Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorite Sons of 2010

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

BEST PI NOVEL: Big Bang by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins
BEST DEBUT: Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
BEST NEW PI: Jimmy Boone (in This Wicked World) by Richard Lange
BEST ACTION SCENES: The Taking of Libbie, SD by David Housewright

Honorable mentions go to Lori Armstrong for her new series featuring Mercy Gunderson that promises to be as good as the Julie Collins books and Nick Quantrill for the most exciting non-US novel of the year.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Loose Ends Kill (Jim West) by Bob Doerr

Jim West (an ex-military investigator) investigates the murder of a friend's wife to get him out of jail. He soon discovers his friend's wife had a very active sex life, one that didn't always include her husband. Can the killer be found among her many lovers?
Jim is a professional investigator and a pretty tough guy. He just didn't come to live for me, however. The writing lacked a certain style or appeal, it lacked that special signature writers like Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke or John Sanford have to make it stand out from the competition. The mystery didn't surprise me mucheither. All in all, not one of the better books in the genre to come out this year I'm afraid.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rogue Island (Liam Mulligan) by Bruce DeSilva

This is one writer who honors his influences. Not only does he frequently mention books by Loren Estleman, Robert B. Parker and others in the novel, his style is also a fantastic amalgam of every great hardboiled writer you know. I was especially reminded of a bit leaner, less wordy Estleman.
Liam Mulligan is one of those hardboiled reporters that seem to be back in style. A cool, wisecracking guy with a failed marriage (and what a crazy wife he has)he doesn't back down easily when investigating some fires. As stuff gets more personal and the victims are closer to him he decides to pull a Spenser-like deal with the devil.
The setting of Rhode Island is pretty new, everything else in this novel isn't. What it IS is a combination of everything you love in hardboiled crime wrapped up in one neat package. My favorite of the year so far.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Q & A with Brian Drake

This time we interview Brian Drake, who has a cool new book out called Justified Sins. Check out his work at Smashwords!
Q: What makes Pierce different from other (unofficial) PIs?

Piece isn’t entirely for hire; he’s a vigilante who has a special arrangement with some higher-ups in law enforcement who help him out and look the other way when he blows things up. He works on his own, for the most part, but now and then a client comes along. He won’t always take money, but he may charge richer clients more so he can not charge poorer clients. We only see one client in Justified Sins, his foster sister, so a lot of the background I created for him doesn’t appear in the novel. There are two Piece short stories in my Reaper’s Dozen collection, and you can see more of him there.

Q: How did you come up with the character Pierce?
He didn’t start out with that name; the name he did have I wanted to use for another character, so I changed it to Pierce and I like it much better that way. He has some mystery to him now. All I really wanted was a hero not connected to the Man in any way, call it “literary rebellion”. I’m a huge believer in following one’s own destiny and not following the crowd (slaying the monster of conformity, if you will), and I didn’t think I could communicate those ideas with somebody who has to report to somebody else. And doing a cop or PI who violates the rules didn’t appeal to me because after Dirty Harry and Mike Hammer, there’s nowhere to go with that kind of story (not that many have tried—I mean, imitated). Based on what I wanted to say and what kind of character I thought could say it best, I came up with Pierce. I will happily admit that Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan, aka The Executioner, was a major influence.

Q: What's next for you and Pierce?
I’m not sure. Other than the two short stories I have already mentioned, I really do not know. Some readers have asked for Justified Sins II, but quite honestly, I think I’m done with hard-boiled crime for the time being, and that means there won’t be a second Pierce book in the foreseeable future. I’m not going to say “never” the way Sean Connery did, but I will say that the books I’m planning now (I think there are three of them) have nothing to do with the hard-boiled genre, they’re adventure stories. I have a few crime stories in the pipeline, but they have a stronger emphasis on character rather than action.

Q: How do your promote your work?
Interviews like this! There is a very wide and welcoming community of indie writers and reviewers so tapping into the stream of communication has been terrific.

Q: What are your thoughts on ebooks as a reader AND a writer?
As a reader I will always prefer a solid book. As a writer, a real book provides a sense of accomplishment and legitimacy. I think what Amazon is doing, giving potentially good writers a chance to get their work exposed and find an audience, is wonderful, and there’s nothing wrong with it; however, for me, the goal is still a real publishing contract. If I can bring an audience to a publisher and show them the book has a built-in profit potential maybe that will help.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I think they’re fine, sort of a take on how Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, two seemingly opposite people, partnered up for some crazy doings. I like Hawk a lot, and wish Parker had written a Hawk book. Joe Pike I’m less familiar with. Perhaps one day I will make his acquaintance. I really don’t read many contemporary crime writers.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
That’s a hard question to answer because, as I said above, I don’t read many contemporary writers, but I think after the classics, everything else is just updated for today, as authors attempt to tell the same stories within our modern context. Today we write about topics the old timers never dealt with; it’s a good way to document the times, though I like stories that are timeless.

Q: Bruce Desilva came up with the following question: How important is sense of place in your novel, and in the books you most enjoy reading?
Very important. Crucial, almost. I didn’t realize how important a sense of place was until I read a book David Morrell wrote on how he wrote, but now I’m a believer. I want to hear the noises, smell the food, feel the objects. There are ways to describe this without being too wordy but there are authors who don’t do this and their work feels very thin. Hemingway is a favorite of mine but would it have killed him to describe things a little more? I think little descriptions like that are very important and help bring a scene to life.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
How has your motivation for writing evolved over the years? At first I wanted to write because it was fun and I learned you can make a ton of money; now I write because it is fun and I have something to say that I think is worth saying, and I hope others agree. Money isn’t the first thought anymore. I have a good job that pays me well and I don’t need much to lead the life I want. This way, I’m not held hostage to somebody’s checkbook. I can write what I want. Did I mention I’m not a conformist?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Broken Dreams (Joe Geraghty) by Nick Quantrill

Another great PI from the UK. Joe Geraghty's wife died some time ago, which he hasn't managed to deal with exactly. A murder case and a missing persons case get him involved with a local gangster-turned-respectable businessman. It turns out there's a link with the death of his wife, making this case very personal.
Joe is not a superhero. He's tough and smart but gets beaten up a lot. He works with other people in his firm, sometimes making this book read more like a police procedural than a PI novel.
The mystery is good enough, Joe is a nice guy, making you root for him and the language is perfect. There doesn't seem to be much of a special style to Nick's writing but that's just the thing that makes his writing special. It's easy to read and engaging. I'm looking forward to more.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Q & A with Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva
I'm really happy to be interviewing Bruce DeSilva, author of Rogue Island, because, believe me, you'll be hearing a lot about this guy!

Q: What makes Liam Mulligan different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Real private investigators aren’t much like fictional ones. The real ones spend most of their time delivering summonses in civil cases, locating child-support delinquents, investigating pilfering from warehouses, checking the validity of insurance claims, and doing background checks on job applicants. They rarely investigate violent crimes. Most of the so-called “unofficial” fictional PIs are even more divorced from reality—so much so that they exceed my ability to suspend disbelief. I could never write, and will not read, books in which crimes are solved by hairdressers, dentists, or cats. My character, Liam Mulligan is an investigative reporter—one of the few occupations outside of law enforcement that really does investigate serious wrongdoing. Oddly, there are very few crime novels about investigative reporters. (Gregory McDonald’s just-for-laughs Fletch novels come to mind, along with Bryan Gruley’s two recent books about a reporter in a rural Michigan town.) So Mulligan’s profession alone make him unusual. Better still, he’s a throwback—an old-time street reporter hell-bent on discovering the truth at any cost. He’s a dinosaur in the age of sound bites and biased reporting. And finally, he works not for a TV network or web site but for a newspaper that, like most American newspapers, is dying. This adds an additional layer of tension to the story, the character never sure how long he’ll have a job and always in despair about the demise of newspapers. It also makes the novel a lyrical tribute to the vanishing business Mulligan and I both love.

