire Richard Barre's Wil Hardesty books. Spenser still entertains me. Succinct narrative and dialogue are P.I. hallmarks, and I just marvel at how well Parker does them. I have an Arizona law license. I like stories where lawyers become investigators, sort of de facto P.I.'s. D.W. Buffa is outstanding in that way. I just read a first novel by Gordon Campbell called "Missing Witness." It's about a young attorney in 1970's Phoenix, Arizona who helps defend a mother and daughter against murder charges. It's part courtroom thriller and part "almost a P.I." novel, and was very effective, I thought.

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 and in what way?One important influence has already come from writers such as Sara Paretsky, Manuel Ramos, Marcia Muller, Walter Mosley, and certainly Sue Grafton. They showed that the P.I. doesn't have to be a white guy with a smart mouth and a drinking problem. The current and next generations can create heroes from any world, give them any attitude, plunk them down in any situation. If the story is original, the character is real, and the writing is compelling, the genre can be stretched without limits.

Q: Ed Gorman came with the following question: What is your greatest joy as a writer? Your greatest sorrow?
I realize that this answer is a cliché, but the big joy has to be when a publisher says "Yes." A great pleasure, to my surprise, has been feeling like part of the crime writers' community. Stars in the field, people like Elmore Leonard or Ridley Pearson or Michael Connelly, seem to regard all of who write as part of the club. How cool is that? When my first novel, "Lovers Crossing," was about to be published, I introduced myself to Jan Burke. This was right after she won the Edgar. I was thinking, this must be tiresome for her, having newbies like me corner her and bend her ear. Then she said, "Tell me about your book!" She was really interested. I've adored Jan and treasured that moment ever since. Sorrow? Not yet. It could happen, of course. Writing is a rough racket, and better authors than me have been disappointed by it.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?Question: are you making any money? Answer: Way too little. I think this may be useful information for those who dream of earning their livings as writers.

For more info about the author visit:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

High Profile (Jesse Stone) by Robert B. Parker

A well-known radio figure / political commentator is found hanged and shot in Paradise, Mass. Police chief Jesse Stone of course investigates. There's an abundance of ex-wives to talk to as well as a bodyguard and some media figures. In a subplot Jesse Stone asks Parker's other series character Sunny Randall to bodyguard his own ex-wife, Jenn who says she's been raped and now stalked.
Jesse has to confront the fact he just can't seem to get himself separated from his ex, a problem Sunny seems to share. A problem that hinders their relationship.
Parker shows some pretty good writing when he gets into Jesse's head and he manages to brilliantly portray his agression and despair. A much more flawed character than Spenser it makes the story less 'standard' than the Spenser ones. I still love the Spenser novels the most for sheer fun but the Jesse Stone series is proving to be a better one in quality.

Body Count part 1 (Joe Hannibal) by Wayne Dundee

We are proud to present this Joe Hannibal short story in two parts by Wayne D. Dundee. Originally published in 1986 it got nominations that year for an Edgar, a Shamus, and an Anthony. So, here's the first part with the second an last part appearing next week.

