Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Free Fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 5 (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I'm pleased to offer the fans of my blog the fifth part of a brand-new crime story that features roadie / PI Lenny Parker, a fat tattooed slob with a heart of gold. You can check out the fourth part here.

Girl Gone Wild part 5 (A Lenny Parker serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen

I visited the convenience store where Melinda worked. I browsed the racks, settling for a sixpack of Corona and walked over to the cash-register. Melinda was behind it, saying hello. That’s right, I thought up a plan. Wasn’t sure it was a good one, but I was going to give it a try.

“Hi,” I told her.

She told me how much the sixpack cost me. I took out my wallet and asked her why she didn’t card me.

She laughed. “I’m pretty sure you’re of legal age.”

“I’m hurt,” I said.

She laughed again. “Sorry.”

“Say, have you been working here for a long time?”

“Huh? Why?”

“I was wondering if maybe I should apply for a job here. I’m looking for work, you see.”

“Oh. Right.”

“How do you like it here?”

“Fine, fine. Have been working here for a year or something. Pay is okay, work is nice.”

“What about the boss? I bet he’s a really nice guy too, then?”

Her pasty white skin flushed a deep red. She shrugged. “Er… Yes. I guess. Sure.”

“You seem to really like him,” I said.

“What do you mean?” I had her worried.

“You blushed. Like a kid infatuated with her teacher or something.”

“Please, pay for the beer and leave.”

“Melinda, maybe it would be good if we had a little talk.”

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” Her skin almost matched her hair.

“I’m Lenny. Your dad was a bit worried about you and hired me. I know all about you and mister Beck.”

“Please, leave,” she pleaded.

“Is this guy bothering you?” a deep voice sounded behind me.

I turned around and looked into the eyes of a muscular black man in the same uniform as Melinda.

“I’m not bothering her at all, I’m just looking for a job and was asking her some stuff about her work.”

He crossed his arms. Those were muscular arms. “Don’t seem like it to me. Get the fuck out of here.”

“Relax,” I said.

“Wasn’t I clear enough?” The black man grabbed me by my Volbeat T-shirt. I read the name tag on his uniform, it told me his name was Will.

He pushed me all the way to the door. With a final, hard shove I was out the door and on my ass. The door closed. Through the glass of the closed door he mouthed me to stay out.

I got up, brushed off my jeans. The beer was still inside the store. I debated going in to get it. Then I thought how easily Will had me outside on my fat ass and decided that might not be the best of ideas. Just as bad an idea as confronting Melinda had been. Still, her reaction was clear enough for me. There was something going on between her and Beck. Too bad she didn’t seem open to talking about it. Maybe I should just let it rest. If Melinda was okay with it, her dad didn’t want me to get involved, who was I to interfere?

Maybe I should just get together with the guys from my band, slap some bass and get drunk.


Q & A with Michael Beck

Regular readers of this blog know I like to search for and interview writers of PI fiction (official or unofficial private eyes) who you might not now but might enjoy. I found Michael Beck, whose Mark Tanner series sounds like great reading for fans of Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar...

Q: What makes Mark Tanner different from other hardboiled characters?
Tanner’s childhood tragedy gives him a unique focus. His tragic past and the mystery surrounding it helps define his being and life. Tanner, unlike many famous characters, is not indestructible, super-smart and always right. In fact, he probably has more faults than admirable traits. He is capricious and rude. He is violent yet emotionally vulnerable. He can be ruthless and merciless yet he baby sits his nieces. Personally, he is afraid of commitment yet, conversely, he has committed his whole life to one purpose. 

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I have always enjoyed characters with an irreverent and sardonic view of the world. I am a self-confessed sports-nut so basing Tanner’s exploits around the sporting-world and making him a Fitness Trainer was a no-brainer. I wanted to create a character that I would like to read about. A person with admirable character traits but with flaws like a real person.  I enjoy reading books where the characters display a dry humour so I wanted to create a character who displayed these qualities. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I think it is great for both writers and readers alike. More budding writers than ever before have a chance of getting their work published. There are so many great writers out there that we never would have heard of if it wasn’t for the eBook revolution. And for people who love books they are now more accessible and cheaper than ever before. I love the fact I always have a library of books on my IPhone and that I can read or download a new book wherever I am. And I no longer have to drive to a bookstore to peruse the latest releases. I can shop wherever and whenever I like.  

