Monday, July 30, 2012

A Part of the Plan (Burleigh Drummond) by Kent Westmoreland

New Orleans always has been a favorite setting of mine and the Burleigh Drummond series knows how to use it. The Big Easy's fixer is back in action in this cool short story.
Drummond manages to manipulate mobsters, convicts and other into making sure an evil man doesn't escape justice.
Fast-paced, hardboiled and satisfying.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dutch (Milan Jacovich) by Les Roberts

I'm catching up with the Milan Jacovich series and these little gems never dissapoint. In this one Milan is hired to find out why an unattractive young woman killed herself. When he finds out she might have been killed he gets involved in the world of internetporn and faces a sadistic killer.
As always Milan's old-fashioned take on the changing world around him is a joy to read. Always tough-but-tender we also see how much he loves his son and what a decent kind of guy he is.
Just a well-put together traditional private eye story in  a modern setting. The sort of stuff Les Robert excels at. If you love early Spenser, you will love this as well.

Last To Fold (Turbo Vlost) by David Duffy

Turbo Vlost, an ex-KGB agent living in New York is hired to recover a kidnapped girl. To his shock the father is now married to his ex-wife! That's when all sorts of characters from Vlost's Russian past pop up to complicate things and he gets involved in (an obviously well-researched) phishing scheme.
There's some homages to Travis McGee in here: Vlost has given his car a name and he works as a salvage consultant of sorts, returning things and people for a certain percentage of its worth . His relationship with attorney Victoria reminded me of Vachss' Burke and DA Wolfe. The supercomputer Basilisk Vlost's partner uses has some echoes of Person of Interest. The fact I like all those (potential) influences made sure I liked the basic premise of the novel.
I did get a bit confused by the convoluted storyline and Russian names however. It seems Duffy made the popular mistake of trying to put too much in his debut.
I'm looking forward to the second novel in the series but hope it will show less can be more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Q & A with Steve Hamilton

I had the great pleasure to interview Steve Hamilton, who has a new book out right now featuring reluctant investigator Alex McKnight.

Q: What makes Alex McKnight different from other hardboiled detectives?

He lives in a very isolated town, first of all. That's a little different from most private investigators, who typically have an office or at least somewhere to meet clients. To find Alex, you have to drive for hours to get nowhere. But beyond that, he's not high-tech, he's not smooth, he's not even that young anymore. But he's the most loyal friend in the world, and he's a total sucker for anybody who really needs his help.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I honestly don't know where Alex came from. He's not based on me, that's for sure. Or on anyone I know in real life. (Maybe my father, a little bit. Practical, hardworking, a little stubborn...) I tried to write what I thought a PI novel had to be, and when I failed utterly... Well, he was just there. This man in a cabin, on the edge of a huge lake, trying to get over something, hoping that his past would go away. (But of course it never does.)

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Well, it's here to stay, that much I know. I went from 1% ebook sales to over 50% in two years. It may be levelling off a little bit, but I don't think anybody really knows where that percentage will end up. I still love real books, of course, but then I also read on both my Nook and my iPad. If people are still reading about Alex, in whatever form, I can't complain!

Q: What's next for you and Alex?
I'm shooting for one more book (number ten in the series) to come out next summer. Then I might take a break, as I did for "The Lock Artist." But I'll always go back! I can't imagine not wanting to know what Alex is up to next...

Q: How do you promote your work?
The rules are changing, but I'll still go out on tour for three weeks after a new book comes out. Radio and TV interviews are also still worthwhile, but the rest is all on the Internet these days. Facebook, my website (, and of course great online interviews like this one!

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Short answer is, I like anything great. Right now I'm reading "Canada" by Richard Ford, which I suppose you'd call literary fiction, and "Kraken" by China Mieville, which I suppose you'd call mainstream fiction bordering on sci-fi. If it grabs you and keeps you reading, I'm there.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Like any other device used in any kind of fiction, even if it's seemingly been done to death, there's always room for another if it's done well enough. You're as good as what you can get away with, and getting away with yet another psychotic sidekick may be a tall order but I know it can be done!