I want to warn you right up front,” Myra Caine said after I’d settled into the booth across from her, “that getting involved with me may expose you to grave danger.”
I grinned. “You’re beautiful enough to take a man’s breath away,” I conceded, “but I hardly think that could prove fatal.”
She gave a quick, impatient shake of her head. “It’s no joking matter, Mr. Hannibal. This maniac may have me on the brink of hysteria, but I’m not overreacting. He’s crazy and he’s dangerous and he’s already responsible for three deaths.”
“You’re certain of that?”
“If you mean did I actually see him do it, of course not. But he told me he did, and I believe him. Three men are dead, there’s no denying that.”
“But the police failed to see any connection in those deaths, and two of them remain on the books as accidents.”
“Yeah, well I know better. I’m the connection. And the first two killings were only made to look like accidents.”
A buxom young barmaid appeared at that point to take our drink orders. In the rather tense silence that followed her interruption, I hung a cigarette from the corner of my mouth, set fire to it, and studied my prospective client through the curling smoke.
She was a beauty all right. Early thirties, medium height, heart-shaped face highlighted by almond eyes and a sensual, full-lipped mouth above a terrific body well displayed in a pantsuit of clinging blue silk. All topped off with thick chestnut hair and wrapped in some exotic, unfamiliar, but doubtless very expensive scent.
“Let’s do it this way,” I said after the drinks had arrived. “I’ll tell you everything the judge has already told me, and then you can fill in the holes. Fair enough?”
She reached for her highball glass. “Fair enough,” she said.
“You’re a call girl. Five hundred a night. Very exclusive. You’ve been operating here in Rockford for approximately six years, and you regularly entertain some of the most prominent men in northern Illinois. Everything was going great for you until a couple weeks ago when one of your johns—”
“I hate that term.”
“—until one of your customers started getting too posses¬sive. He claimed he loved you and even went so far as to propose marriage. When you laughed it off, he went a little crazy. Said he wouldn’t allow other men continue to touch you and if any did he swore he’d kill them. You refused to see him anymore, naturally enough, but you failed to take his threat seriously. And then came the night one Albert Renman died shortly after spending some time with you. From all appearances, it was one of those freak accidents; he fell going up the back steps of his house, fell and broke his neck. But the next day you got a phone call from your loony admirer—”
“His name is Earl Mardix.”
“—and this Mardix claimed he was the one responsible for Renman’s death. You hung up on him when he tried to give you all the gory details. It shook you up plenty, but you managed to convince yourself that he was just trying to take advantage of a grisly coincidence. Only a couple nights later the same thing happened all over. A man named Edward Traver left your bed and turned up dead within the hour. This time it was what appeared to be a single-vehicle car wreck. But you knew better, even before the phone call from Mardix came just as it had the first time. You tried to threaten him with the cops, but he called your bluff because he knew the last thing a girl in your position wanted was a police investigation coming down around her. What you did instead was to contact Judge Hugh Farrow, one of your regular customers of some years’ standing. You told him you had some nut harassing you without bothering to tell him that the nut had already killed two men. The judge agreed to help you by calling on the services of an ex-con who owed him some favors, an aging strongarm specialist named Max Cobb. Cobb was to track down Mardix and rough him up enough to scare him off you. But things didn’t go according to that plan at all. This time there was no attempt to make it look like an accident. Max Cobb was found in an alley yesterday morning with his throat slit from ear to ear.”
Myra Caine closed her eyes and exhaled a ragged breath. I went on. “You had no choice but to tell the judge the whole story then. I’ll bet he gave you a royal chewing out, but now he was no more anxious to go to the cops now than you were. Because of his involvement in hiring Cobb, he was in it up to his ears. So he got in touch with me. Gave me the rundown as he knew it and set up this meeting with you.”
“He filled you in very thoroughly,” the Caine woman observed. “He must trust you a great deal.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Too bad you didn’t have some of that trust when you decided to turn to him for help. You should have leveled with him right off the bat.”
“You don’t like me very much, do you?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know you well enough to like or dislike you. But I do have a high regard for Hugh Farrow. He’s a decent man. I’d hate to see his career and reputation go down the tubes because of some…
“Because of some what? Tart? Tramp? Whore? Go ahead and say it, if it will make you feel better. I’ve been called a lot worse by a lot better than you.”
“Look, I don’t have to like you to do my job. You ought to be able to relate to that.”
Bright red color flared high on each cheek, and suddenly those lovely almond eyes were leaking tears.
She started to get to her feet, but I put out a hand to stop her. “Hey,” I said. “Come on, no need for that.”
She settled back down after a minute and began digging for a handkerchief. I stabbed out my cigarette and gave myself a mental kick in the pants. I’m no good at handling bawling females, especially when I’m the one who triggered the tears.
“Look,” I said, “you’ve got enough troubles without me pointing an accusing finger and spouting off at the mouth. I don’t usually do things like that. I’m sorry, all right?”
She was busy with the hanky and made no reply. I left her sniffling and honking, got up and walked to the bar to get our drinks refilled. When I returned, she seemed to have regained her composure.
Without looking at me she said, “I don’t make a habit of wearing my emotions on my sleeve and I never ever cry in front of anyone.”
“So we’re even,” I said. “We both acted out of character. Now we can get on with the business at hand.”
Her gaze lifted. “Then you’ll do it? You’ll help me?”
“I’d pretty much decided that when I agreed to meet with you.”
“You’re doing it because of Hugh, right?”
“At least you’re honest.”
“Then let me be honest about something else, too. I’ll do everything I can to nail Mardix and keep you and the judge out of it. But you have to understand it may not be possible to do both. I won’t jeopardize my P.1. license or any more lives just to keep you two in the clear. Stopping Mardix is priority one. If I can’t see any other way, I’ll have to bring the cops in on it.”
She studied the contents of her glass for a long moment, then nodded and said, “All right, I accept that. You have my leave to do whatever you feel is necessary.”