Q: What's next for you and Tanner? Will he return?
Yes, Tanner will be returning in a sequel to Killpoint by the end of the year (or, at the latest, early 2014). I had to write at least one more Tanner book as I wanted to resolve a lot of the issues that Killpoint had left open. What happened to Tanner’s parents? Who killed them and why? Is Tanner’s never-ending search vindicated? What does the future hold for his comatose sister, Jade? I have finished the first draft of the sequel which, at the moment, is titled Pump Fake. 
In PumpFake, Tanner is also dragged into the world of professional football when his ex-girlfriend, Liz, asks him to find out who is trying to destroy the career of her current boyfriend, who just happens to be the quarterback for an NFL team. Tanner must enter the world of professional football, in the guise of a player no less, to discover who would want to kill the quarterback. Tanner also discovers that his parents weren’t the only ones murdered in
such a gruesome manner fourteen years ago. He traces the dark steps of the killer, (dubbed Cupid for a reason beyond imagining), which leads to a final revelation that horrifies and angers Tanner to the core of his being.
In Pump Fake, Tanner’s obsession for the truth leads to two mysteries, both linked deeply to the past and both likely to kill him. 
Q: How do you promote your work?
I must admit I am pretty hopeless at promoting my work. I would much rather be actually writing.  My books can be viewed on my website www.michaelbeckbooks.com
I suppose that is one of the main advantages of publishing with a big publishing house; you have someone who is keenly interested in promoting your work.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I have always loved science fiction. My first novel, Shifter, was science fiction. Along with westerns(!), science fiction was my favourite genre growing up. Back then, I lived on a diet of Heinlein, Card and Dickson.  Horror has always appealed to me and I have read everything by King, Koontz and Laymon. The genre is not important to me so long as the main character and story grabs me. 

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I think they are great so long as the sidekick doesn’t become a caricature. He has to be believable and real, definitely not indestructible, or he loses credibility. I grew up reading the Spencer novels and so was heavily influenced by them. However, Tanner’s sidekick, Bear, is very different from the norm. Most sidekicks (Pike, Hawk, Win) are often violent, dark characters.  In mine, Tanner is the hot-headed one and Bear is the stabilising influence. Bear is the opposite of the traditional sidekick who tends to have some of these characteristics – single, violent, hot-headed, womaniser. Bear is married, has kids, a normal job and tends to be a calming influence on Tanner. Bear is the voice of reason. I think sidekicks run the risk of becoming one dimensional and therefore boring. By making Bear a more normal, well-rounded person I hope he comes across as more believable and interesting. 

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?
Good question! The crime writers that first attracted me were Parker, McDonald and Leonard. These days I really like DeMille, Crais, Connolly, Finder and Coben. Of course, strictly speaking, Tanner is not a PI. Technically he is just a Fitness Trainer doing favours! 

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I enjoy the layers that envelope the stories in this genre. In a good crime thriller you can just keep peeling the layers back. I love the mystery and plotting the twists and turns that the story takes. Often the story takes me down a path I hadn’t planned and I would think, “Where did that come from?” The characters in a good novel write themselves and constantly

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Free PI fiction from Nathan Gottlieb

One of my favorite new PI writers is Nathan Gottlieb, a boxing reporter who writes about ex-DEA legend-turned-PI Frank Boff. Both his novels were very positively reviewed by me.
Now, The Punishing Game, the second novel in the series can be yours for free this Monday and Tuesday! Pick it up here.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Onion Street (Moe Prager) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Coleman has been a praised master of PI fiction for years now and his Moe Prager series has been a fan-favorite. This novel gives us the chance to see just how Moe became the determined, principled and tough investigator we know.
It is 1967, Moe is a student in New York. His girlfriend is beaten into a coma, prompting the young man to investigate. It turns out his friend, Bobby, is also in danger and soon Moe as well.
Facing gangsters, anarchists and the challenges of becoming a man Moe has a tough time in store for himself that explains how he became a cop and a PI later.
The story is exciting enough by itself, it's simply a good mystery story, but what makes it so great is the little pieces of foreshadowing of Prager's future and in fact some of the inventions that we take for granted right now. An interesting character study as well as a piece of good historical hardboiled fiction this one's recommended. Highly.