Q: How did you come up with the character Liam Mulligan?
Mulligan is me—except that he’s 24 years younger, six inches taller, and quicker with a quip. He’s an investigative reporter; I used to be. He doesn’t do well with authority; I do worse. He’s got a smart mouth; I get a lot of complaints about the same thing. He and I both have a strong but shifting sense of justice that leads us to cut corners and work with bad people to bring worse people down.

Q: What's next for you and Mulligan?
The second novel in the series, tentatively titled “Cliff Walk,” is nearly finished. All of the characters from the first book return—except for the ones who got bumped off. Like the first book, this one too is set in Rhode Island. The story involves the two extremes of America’s smallest state—Newport high society and the (until very recently) legal brothel business there. Meanwhile, I’m already planning the third and fourth books in the series.

Q: Can you tell us something about how your debut novel came to be?
It all started back in 1994, when I was working for a Connecticut newspaper. One day, I received a note from a reader praising “a nice little story” I’d written. “It could serve as the outline for a novel,” the note said. “Have you considered this?” I would have tossed the note in the trash except for one thing. It was from Evan Hunter, who wrote literary novels under his own name and the brilliant 87th Precinct police procedurals under the penname Ed McBain. I sealed the note in plastic, taped it to my home computer, and started writing. At the time, I lived 15 minutes from work, so I got up early every morning and wrote for two hours before going in. I was a mere 20,000 words into the novel when my life turned upside down. I took a very demanding new job; my new commute was 90 minute each way; I got divorced and then remarried to a woman with a young child. In this busy new life, I had no time to finish a novel. Years streaked by. Each time I bought a new computer, I taped that note from Hunter to it, hoping I would get back to the book someday. Meanwhile, I was reviewing novels on the side for The Associated Press and The New York Times book review section. That gave me entre to the Manhattan’s literary circle. A couple of years ago, I found myself dining with Otto Penzler, the dean of American’s crime fiction editors, and happened to mention that long-ago note from Hunter.

“Evan Hunter was a good friend of mine,” Penzler said. “In all the years I knew him, he never had a good thing to say about anything anyone else wrote. He REALLY sent you that note?”

“He really did,” I said. “I still have it.”

“Well then you’ve got to finish that novel,” Otto said, “and when you do, you have to let me read it.”

So I went home and started writing again. I wrote at night after work and all day every Saturday; and six months later, the book was finished.

Q: What are your thoughts on ebooks as a reader AND a writer?
I don’t own a digital book reader, but I plan on getting one when the price drops, as it always does with electronic gizmos. As a reader, like the convenience, although I suspect I’ll always prefer the feel of a physical book in my hands. As a writer, I’m in favor of anything that encourages people to read.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I don’t regard either of them as psychotic. They, and other characters like them, have clearly defined codes of ethics and personal behavior. Those codes may be unconventional, but the characters adhere to them rigorously. Hawk, for example, believes in living life well and on his own terms, without regard for the rules of society. He believes in being self-sufficient, staying fit, and watching out for his few close friends. Like most such characters, he is fiercely loyal—something a psychotic could never be. I‘d love to be able to count on a friend like Hawk if I were ever in a pinch. That said, what the creators of Hawk and Joe Pike (Robert B. Parker and Robert Crais) are doing is playing around with a theme that has been repeated endlessly in American fiction—the relationship between the hero and one of society’s outcasts. This goes all the way back to Natty Bumppo and his Indian companion Chingachgook in James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking novels. I’m playing around with the theme myself, although my hero’s sidekick is a different sort of outcast. He’s not a drunk or an ex-con or a member of a racial minority group. He’s a privileged young man with a big trust fund—the sort of person those of us who grew up poor or middle class tend to resent or even despise.

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 influenced you?
I discovered crime fiction by reading Raymond Chandler in my teens, and he remains a major influence. I reread “The Big Sleep,” “Farewell My Lovely,” and “The Long Goodbye,” every year or two. As for current crime novelists, I’m a great admirer of Daniel Woodrell and Thomas H. Cook, two brilliant writers who succeed at everything except making the best-seller lists. James Lee Burke, Kate Atkinson and Ken Bruen have written paragraphs that take my breath away. I love Ace Atkins’ remarkable historical crime novels and James Ellroy’s staccato, high-on-amphetamines prose. To name a few. But the fact is, I’m influenced by everything I read including the bad stuff that teaches me what NOT to do. That said, the opening passage of John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” is my favorite in all of English.

Q: Jay Faerber came up with the following question: First person or third person?
Both have their charms. The one you choose depends on which best serves the story you are telling. My first two novels are written in first person, the main character narrating the story. The next book in the series, which I hope to begin writing later this year, will probably be written in the third person limited, the story told from the points of view of three different characters.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is
your answer?

How important is sense of place in your novel, and in the books you most enjoy reading?
The most memorable crime stories transport you to interesting places and let you hear, see and smell them. It is difficult to imagine Ken Bruen’s best novels set anywhere but in his native Galway, Ireland, or Daniel Woodrell’s work set anywhere but in the Ozarks. Read James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels and you have been to New Iberia, LA, even if you’ve never left your house. As my friend Thomas H. Cook once said, “If you want to understand the importance of place, imagine ‘Heart of Darkness’ without the river.” One of the places I know best is Providence, RI. Unlike big, anonymous cities like New York, where many fine crime novels are set, Providence is so small that it’s claustrophobic. Almost everybody you see on the street knows your name, and it’s almost impossible to keep a secret. Yet it’s big enough to be both cosmopolitan and rife with urban problems. And its history of corruption, which goes all the way back to a colonial governor dining with Captain Kidd, makes it an ideal setting for crime fiction. I made Providence not just the setting but something akin to a major character, in “Rogue Island.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Mississippi Vivian (Ted Stephens) by Bill Crider & Clyde Wilson

Situating this novel in the seventies makes sure it's not possible for the PI-character to get out a cellphone and call for help. It also makes sure there's less forensics and computers to help him out. The result: a classic PI novel where the hero rides into town to set things right and leaves after having done his work.
Ted Stephens investigates an insurance scam in a small town. After a slower start, detailing his investigation people are out to either kill him or kick his butt. This is where things start to heat up and the reading becomes more interesting.
Ted is a nice character. He loves his wife and is totally faithful to her. He has a good sense of humour but knows it's not always appreciated. The story is easy to follow, the page count is low, making it an enjoyable and quick read.
The fact a real life PI (Clyde Wilson) was involved in writing the book gives it a nice authentic feel, especially at the start of the book.

Voyeur (Remer) by Daniel Judson

In this authentic piece of noir we are introduced to Remer, an ex-PI who now runs a liquor store. When he's asked to investigate the case of missing ex-love Mia he has to face his past. We find out why he quit the PI-business and through that just how tough and dark a character he can be.
Helping him out are some PI-friends and cops that make sure there's some forensic tidbits to go along with the noir story. There's a lot of twists and turns as Remer delves deeper into the secrets of Mia and her family.
The story is written with a lot of style and a real piece of noir. Some people mistake PI-fiction for noir. In this case it's okay to do that.

Shamus Award Winners

The Shamus Award winners are known...