A light rain was falling by the time we emerged from the out-of-the-way little bar. It had taken the better part of an hour to hash over the remaining details of the case. I’d scribbled notes and sipped good bourbon, and all the while her perfume and the nearness of her had been working on me. When it comes right down to it, beautiful women are a dime a dozen. But in addition to her great looks, this one had the most stunningly powerful aura of sexuality I’d ever encountered. Before I knew it, it had penetrated my shell of animosity and was stirring yearnings in my gut that were hard to ignore. I could almost understand why a man would pay five hundred dollars for a night of her favors.
Meeting Myra Caine at a public establishment—rather .than at my office or her apartment—had been my idea. It had been evident from what the judge told me that Mardix had her under some sort of surveillance, and I wasn’t about to make it that easy for him to spot me and possibly mark me as his next target. This way I’d been able to stake out the bar ahead of time and make sure no one was following her.
The next move seemed obvious enough: I planned on taking advantage of the fact that Mardix, for whatever reason, had relaxed his vigil. I had to do some fast talking to dissuade Myra from returning to her place, but I won out in the end by reminding her of what she’d said about going along with whatever I felt was necessary.
The ride to the St. George Hotel was made in sullen silence on her part. I parked near the side entrance and hustled her in through the worsening rain. The St. George was on Seventh Street, not far from my Broadway office. I chose it for that reason, and also because I knew the house dick there, a crusty old retired cop named Bill Grissom. The place had seen better days and was undoubtedly a far cry from what a five-hundred-dollar-a-night call girl was used to, but it was dean and relatively free of riffraff, and a fifty in Grissom’s palm got me a promise he’d keep an eye on my brand-new client until I returned.
Back outside, the March rain was being kicked into stinging sheets by a cold, gusting wind. As I threaded my old Mustang through the tail end of the lunch-hour traffic, I had to flip on the defogger as well as the wipers to keep the windshield clear enough to prevent my crawling into some¬body’s trunk.
Hugh Farrow was waiting for me in the study of his sprawling North Park home. Bottin, his chauffeur/man¬servant for as many years as anyone could remember, showed me in.
“Had lunch yet?” the judge wanted to know.
I shook my head. “As a matter of fact, no.”
“Bottin, how about a tray of sandwiches and some cold beer?”
The tall, painfully thin manservant gave an almost imper¬ceptible nod, spun on his heel, and glided from the room.
In sharp contrast to his faithful employee, the judge was built considerably thicker and closer to the ground. He moved with the bulky grace of a former athlete who wasn’t exactly winning his battle of the bulge but hadn’t thrown in the towel yet, either. I look in the mirror a time or two each day and see another guy, twenty years younger and a little taller, you could describe pretty much the same way.
The question was abrupt, almost demanding. It irritated me.
“Well what?” I said.
“Did you meet with her?”
“Yeah, I met with her.”
“And I agreed to look into the mess. To try and help her. And you. You damn fool.”
His facial muscles pulled tight, and his eyes narrowed for an instant. Then the quick anger was past, and his mouth curved in a rueful smile. “Yeah, I guess I am at that. No fool like an old fool, right?”
“No fool like a guy who makes a chump out of himself over a dame.”
“Ah, there’s where you’re wrong, Joe. You’re still a relatively young man, still have some of the fire and cockiness of youth left in you. When you’re a little older, then you’ll know, too. There is nothing—absolutely nothing on this earth, my Mend—better to make a fool of yourself over than a woman.”
“Christ,” I growled. “Are you drunk?”
“Drunk? Naw, I’ve got the flu, that’s all. Why else would I not be at the courthouse performing my judicial duties? Home sick with the flu, that’s me. The fact that I can’t quite bring myself to put on those grand old robes and pretend to dispense wisdom and justice while there’s a killer running loose—a killer I fed a victim to—hasn’t a goddamn thing to do with it!”
He was standing near a massive fireplace. Suddenly he pivoted and smacked his right fist against the flat stone face of the hearth. The sound of the impact made me wince.
Bottin entered at that moment, carrying a tray of sandwiches stacked around a silver bucket of ice in which a half dozen bottles of Michelob were nestled. If he’d seen or heard the punch, he made no indication.
“Your food and drink, sir,” he said calmly.
Hugh Farrow stood facing the hearth with his fist still pressed against the gunmetal gray stone. Without turning, he said, “That’ll be all for now, Bottin. Thanks.”
When Bottin had withdrawn, I sat down before the tray of eats and twisted open a bottle of Michelob. I drained a third of it, then tried one of the sandwiches. Smoked turkey. Delicious. Over my shoulder I said, “If you need help pulling your fist out of that stone, you’ll have to wait until I’m finished here.”
After a minute or so, the judge came over and sat down across from me. The knuckles of his right hand were scraped and bleeding. We both pretended not to notice.
Halfway through our second bottles of beer, he was ready to talk about it.
“You’ve met her,” he said. “Unless you’re made of wood, you certainly felt the impact she can have on a man. What can I say? She’s been a great comfort to me over the past few years, ever since Margaret passed away. Even some before that, to be perfectly frank about it. I was almost grateful for the chance to do something for her in return.” He paused, watching the carbon bubbles rise behind the dark glass of one of the bottles. When he spoke again, it was in a slightly quieter, huskier voice. “Even if I’d known the truth about Mardix when she first came to me, I think I still would have been willing to do what I did.”
I let that lie there.
“Tell me about Max Cobb,” I said.
He shrugged. “What’s to tell? You knew him.”
“Knew of him,” I corrected.
“He was a strongarm artist, a legbreaker from way back. No spring chicken anymore, middle fifties but still rough as a cob, just like his name. That was his boast, and he could back it up. He would have been damned hard to take, Joe. That makes this Mardix a very dangerous character.”
“What do you know about him? Anything?”
“Zip so fat A man of mystery. I ran some checks that yielded nothing, and I’ve got some more going now. I know people in all the right places and I know how to pull their strings, but it takes time to get it done with discretion. As soon as I turn up anything, I’ll let you know.”
“That leaves me with only one possible lead on him.”
“What’s that?”
“Myra only saw new customers on recommendation. Who do you think originally recommended Earl Mardix?”
“I give. Who?”
“Albert Renman, his first victim.”
“Yeah. Or is it more than that? At any rate, wives tend to know their husband’s friends, right? I’m going to pay Renman’s widow a visit this afternoon. Maybe she can point me toward Mardix.”
We talked until the beer and sandwiches were polished off. I told him about stashing Myra at the St. George. I also gave him my spiel about going to the cops if I had to.
When I stood to leave, I said, “One more thing.”
“What’s that?”
“What you said before about those grand old judicial robes? They’ll still fit if you give them half a chance. One mistake shouldn’t cancel out a lifetime of making the right moves. You’re a judge, not God. You’re human, just like the rest of us. Give yourself the same break you’d give any first¬time offender.”