Dead And Not So Buried (Gideon Kincaid) by James L. Conway

In this exciting action-packed story we follow PI and mystery writer Gideon Kincaid as he tries to find out who stole the bones of a dead Hollywood star. There's a very personal link to Gideon and the Gravesnatcher it turns out. We see the story unfold through the eyes of the villain (besides those of Gideon), a failed actor, who wants to get revenge on the people that ruined his carreer. This view especially gives a nice satirical edge to the story. James Conway has been a writer and producer and that shows, he servers up a great insider's view of Hollywood.
There's a lot of action scenes (explosions, car chases) that makes you feel this is a Shane Black movie or something. Aside from those scenes there's a lot of laughs inside the pages and the plot is very thriller-like. All these elements make this not only a good read for the hardcore PI fan but also for fans of thrillers by Deaver or Sanford.
I especially enjoyed the scenes between Gideon and his ex-wife and the ones with his lovely and witty  assistant. All in all, I'm looking forward to the second one in this series.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Free Fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 4 (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I'm pleased to offer the fans of my blog the fourth part of a brand-new crime story that features roadie / PI Lenny Parker, a fat tattooed slob with a heart of gold. You can check out the third part here.
Girl Gone Wild part 4 (A Lenny Parker serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
I met Bagley again in the Janpongs’restaurant. I had a Singha, he drank a Coke. I told him he might like to drink something stronger for what I had to tell him. He gave me a quizzical look.
I didn’t know how to tell him what I’d found out, so I gave it to him straight.
“Bullshit,” he said after I finished my story.
“Think about,” I said. “It explains the extra money. Becker has been playing sugar-daddy, buying Melinda expensive gifts.”
“Nonsense. You’re making my daughter sound like a whore!” His face reddened.
“I’m sorry, but I know what I saw.”
“You didn’t see shit. You fucking lost her in fifteen minutes. What did you see exactly? Just that my daughter got in the car with her boss. That means jackshit. You’re making my daughter sound like a fucking whore.”
I held up my hands. “Whoa, whoa. I didn’t! I just told you Becker is taking advantage of her. He’s the one deserving the bad names.”
“Fuck you, Parker. I’ll pay you your fucking bill and then I never want to see you again.”
“I don’t need your money.” I could in fact use it a lot, but this was one of those matters of principle all the tough guys in my favorite pulps hold in such high regard. “I just want to protect your daughter from that creep.”
“I know Norman Becker personally. He’s a good guy. Happily married. Suggesting he’s a lecherous kind of… of… pedophile is just ludicrous.”
I shook my head. “It just didn’t look innocent to me. Becker’s a dirtbag.”
“Enough!” Bagley stood. He left a few bucks on the table to cover the drinks and walked off.
I watched him leave, there wasn’t much else I could do.
Mr. Janpong walked by, saying, “Another satisfied customer, yes?”
“Just bring me another beer,” I told him.
I wasn’t going to walk away from this. Not just like that. I was sure as hell that Becker was up to no good. He didn’t seem to be holding a gun against Melinda’s head, but still… She was underage, he was her boss that put him in a power-position as wrong as if he was her teacher or something. This couldn’t be good for the girl. I’d only seen her a few minutes up-close but that Carebear innocence had to be protected. Lord knows I’m not a superhero or something, but walking away from a wrong like that wasn’t the way I was raised and not the way I was going to lead my life.
Now I just had to think about how I was going to handle this. Maybe I’d think of something after a few more beers…

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shotgun Lullaby (Conway Sax) by Steve Ulfelder

Steve Ulfelder has delighted me with the first two books in the Conway Sax series and gets better which each novel. It is no surprise then this novel is one of my favorites this year, hell, the last five years.
Conway Sax fixes cars for a living when he's not troubleshooting for the AA group called the Barnburners. When he mentors a kid who has a close resemblance to his son Roy he gets involved a bit too personally. When a man seems to be mistaken for Gus is killed by a shotgun Sax investigates.
It turns out there are links to a dimunitive conman and a mobster, making this one dangerous case. In fact, Conway's family is endangered, making our protagonist surrender to his rage, the red mist that can make him a dangerous and violent man.
Sax does a few things that make him the dark anti-hero I love so much. He tries to do the right thing, but he's not the fighter Jack Reacher is, nor can he have a guy like Hawk do the darker stuff. He has to tread a dark path and fight to stay a good man.
Aside from the good mystery, the violent action scenes, vivid characters and very, very interesting Conway Sax this one has another big plus... Steve shows us how to write hardboiled prose, that is, he doesn't overdo the descriptions but doesn't go the route of the latest Robert B Parker novels, still giving us the deep thoughts of Sax in some poetic prose. The story excited AND moved me, especially the flashback to Sax' time with his son Roy.
Steve Ulfelder's best yet. And that says something.

