Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Silent City (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

The new George Pelecanos is here...
Alex Segura is a guy who keeps himself busy: he writes comics (Kiss Meets Archie), plays in a rock band AND writes some awesome crime fiction.
I was really impressed with this debut. The pop culture references, the way protagonist Pete Fernandez drinks a lot and can be somewhat of a slacker, the whole vibe and style reminded me of George Pelecanos books in the Nick Stefanos series. What more of a recommendation do you need really?
Anyway, the story is about a reporter in Miami (and son of a cop) who gets involved in the search for an ominous killer named The Silent Death. He endangers his job, his friends and his health during that search. It's a really classic hero's journey in a noir setting.
Pete is such a real character. I felt for him, but couldn't always thinks of him as a nice guy. He's a good investigator and can handle himself in a fight, but Mike Hammer or Spenser he's not, which was refreshing.
I am very happy to say there will be another one in this series coming up soon.

Q & A with Zachary Klein

Zachary Klein wrote a few Matt Jacob novels years back that were pretty well received. Now, his novelw will be published again by Polis Books with a new one as well. Reasons enough to interview him about his work and protagonist Matt Jacob.

Q: What makes Matt Jacob different from other hardboiled characters? 
A few things jump to mind. Although the classic hardboiled main characters are often introspective, Matt Jacob pushes the envelope. In fact, I'd say that his character extends the boundaries in dealing with his own emotional life and the interpersonal relationships he enters into. In many ways my book are crossovers between "detective fiction" and novels.
The other difference is the degree of Matt's substance abuse and his attitude toward it.  This is not a private detective who plans on joining a twelve step program.

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
That's a tough one. All too often people assume Matt is simply a reflection of myself. Not true. His development (continuing development, actually) is a reflection of the times and culture, even though his is a counter culture personna. I wanted to create a living, breathing human who, despite his flaws, has a commitment to other people, an intense sense of loyalty, and again, at his essence, a very human human being.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I love it. I believes it gives great writers opportunities that "legacy" publishing houses didn't or wouldn't. It allows an author the choice of becoming part of an internet publishing house the way I have with Polis Books ( http://www.polisbooks.com/) or going it alone. For me, the necessity of  becoming my own publicist is something I neither liked nor was particularly good at, which is one reason why I've teamed up with Polis. But some authors enjoy doing publicity and are pretty damn good at it. Me, I just like to write. The ebook revolution allows writers to make their own decisions about which way to ride as opposed to working for traditional publishers who, at least when I worked with them, often pigeon holed authors usually with sales figures. 

Q: What's next for you and Matt? 
Well, Polis Books is repackaging the first three Matt Jacob novels and has bought the fourth, which is titled Ties That Blind. I expect they'll release the first three in early spring and the fourth shortly thereafter. So far it's been a pleasure working with Jason Pinter, founder of Polis and, if he's interested and the series does well I'll write another one. But just like I'm growing older so is Matt, which means a whole new set of life issues to grapple with. 

Q: How do you promote your work?  
I'm not comfortable with a whole lot of individual self-promotion so other than my website ( http://www.zacharykleinonline.com) and my Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/ZacharyKleinAuthorPage) I've relied upon word of mouth. I'm hoping that my partnership with Polis will help me bring my publicity "A" game. It's a lot easier for me to work shoulder to shoulder with other people. And I have a high regard for Jason.

Q: What other kinds of genres besides crime do you like?
I'd like to approach this question a bit differently. Although I accept the term "genre" and even understand its usefulness I try to shy away from it. There are writers I like--Richard Russo, Charles Bukowski, Richard Ford, William Gibson, for example, and writers I don't. That's the determining factor for me rather than the box in which anyone is placed. As I mentioned earlier, I don't even see my own Matt Jacob series as easily stereotyped.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk
 and Joe Pike? 

Truth is, Matt Jacob has enough demons in his character to keep him and me more than busy.

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 hope they'd be influenced by Hammett, Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Parker, Lehane, and Klein. But I think you left out some hidden gems. Bart Spicer, Sara Gran, Loren D. Estleman, Stephen Greenleaf, and many more. Hopefully new writers learn from everyone they read, but there's a Miles Davis story where a trumpet player approched Davis between sets and said, "I can sound like that."  Miles nodded and in his hoarse whisper replied, "The trick is to sound like yourself." 