Roberta Renman turned out to be a frail-looking woman of about forty with stringy blonde hair and nervous, birdlike movements. To give her her due, she was probably pretty enough under normal circumstances, but right now she was going through the worst period of widowhood, the hollow, empty time that hits a couple weeks after the funeral, when the relatives and friends have quit dropping by and all that’s left is the sense of loss.
I fed her a line about working for some big security outfit and checking out the employment application of one Earl Mardix.
“His previous job record looks good,” I explained. “But my company places a good deal of importance on character references. Unfortunately, this Mardix seems to be a bit of a loner, and one of the few personal references he provided was your late husband. I really hate to bother you at a time like this, but I thought you might also be acquainted with Mr. Mardix and could help me out.”
“Mardix. . . Mardix. . .“ She tried the name out loud a couple times to jog her memory~
“First name Earl,” I said, then offered the description Myra had provided me with. “About thirty medium height and build, straw-colored hair worn on the longish side.”
She frowned over it a minute or so more and then gave an apologetic little smile. “I’m sorry, but Albert met so darn many people at the auto dealership . . . I couldn’t begin to remember them all.”
I thanked her for her time and went back out into the rain. My mood was as gray as the overcast sky.
I returned to the city, remembering to swing by my bank and deposit Myra Caine’s retainer check, then decided it was time to pay a visit to my office. I hadn’t bothered to check in that morning, so I had to wade through a pile of mail (eighty percent bills, twenty percent circulars, zero percent anything important) that had been shoved through the mail slot. I wadded the whole works into a ball and slam-dunked it into the wastebasket on the way by. Eat your heart out, Darryl Dawkins.
While a pot of day-old coffee was reheating, I punched the playback on the phone answering machine. Some little old lady wanted me to find her pet parakeet that had flown out the window of her tenth-floor apartment; a horseplayer I knew wanted to borrow some money to bet on a “sure thing”; and a lavender-voiced individual named Floyd wanted me to find his dear friend Marcus and convince him that all was forgiven and he should come home. I mentally took care of all three requests in the same manner as the day’s mail.
The coffee was just this side of unbearable, but I managed to down a couple cups as I went over my notes on the Caine case and wrapped up the loose ends on a few other matters. It was dusk by the time I finished.
Before leaving the office, I took care of one more piece of business. The well-oiled old .45 came out of its resting place in the desk drawer and the shoulder rig came off its hook in the closet and, together, they ended up on my person. The .22 magnum derringer I wear clipped inside the rim of my right boot is adequate for emergencies and everyday walk-around business, but when I recognize in advance that a situation could turn hairy—like this one—then it’s time to strap on the heavy artillery.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Q & A with Clair Dickson