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel: Locked In, by Marcia Muller (Grand Central)

Also nominated: The Silent Hour, by Michael Koryta (Minotaur); Where the Dead Lay, by David Levien (Doubleday); Schemers, by Bill Pronzini (Forge); My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (William Morrow)

Best First P.I. Novel: Faces of the Gone, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)

Also nominated: Loser’s Town, by Daniel Depp (Simon & Schuster); The Last Gig, by Norman Green (Minotaur); The Good Son, by Russel D. McLean (Minotaur); Chinatown Angel, by A.E. Roman (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel: Sinner’s Ball, by Ira Berkowitz (Three Rivers Press)

Also nominated: Dark Side of the Morgue, by Raymond Benson (Leisure); Red Blooded Murder, by Laura Caldwell (Mira); Vengeance Road, by Rick Mofina (Mira); Body Blows, by Marc Strange (Dundurn)

Best P.I. Short Story: “Julius Katz,” by Dave Zeltserman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2009)

Also nominated: “The Dark Island,” by Brendan DuBois (from Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane; Akashic); “Deadline Edition,” by S.L. Franklin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2009); “Blazin’ on Broadway,” by Gary Phillips (from Phoenix Noir, edited by Patrick Millikin; Akashic); “Suicide Bonds,” by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2009)

Lifetime Achievement Award: Robert Crais

Hammer Award for Best Character: Marcia Muller’s series private eye, Sharon McCone

I haven't read the winners in the categories Best Hardcover and Best First Novel yet, so I intend to do so soon. One of my personal favorites won the Best Paperback.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Guest Post: How The Demon’s Parchment Was Created by Jeri Westerson

I suppose I’d first have to talk about the whole “Medieval Noir” thing. When I set out to write a medieval mystery, I didn’t want the same sort of amateur sleuth monk or nun pastiche. I wanted a hard-boiled detective like I found in my favorite Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler novels. And because those storylines tend to be a little darker, I dubbed it “Medieval Noir” as my own little subgenre. Now why did I want a hard-boiled detective in a medieval setting? Well, for one, no one was doing it and you should always write what you can’t find out there to read, so they say. I also thought it would be tremendously cool to merge my two literary loves, that of the medieval mystery and the hard-boiled crime novel.
I found that it works really well.
What could be better than taking Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, his white knight with his own code of honor and justice, and make my own character a real knight? Well, ex-knight. See, here’s the thing. I studied the typical hard-boiled detective and found that they had a few things in common. They were loners, they usually had some sort of chip on their shoulder, they had a lot of run-ins with the cops, and they had their own code of justice.
Oh yeah. And they were always distracted by some dame.
So Crispin Guest, my ex-knight turned PI, embodied all those tropes. He was once a knight, a lord of his own manor, when he threw in his lot with a conspiracy to put the stately duke of Lancaster on the throne instead of his ten-year-old nephew, Richard. Richard was crowned and the conspirators were all found and executed. But when it came time to dole out Crispin's fate, the duke of Lancaster, Crispin's beloved mentor, pleaded for his life. His life was granted but everything else was forfeit and he found himself penniless, stripped of his rank and his status, and set adrift on the streets of London. Eventually, he reinvented himself as the Tracker, the equivalent of a medieval private eye, working for sixpence a day…plus expenses.
It seems I like to involve my characters in murder and something else to occupy them, and so each book also involves a religious relic or some otherworldly object. In book one, VEIL OF LIES, it was the facecloth of Christ, the Mandyllon. In book two, SERPENT IN THE THORNS, Crispin must deal with the Crown of Thorns. And in my latest, THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT, we go a step further and involve Crispin in missing pages of the Kabbalah which might have released a terrifying Golem on the streets of London.
In THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT, I particularly wanted to explore the plight of medieval Jews. In England, they had been exiled in 1290, almost a hundred years prior to the action of this story, and I got to imbue Crispin with realistic prejudices of the time. It’s refreshing writing something in your beloved characters that you are opposed to, but it’s also interesting trying to change their mind while keeping it true to the time period.
I usually start with a relic, or in this case, the Golem, and build my story from there. The Kabbalah has, in the last few years, become the spiritual darling of the rich and famous, but with just some cursory research, I could tell that it constituted far more than a pop diva’s diversion. Needless to say, those who say they ascribed to it didn’t have the least idea what they were talking about.
To write historical, it goes without saying that there will be research involved. Usually quite a bit, and so it is naturally something I enjoy doing, else this would be a tedious exercise. I started with the legend of golems and then the Kabbalah, and decided that I would make this a serial killer story, taking my storyline from the rather bizare life of a real medieval serial killer, who lived one hundred years later than Crispin. Then I added more characters, more red herrings, more diversions for Crispin, and in this one, a most unusual femme fatale. It’s simply a matter of laying layer upon layer—a George Seurat painting, blotting stratums of dots of paint on a canvas before standing back to see the whole, clear image.
You can read a first chapter of THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT at Jeri’s website

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New sites to follow

There's two cool new sites for you to follow...
Wayne Dundee, creator of Joe Hannibal has joined the blogosphere, take a look at If you like my blog you'll be interested in that one as well.
Then there's The Crime Of It All (, a cool site covering everything that's crime. It's also got a "Best Oneliner" section that reminds me of the Weekly Wisecrack I used to run on this blog. Cool stuff.

The Taking of Libbie, SD (Rush Mckenzie) by David Housewright

Reading a new Rush McKenzie novel always feels like getting back in touch with an old friend to me. He may be filthy rich and at times can be quite the hardass, most of the time McKenzie is a likable character you can relate to.
In this novel he's taken from his home by a couple of bounty-hunters, resulting in quite an exciting opening chapter. Interestingly enough, Daniel Judson's new novel (Voyeur, expect a review on this site soon) also starts off with the hero being tasered. In the old days PI's just had to worry about brass knuckles.
It turns out the bounty-hunters were after Rush because someone has been impersonating him and conning the people of Libbie, SD out of their money. After it is clear to the people from Libbie that Rush is not the man who conned them he decides to track down the imposter. During his search he fights bullies, discovers that Libbie has a lot of good looking women and in the end of course, solves several mysteries.
Another very enjoyable installment in this series.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Q & A with Jay Faerber

This time I interview someone special. Jay Faerber is a comic book writer and has one comic book on his name featuring a PI (Webster Dodge). As a fan of his comic books I thought it would be interesting to learn about his views on the genre.

Q: What makes Webster Dodge different from other (unofficial) PIs?I think one of the things that makes him different is that he doesn'treally want to be a PI. He has dreams of being a rock star, but he'sactually quite good at detective work. It's his only marketable skill,so he's forced to do it as a "day job," so to speak. I think that's different than most PIs, unofficial or otherwise, who rarely get paid and who hold down other jobs to support their investigative work. WithDodge, it's the opposite. He'd quit the PI gig in a heartbeat if he could make money with his music.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I approached Dodge like I approach my super-hero work -- I tried to find a new angle on the classic genre. I wanted Dodge to be the rumbled, lone private eye who gets beat up a lot and has anantagonistic relationship with the cops. So I was able to do all that,but the whole "struggling musician" thing gave it a fresh spin. Ofcourse, I'm far from the first person to combine music and mysteries.I'm not making that claim. But I think the way I approached it withDodge is fairly unique.

Q: How do your favorite novelists influence your superhero comics?
That's hard to pin down, since it's not something that has a direct correlation. Robert B. Parker was the first author I really followed,and I think I learned a lot of my dialogue approach from him. That's been a huge influence. Lately, I follow Stephen J. Cannell, Lee Child,and Robert Crais, and I love their plotting. I work really hard atgiving my stories -- whether they be super-hero or mystery -- solid,well-crafted plots, and I think all of the novelists that I followhave helped inspire me in that regard.

Q: Will we see Webster return?
I really don't know. It's been over five years since DODGE'S BULLETS and it wasn't really a commercial success so it's tough to do more. > But it's not out of the question, in some form or another. I've > written a short story featuring the character, but haven't done > anything with it yet.