Versatile Blogger Award

Last week I was honoured and somewhat surprised to be nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by Zoe Sharp.
Apparently the VBA is awarded by bloggers to other bloggers who happen to witter on about things that somebody, somewhere, might concievably find interesting or entertaining. What a lovely thought.
The requirements are that I then nominate up to fifteen other bloggers I find interesting or entertaining, and so it goes on until we all start attempting to nominate each other several times over.
So, here are my nominations:

Jim Winter
Alexander Maisey
James Phoenix
Keith Dixon
Dana King
Wayne Dundee
Nathan Gottlieb
JL Abramo

The second requirement of all this is to reveal seven things you don’t know about me. Here they are...

I've always been a big fan of comics. In fact, the first words I could read were my name, Hulk and Spiderman.
I also do reviews about rock music for a dutch site.
I do write fiction in dutch but always come back to the english language, I just seem more comfortable writing in it.
I love my coffee as strong as possible.
I always thought I wasn't a typical guy... until I got married and found out I was.
I've got hayfever and am allergic to apples and most nuts.
I'm really, really clumsy.

Well, that wraps up it. Be sure to visit the blogs of the people  I nominated...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Free fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 3 (a Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I'm pleased to offer the fans of my blog the third part of a brand-new crime story that features roadie / PI Lenny Parker, a fat tattooed slob with a heart of gold. You can check out the second part here.
Girl Gone Wild part 3 (A Lenny Parker serial)
 by Jochem Vandersteen

There was a large framed picture of Old Man Jackson in Baby’s office. Man, did he look tough. Big afro, goatee, wide shoulders in an expensive suit, arms crossed and glaring at the camera. He made Shaft look like a pussy. As much as he used to scold at me, I missed him. He was a good, honest and tough guy. A role model if you will. He also thought I was a constant disappointment, botching up most of the cases I worked on. That’s why he usually didn’t use me a lot aside from gopher duties. You know, making copies of stuff, getting lunch or fetching coffee.

“So how have you been?” I asked Baby.

She groaned. “Just tell me what you want and skip the social talk. I’m busy.”

“All right, all right. Just being civil.” Then I told her what I needed.

She laughed. “You managed to lose her after fifteen minutes? You’re an even lousier investigator than I thought.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know. Don’t rub it in. So, can you help me?”

“Does the pope shit in the woods?” Baby quipped. “This is easy-peazy stuff. Sit down. It will only take a few seconds.” She took a seat behind her desk, I sat down on the guest chair across the desk. She fired up her laptop and tapped a few keys. I was a whiz with a Playstation. Laptops weren’t my speciality. But hey, no way Baby was able to tune a Gibson or plug in a Marshall amplifier.

“Found it. Car belongs to a guy called Norman Becker. Let me see what I can find about that guy.” Some more key-tapping. “Good credit-card history. No rapsheet. Married, two kids. Owns several convenience stores all over South-Cali.”

“He owns convenience stores?” I asked Baby which ones. My fear was confirmed.

“You look worried.” Baby was such a good detective.

“I think Norman might be having an affair with one of his employees. An underage one.”

“Becker is this Melinda-kid’s boss?”

“Yeah. Seems like it.”

“Any chance he was just driving her home as a favor? And that kiss was just a friendly hello?” Baby playing devil’s advocate.

“How many bosses did you kiss like that? Well besides your dad? And why didn’t they just leave the store together? Why did he pick her up around the corner like that?

“There might be hope for you as an investigator yet. Sounds like Norman Becker is a little creep.”

I stroked my goatee. “Now how the hell am I going to tell this to Bagley?”

Baby shrugged. “Not my problem. I got you the information you wanted. Let me print it out for you and you can be on your merry fucking way.”

She handed me the print-outs and ushered me out the door. “Don’t stay in touch!”

I felt a bit bewildered when I found myself at the reception desk again, papers in hand, awful message to tell to my client. Bewildered was a state I was quite familiar with, but had never liked.

The receptionist gave me a look. “You look even dumber than when you came in. Didn’t expect that to be possible.”

“Fuck you,” I said and left the building.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Q & A with James L. Conway

James Conway was attached to some really cool TV shows and is now writing crime novels. His first novel, Dead And Not So Buried features Gideon Kincaid, PI. Enough reason for me to interview him.

What makes Gideon Kincaid different from other hardboiled characters?
Gideon is damaged.  He drinks too much.  Has anger management issues.  And has emotionally lost his way. 
Gideon has a rigid code of right and wrong, and that moral compass ultimately drove him to make the biggest mistake of his life -- a mistake that got him kicked off the police force.  Gideon loved being a cop,but only tolerates being a PI.
Gideon is aware of his shortcomings, but seems unable to do anything about them.
Gideon also has a cynical and very funny way of looking at the world. 