She's published so many short stories around the web that she must have caught your attention by now. She did mine, making Bo Fexler a Favorite Daughter of Spade. Here's our Q & A with the talented Clair Dickson.

Q: What makes Bo Fexler different from other fictional private eyes?She's young and sexy. I think Bo stands out because she's not afraid of her own sexuality. For Bo, it's often another tool, along with her brains and her fists. She's both the femme fatale and the detective.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?I haven't read any novels with a psycho sidekick, yet. The idea seems a little gimmicky to me, perhaps a contrived way to create sympathy for the PI, or worse-- as cheap comic relief. I prefer everyday people, and every day evils.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?Constantly. Partly because researching for my writing is a good excuse to learn new stuff, but also because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I've even gone so far as to look up laws to see how they apply, or don't, to a situation in my writing. I actually enjoy research and collecting trivia.

Q: What does a soundtrack to your stories sound like?The short answer is 89x radio. The longer answer is music by Garbage, Linkin Park, Metallica, Tool, Alanis Morrisette, Fiona Apple, Nirvana, Jet, and Bush. Edgier, harder stuff generally. After all, this is the music that I listen to.

Q: How do you promote your work?Mainly through Often I like to let my stories speak for themselves and hopefully draw people back to my blog, where I have links to other stories and an eye-catching image. In reality, I don't pimp myself as much as I should. I'm a writer, not a salesperson, dammit.

Q: What's next for you and Bo?A novel. I also plan to continue writing short stories, to keep Bo's name out there. I'd love to get into some anthologies. When I'm not writing, I'll be working my four jobs and taking grad courses.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?I don't think so. I'm a big fan of Phillip Marlowe, and a big anti-fan of the current two main female investigators. But beyond that I have to admit that I don't read as much as I should, and nowhere near as much as I would like to.

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 and in what way?
I'm hoping that the coming generation will continue to include writers influence by Hammet and Chandler, but that's where my bias lies. I love the wisecracking, the bitterness, and the way those writers mold language with their analogies and wordplay. I think that many writers will be influenced by the popular writers, like Janet Evanovich or J.K. Rowlings, and this saddens me because I see so much current writing to be very simplistic in form. Anyone can use words, but some writers use them better than others.

Q: Ed Gorman came up with the following question: What is your greatest joy as a writer? Your greatest sorrow?My greatest joy is when people are affected by my writing. It's validation that I've done my job as a writer. As for my greatest sorrow-- I don't think I've had it yet. I've had some moments of Great Frustration, but not sorrow. Maybe that'll come when Hollywood mangles a Bo Fexler story.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?What writer would you like to be compared to and why?
I'd like to be compared to Raymond Chandler. So far, he's my favorite writer, with the dry, dark humor and the hard-edged, mostly noble, hardworking, determined detective. I'd like my writing to be placed in that same genre, not as an imitation, but a modern version of the hardboiled crime noir that Chandler and Hammet started.

For more info about Clair Dickson visit:
Also be sure to check out the original short story published on our very own site.

Background Check on Beating the Babushka (Cape Weathers) by Tim Maleeny

In this new feature we give you more in-depth interviews with your favorite PI, discussing their latest novel. The first one we present you is with Tim Maleeny, talking to us about his 2007 Cape Weathers Novel, Beating the Babushka.

1) How much time was there between writing your first novel and Beating the Babushka and how long did it take you to write it?As soon as I finished my debut Stealing The Dragon I started on Babushka. My agent told me the best way to remain sane while your my first book was being shopped to publishers was to write another one, and she was right.

I had thought of the basic plot and some of the characters several months before I began writing, but once I sat down in front of the keyboard, it took about a year to finish.

2) Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
I’m a big movie buff, and this series of books contains a number of references to pop culture, so I thought it would be fun to go behind the scenes and look at movies from another angle.