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Ahh, that word again. What drew me to detective fiction is its relationship to American jazz.  The American perspective combined with the writer's ability to create a spontaneity about his or her work. Also the violent nature of our society and exploring the "whys" of that violence be it institutional or individual has always blinked neon to me. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Background Check on The Contractors (Jon Cantrell) by Harry Hunsicker

Harry Hunsicker was one of the first authors I reviewed on this blog. Now, he has a new book coming out so of course I wanted to know all about that...

Tell us what your newest book is about.
The story is about private military contractors operating inside the border of the United States.  Specifically, a disgraced ex-cop who works as a law enforcement contractor for the DEA.  When he and his partner take down the wrong shipment of drugs, they come into the possession of a star witness in a cartel trial, a woman everybody wants dead.  In order to save her life, and their own, they must transport her across Texas to the courthouse in Marfa, near El Paso.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
Seems like forever, at least to me.  Probably four years and I don't know how many drafts and partial drafts.

Did it take a lot of research?
I did a fair amount of research about PMCs or private military contractors.  I also learned that US Government does employ private law enforcement contractors, i. e. people who have a gun, a badge, and the right to use deadly force, but whose paycheck comes from a private company.

Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
The plot sprang from a totally unrelated idea, the notion of a son trying to reconcile with his father and both of them keeping secrets from the other.  There's still a big element of that in the book, however.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed writing the action chapters.  There's a scene where one the bad guys gets blown apart by a .50 caliber sniper rifle.  That was a blast.  (No pun intended!)

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Piper, the main character's partner and on-again/off-again lover.  She's a mess.  But so much fun.  Her motto:  When in doubt, shoot something.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
I'm very humbled and grateful to have gotten a starred review in Publishers Weekly for THE CONTRACTORS.  Hope everybody likes the novel.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Favorite Sons of 2013

Every year I tell you all what my favorite PI reads of the year were...
Well, here are my favorites again...

BEST PI NOVEL: Point Doom (JD Fiorella) by Dan Fante
BEST DEBUT: The Hard Bounce (Boo Malone) by Todd Robinson
BEST NEW PI: Mark Paris /The Professor (Subtraction) by Andrew Peters
BEST ACTION SCENES: One More Body (Moses McGuire) by Josh Stallings

Runners-up in various categories were:
Dirty Work (Gulliver Dowd) by Reed Farrel Coleman
Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me (Vic Valentine) by Will Viharo
A Small Sacrifice (Nick Forte) by Dana King

And an award should for WRITER WHO GETS BETTER EVERY YEAR should go to Steve Ulfelder for Shotgun Lullaby (Conway Sax).
And another one for WRITER WHO WORKS THE HARDEST should go to Nathan Gottlieb of the Frank Boff novels.

I also want to thank Keith Dixon and Sean Dexter for helping me bring out my own stuff.

Subtraction (The Professor) by Andrew Peters

This book is a hoot...
Mark Paris is an ex-boxer, ex-piano player and ex-math professor, hence the nickname The Professor. He works in sixties Las Vegas as a fixer / unlicensed PI in the sixties, time of Dean Martin and Sinatra. When a friend ends up with a dead hooker in his hotel room he enlists The Professor's help. When Paris investigates he runs afoul of a high-class bordello and dangerous mobsters.
Aside from the wonderful Mark Paris himself, who might have too big a background for some readers but I thought was a wonderful pulp hero, this one has another thing going for it... The writing style is very witty, almost like Paris talking to you. His voice is funny and original. I also see a lot of Robert B. Parker in the writing (especially when Paris is working out or talking to his girl) and in my book that is alway a wonderful thing.
One of the most original and enjoyable eyes of the last couple of years in a fun story.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rattled (Nicholas Colt) by Jude Hardin

Man, Nicholas Colt (PI and former rockstar) must hate his writer Jude Hardin. I was always amazed by the amount of punishment Jude put Colt through and thought in a short story like this, taking place on his birthday he might go easy on him. Well... Forget about it. Colt picks up a hitchhiker that carries along a cannister with a snake in it. That's when he gets kidnapped and lands in the middle of a viper's nest populated by two crazy villains.
This one is a thrill a minute story and I was very eager to find out how Colt would get himself out of this predicament.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ask Not (Nate Heller) by Max Allan Collins

It's like all the last couple of Heller books have been leading up to this one... Nathan Heller investigates the death of JFK, and with the 50-year anniversary of this tragic event it is of course an excellent moment to come out.
Helping Heller along is an amalgam of historical characters named Flo Kilgore who is so well-portrayed and given such a great background I really thought she was real.
With a novel like this, that is so full of research and in a historical setting, there is a great risk to become a boring read. Luckily, Max manages to add some funny scenes with Heller's son and the Beatles and of course infuses the Mickey Spillane style of pulp that made him famous. So, Heller still beds the strippers and is still a tough PI.
Be sure not to skip the notes after the story is over. It is fascinating to read how Max managed to put all thos historical events and people into an entertaining PI story.