Q: What are you working on now and what will you be working on soon?
My main work is DYNAMO 5, my Image super-hero series. We're currently in the middle of a 5-issue mini-series that ends in October. Then we've got a Holiday one-shot coming out in December, then another mini-series sometime in 2011. Besides that, I've got a new Image crime series that I'm slowly working on, which we hope to debut in mid-2011, plus another Image crime/horror/romance mini-series that will also
hopefully launch in 2011. So next year should be a big year for me.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Well, as usual, a bunch of imitators have distorted the original. Hawk, the first modern "sidekick" (although I'm sure he'd take issue with that term) of his kind is a true original. And while Joe Pike kinda started out as a bit of a Hawk-type guy, he's really grown into his own "leading man" status. I mean, there have already been two Joe Pike novels, with a third on the way. I'm curious if we'll see any
more Elvis Cole-focused novels, or if Crais is having too much fun letting Pike take center stage. And I don't grant the premise that either of these guys are
"psychotic," but I know what you're getting at: the 90's craze of having every new PI with a colorful "sidekick" with some extreme character traits. I read a piece by Lee Child where he talked about his creation of Jack Reacher, and he basically created Reacher as the "sidekick." When you think about it, Reacher has all the colorful traits the 90s-era sidekicks have: he's huge, violent, and all that.
But he's the star of the books. And I think that's a great observation and a great approach, on Child's part.

Q: You are influenced by the recently departed (screen)writer Stephen J. Cannell. What's so great about his work and how has he inspired you?
I just think Cannell's great. I love so many of his old TV shows, and his novels are, for the most part, really good, too. I'm a sucker for a good high concept, and his old shows all have great high concepts, great premises, and great characters. While I love a good plot, character always trumps plot. I can take a bad plot populated by great characters, but a great plot with bad characters? Much, much harder to take. And Cannell's great a creating engaging, interesting, fun to
follow characters.

Q: What are your favorite Stephen J. Cannell shows?
My top three would have to be The Rockford Files, Wiseguy, and The Greatest American Hero. And just look at those three shows -- they're so diverse, with such different premises, tones, even genres. And yet all really groundbreaking, original pieces of work.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced
by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think
will influence the coming generation and in what way?

Well, I'm not as well-read as a lot of mystery fans. I'm really particular about the kind of prose I like to read. I find a lot of it really overwritten. So I'm sure there are authors who are huge that I'm just not familiar with. However, I think Crais and Child are really going to influence the next generation. They've got great,
iconic characters who are engaged in interesting plots.

Q: Bill Crider came up with the following question: Hammett or Chandler?Chandler.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your

First person or third person? I don't really have a set answer, but I know some people are very passionate about this subject. I kind of waffle. There was a time when I found it hard to read anything that wasn't first person. I was just really drawn to that approach. But now I can see the advantages to both, and as a writer, I tend to prefer to the third person. With first person, it's a little too easy for the
character to merely sound like me, rather than a CHARACTER.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Long Time Dead (Gus Dury) by Tony Black

In case you thought Gus Dury's alcohol problem couldn't get any worse, read this one. It kept me off booze! Those problems are not very convenient because together with his friend Hod he's hired himself out as a private investigator to an actress. Her son has been found hanged and she thinks it might have been murder. As Dury investigates he clashes with an old Skull & Bones like group and some gangsters who are after Hod's money.
I sometimes had to put away the book to get some air, so much angst and despair was in this one. I found myself getting back to it quickly enough though, wanting to find out how Dury was going to unmask the killer and survive his fight against the bottle.
Another great installment in a great series. Dark, personal and disturbing this is a novel that will stay with you long after you finish it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Q & A with Bill Crider

With a new book, Mississippi Vivian coming out this seemed like a perfect time to talk to Bill Crider, author of the Dan Rhodes series, Ted Stephens series and Truman Smith books.
Q: What makes Ted Stephens different from other (unofficial) PIs?
A: Ted's a former cop, but he's an official p.i. Unlike many of them, he's not working for an individual in MISSISSIPPI VIVIAN but for a big insurance company. He's sent from Texas to Mississippi to check out what the company believes is a scam, and he winds up involved in a murder case.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: The character was my co-writer's invention. Clyde Wilson was for many years the most colorful and best-known p.i. in Texas. He worked many big cases, and when Ivana Trump needed someone to help with her divorce from Donald Trump, Clyde went to New York to do the job. He told me that Ted Stephens was a composite of himself and an ex-cop that he knew and that the cases Ted worked on were based on actual cases.

Q: What's next for you and Ted Stephens?
A: Clyde died just days after we got the acceptance for MISSISSIPPI VIVIAN. Because he did the outlines for the books and because Ted was his character, there most likely won't be any more books in the series.

Q: Any chance that other characters you've written about will return soon?
A: I wish I could answer that with a "yes," but it's not likely. Truman Smith, another p.i., was one of my favorite characters, and I enjoyed writing about him. But the sales didn't justify the continuance of the series. I must have been Truman's only fan.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Mouse?
A: I've been thinking about those sidekicks lately. Dave Robicheaux isn't a p.i., but his buddy Clete Purcell is one of the most psychotic sidekicks around. The other day I thought about the flak Mickey Spillane got because of Mike Hammer's vigilante justice and the violence in those books. But Clete Purcell is as much a vigilante as Hammer ever was, and he's about twice as violent. I wonder if any of James Lee Burke's readers have ever disdained Spillane. I suppose not. If they're fans of Clete (or of any of the other psychotic sidekicks, for that matter), they should love Hammer.
In my own books, I once had Truman Smith wish he had a psychotic sidekick to handle some of the tough jobs.

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: Good question, but I don't have a good answer because I don't read as widely as I once did. Ken Bruen, for sure. Michael Koryta, maybe. Don Winslow, I hope.

Q: Gerry Boyle came up with the following question: Why write these books? Why not write "literary novels" or poetry or travelogues or memoirs? What is it that draws you to this genre?
A: I've written in a number of different genres, but p.i. had a great appeal to me when I started reading crime fiction long ago. They still do. I think they give writers a chance to write with an appealing voice and to comment on the world around them in a way that a lot of other kinds of books do not. And they're a heck of a lot of fun to write.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: The question: Hammett or Chandler? My answer? That would depend on the day of the week. Today it's Chandler, but on quite a few days it would be Hammett. I'm just glad we don't have to choose.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Superman Project (Chico Santana) by A.E. Roman

The Bronx' PI is back! Chico Santana is hired to find Brooklyn artist Gabby Gupta and her husband, Joey Valentin, an old friend of Chico. He's drawn into the strange world of a self-improvement center that is based on religion as well as Superman comic books. In fact, there's enough of comic book references to entertain this geek. There's also a wonderful character in here, Chase, a chubby young woman who is both attractive as well as different from the way most full figured women are portrayed in fiction.
There's a murder to be investigated and there's some fights with thugs. Chico hands out some pretty good wisecracks during the course of his investigation and he shows what an interesting and complex character he is again. While the actual investigation sometimes seems to take a backseat to the colorful characters introduced the book still works perfectly as a mystery, but also offers up a more literary story.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fourth Day (Charlie Fox) by Zoë Sharp

Charlie Fox has often been dubbed the female Jack Reacher. That's doing this character a bit short, though. Sure, she's ex-military and knows how to kick ass, but she's a whole different person than Reacher. While Reacher's main problems are if he'll manage to sleep with the attractive women who walk on stage and if he'll manage to survive the bad guys assaults Charlie also has a lot more personal problems to deal with. This makes this series extra attractive to female readers who don't think Reacher is a heartthrob and the series too much focused on violence.
In this particular novel she, along with her boyfriend Sean, are hired to get Thomas Whitney out of a mysterious cult. Charlie has a very personal secret though, a secret that puts her relationship with Sean to the test. It's that secret that adds raw, honest emotion to the fast-paced action and violence and makes Zoe Sharp's work stand out from that of writers like Lee Child, Andy McNabb and Vince Flynn.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The nominees are...