I also wanted a corporate environment in which you’d naturally find some larger-than-life personalities, so the movie business was the perfect backdrop.

3) The fraud scheme sounds really realistic, as did the Hollywood scenes. Did you do a lot of research or were you part of the movie business in any way?I have some friends who work in Hollywood but also did a lot of research, especially in the area of film financing. It seemed remarkable that movie productions involve so much money --- hundreds of millions of dollars --- and yet the money is so difficult to track once the production starts. That seemed like a great setup for a crime.

4) Beau always reminds me of actor Ving Rhames. Was he an inspiration?You’re not the first person to mention that, and physically they are certainly a close match. I think of Beau as being more physically intimidating than his partner, Vinnie, but ultimately more thoughtful. He’s a cop who rarely draws his gun and says more by saying less. He’s watching while everyone else is talking around him.

And Beau’s relationship with Cape, the PI, is almost fraternal. (And just as contentious sometimes.) There’s this understanding that their mutual debts have cancelled out, but they still help each other simply because the ability to trust someone is all too rare.

5) I am fascinated by the character Sloth. He seems so much larger than life. How 'realistic' is his condition and equipment?
Sloth suffers from an amalgamation of different neurological disorders based on the research I did and my sense of how the character had to interact with not only the people but also the machines in his life.

His equipment is pretty true to life, in terms of what computers can do if you put the right hacker in front of the keyboard.

6) What came first: the story or the title?I typically come up with titles when I’m about halfway done with the first draft. My first title had the word “shooting” in it because it played off the movie shoot that takes place during the story and also the role of the ex-KGB sniper, but after looking through my options I decided that Beating The Babushka was more memorable, not to mention suggestive.

Since the Cape Weathers novels often revolve around a collision between two distinct cultures, like Hollywood and the Russian mob in the case of Babushka, I wanted the title to sound like a colloquial phrase from another language that means something illicit. (The phrase itself is so ridiculous that it also suggest the irreverent tone of the writing.)

7) Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?I always right toward something, like a particular scene, action sequence, or critical scrap of dialogue. While writing Babushka I really enjoyed working through the dialogue, because I wanted to capture the outrageous personalities of the movie business and the insanity of the situation caused by this ingenious crime.

8) Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?That’s tough, like asking someone to choose between their kids. Sally is definitely at the top of the list because she’s so clear in her actions, always ready to kick ass when necessary but never letting herself of the situation get out of control. She’s a very hard (but fun) character to write.

And Cape, for sure, since he carries so much of the voice of the novels and drives the action forward. He’s the voice inside my head that gets to actually do all the things I only think of doing in real life.

But from a writer’s standpoint the supporting cast is where you can have the most fun. Another writer once told me “there are no secondary characters”, and he was right. Just like in the movies, every actor needs to seem three-dimensional and command your attention, even if they only appear for a paragraph or single chapter. Bringing attention to detail to those characters is where the real discovery in writing fiction takes place.

9) What are the best things people have said about the novel and which the worst?The best reviews and compliments have been the wonderful comparisons to writers I admire as a reader, masters of the craft like Elmore Leonard, Robert Crais and even Ian Fleming. To be put in that sort of company is a thrill, whether you’re new to crime fiction or an old hand.

I’ve been lucky that the worst comments haven’t been that bad. One reviewer seemed to dislike how the plot jumped back and forth between different characters before coming together in the end, more or less suggesting a PI novel should be written in the first person, but I think that’s a matter of taste. I wanted to combine the best elements of a classic PI novel with aspect of a thriller, so I wrote in third person, kept the chapters short and the action really fast.

No matter how good a novel you write, it won’t be everyone’s favorite novel. I’m just glad I’ve found an enthusiastic audience of readers who want me to keep writing these books.

10) Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?All my novels are stand-alones, in that you can read them in any order, so if someone is thinking about picking up Beating The Babushka or Stealing The Dragon, you can start anywhere. The books are very different from each other but share certain qualities, including the dialog-driven pacing and a distinct sense of place.

If you want to learn more about the Triads and the back alleys of Chinatown, pick up Stealing The Dragon. If you like to go to the movies and have ever wondered what really goes on behind the scenes, try Beating The Babushka. Either way, track me down and let me know what you think after you’ve finished.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Assorted news for this month

Some bits and pieces of news for you:

John Connolly's The Unquiet is coming out in paperback in the UK this month. In the US it will be out in the summer. The follow-up The Reapers featuring Charlie Parker's gay hitmen / sidekicks Louis and Angel will come out in May. The next Parker novel, with the worktitle The Lovers is coming out in 2009.