Burnt Black (Cliff St. James) by Ed Kovacs

Cliff St. James is now only a part-time PI and spends the whole book with his regular job as a homicide detective. This is not Law & Order or CSI though! Those cops don't carry knifes behind their fly! He isn't afraid to ignore the rules and can take on several dangerous gangster with just one knife.
St. James investigates a few strange ritualistic killings that force him to face his fears of the occult. He gets involved with hookers, Mexican criminals and several sorcerers.
Don't worry about the occult part. It gives a nice little atmosphere to the book but it never becomes horror / urban fantasy.
If you've read the other books in this series you will be happy to know there's a bit of a resolution to the subplot of his relationship with Honey Baybee, his fellow cop. You will also appreciate how the previous stories have landed St. James in quite a comfortable state financially, his dojo now a big hit.
I have a feeling St. James' status will be shifting again in the next book as I think there might be a bright CIA future for him in store. I will be sure to read it and find out...

Friday, December 6, 2013


The Noah Milano stories have been praised by authors like Ace Atkins, Sean Chercover, David Levien and James W. Hall. PI-pulp fiction for Y2K and great for fans of Robert Crais and Robert B Parker. The latest novella can be found here for FREE http://goo.gl/duKRi6
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Background Check on The Kill Fever (Wolf) by Dean Breckenridge

Under another name he told some tales I enjoyed. Now he is back as Dean Breckenridge with a new hardboiled series. I got a Background Check on his  book, The Kill  Fever is about. It will be sure to appeal to fans of my Mike Dalmas shorts.

Tell us what The Kill Fever is about.
I wanted to do something short and punchy and make it like the men's adventure books of the '70s and the hard-boiled of the '30s....so I created a sort of "Have Gun, Will Travel" for the inner city, featuring a character named Wolf. Nobody knows where he came from or why he chose the city, but he has connections with the cops and the crooks and always helps the underdog.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
More like a novella....it's only 20,000 words....and it took me two weeks to write. I spent another six months making it presentable.

Did it take a lot of research?
No. I made up the city,
 the political structure, the gang structure, etc.

Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
The plot is pretty simple, somebody is killing gangsters to start a mob war and Wolf wants it to stop, and the inspiration was thinking of the first paragraph as a way to hook the reader and get things going. Bodies in the streets, cops all around, what happened and who did it happen to....

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
The hardest scene for me came in the middle of the book, where Wolf and another character are trapped, and I had to come up with a way to get them untrapped. I think my solution was ridiculous, but it worked and was fun to write.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Wolf, the hero, of course; I also like his cop contact, John Callaway, who isn't sure Wolf is a good guy but knows he isn't a bad guy, either.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
It's the first in a series and #2  (free today) is out now as well; I'm about to begin typing #3.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One More Body (Moses McGuire) by Josh Stallings

Think Mike Hammer as written by James Lee Burke or George Pelecanos and you might get an idea what to expect from this one. This is NOT a whodunnit or your typical Chandler-like PI story but a blood- and gin-soaked tale of sex, violence, despair and redemption.
The story is basically pretty simple. Ex-bouncer, ex-criminal Moses McGuire is approached by a LAPD detective to track down a girl that has been kidnapped and forced into prostitution. That's when McGuire, like a Viking, goes to war and rips LA apart to find her. He drinks, eats Vicodin like M & M's, is huge, full of tattoos and carries a lot of guns... McGuire is the ultimate noir badass.
I liked how attracted he was to a wonderful, but handicapped woman. Quite a twist.
There is some terrible scenes of rape and violence in this one, so if you were thinking of trying something else to read if you usually read cozies, you might not want to start with this one.
It is a fascinating, dark tale that had me rooting for McGuire and feeling very sorry for the kidnapped girl. It really made me FEEL on every page, and that's someone all good books should achieve.
A definite candidate for my favorite PI novel of the year.