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
I was influenced by all of the above, plus my own writing idol, James Crumley. And don't forget Sue Grafton. But bottom line, who's writing the truly great PI fiction these days? (Dennis Lehane isn't even doing it anymore, and Sue Grafton's getting close to the end of the alphabet...) Harlan Coben, Robert Crais, Laura Lippman, SJ Rozan, plus a few others, but even those writers are often leaving their series to write other kinds of crime fiction. I'm the current president of the Private Eye Writers of America, and I guess I consider that part of my mission -- to help bring PI fiction back to the forefront. (I believe I'll have to start with some guilt-tripping and then move on to blackmail.)

Q: Charles Collyot came up with the following question: Why write a PI story?
Because it's a classic American form, elevated by some great writers in the past, and capable of being so many different types of story altogether. A PI solves problems, and a problem is at the heart of any good story!

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
I would ask every PI writer what they think the future of this genre holds, because on paper the outlook isn't that bright these days. (Lower sales, fewer PI books published, etc.) For me, I hold out hope that there are some brand new writers out there who will help rejuvenate PI fiction. Toward that end, I always try to publicize the PWA/SMP Best First Private Eye Novel Competition, which is how I got my start. To find out more, please go to It's one of four annual St. Martin's Press writing competitions, and still the best way to break into crime fiction!

Resurrected (Adam Wolf) by Steve Trotter

When Special Forces types retire in thrillers you know they eventually will have to take up arms again. Adam Wolf is no exception. He makes his living as a young adult author these days but used to be in covert ops .
Being  treated to a dinner for his 60th birthday Wolf witnesses a brutal mob hit. The killers are now out to get him. Wolf isn't one to sit back and wait to get terminated though, so along with two of his buddies he sets out to take the fight to the mobsters.
This is nice, fast-paced thriller in the Joe Pike / Jack Reacher style. Wolf has a pretty funny, wry voice and is a competent action hero. It's also nice to see there are some action heroes that manage to have real relationships and that even if you're 60 years old that doesn't mean you don't like a bit of sex and violence.
Great stuff for fans of action-packed heroes! Buy it here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Q & A with Steve Trotter

Steve Trotter, author of the exciting new Adam Wolf series that starts with Ressurected was kind enough to answer my questions...

Q: What makes Adam Wolf different from other hardboiled detectives?

He is not a PI. But what really sets Wolf apart is that he is a 60-year-old retiree. Not your typical retiree, mind you. Wolf is a black ops vet with a bloody backstory he can never tell. Suffice it to say that Uncle Sam was so impressed with Wolf’s ability to neutralize physical threats that Wolf received far more than a watch when he left the shadow world of his killer career in order to resurrect himself as an author of YA novels. Something else that separates Wolf from the pack of lone wolf heroes: though more than capable and willing to take care of business himself, Wolf is not afraid to accept a helping hand from his small circle of brothers-in-arms when the shit hits the fan; the kind of brothers willing to kill and die for each other. Wolf is also not afraid to put down roots, buy a house, fix it up. Might have something to do with him being the son of three nations (he was born in the USA to a British mother and Canadian father). He also does his own laundry and changes his clothing on a regular basis. None of this thumbing rides around small town America fighting bad guys with nothing but the clothes on his back for 300 pages or so. Still, like many lone wolf heroes, Wolf is reluctant to commit to one woman. In his case it has nothing to do with the fear of not being able to play the field, or seeing pantyhose hanging like dead rats from the shower rail. It’s a simple matter of not wanting to put that woman on the endangered species list, what happens if the ghosts of your past catch up with you.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I had a dream. Woke up wanting to write a story about a lone wolf hero whose DNA demands he stands up for justice, regardless the personal risk. Brilliant idea, save for the fact the crime fiction world is flooded with guys like this. At first, I was bummed out. A few days later, I had a flash. What if… the lone wolf in question was a boomer. Same as me. I could really relate to a hero like that. Maybe, I thought, other boomers might feel the same way. Hmmm…
I decided to call my hero, Adam Wolf. I chose Adam, because I felt the name symbolizes the initial purity and righteousness of all men. Damn that snake. Wolf embodies the strength, cunning, determination and killer instinct of a natural born predator. A predator capable of doing what the criminal justice system often fails to do: take a real bite out of crime.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I feel it has opened a huge door, for readers as well as writers. E-books offer writers the opportunity to publish their work without having to get past the old-school gatekeepers: literary agents, editors, sales and market departments. The e-book revolution has succeeded in giving writers total control of their product, from concept, to content, to pricing. It has also made readers the new gatekeepers. I believe this is a good thing. Publishing now comes down to a simple process: write and publish a great book that is discoverable and targets the right audience, and readers will click the buy button.