Don't miss Killer Year, an anthology of writers involved with the Killer Year 'club' ( because it features Favorite Sons Ray Dudgeon (Chercover) and Jackson Donne (Dave White).

This month brings us the long-awaited return of Rob Kantner's Ben Perkins. I've been reading an advance copy and it's a joy to read. A review will be appearing soon but if you trust my early judgement, pick it up:

Last, but not least some things coming up on this very site: a Q & A with Clair Dickson, an original Joe Hannibal short story by Wayne Dundee and 2 new features: Background Check (detailed interviews with authors about their latest novel) and Gats & Getaway Cars in which we take a look at the guns the Sons of Spade shoot and the cars they drive. Stick with us during 2008!

Weekly Wisecrack

"Am I supposed to know what you're talking about?"
"No," she replied. "You're just supposed to continue to play dumb for a few more minutes."
"My speciality"

- Myron Bolitar in Fade Awat by Harlan Coben

Q & A with Wayne Dundee

Wayne Dundee, author of the Joe Hannibal series answers our questions...
Q: What makes your PI Joe Hannibal different from other fictional private eyes?

A: Early on Hannibal was dubbed by readers and some of my peers as the "blue collar private eye". That's a fair assessment and probably the most notable distinction about Joe. This was never by specific design but rather my own middle class/blue collar background showing through in my writing. In the early short stories, Hannibal was just another sock-and-shoot wisecracking PI. As the short stories evolved into novels, however, I began to flesh Joe out more, provide more details on his background and what makes him tick. Just as I (either intentionally or, in some cases, probably unintentionally) gave him many of my perceptions and biases, I also gave him a version of my background --- raised in a rural southern Wisconsin setting and sor forth. I then made him an ex Chicago cop with a failed marriage due to a cheating wife. This gave him streets smarts and caused him to be somewhat embittered in ways that I am not. But the blue collar roots and values are still there at his core, and these make him a bit more humane and compassionate --- even in a line of work that frequently pits him against deciept and danger.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
A: It's probably on the verge of being overdone. Still, I have to say that I enjoy all of the series where it is being utilized. They're being done by some talented writers. Sidekicks for popular series protabonists are nothing new, of course --- Hawkeye and Chingachcook, Lone Ranger and Tonto, Batman and Robin, all of thos "comic" sidekicks in (Gabby Hayes, Pat Buttram, Frog Milhouse, etc.) in the old Western movies, and on and on. This darker, psycho (to use your term) sidekick is just a new spin. They add texture and a certain amount of suspense because you *think* you have a pretty good idea how the "hero" protagonist will react in about any situation, but you never quite know what these loose-cannon sidekicks are apt to do. I think many of us develop certain friends in our lives who do not always in ways that we consider ideal --- yet we accept them and maintain an ongoing relationship with them. I think the set-up in these series is that kind of thing writ large. It's an unexplainable bond --- the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday bright surface vs. dark surface kind of thing --- that is peculiar mainly to the male species. The only thing I object to about it, as far as the PI series we're talking about here, are a couple of instances I can think of where the "hero" protagonist cannot morally bring himself to do something but has no trouble standing by and willingly allowing his "psycho" side to do it instead. I fail to see anything moral --- and certainly nothing heroic --- in that.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels be like?
A: Jeez, that's a tough and unexpected question. But an interesting one ... just something I never really thought about. Let's see ... sure as hell nothing rap or hip-hop or any of the current "pop" crap they're churning out these days. Something gritty, something with some swagger to it ... but also some sentiment and heart. Flavors of Segar and Springsteen, I suppose ... maybe a little early Neil Diamond, when he was writing lonely and personal before he got caught up in big orcestrations and such ... toss in some Waylon Jennings and Montgomery Gentry, maybe a little Hank Jr. or Toby Keith. Nothing more specific --- how's that for a concoction?

Q: How do you promote your books?
A: Poorly. I never was very good on that side of things, and moving out here to rather remote west central Nebraska hasn't helped. Once initiated, I love to talk about writing about writing in general and I'm not shy about talking about my own writing ... but I always find it awkward to be the one to brook the subject. I've done book signings, newspaper and radio interviews, even a TV appearance once when the opportunity presented itself (although be assured I have a face much more suited to radio). In the past year I've started a web site ( and I'm trying to get more involved in some of the blogs out there in cyberspace ... hopefully that will help broadcast the fact that Joe Hannibal and me are both still alive and kicking. In that regard, I'll take this opportunity to thank you, Jochem, for inviting me to be part of sonsofspade.