Q & A with Carl Brookins

Carl Brookins has been in the writing game for quite some time now, but I never interviewed him about his PI Sean Sean and his work. Time to make up for that...

Q: What makes Sean Sean different from other hardboiled characters? 
 Mostly his attitude and world view are different. Sean is the antithesis of many hard-boiled detectives of the late nineteen forties and early fifties. He understands and accepts that he must sometimes protect clients by killing an adversary but that’s his last resort, and as he sometimes complains, he has to pay for his own ammunition and the recoil from his favorite weapon hurts his elbow. He’s too short at 5-2 to be a cop and he still has a need to help people. As a P.I. he naturally sees all kinds, but he has some rules. He doesn’t go out of town, he doesn’t do divorces and he never mixes it up with foreign espionage or mob people. Mostly. He would rather walk away from a confrontation. He doesn’t sleep around and while not married, he is deeply committed to a wealthy and successful massage therapist who happens to be just over six feet tall. Sean is not unwilling to discuss some of his cases with Catherine and she often offers sage advise to Sean.

 Q: How did you come up with the character?
 A lot of short people project attitude to varying degree. So does Sean. I roomed with a short man years ago while in the US Navy and I see a lot of his characteristics in Sean. Most of his attitudes probably reflect my own world view, but Sean is more adventurous and younger than I am. I thought about the character for a long while in the beginning and selected a number of physical and intellectual attribut4es for him. I borrowed a desk chair at a nearby mall and spent an afternoon scooting around in the chair to get a sense of how short people see the world in crowds. That was very illuminating.
 Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
 In a word, liberating. A lot of good writing will be enjoyed by sometimes limited audiences, but that’s ok. Of course there will be a lot of dreck that gets published but that’s OK.

 Q: What's next for you and Sean? 
 More adventures. I’m currently working on a smuggling operation inside a bad construction company.

 Q: How do you promote your work? 
 By talking to good folks like you, attending reader conferences, using social media such as FaceBook and Twitter. I’m available to speak at bookstores and public libraries and conduct writing and marketing workshops. And I review crime fiction for several websites, and online stores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
 These days writing and reading for reviews takes up most of my time but I read poetry, history and other literature. We attend concerts and go frequently to the theater. Shakespeare is still my favorite writer.

 Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 They are useful for various reasons, as someone to talk to and thus explain the P.I.’s thinking on a case and in some cases, backup the detective and sometimes do some very extra-legal actions. I prefer to have my detective, who has good relations with lots of cops, not do really nasty illegal stuff. Oh, an occasional B&E, shooting some folks, but nothing really off the charts.
 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 never try to predict who will have significant influence.  Who, writing today, will still  be read in twenty or fifty years? I don’t know, but here are some other really good writers who I believe will last. Val McDermid, William Kent Krueger, Ellen Hart, Michael Connelly, Richard A. Thompson, John Sandford, Harlan Coben, Steve Hamilton, Sara Paretsky. There are some excellent Scandinavian writers like Jo Dereske and Henning Mankill doing marvelous writing in the field.

 Q: Why do you write in this genre?
 I grew up reading crime fiction like the Hardy Boys, Hammett, Ross MacDonald and John D. Macdonald who are still being read today. I read a lot of other literature as well, including Westerns. But when it came to writing, I prefer to deal with today’s society and modern problems.

Cuts Through Bone (Rachel Vasquez & Clayton Guthrie)

This one won the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel and was written by someone in prison, facing a life sentence. That's two reasons this should be an interesting book. It was judged by experts as a good PI novel and there should be some authenticity to it.
Veteran New York City PI Clayton Guthrie has hired high school graduate Rachel Vasquez as an assistant. We follow the story through both these PI's eyes. I was a bit surprised though that the main viewpoint seemed to shift somewhat from Vasquez to Guthrie. It hurt the story a bit, because Vasquez is a way more interesting character than Guthrie, who doesn't seem to be fleshed out very much. Vasquez' struggle with her family and her journey into becoming a good gumshoe are interesting.
The pair of detectives are hired to prove ex-military man Olsen didn't kill coed Camille Bowman. It turns out there's a serial killer at work here and when the plot thickens the detectives have to take up arms and fight against a very dangerous and skilled enemy.
It is a good novel (and the title has a great origin), but there are some flaws in the structure of the story in my opinion. But hey, it's a first novel so the second one should be better and I do hope there will be a second one.