How did you come up with the character?
I wanted a complicated hero.  A hero, to be sure.  But one with doubts.  Shortcomings.  And failings.  So I started with a PI who is only a PI because he was forced out of the police department.  A PI with a past that complicated every moment of is present.  A past that he finally has to face and deal with in Dead and Not So Buried.

What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love it.  I was an early adopter of the Kindle and now read almost exclusively on it.  I'm also excited by the prospect of writers being able to self-publish electronically and take total control of the publishing process. 

What's next for you and Gideon? Will he return?
I'm currently writing Gideon's next adventure.  It's called Scream Queen.   A beautiful B-movie star who specializes in horror movies is threatened and hires Gideon to protect her at a Las Vegas Horror Movie Convention

How do you promote your work?
A number of ways.  I've done book store signings in a variety of cities.  I'm not Michael Connelly so I don't draw huge crowds, but I get to meet the booksellers and they in turn help  sell the book.
I've done writing seminars at a few stores and that has been very successful.
I've been on panels at Thrillerfest and Bouchercon.
I've done a few newspaper and blog interviews.
And I've taken ads in a number of Kindle websites such as Kindle Nation Daily and Ebooks Habit. 

What other genres besides crime do you like?
I love thrillers.  Lee Child, Andrew Klavan, Roger Smith and Don Winslow are some of my favorites.  And adventure novels.  I like Clive Cussler, James Rollins and Boyd Morrison a lot. 

What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I love those guys.  They are basically psychopaths, but they are good, moral psychopaths.  Efficient and deadly.  They do the dirty work we all wish we could do. 

In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett,
 then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
I think one of the best, freshest voices writing right now is Don WInslow.  Dawn Patrol is friggin brilliant.   And Michael Connelly has raised the procedural to new heights with his Harry Bosch novels.

Why do you write in this genre?
Because I love it.  Simply put, I want to write what I like to read.
By the way, my second novel, Sexy Babe was just published.  It's a stand alone.  A funny, sexy, Hollywood thriller about an actress who has a very bad day and suddenly finds her self running for her life.   You can check it out at Amazon.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Free fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 2 (a Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I'm pleased to offer the fans of my blog the second part of a brand-new crime story that features roadie / PI Lenny Parker, a fat tattooed slob with a heart of gold. You can check out the first part here.

Girl Gone Wild part 2 (A Lenny Parker serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen

Melinda had red hair and an ivory face full of freckles. She was 15 years old and looked as innocent as a Carebear. I watched her leave the convenience store where she worked behind the cash register. She was still in the skirt and polo shirt she was required to wear to work there.

I was pretending to be window shopping. The guy who taught me the ropes and got me my license, Old Man Jackson, always told me it was nearly impossible to follow a target while remaining unseen on your own. Most professional investigators work with at least three people. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any people to work with. Fortunately I wasn’t a tough looking six foot tall black guy like Jackson but just another slacker with too many tattoos.

A passing hottie wearing shorts and a white tank top gave me a funny look. Disapproving really. That’s when I noticed I was window-shopping at a lingerie store. Good thing I don’t embarrass easily.

Melinda didn’t notice my choice of window and walked past me. She walked around the corner. I sauntered after her, hands in my pockets. Just another slacker enjoying a walk in the sun.

A silver Audi was parked across the street. Melinda walked over to the car. I stopped, kneeled and pretended I had a shoelace to tie. I’m so suave.

Melinda opened the door of the Audi’s passenger side and entered the car. Crap, if they drove off I was going to lose her unless I could get to my Dodge Ram fast enough. Unfortunately, being fast and weighing 300 pounds don’t exactly go hand in hand. I decided to protect myself from a heart attack and memorize the license plate instead so I could find out later  who the car belonged to.

The Audi drove past me. I managed to sneak a look at the driver. It was a guy about Bagley’s age with a better tan. He was wearing what looked to be pretty expensive designer shades. He looked like the living example of a midlife crisis. What his connection to Melinda was I had no idea. The peck she gave him on the cheek while they drove past could have been one of those you can give a friendly uncle. It could also have been one of the kisses in a situation I didn’t want to think about.


So I managed to lose my target in the first fifteen minutes of surveillance. Old Man Jackson was turning around in his grave for sure. Memorizing the license plate seemed like a great idea at the time. I even managed to remember it long enough to get back in my Dodge Ram and jot it down on the back of a copy of Revolver Magazine with a red marker. What I didn’t think about was the fact I didn’t have the connections to DMV-people Old Man Jackson had nor the databases he subscribed to. That’s what you get from running a business just a bit too part-time.

I thought about calling Bagley to ask if he knew a guy that fit the Audi driver’s description. I decided against it, realizing it would make me look like an amateur if he realized I’d lost his girl almost the minute I started to follow her.

I needed some help from an investigator that did know what he was doing. Or rather, what she was doing. I decided to crank up the sound of the Biohazard record I was playing and drive to the other side of the city for a visit to an old friend.



Baby Jackson has a real office with a reception desk and everything. A plush waiting room with free coffee and magazines that offered something newer than the sinking of the Titanic. She inherited her dad’s business when he passed away and continued its success.

The girl at the reception desk, a Latino with dyed hair and enough make-up to sign up with Kiss gave me a disapproving look. I get those a lot at reception desks. Maybe I should have worn loafers instead of my Vans All-Stars.

“You are?” she asked. She sounded like she’d just taken a bite of bad pizza.

“Lenny Parker, and old friend of Miss Jackson.” I extended a hand over the counter. She just stared at it.

“Do you have an appointment?”

“No, but she’ll be happy to see me.”

The receptionist sighed. “If you say so.” She grabbed the phone and told the person on the other side of the line a certain Mister Parker was there to see her. It was quite an experience to clearly hear your name but getting the feeling they were talking about a leper.

A door behind the reception desk opened and out came a young black woman wearing designer jeans, a sleeveless purple shirt and a disgusted expression. Her bare arms were muscular and she wore cornrows. She accessorized with a shoulder holster carrying a big ass relvolver. “Look what the cat dragged in.”

“Nice to see you too, Baby.” I didn’t even know her real name. Everybody just used to call her Baby to distinguish her from her dad, Old Man Jackson when I used to work with him.

“I really don’t have a lot of time to waste with you,” she said.

“Won’t take much. I just need a license plate checked.”

“And you couldn’t just ask me on the phone?”

I shrugged. “I was pretty sure you’d hang up on me.”

“So you aren’t as stupid as you look,” she said.

“Come on, play nice. We used to work together. That should give me some credits with you,” I pleaded.

“I had a stronger bond with the turd I flushed this morning,” Baby told me. The receptionist guffawed.

“That’s really mean. That hurts.” I made a gesture resembling being stabbed in the heart. If I started to suck as much at being a roadie as I did as a PI maybe I could become a mime.

Baby turned around and walked to the door. “Just fuck off, stupid clown.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay. If you’re short on time right now I’ll just have a seat in the waiting room and wait until you have some time to see me.”

I sat on the couch and made myself comfortable, putting my feet on it and laying back. I picked up a copy of Time Magazine. “Don’t you have some comic books?”

Baby turned around, arms crossed. “I don’t to put off any potential clients. Come the fuck in.”
I jumped off the couch with remarkable agility for a man of my girth and followed her through the door behind the reception desk. I stuck out my tongue at the receptionist before the door closed.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Background Check on: The Compleat Kepler (Nick Kepler) by Jim Winter

Jim is one of those great guys that contacted me telling me he liked my Noah Milano stories, way back... It's an honor to have him over to tell about his newest book, the Nick Kepler collection called the Compleat Kepler.

Tell us what to expect from your new book THE COMPLEAT KEPLER.
The Compleat Kepler tells the backstory of Nick Kepler up to, and in one case, shortly after the events of Northcoast Shakedown. Some of the stories were written just so I could get a handle on the character. Others were written to get the character out there in the lead-up to Northcoast Shakedown.

Where did the stories appear before?
The first appeared in Plots With Guns. The last appeared in Thrilling Detective. In fact, "Love Don't Mean a Thing" was in their final fiction issue. Judas/The 3rd Degree got the lion's share of the stories.
Tell us about how you were inspired to write them.
It depends. "A Walk in the Rain," the first story, was written after a friend from high school and I reconnected after about 15 years. She told me the story of her ex, an abusive man she met in the military. I was so enraged that I wanted to stuff him in a car crusher, which is exactly what happens to Joe in that one. "Full Moon Boogie" came about during a vacation to Ohio's Hocking Hills. It's such an unusual place for that state, and I had to write a story set there.

Will we see Nick Kepler return?
The novel BAD RELIGION was put aside about halfway through the revision process, so when that's complete, I'll release it. There is also a longish story called "Gypsy's Kiss," about the character Gypsy from "Roofies," that I want to send to a certain anthology. (Hint! Hint!)

Did writing the stories take a lot of research?
It depended on the story. "Flight of the Rat" required me to have a 9/11 timeline up while I wrote so I could refer to what happened when, as well as what sort of confusion was happening around the country. On the other hand, "Love Don't Mean a Thing" required nothing more than a vivid imagination.

What stories / scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
"Full Moon Boogie" was the most fun to write. I had to let that one simmer a few days. Then one day, I was in the West Virginia mountains taking a train ride on an old steamer. I scribbled the first draft out on a notepad during the entire trip.  "A Walk in the Rain" just wrote itself. It's probably the closest to its original draft of anything I've written.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the stories?
I've grown fond of Gypsy, the stripper/call girl who has a goal of getting out of the sex trade under her own power. She found her spine by taking a bullet for Nick, who, in return, got her off heroin, and now she's unstoppable. I love a good redemption story.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Free fiction: Girl Gone Wild part 1 (a Lenny Parker story) by Jochem Vandersteen

I'm pleased to offer the fans of my blog a brand-new crime story that features roadie / PI Lenny Parker, a fat tattooed slob with a heart of gold. This is the first part of the story, the second will be appearing very soon.

Girl Gone Wild part 1 (A Lenny Parker serial)
 by Jochem Vandersteen

I’d just finished a tour with an awesome metalcore band and was eager to get back to my life in San Diego. As a roadie, I’m gone for pretty long periods of time and as a result my friends are scattered all over the States, hell even the world. It’s always nice to have dinner at the Thai place above which I live the few days a year I’m actually home. I love catching up with the owners. The fact their English is almost as lousy as my Thai doesn’t make that very easy.

“You lose weight, yes?” Mister Janpong asked me.

“I guess. I would’ve lost a hell of a lot more if I didn’t drink so much beer with the band. Carrying around sound systems is hard work, you know. The band were such a great group of guys though, they invited me to party with them every night.”

“So you had much sex?” Janpong leered. He could be quite a dirty old man sometimes.

I almost blushed. “Not really. Even though I’m a roadie I’m still a fat slob as well. The groupies usually pick the better looking roadies to suck some dick.”

“Ah yes, understand.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be offended. Mrs Janpong was pissed off for sure. She wacked her husband on the head with a menu and cussed at him in Thai. I was pretty sure she could go toe to toe with any Thai sailor but she didn’t allow bad words to leave her husband’s mouth.

I love these two oldies. They’re anywhere between sixty or a hundred years old and dress like American tourists in Miami. They serve me free meals and even allow me to use their restaurant as an office whenever I need to receive clients for my second job. You see, the few days I’m touring I work as a private investigator, officially licensed even.

“I got call. Client coming over to see you in half an hour,” Mrs Janpong told me. That’s right, the phone number listed in the Yellow Pages for Lenny Parker Investigations is the Janpong’s. It’s a lot cheaper than hiring a secretary although I’m sure some clients never get to see me, tangled up in Babylonian speech confusion. It’s not a big problem, though. Some might see being a PI is more of a hobby than a real job anyway. There’s some truth to that opinion, I guess. I just love reading hardboiled mysteries and have dreamt about being a wisecracking shamus almost as long as I’ve wanted to be a rockstar. Besides, I’m not in San Diego often enough to take on much work.

“Cool, I’ve been hoping I could do some PI work while I’m here. Next tour I’m doing won’t start for a month.”

“Great names?” Mister Janpong asked me.

“Well, they supported Iron Maiden once.”

“Ah, yes. I see.” I was pretty sure he had no idea who Iron Maiden were.

I had a bottle of Singha beer and ate some Khao phat kai. All compliments of the house. I regaled the Janpongs with some more stories about being on the road. There were no guests for them to take care of, until the arrival of man in his forties wearing a football jersey and a trouble expression.

Mrs Janpong greeted him with a polite bow. She ushered him inside and seated him. She told her husband to fetch the man a beer and a menu. She told me this was my client.

I walked over to the guy and shook his hand. I could tell I wasn’t what he was expecting. He was probably waiting for someone wearing a fedora and a shoulder-rig and sporting a chiseled jaw. Instead he got a fat slob with a goatee, arms covered with tattoos wearing baggy jeans and a Rise Against T-shirt.

He introduced himself as Howard Bagley. I introduced myself and asked him what I could do for him.

“It’s my daughter… I’m afraid she’s been doing some illegal things…”

“I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I’ve had my share of reefers in the past and look at me… I turned out all fine.”

The look he gave me made it obvious he wasn’t too sure that I did. “No, no. I’m afraid she’s been stealing stuff. Or maybe dealing drugs.”

“That is more serious,” I admitted. Meanwhile Mister Janpong showed up with two bottles of Singha and the menu. I ordered some Miang Kham and recommended him the Khao phat kai. He told me he’d just had dinner so he settled on having some Mian Kham along with me. The dried shrimps make for great beer snacks.

Bagley got back to his story. “The last few months my sweet Melinda has been showing up with all kinds of new clothes, shoes and gadgets. There’s no way she could’ve bought all that stuff just from her allowance or from working in the convenience store weekends. I’m afraid she stole the stuff or sold drugs to get the money to pay for them.”

“Did you try asking her how she could buy that stuff?”

“I did. She told me she had some money saved up and knew how to use coupons like nobody’s business. She also got mad at me for not trusting her. I hate it when she gets mad at me. She’s my little girl you know. You got any kids?”

I put down the beer I’d just sipped. “Not that I know of. So, what do you want me to do?”

“Find out where she got the stuff from. Discreetly.”

“Could’ve been my middle name,” I beamed.

The food arrived. I took a bite of Mian Kham and washed it down with another sip of Singha.

“I hope so. You don’t look like a PI. I figure that will work in your favor keeping an eye on her.”

I pointed my finger at Bagley. “You got it, man.”

“So… I guess we need to talk salary. I heard you work cheap…”

That was probably the fact he wanted to hire me. Not that San Diego is full of private eyes. This isn’t LA or Las Vegas. He was right though. I work cheap. I’ve been known to take a case for a sixpack of Miller.

“A hundred a day plus expenses,” I told him. I pegged him to be wealthy enough to pay my premium rate.

“Sound more than fair,” he said and shook my hand to close the deal. “Should I sign a contract?”
“Let me get a napkin and one of Mister Janpong’s pens,” I said.


Guilt (A Noah Milano novella) for free!!!

Haven't read my fiction yet? The next four days offers a great opportunity for it. My newest novella, GUILT will be free for your Kindle.
Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/Guilt-Noah-Milano-novella-ebook/dp/B00BC6F3Q2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1360269851&sr=1-1
Don't be afraid to spread the word about it!

The story:
Years ago Noah Milano was the son and bodyguard of gangster boss Robert Milano. He was forced to shoot Lisa Waxman's father, turning her into an orphan, saddling him with a lifetime of guilt.
Now, Noah Milano has broken off all ties to his father and tries to make an honest living as a security specialist. He finds out Lisa's stepfather is accused of being one of the vilest, most sadistic serial killers of California. This is Noah's chance to find redemption. He swears to prove his innocence. It seems not everyone agrees with his quest, though. Soon not only Noah but his dearest friends are in mortal danger...
What makes this one extra cool is the short flashback in the first chapter to Noah's past and the fact this is the longest Noah Milano story since the novel White Knight Syndrome.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy? (Andy Saunders) by Barry Graham

I thought this book was amazing. Surely as much literary fiction (you can tell because the title comes from a EE Cummings poem) as a hardboiled mystery it features the coolest protagonist ever. How's this for a hardboiled hero: an ex-Army guy turned handyman giving self-defense lessons and playing in punkband who used to be a reporter named Andy Saunders. If you read writer Barry Graham's bio he's almost as interesting himself, so it is no surprise this is a very interesting novel.
A huge part of the novel is about how Andy came to be the person he is now. After that there's a mystery to be solved, the murder of Andy's two reporter friends. The killer surprised me, I'm not sure I liked the identity of the killer or the way Andy discovered who the killer was, but the mystery isn't the most important thing about this novel any way. That's the great writing and interesting characters.
The dark tone and the frank way in which the sex and violence are portrayed reminded me of Andrew Vachss.
I really loved this book and wouldn't mind seeing Andy return. A character this cool shouldn't lay down too long.

The Gentleman's Hour (Boone Daniels) by Don Winslow

The only bad thing about this novel is the fact I haven't heard of another in this series coming out soon or ever.
Boone Daniels, the surfing PI is back (after his debut in The Dawn Patrol) and hired by the defense council where his girlfriend works  to prove the kid of a wealthy guy didn't kill a surfing legend. Boone's friends don't agree with this client though, causing the PI to drift away from them.
Investigating the case Boone clashes with a MMA instructor and a bunch of skindheads. Then there's the matrimonial case he takes on for a friend, trying to find out if his wife is cheating on him. The case comes with a few surprises, one of which being it leads the cops to arrest Boone as a suspect in a murder case.
There's a lot to like to this one... The plot is good and interesting as are the characters. The chapters are fast-paced and short. The writing style is very original. There's some good action scenes and Boone is a true tough guy hero but still believable. The story is set firmly in the now and never feels like a pulpy pastiche.
This is how to write a modern PI story, ladies and gentlemen...