Q: What's next for you and Wolf?
I am currently busy writing the sequel to RESURRECTED, which I hope to have out by year’s end. Wolf, meanwhile, is chilling on some undisclosed island down south, waiting for me to send him a classified copy of the first draft for him to approve. I can’t get into the details of the storyline, for reasons you can well understand; Wolf is, after all, a man who values secrecy. What I can say is that book two will rock even more than RESURRECTED.

Q: How do you promote your work?
As low key as possible. I’m not into shameless self-promotion, standing on a mountaintop tweeting the world about the wonders of RESURRECTED. Nor do I believe in running paid advertisements. I have a website and blog (, amazon author’s page, and goodreads author page. I do interviews on select sites and I target reviewers I feel might be receptive to my style. I feel the most effective promo starts with the story, and then the cover. Both must attract positive interest for a book to succeed. If they do, curious readers might give it a shot. If they love it, they’ll spread the word: that glorious ripple effect with the power to create a tsunami.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Action thrillers, men’s adventure, horror. It all depends on the mood I’m in.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I enjoy Hawk and Pike yet never thought of either as psycho. I consider them loyal brothers who possess the clarity of mind to distinguish right from wrong; men with the balls to do whatever it takes, regardless if it contravenes the rule of law, to protect the people they love. Or innocent civilians they don’t even know. As for the literary role of a sidekick in general, a sidekick is free to do all sorts of wonderful nasty things to the bad guys the protagonist cannot without risking the ire of readers who like their heroes squeaky clean. In my case, I did not want to dump all the dirty jobs on Wolf’s sidekicks, Night Owl and Kit. If anything, Wolf is more hands on than either of them, although all three brothers-in-arms have no qualms about getting blood on their hands to achieve a righteous result.

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 tough question. I’m a boomer, an old-school guy who relates to crime writers like Parker, MacDonald, Westlake and Leonard. I also like Vachss, Crais, Child, Hiaasen and Michael Connelly. My gut tells me the coming generation of crime writers will draw inspiration from sources both classic and contemporary. I also feel the rapid growth of indie publishing will spawn myriad fresh new voices, some powerful, profound and prolific enough to be heard high above the crowd.

Q: David Duffy came up with the following question: Do you make a living at writing and if so, how?
Hell, no! But I do live to write; and that is the real bottom line when it comes to why I write. Mind you, it would be nice to feel something more than lint when I stick my hand in the pocket of my faded jeans.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Q: Do you live your life vicariously through your protagonist?
A: No need to. I’m Wolf.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hard Cash (Jack Barnett) by Mike Dennis

I'm always pleased when another PI writer comes out with a novelette. I think the format suits the PI story very well and Mike Dennis proves it with his second Jack Barnett story.
The ex-PI is handed an envelope with a lot of cash by a dying man, victim of a hit-and-run. He could use the money, but as all good knight errants do he decided to go ahead and do the right thing. Too bad that usually involves beatings by tough thugs.
A nice, compact traditional PI  story in a great package.