The nominees are in for the Shamus Award of the Private Eye Writers of America:

Best Hardcover P.I. Novel:
• The Silent Hour, by Michael Koryta (Minotaur)
• Where the Dead Lay, by David Levien (Doubleday)
• Locked In, by Marcia Muller (Grand Central)
• Schemers, by Bill Pronzini (Forge)
• My Soul to Take, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (William Morrow)

Best First P.I. Novel:
• Loser’s Town, by Daniel Depp (Simon & Schuster)
• The Last Gig, by Norman Green (Minotaur)
• The Good Son, by Russel D. McLean (Minotaur)
• Faces of the Gone, by Brad Parks (Minotaur)
• Chinatown Angel, by A.E. Roman (Minotaur)

Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel:
• Dark Side of the Morgue, by Raymond Benson (Leisure)
• Sinner’s Ball, by Ira Berkowitz (Three Rivers Press)
• Red Blooded Murder, by Laura Caldwell (Mira)
• Vengeance Road, by Rick Mofina (Mira)
• Body Blows, by Marc Strange (Dundurn)

Best P.I. Short Story:
• “The Dark Island,” by Brendan DuBois (from Boston Noir, edited by Dennis Lehane; Akashic)
• “Deadline Edition,” by S.L. Franklin (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, April 2009)
• “Blazin’ on Broadway,” by Gary Phillips (from Phoenix Noir, edited by Patrick Millikin; Akashic)
• “Suicide Bonds,” by Tim L. Williams (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2009)
• “Julius Katz,” by Dave Zeltserman (Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, September/October 2009)

The names of this year’s Shamus winners will be announced in October.
My personal favorites: The Good Son and Sinner's Ball. And isn't it ironic that many nominees are not from America?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Q & A with Gerry Boyle

We interview Gerry Boyle, author of the Jack McMorrow and Brandon Blake novels.
Q: What makes Jack McMorrow different from other (unofficial) PIs?
McMorrow is a journalist and I always say that being a reporter is like being a cop except you don't need a warrant. Jack's "investigations" grow from his research for stories and his stories usually are driven by his innate curiosity. Like most reporters, McMorrow is nosy, and his job lets him follows his nose into anything that piques his interest. A woman in court abused by her boyfriend? What is she really all about? A bunch of marijuana growers? What is it like to be them? A woman working as an escort in a small town? What would compel her to do that? Who is she, reallly?
Of course, all of these inquiries lead to serious trouble. And that's where McMorrow's skills go beyond journalism.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I was a reporter doing a lot of crime-related stories. I also aspired, at the time, to work for the New York Times. I invented a character who had been at the Times but was thrust into the world I inhabited: rural Maine, tough and dreary mill towns, small cities, closed communities where outsiders aren't welcome. McMorrow is the quintessential reporter: uncompromising, willing to do anything to get to the truth behind the story. He is in some ways the reporter I aspired to be. And he can take and throw a punch.

Q: What's next for you and McMorrow?
I'm working on the second Brandon Blake novel right now, and then Jack will be back. I'm mulling several ideas. I'm reluctant to say much more except that I'm intrigued by the idea of the criminal among us, the crime committed in a close community by one of its members—who remains in the fold, undetected. I'm very interested in the notion of trust and what happens when it's taken away. There have been murders in very small towns in northern Maine that could only have been committed by someone close to (but not domestically connected to) the victim. I like the idea that we think we know people but are occasionally violently reminded that all of us have interior lives, and some of them are very dark.

Q: How much of your work is inspired by your daily life?
Most of it. When I was reporting, I worked in all of the areas explored by my books. I don't work for newspapers anymore but I read them, watch the news, and some stories stick with me. And in my travels, I'm always thinking: what would Jack McMorrow say to that? What would he do if he were here. You know those plastic bracelets like the Lance Armstrong thing? I've thought of getting some made that just have the letters: WWJMD? (What would Jack McMorrow do?)

Q: Tell us a little about how you came to switch publishers?
They stopped liking my plot ideas. I wanted a place where I could write what I want (within reason). I know. Short answer.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Mouse?
Is Hawk psychotic? I think maybe he's a little socio-pathic, not affected by the violence that appears to be his stock in trade. But in any event, I think PI's need sidekicks to provide both muscle and counsel. Hawk is Spenser's backup but his presence also forces Spenser to confront moral questions: Do we kill this bad guy? Do we break this guy's legs? If not, why not? Lethal sidekicks, like the ex-Marine commando Clair in my books, force our heroes to continually define and exercise their moral code.
In my books, Clair also is the sage, the philosopher (albeit heavily armed and stealthy) who probes the larger questions raised. Is war a necessary evil? Can killing be justified? How do we live with our actions? Remember, each book should leave our PI somewhat scarred and changed. It bugs me when characters traipse through a bunch of books and emerge unscathed, physically or emotionally. Life takes its toll. The lives described in these books should take its toll, too.

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 a lot about attention spans, reading habits, ways we consume art and literature and stories. Of course, it's all evolving as we speak. iPads, Kindles, downloads, YouTube. With all of this technogical innovation, we've become much more visually oriented, and we expect immediate access. What does this have to do with PI writers? I think future PI novelists will be influenced by and drawn to writers whose work is cinematic, vivid, and immediate. I think of this as the Ken Bruen school of crime writing (with Elmore Leonard as an early example, Stuart Neville as a very recent one). The spare prose and jagged dialogue puts you inside the characters' heads and, more importantly, keeps you there for the whole ride. In the future, I think readers will expect this sort of transparency.

Q: Zoe Sharp came up with the following question: 'Conflict and pressure are two vital elements of any page-turning crime thriller. What do you do as a writer to put your characters under pressure, without stooping to cliche or contrivance?
I put my characters under pressure by forcing them to make difficult choices, to choose between opposing but compelling forces. For example, Brandon Blake, in the Port City series, has fallen in love with a young writer named Mia. But he becomes a rookie cop (realizing a longterm dream) and conflict follows. When he become suspicious of a couple of her exotic friends, does he run to NCIC and run their names? Does Mia stay with him when it seems like all of his friends are going to be cops? Does he go to parties like most 23-year-olds? Does Mia accept the fact that her boyfriend carries a gun, even off duty? Does she hold onto the small part of him that seems to be left, when the job takes over most of his life? Does Brandon try to tell her what it's really like to shoot a man dead? Or does he swallow hard and keep it all inside?
I don't think we need to stoop to cliche or contrivance to put characters in pressure-packed situations. Real life is filled with conflict and pressure. Our characters just have both ratcheted up by circumstances and their investigative inclinations.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Q: Why write these books? Why not write "literary novels" or poetry or travelogues or memoirs? What is it that draws you to this genre?
When I was a reporter, I was fascinated by people who do not, cannot, will not, follow the rules. Often they are smart, charming, talented. And yet, they commit crimes. Murder, extortion, theft (grand and otherwise), assault.
What is in their makeup that is different from the law-abiding majority? Why them and not me? Why am I on the outside of the cell looking in?
I also was drawn to a genre that provides justice, something that is elusive in real life. We invent bad guys, but place them in a fictional world where most of the time, some of the time, they're punished. Good prevails. Evil is vanquished. Of course, some of the most evil characters live to fight another day.
And lastly, I fell into the clutches of literary suspense. I think I was a kid reading very early Dick Francis, found on my father's bedside table. Something about that hook that sets, the rush that leads you from chapter to chapter, the feeling that you must read to the end and you must do it now. If I can write something that makes you ignore the rest of your life for a few hours, it's a good thing.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Free e-book!

As a special treat to the loyal visitors of this site and to introduce as many of you as possible I've decided to make available for FREE the Noah Milano short story collection: "Tough As Leather" featuring introductions by fan favorite authors like Les Roberts, Jeremiah Healey, Ace Atkins, Sean Chercover and Mark Coggins.
Read how the son of a mobster tries to make an honest living as a security specialist but time and time finds out it's not easy to keep your hands clean when you're dealing with the most evil bastards of L.A.

All you have to do is e-mail me at:,put ''free tough as leather'' in the subject and give me your e-mail address so I can e-mail you the copy. It is in pdf-format.

Drink the Tea (Willis Gidney) by Thomas Kaufman

The best thing this PI-novel has going for it is the interesting background of the main protagonist. Not the usual ex-cop or soldier, Willis Gidney used to be a con-man and in Youth Centers where he learned to take of himself until he was adopted by a cop.
In this first outing he goes out to look for the missing daughter of a friend. Meanwhile he falls for a female computer nerd and every now and then has to show he's been made a tough guy in the Youth Centers. Actually, the main storyline isn't that exciting but the interesting background of Gidney makes it an enjoyable read.
If the next book gives us a more interesting investigation and a higher level of danger it will be a winner!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Damaged Goods (Jack McMorrow) by Gerry Boyle

Hardnosed reporter Jack McMorrow is back!
His wife, a social worker, is threatened by a Satanist whose children she wants to take away. There's also a callgirl who has some dark secrets and is the subject of one of Jack's articles, much to his wife's dismay.
The beauty of this novel is the fact Jack is a married man with a kid, making him a very ''real'' kind of character and a nice departure from the standard lone wolf type of detectives. Not that he's not hardboiled. He's willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.
The writing is very nice and direct, more or less in the Robert B. Parker style, making it a fast and easy read. I'm looking forward to Jack's return!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Q & A with Zoë Sharp

We interview British writer Zoë Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox thrillers.

Q: What makes Charlie Fox different from other (unofficial) PIs?
A: There are quite a few ex-military main characters out there, but not many female ex-military main characters, so that's the main difference to begin with. After leaving the military under a cloud, she's now working in the close-protection industry, which is another career option for thriller protagonists that has not been widely over-used.
Also, women with the ability to kill in the right (or wrong) circumstances, are not common. Male heroes in crime fiction are expected to be able to shoot the bad guys, shrug it off, and go to the bar at the end of the day. Charlie feels every kill, but she does it anyway, because the alternative is so much worse. As she points out in FOURTH DAY, "I've saved more than I've taken."

Q: How did you come up with the character of Charlie Fox?
A: Charlie was hanging around in the back of my mind for a long time before I wrote the first book, KILLER INSTINCT. She arrived almost fully formed, with her traumatic back story, her love of motorcycles, and her difficult relationship with her distant parents. I think the roots lay in the thrillers I read growing up - the old-fashioned tough-guy books where the role of female characters was usually to fall over and twist their ankles and require rescuing by the hero. I wanted to read about a heroine who could do her own rescuing, and Charlie was the result.
But, the idea for Charlie might have gone no further, had I not received death-threat letters in the course of my work as a photojournalist. That started me really thinking about how someone with Charlie's background, mindset, and training would react to being put under direct threat.

Q: What's next for you and Charlie Fox?
A: FOURTH DAY is just out in the UK from Allison & Busby, and will be published in the States by Pegasus next year. Meanwhile, Busted Flush Press in the States has just begun publishing four of the earlier books which were never available over there, and have been out of print for a while in the UK, starting with KILLER INSTINCT in May, RIOT ACT in July, then HARD KNOCKS towards the end of the year, and ROAD KILL during early 2011. I've already delivered the follow-up book to FOURTH DAY, which sees Charlie tasked with guarding a young woman who is targeted for kidnap among the rich and powerful on Long Island.

Q: How much of your work is inspired by your daily life?
A: Well, I don't work as a bodyguard, so if you're talking about actual daily life, almost nothing... I still work as a photographer, some of which involves hanging out of moving vehicles, taking low-angle action shots of other vehicles, so maybe we have the same relaxed attitude to danger!
But inevitably, when you write a first-person protagonist, she's going to take on something of your personality and thought patterns. Like Charlie, I have a love of motorcycling, and I used to shoot in competition, so there are some vague similarities, I suppose. Actually, why lie? It's entirely autobiographical... ;-]

Q: What would a soundtrack to your latest novel be like?
A: I listen to music all the time when I'm writing, a mix of all kinds of things. Nothing creates the right mood for me faster than putting on an atmospheric track. And FOURTH DAY is partly about Charlie's search for redemption, so it needs soul-searching music to suit. Nickelback, Snow Patrol, Counting Crows, Sarah McLachlan, Stone Sour, Linkin Park, Staind, Evanescence, Audioslave, Pink, AC/DC. My iPod is on permanent shuffle and has about 5500 tracks uploaded so far, but those are the ones that stand out.

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'm still influenced by Robert B Parker's beautifully sparse, cut-down prose. I think Lee Child's style is wonderful. Very informative, descriptive without for a moment being flowery, and very, very smooth. And Ken Bruen, whose unique style is almost prose poetry, and darker than a damaged soul.

Q: Steven Gore came up with the following question: Has a lot of graphic violence become necessary to the private investigator genre?
A: That depends on your definition of graphic violence. I'm prepared to be graphic if the story demands it. There's a torture scene towards the end of THIRD STRIKE that some people have told me is pretty horrifying, but a lot of it happens between the lines - the reader's brain fills in the blanks of what's happening. It's necessary to show the development and downfall of one of the major characters in the book - he realises just how far he's prepared to go in order to save someone he loves.
But graphic is very different from gratuitous. You can have a much lower level of violence described, and if it's put in purely to increase the pain-quotient or the shock-factor of the book, it's gratuitous. Violence, like anything else, has to move the story forwards. It has to play a part, or it's just self-indulgence on the part of the writer.
Charlie, when she's in a situation, is very cool and very calm about what she does, so the violence is described in a very matter-of-fact way in my books. I don't glory in it, just as Charlie doesn't glory in it. As Sean tells her in FOURTH DAY, being able to take a life when necessary is one thing - the trouble comes when you start to enjoy it. I think it may be the same for the writer!
One reviewer remarked that he found Charlie had a casual attitude to violence, but that isn't so. Casual implies that it means nothing to her, that what she is capable of under stress leaves no mark behind. That's not so. It's simply her way of dealing with a potentially lethal situation without emotion, keeping calm, almost detached. Only later will she stop to deal with the consequences of what she's had to do.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: That's an interesting question! How about: 'Conflict and pressure are two vital elements of any page-turning crime thriller. What do you do as a writer to put your characters under pressure, without stooping to cliche or contrivance?'
My own answer would be that I mix together internal and external stress for Charlie. In FOURTH DAY, for example, she has the internal stress of having reached a crisis point in her life, her career, and her relationship with Sean. She needs to resolve this internal conflict, and sees in Randall Bane, the charismatic leader of the cult calling itself Fourth Day, the means to do this. The only trouble is, she has to reveal more of herself than she is comfortable with, in order to achieve her aim.
The external pressure comes from the fact that Charlie has to lay herself open to physical danger as well as psychological abuse to get inside the cult's California stronghold. By the nature of her job, she puts herself in front of the people in jeopardy, regardless of whether they might be considered the bad guys by everyone else! I think FOURTH DAY presents Charlie's biggest challenge yet. By the end of it, she's really on her own, with her back to the wall.
In SECOND SHOT, I put Charlie under pressure in a slightly different way, by taking away her normal physical self-assurance. I shot her twice on the opening page, and she spends a good deal of the book on crutches. This means that she cannot fight her way out of dangerous situations, and has to rely on other means.
And in THIRD STRIKE, I asked myself what would be Charlie's worst nightmare? Probably a 'bring your parents to work' day. So, in this book she has to protect her own parents, who have never approved of her choice of profession, nor of the person she's chosen to share her life with - Sean. Trying to do her job under those circumstances is extremely difficult, and the emotional tie to her reluctant principals makes the job so much harder than normal for her.

I could go on, but you'll be relieved to hear that I won't ;-]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chinatown Angel (Chico Santana) by A.E. Roman

Chico Santana is a likable, but not perfectly sympathetic New York PI. Hired by a wannabe movie star Kirk Atlas to track down his beautiful cousin, Tiffany, he gets involved with the apparent suicide of Kirk’s maid. He finds out Kirk’s family has a lot of secrets they really don’t want to be uncovered.
While the story itself is pretty much standard fare A.E. Roman does a great job of making you care about Chico and his desire to get back with his ex and his relationships with old friends. Also, the mood of the Bronx is pretty well conveyed. There’s also the obligatory psychotic sidekick, Nicky, that might not appeal to some readers. Personally, I thought Nicky was a pretty cool addition to the Sons of Hawk.
Recommended for people who want an updated Ross McDonald.

Out Cold (Duffy Dombrowski) by Tom Schreck

Duffy Dombrowski is a social worker and unsuccesful boxer. In his third novel he’s a bit unstable, haven taken a few too many hits to the head. This makes him more open to the paranoid rants of a guy called Karl. But as they say: you’re not paranoid if they’re really out to get you. Uncovering the truth behind the conspiracies Karl is ranting about AND taking down villainous dog breeders Duffy has his hands full in a story that gets wilder by the chapter.
There’s a lot of laughs in the book but it manages to complement the more serious sides of the story pretty well. Think of it as a male, macho Janet Evanovich. It will also appeal to readers of J.A. Konrath’s Jack Daniels series and people who like some comedy with their mystery and have a soft spot for (farting) dogs.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

This Wicked World (Jimmy Boone) by Richard Lange

In this tale of L.A. noir we are introduced to a very cool protagonist, ex-con and ex-Marine Jimmy Boone now living life as a bartender. Asked by the bar's bouncer to help him out in investigating the death of a young migrant worker he gets involved with a young wannabe-gangstah, a wild young girl and some heavier baddies.
He also finds time to get romantic with an ex-cop and take care of a toothless pitbull.
Richard does a great job of bringing all characters to life, managing to make also the bad guys look like real, at times even good, people.
There's a good amount of action crime but there's also a very literary quality to this story. The comparisons made to George Pelecanos by the media aren't that far off. Good stuff!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Q & A with Steven Gore

We interviewed Steven Gore, author of Final Target...

Q: What makes Graham Gage different from other (unofficial) PIs?
His practice is international, he is understated, he’s married and he is not psychologically burdened. His character is based on the sort of people who succeed in real life investigation. I’m talking about investigators who are hired to investigate and find facts, in contrast to the type who are hired to lean on people and intimidate witnesses.
There is a constant tension as I write between what feels real to me and the expectations of the readers of the genre. The fact is that we write in the context of a genre that was developed before we arrived and unless we write something that readers can recognize as being part of that genre, it won’t resonate with them.
I hope I have found a middle ground.
I have been aiming to develop Gage into a Ross MacDonald-type character, the Lew Archer of his later novels, in which the investigator is the reader’s primary lens on the world. The difference is that MacDonald stays within Archer throughout, while I switch among characters and then slowly close in to a point where Gage is the reader’s point of view in the scene.
Also, too much real world experience makes it impossible for me to write a “tough guy” investigator for a whole book. Tough guy opponents aren’t so hard to write, because you can kill them off along the way—which is pretty much what happens to tough guys—either that or witness protection. A tough guy investigator wouldn’t survive the prologue if you applied to him the real world of laser sights and organized crime. Nobody is that tough.
I know that a reader’s suspension of disbelief is different than a former investigator’s suspension of disbelief, so I can appreciate that readers like to read about tough guys and other writers have the talent for writing them.

Q: How did you come up with the character of Graham Gage?
I spent a good deal of my career doing international cases: securities fraud, arms, sex, and drug trafficking, money laundering, political corruption, smuggling, etc. Following the advice that we write what we know, I came up with Gage.

Q: What's next for you and Gage?
The second in the Gage series, Absolute Risk, will be published in November 2010. Here is what may be the back cover text:
An FBI Agent, disgraced and dead. A Muslim economist, deported from the US and tortured. The world’s largest hedge fund, secreted off-shore. A Federal Reserve Chairman who suspects a dangerous connection among them. And private investigator Graham Gage, to whom he turns to learn the truth. From New York to Boston to Marseilles to Washington DC, Gage races to expose a economic terrorism conspiracy against the United States, his heart burdened and his work complicated by an uprising in western China in which his wife is caught, by an indecisive Acting US President under the influence of a politically powerful, but increasingly delusional evangelical minister, by ruthless and double-dealing Chinese business leaders, and by a PLA general gripping the largest army in the world with one hand, and Gage’s wife in the other.
Underlying each plot turn are questions about the vulnerability of the debt-burdened US economy, the use of mathematical financial models, market manipulation and insider trading, the use of rendition and torture, US corporate complicity in foreign corruption, and America’s commitment to its own values.
The third book, focusing on domestic political and corporate corruption with an offshore angle, will follow.

Q: How much of your work is inspired by your daily life?
It is less a matter of inspiration and more one of Gage knowing how to do certain things as an investigator because I know how to do those things. The characters and plots are entirely fictional.
I put Gage in places where I’ve worked (e.g., Final Target: Ukraine, England, Channel Islands, and Switzerland), to give the reader a sense of what it feel like for a foreigner to practice his profession outside of his home country.
Also, in real life I was hired by law firms on behalf of clients (individuals or companies) with whom I had no personal connection. For the most part, readers want that personal connection between the investigator and the victim or the person in jeopardy in the story and want to see the investigator drawn into the matter because of that connection.

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 don’t have a clue what readers will want to read in the future. In fact, it is just as likely that they will lose interest in the genre and that private investigator novels will go the way of westerns. There is no way of knowing. This was one of my concerns in making Gage a series private investigator and the reason why I developed a second series character, an ex-cop retired out due to injury.
The second series gives me a chance to work with a character who can have thoughts that Gage wouldn’t have and have inner conflicts that Gage doesn’t have.
My hope for Gage is that since he is an international private investigator, something that readers hadn’t seen much of, he might find a market.

Q: Tom Schreck came up with the following question: Describe how pathological your level of insecurity is about your writing. How many hours do you spend daily vainly trying to dispute the idea that every word you've written absolutely sucks.
I take the process seriously and there are occasions when writing is difficult, but I don’t fret over it that way. At the same time, I know that when I do my second and third drafts I will run across awful sentences and paragraphs and that even a year later I will find things I’ve written that make me cringe.
The main reason I don’t worry so much about it is that my writing about a private investigator is so much easier than my actually being one, especially working in places like the Golden Triangle or the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan and when the people on the other side of my cases were sometimes difficult and unpleasant.
Contrast two months on the road traveling from San Francisco to London, to Hong Kong, to Macao, to Chennai, to London, to Amsterdam, to Geneva searching for witnesses and for evidence, with making myself a cup of coffee in the kitchen and walking downstairs to write.
I’ll take the coffee and the search for the right noun or verb any day.
Another reason I don’t go pathological about writing is the fact that my being able to write and my being published is kind of a fluke. I didn’t think I had the talent for it and lucked out in making a connection with HarperCollins just when I was figuring out how to write the kind of book I wanted to write. A year earlier, and the book might not have gone anywhere.
Basically, I’m just enjoying the ride.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Has a lot of graphic violence become necessary to the private investigator genre?
The influence of television and movies on the books that are being published at least in the thriller side of private investigator novels, sure makes it seem so. It sometimes seems that the role that technology now plays in fictional investigation reduces the need for an exhibition of skill in certain areas. Press a keyboard button and the answer appears: the layout of building, the location of a person, a financial transaction.
It also sometimes seems, when I look at the book shelves, that more and more publishers are marketing toward readers (also television and movie watchers) who want to jump past the labor—the slogging application of investigative technique—and get right to the combat. In the end, I hope readers will continue find the meaning of the violence in mysteries and thrillers to be more important than the violent action itself.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Big Bang (Mike Hammer) by Mickey Spillane & Max Allan Collins

Max Allan Collins, probably Mr. Spillane's biggest fan finishes an old novel-in-progress by the master himself and delivers one hell of a read.
Mike Hammer gets involved in a big and dangerous heroin smuggling ring and delivers his usual hardboiled brand of justice. The story is quite sexist, violent and crude... Just like a Mike Hammer story should be. A particular delight is the comic book style, trippy and hallucogenic ending.
I heard there's more Spillane-goodness on Mr. Collin's desk... Let's hope they find their way to us as well.

Vanilla Ride (Hap & Leonard) by Joe Lansdale

Get ready for an insane, fastpaced ride because the original blue collar amateur PI tagteam Hap & Leonard are back. The two friends help out an old friend whose daughter is caught up with a drugdealer. When they try to get her away from him they tangle with the Dixie mafia however and get caught up in a bloodbath. The only way not to get their asses slammed in jail is help out the FBI. Lucky for them they've got a few badass characters to help them along. And then they meet Vanilla, the blonde hitwoman that gives the novel it's title...
The chapters are short, the plot is thin and the action is as furious as the jokes are funny. Don't read this if you're hoping to read a literary work of art... DO read this if you Spenser's quips aren't dirty enough and Lee Child's action is too tame.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Reapers (Charlie Parker) by John Connolly

Louis and Angel usually spent their time as Charlie Parker’s psychotic sidekicks, but this time they get to take center stage. At least, during a big part of the story, because a lot of page-time is devoted to their friends and enemies. Every character gets the chance to shine with extensive pages of backstory devoted to them. Often before they get killed… John is a fan of Stephen King and that trick of making us learn more about relatively minor characters before they bite the dust is something Mr. King excels in of course. Where John doesn’t emulate King this time is the use of the supernatural. More and more his stories started to include these elements, but this time they are totally absent.
What we do get is the story of how Louis and Angel are targeted by a hitman, called Bliss and the backstory of Louis, told in flashback. We find out Louis used to be part of special band of hitmen called Reapers and we are shown how he grew up to be a natural killer.
Charlie Parker makes a few appearances at the end, under the name The Detective. It is interesting to see him described from the point of view of other characters than Charlie himself.
The plot itself seemed to be a bit shallow to me and the book could have been a lot thinner without the excessive backstories. An enjoyable book, but Mr. Connolly has shown he can do better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Q & A with Tom Schreck

Q: What makes Duffy Dombrowski different from other (unofficial) PIs?
I wanted Duffy to be more of an every man. I didn't want him to be agourmet, live on a yacht, be a great womanizer--I wanted a guy like therest of us who rises up when he feels an injustice. He becomes somethingdifferent if he feels that that injustice occurs to society's vulnerable. So he's a low level social worker and a bad boxer. I work in the fightgame and the vast majority of pro fighters work "real" jobs. I chose notto make him a shrink but a guy who does the grunt work in human services.

Q: How did you come up with the character of Duffy Dombrowski?
Write what you know, right? I'm a fighter and have spent my life in shittyhuman service jobs. I've had a lot of screwy girlfriends and I drink withsome real knuckleheads. I'm a huge Elvis fan, drive old Cadillacs and Ilive with not one but three hound dogs. I guess I'm not all that creative

Q: What's next for you and Duffy Dombrowski?
I've got a Duffy short story collection coming out strictly to benefitbasset hound rescue. it features seven short stories, various features onbasset hound rescue, clips from the books and its all interpsersed with myfriend Ginny Tata Phillips basset hound haiku...yes, you read thatcorrectly. The next full length Duffy comes out in '11. Duff and the gang wind up in Vegas with the Russian mob, hookers, Elvis impersonators and the issue ofMexican immigration.
Q: How much of your work is inspired by your daily life?
Every fuckin' last bit. People tell me the guys in the bar are outrageous and I tell them if they come to Albany they can come with me and go drinking with them. Every goofy thing the dog does has happened to me. I think Duffy getskicked in the nuts less than me. Every day life is all there is. When you start reaching too far beyondthat the reader knows and they stop trusting you. Every day life is more than enough if you're paying attention.
Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, firstinfluenced by Hammett, then Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, later Lehane.Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?
If the next generation of PI writers are smart they'll be copying guyslike Ken Bruen, Reed Farrell Coleman, JA Konrath, Sean Chercover, MarcusSakey, Tim Maleeny, William Kent Krueger. All of those guys are great. There also all great to drink with.

Q: Beth Terrell came up with the following question: If your PI couldchoose to be a comic book superhero, which would he choose and why?
Duffy would like to be Elvis Presley--the closest thing to a real lifecomic book hero the world has ever known.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what isyour answer?
Describe how pathological your level of insecurity is about your writing.How many hours do you spend daily vainly trying to dispute the idea thatevery word you've written absolutely sucks. My answer? I'm way to insecure to even think of the question.

Lennox (Lennox) by Craig Russell

If you like PI novels (and since you're visiting this site you must) you have to read this one.
The only new thing this novel brings to the PI game is probably it's fifties Glasgow setting, but the story is brought in such an entertaining way it's going to be one of my favorites of the year for sure.
Lennox is fixer for the Three Kings, a bunch of Glasgow mobsters. He's hired to find out who killed gangster Tam McGahern and gets suspected of the murder himself. During his investigations he gets beaten up, beats other people up, discovers dead bodies and uncovers dangerous secrets. Everything a good PI should. And Lennox is one tough example. Armed with a sap and a Webley he really knows how to deal with Glasgow's thugs. And quite some scary thugs at that, like a guy called Twinkletoes who got the name cutting off people's toes.
There's some very funny writing and wisecracks (like, 'I kept as low a profile as a foreskin at a rabbi's convention')to go along with the violence, making sure it all doesn't get too dark. Lennox is enough of a conflicted character to make the story be about more than just tough guys and femme fatales, though.
I really thought it read like a homage to Raymond Chandler, on every page Craig leaves us, consciously, some great bit to enjoy,just like Chandler did. Also, I've got a feeling that it isn't a coincidence one of the character's in Chandler's The Long Goodbye was named Terry Lennox.
Craig Russell has been having some succes with his Jan Fabel serial killer style police procedurals, but with this new series he's really found his voice. Tony Black and Russel McLean already showed us the best noir is coming from Scotland these days. Craig Russell continues this tradition.

The Big Boom (Dante Mancuso) by Dominic Stansberry

This was absolutely one of the more literary PI novels I've read lately. The prose is very lyrical, which might've made this a slow read. The shorter chapters and the relatively basic plot form a nice contrast to this however, still making it an entertaining story.
Dante Mancuso is hired to look into the disappearance of an old girlfriend but encounters a murderous plot, fueled by greed. Set against the backdrop of San Francisco during the height and fall of the internet boom it's not just a thrilling detective story but also a monument of a relatively ignored part in US history.
Dante Mancuso, nicknamed the Pelican because of his big nose, is quite a tough investigator. Ex-CIA, ex-cop and recovering drug addict, he isn't afraid to get down and dirty with the bad guys and get rid of some dead bodies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Slash and Burn (Joe Hunter) by Matt Hilton

The first two novels in this series may have been actionpacked, but this one takes the cake. It's like a Steven Seagal movie in bookform. Joe Hunter is back, helping out the sister of a dead friend from his time with Special Forces. For her he takes on psychotic twins and a knife-wielding businessman in a tale of non-stop gunfire, car chases and fistfights.
If you think Lee Child is too boring, this is your book!
I could do with just a bit less action next time around and a bit more suspense. Judging by the preview of the next one in this series I will get my wish, making this still one of my favorite series.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Through the Cracks (Anni Koskinen) by Barbara Fister

Anni Koskinen is hired by a rape victim to find out who raped her if it wasn't the man they put in prison for it. Even more important than this investigation is Anni's journey through the world of rape victims, immigrants and teenagers who try to make the best of their lives even if they were dealt a bad hand. Like a lot of Scandinavian crime fiction this can be seen as a true social crime novel.
At times the investigation seemed to go a bit slow, but at the end it all picks up speed with revelation after revelations and quite some thrills.
Mostly, it feels like a pretty realistic story, far removed from the superhero-adventures of Elvis Cole and Spenser.
Barbara has been compared to Sara Paretsky and in all honesty there's more to that comparison than the fact they both write about female PI's in Chicago. If you like her work, you're going to like this one.