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
A: More assured, I think. Hopefully more skilled and polished. I feel I alwasy wrote action scenes pretty good, about as good as anybody out there in my immodest opinion. But my dialogue and especially my linking narrative needed some work. I used to have the urge to wrap scenes more completely than was necessary --- Hannibal comes in, he talks to somebody or does whatever he's there to do, he finishes, he leaves, he closes the door behind him ... You see what I mean? Now I've learned to cut away sometimes simply at the point of an appropriate comment or observation that actually gives the scene all it needs. Otherwise, the main thing for me has always been characterization and local color. Hopefully I throw in a few twists and surprises along the way, but I know I'm not a partucularly clever mystery plotter. A huge *gotcha!* denouement at the end has never been the main attraction for me, either as a reader or a writer. I don't expect that to change.

Q: What's next for you and Joe Hannibal?
A: Well, readers of THE DAY AFTER YESTERDAY, the latest book in the series will know that by the close of that book Joe has undergone some life-altering transitions. His two closest friends in the world have perished, his decade-old relationship with the woman in his life has crashed and burned, he has no living kin ... he is left feeling disoriented and disconnected from all that has gone before. Ready for a change. At the start of GOSHEN HOLE, the next novel in the series that I have recently finished in rough draft, that change comes in the form of his having relocated to west central Nebraska where the events of YESTERDAY concluded. (This is also where I relocated to some years back, and thus continues the trend of investing parts of my myself and my experiences in the character and the series). Out of habit Joe has taken out a PI license but instead of hanging out a shingle and commencing investigations he has started a private security patrol for business and residences around popular Lake McConaughy. It doesn't take long to discover, however, that Joe's tendancy for finding trouble (or perhaps it finding him) hasn't been lost in any of this. What starts out as a simple favor to a new quickly becomes ... well, I guess I'll leave it at that until you (hopefully) read GOSHEN HOLE when it comes out.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade?
A: I like most of the current stuff being done, and many of the series that have (unfortunately) fallen by the wayside. If a particular book or series doesn't appeal to me, I simply stop reading. But I'll make no negative comments. It's all a matter of taste, sometimes even mood. Sometimes I've gone back to books I didn't care for initially and --- in a different frame of mind, I guess --- found them quite enjoyable. I have current favorites, of course, but I don't to start mentioning them for fear of forgetting somebody. From bygone times, my three all-time favorites (and ones who have impacted the most on my own writing, although in no way the blame for any of my shortcomings) are Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee, and Donald Hamilton's Matt Helm. I know that the latter two aren't "sons of Spade", strictly speaking, because they're not PIs. But the writing is very much in the same vein so I therefore submit them as fine examples of the genre.

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 and in what way?A: I think it's fair to say that Hammett and Chandler will always continue to influence any serious practioneers of crime/detective writing. And I wouldn't leave out Spillane - excuse my admitted bias, but the guy has never gotten the critical acclaim he deserves. And as far as influence, Christ, practically the whole industry of paperback original detective books in the Fifties was built on the popularity of Spillane/Hammer. From the last quarter of the last century --- Parker and Bill Pronzini introduced personal aspects to the main character like we hadn't seen before. Andrew Vachss and James Lee Burke stand out as writers who have stretched the envelope of the genre. Nor can you forget the impact and popularity within the genre of female writers and their protagonists. And I think you'll continue to see a strong vein of "regional" detectives working in areas far removed from big city settings like LA, New York, and Miami. There are many fine writers on the horizon but right now I don't see any of them emerging as ground-breaking influences. As far as *what* they write about, it will as always be based on current trends within our culture and societies. No vein of popular fiction has captured and mirrored the diverse changes in people and places over the past century any better than mystery/detective fiction.

Q: Ronald Tierney came up with the following question: Disqualifying detective or mystery fiction, who are your favorite authors?A: Hands down, my favorite author of all time is Mark Twain. HUCKLEBERRY FINN is the greatest American novel ever written, maybe the greatest period. After that ... Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, Hemingway, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Lous L'Amour, Gordon D. Shireffs, and T.V. Olson. As you can see, I haven't exactly immersed myself in the "classics". Not to say that I haven't read a few ... but you did say "favorite", right?

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: Sorry, I really can't think of anything to add. I think your range of questions cover things pretty well.

For more info about the author visit: