Thursday, December 28, 2017

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Eight (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. When he arranges to meet her in a motel the pimp shows up as well, armed and dangerous. For earlier episodes click here.

“Take it easy,” Lenny pleaded. “We don’t mean her or you any harm.”

“And what the fuck do you mean then?” Thunder demanded.

“We just wanted to know why she left her fiancée,” Lenny said.

“Fuck that! You want her to marry him, right? I’m not going to lose my biggest moneymaker. And I don’t like getting fucked with!” Thunder aimed his gun at Lenny.

Jill jumped up, blocking his aim. Hands fending off potential gunfire, even if that would of course have no use. “Don’t, Larry! Don’t shoot! We’ll work something out!”

“Out of the way, bitch!” Thunder screamed, pulling back the hammer.

That’s when Casey kicked him in the balls. He let out a yelp as Mikey grabbed him by the wrist, pulling the gun down. Lenny moved in, and punched him in the face. His eyes rolled up, his knees buckled and down he went. Lenny wasn’t much of a fighter really but his fists are huge and there’s quite some strength behind it from schlepping around all those Marshall amplifiers and stuff like that.

Mikey had secured Thunder’s gun and aimed it at the pimp who was face down on the carpet.

Jill was crying, impressed by the violent little encounter that went on there. Casey was next to her, hand on her shoulder, telling her it was okay.

Thunder groaned and tried to get up. Mikey put the gun against his head and told him, “Easy, dude.”

“Fuck, you hurt my fucking nose,” Thunder complained to Lenny.

The roadie shrugged. “Seemed like the best thing to do at the time.”

“I’ll get you for that,” Thunder said, the hate in his voice almost palpable.

“Don’t forget I’m pointing a gun at you,” Mikey said. “That’s my best pal you’re threatening.”

“Look, I’m sorry I hit you,” Lenny apologized. “That gun just got me understandably nervous. Can’t we work something out together? Some way you let loose of Jill and forget about me punching you?”

“Wouldn’t know how,” Thunder said. Then he sneered at Mikey, “I don’t believe you would really shoot me anyway.”

“Sounds like you’re feeling lucky, punk!” Mikey said and started to put some pressure on the trigger.

“Wait!” Jill said. “Larry, what if I pay you off every year until I managed to approximate what you think I would have earned for you?”

“Where do you think you would get that kind of green?” Thunder wondered.

“By working hard for it. The clean and legal way,” she said.

“Tell Thomas about it,” Lenny said. “I’m sure he will help you pay him off as well.”

“I still don’t know I want to tell him about…” Jill said, voice shaking.

“Trust me,” Lenny said.

“Okay, I will,” she said.

Lenny crossed his arm, a smile on his face. “Great. What about it, Thunder? You get the money, she gets her freedom. How does that sound?”

“Not bad. That and I get to punch you in the nose,” Thunder said.

“What? No!” Jill said.

I shrugged. “Sounds fine.”

“Don’t let him do that,” Mikey says. “Should I shoot him?”

“No, let him take his shot at me,” Lenny said and spread his hands, offering the pimp a free shot at his face.

The shot came and it hurt like hell.


Tampa Two (Burnside) by David Chill

Burnside is back again and it's good to read about him. What makes this series cool is that aside from a good mystery story in every book you get to follow how his private life progresses. These moments of his private life are always very well balanced with the main plot, so nowhere I felt like skipping those pages. The scenes with his kid really took me back to the days when my own kid was four years old and brought a smile to my face every time.
This time the case is kind of personal as Burnside is asked for help by the teenage prostitute that cost him his badge. There's also a case of suspected adultery he has to investigate.
Both mysteries are well written and have interesting and surprising endings. Burnside is as always a  nice almost everyman kind of guy who however can be very tough when he needs to be.
Another solid entry in a solid series.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Hang Time (Greg Salem) by SW Lauden

This series seems to be written with me in mind. It combines two of my greatest loves: punk rock and private eyes. Too bad it seems to be the last one.
Greg Salem's life might just be going the right way finally after some scarring adventures and dark and violent past. His band, Bad Citizen Corporation is
together again and on tour.
When Greg is hired to spy on the pop star wife of a rich producer his life gets dark again though. And when young men are found hanging on ropes with a reference to his brother who committed suicide his life is in a downward spiral again full of booze, violence and pain.
The pacing of his novel is just as fast as the punk rock songs being referenced through out. There's twists and turns and intense feelings of lust, pain and anger. Yeah, it's not just the fact Greg is in a punkrock band that this feels like a punk rock crime novel. It just has that feel, that attitude and energy.
Talk about energy... You can see Steve Lauden used to be in punk bands himself. The scenes with the band read so real. As a rock journalist in my spare time I know the scene pretty well and Mr. Lauden just manages to convey so well how it is and feels, it's impressive.
Awesome, awesome stuff. I will really mis Greg Salem.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Favorite Sons of 2017

Every year I let you all know what my favorite reads of the year were. This year is no exception. Competition was very tough but the list ended up like this...

BEST PI NOVEL: Invisible Dead (Dave Wakeland) by Sam Wiebe
BEST DEBUT: The Lost Ones (Norah Watts) by Sheena Kamal
BEST NEW PI: Dave Wakeland by Sam Wiebe
BEST ACTION SCENES: Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Thanks for keeping me entertained again all you other writers that I reviewed.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Seven (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. For earlier episodes click here.

Mikey had agreed to open the motel room door for Jill. Mikey is a good looking dude and probably the least crazy looking of Lenny’s band. More Jon Bon Jovi than Lemmy Kilminster or Ozzy Osbourne.
Thunder was standing behind Jill. She was dressed in knee-high boots, a denim short-short skirt and a tight top. She looked hot.
“Hello there,” Jill said as she got a look at Mikey.
Mikey ran a finger through his long brown hair and gave her his best smile. Odd that they the Nekromantic Poets didn’t have any groupies really.
“Pay first,” Thunder told Mikey and blocked his view of Jill like he was a bit jealous of how she looked at him. A jealous pimp? That must get difficult.
“Sure,” Mikey said and took a wad of cash from his jeans pocket. He counted the money for Thunder and handed it to him.
“Good. Be back in an hour. Treat her well or I kick your ass when I come to pick her up,” Thunder said.
Mikey spread his hands and gave him that smile of his. “I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”
“Very funny, wiseguy. Just remember what I said.” Then Thunder left and Jill entered.
“You’re a handsome one, baby…” she cooed as she came in, a hand brushing his cheek.
“You’re pretty hot stuff yourself. Have a seat. I had the bed made especially for you,” Mikey said.
Jill gave him a quizzical look but sat down on the bed. “So, how do you like it baby? Soft? Rough? Want me to be your momma or your baby?”
“Actually, he just wants some answers,” Lenny said and stepped out of the bathroom door together with Casey.
Mikey shrugged, an apologetic smile on his face. “Sorry, sugar.”
Jill jumped up from the bed. “What the fuck?”
“Relax,” Lenny said, a hand in the air. “We were hired by your fiancée, Thomas.”
She sighed, averting her eyes. “Shit…”
“He wants to know why you ran out on him and I figure he has a right to know,” Lenny said.
Jill dropped down on the bed. She covered her head with her hands, eyes to the floor, hair hanging down her face. “Just shit…”
“Come on,” Casey said. “It has to do with all of this, right?”
Another sigh. Long, containing months of stress. “Yeah… If you met Thomas you know the kind of catholic goody two-shoes he is. Before I met him I was working for Larry Thunder already. When I met Thomas I tried to quit that life. Larry wanted me back in his stable though, saying I was just too much of a money-maker to just let go. He threatened to tell Thomas what I used to do for a living if I didn’t work for him one more year. Only one more year and then he would let me go. I just couldn’t have him tell Thomas about my dark life. It would fucking crush him. So I decided, what’s one more year.”
“And after that? You were planning to return to Thomas?” Lenny asked.
She shrugged. “If he loves me as much as I think he does he would take me back without a second thought.”
“I guess you’re right,” Lenny had to admit. “But what were you planning to tell him? How were you going to explain your taking off like that?”
“Haven’t exactly come up with a plan for that yet, but I should be able to come up with something in a year.”
Lenny kneeled down beside Jill. “Listen, you’re right… He does love you. And I think he’ll take you back right now, even knowing about your other life. And I’m also pretty sure that knowledge won’t hurt him as much as a year without you.”
She pulled her hair. “Dammit! Maybe… I don’t know… Fuck it! I love him so much as well, but…”
Then there was a loud bang. The door flew open, Larry Thunder bursting in, brandishing his .44 Desert Eagle again.
Jill screamed. Mikey dove for cover and Casey just cursed. Lenny put up his hands.
“You stupid fucks. I noticed that damned Dodge Ram of yours parked behind the motel. Do you think I’m a moron? Who the hell are you assholes?”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps by Nick Kolakowski

This isn't a novella, it's a Tarantino movie in prose...
Con man Bill, having stolen a lot of money from the mob is being hunted by a professional killer who is just trying to come to terms with the fact his wife left him. When he ends up in a town in  Oklahoma it turns out most of the residents are psychos. What follows is a lot of action, some laughs and some mild Elvis impersonating. If that doesn't indeed sound like a Guy Ritchie or Tarantino movie to you I don't know.
There's many small, cool things in here like a GG Allin reference, an obscure but fantastic Russian gun and some quite endearing prose by hardboiled criminals.
And... It's a novella, a format I love. Great fun, never boring. Not a real PI novel, but hardboiled enough for me to feature over here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Six (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. For earlier episodes click here.
It's been awhile since the last one, but enjoy...



Lenny parked his Dodge Ram at a McDrive, after picking up some cheeseburgers and a large Coke. Casey had some chicken nuggets.

“Well that went pretty pear-shaped,” Casey said.

“Yeah, sure did,” Lenny admitted. “So what now? I still want to talk to Tina.”

“I figure there’s  way easier way to do this. We figure Tina’s a hooker now, right? Why don’t we just order her?” Casey suggested.

“That’s so simple it might just work,” Lenny said between two bites of his cheeseburger, ketchup dripping down his beard.

“Just call Larry and order the chick,” Casey said, belching after a sip of Coke.

“There’s only one problem with that idea… I don’t have his number.”

Casey sighed. “Do I really have to think of everything for you? These days hookers are all on the internet. We should try to book her online.”

“Book her online? What are you talking about?”

Casey grabbed her phone and logged into a website called Lenny looked with her on the small phone screen in awe.

“We fill in the data we know. Like her physical description, the area she would operate in and click the Search-button,” Casey said.

“How do you know all this stuff?” Lenny asker her.

“Hey, a girl gets lonely sometimes, so sue me. I’m not always able to pick somebody up in a bar when I have a hankering for some pussy,” Casey said.

Lenny almost choked on his fries.

“God, repressed much? Didn’t know you were a devout Catholic,” Casey remarks. “Hey, think I hit pay-dirt already! Looks like her stage-name so to speak is Jillian.”

Lenny looked at the profile picture on the site Casey was pointing at. Her face was made blurry by some kind of Photoshop-like software but he could still make out enough to make it indeed very likely this was Jill. She was dressed in a short-short skirt and just a lacy bra, wearing fuck-me shoes with stiletto heels.

“You might be right,” he admitted.

“Right, now to set up the appointment,” Casey said. “There’s this motel nearby here you can rent by the hour that would be just perfect for this.”

“How do you know--,” Lenny started to say but the rolling of Casey’s eyes had him shut up.

“It’s done. She should be arriving there in three hours,” Casey said.

“Won’t Thunder be with her? And what will he do when he sees us?” Lenny wondered.

“He’ll be only there to drop her off and pick her up. We’ll just ask one of the guys to open the door. We’ll hide in the bathroom or something until Thunder is gone.”

Lenny leaned back and whistled. “Sheesh, you’re good at this stuff. Maybe you should have become the PI?”

“Just consider me the Metal Nora to your Nick, Thin Man. Or should I say Thick Man?” Casey said and ate the last chicken nugget.

Finding Chloe (Leah Ryan) by Tracy Sharp

Leah Ryan, former car thief and now a repo agent is hired by the boyfriend of an exotic dancer to find her. When she investigates someone is trying to frighten her. Leah is not one to back down though and as the bodies start to pile up she finds herself investigating a very difficult case.
I just loved Leah! She's so very tough but still very human. She's so punk rock! I also liked her brother and best friends Jack in the supporting cast.
The pacing is great, never getting boring. The descriptions are very vivid and I could so often picture Leah in her car or making love. I actually figure it has a cinematic quality that would make this a good Netflix show.
It actually looks like Tracy isn't writing this series anymore, which is too bad because Leah is one of my favorite female PI's now!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Free Fiction: Served Cold Part One (a Brody Chen serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I felt like writing about a new, very unique character that operates in a world we PI fans all know and love but is very different from my guys like Vance Custer, Noah Milano or guys like Spenser, Scudder or even girls like Milhone and Warshawski. Here's Brody Chen...

I had my feet on the table of my new desk when Carl Rogers told me he was going to quit my dad’s process serving firm as well. Technically, after my dad died it’s my firm. Carl, a fifty-something burly guy in a suit told me, “Sorry, Brody. It’s nothing personal. You know I love you, but I can’t afford to stay working for you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Why should you be different than the other guys, right?” I said.
“I’m really sorry. If you need something, just give me a call.”
“I need you to stay on,” I told him.
He studied his shoes. “Sorry, Brody.”
“Sure, sure.”
Carl left my office. That was the last one to go. Three weeks ago my father died, leaving me his company and a whole lot of debts. It turned out my dad hadn’t done too good a job handling his finances and owed a lot of people a lot of money. The only thing I could do to pay of his debtors was sell the house. I kept the office. After all, without my dad I had no other choice than to try and continue his work. I dropped out of high school years ago, earning some money doing freelance journalism jobs for metal zines in print and online. It nowhere earned me enough dough to make a living though. So I sold the house where I used to live with my dad and started living in the office.
The employees of my dad apparently had little trust in my ability to lead a company. And who could blame them? I was just an eighteen year old high-school dropout with a weak spot for leather, tattoos and heavy music. Not exactly CEO material, admittedly.
I leaned back in my chair and chucked the empty can of Monster Energy in the waste basket. Now what was I to do? Run this company all alone or just give up. Shit, I’d been thinking about just giving it all up and just hang myself or something a lot since my mom died. But now, five years later it seemed stupid to quit. I mean, I didn’t go through the hell of coming to grips with mom’s suicide to just end it now, right?
I turned on the stereo, Carnifex blasting their deathcore through the speakers. This kind of music always fueled me with the energy to go ahead and tackle my problems instead of submitting to them. I used to tag along with my dad on some of his jobs when I was still a kid and he couldn’t get a babysit. I’d picked up some stuff. Maybe I could do this job. Maybe I didn’t need Carl or the others.
I switched on the laptop. There was a picture of me in my younger and happier days as a wallpaper. I was going to replace that with a picture of Bring Me The Horizon or something. I couldn’t bear to see the old me, still innocent, still happy. Still fucking weak and stupid.
I went through dad’s e-mail, his password still my name and date of birth. Not very careful for a guy in his kind of business. As I went through the e-mails I found, among the many e-mails from people he owed money to, a message from a lady wanting to make use of dad’s services. It looked like a fairly easy job, so a great one to start with. The writer of the e-mail, Cheryl Hill, wanted dad to deliver her husband the divorce papers. She added he’d refused to accept them from her, so she now was looking at affordable process servers to deliver the papers for her. Her husband, one Tom Hill owned an auto wrecking business in Brooklyn and she suggested to deliver the papers to him there.
I wrote her back, attaching the standard contract that was on dad’s laptop. Now to wait until I got a signed copy back. I passed gathering as much information I could about the business details of the job. Luckily dad had left an amazing number of documents describing those things. That was probably the work of the office worker he’d hired a few years ago. She’d already left the firm a few months before his death though, going back to college. I never really had the attention span for education. It took me a huge effort to go through the documentation without letting my mind wander off to the concerts I wanted to see, the confusing feelings I had about dad’s death and the sheer panic at the thought of having to make a living all by myself, the office couch for a bed.

Three hours later I got a scanned and signed copy of the contract in the e-mail. Time to see if I actually had what it takes to do this job.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan

Boy, these Rafferty books are fun! As much as they seem to owe to Spenser I enjoy the hell out of them. In this one Rafferty is asked by the girl he frequently ogles in an adjacent office (hmm that sounds a bit creepy) to help her great-uncle who is being harassed by some vandals. Meanwhile he is tracking down a guy who pretended to be a bounty hunter in an effort to have Rafferty along killing a pool cleaner.
The stakes aren't all that high and the mystery might not be that strong but the dialogue is just awesome. There's some very touching bits between Rafferty and the great-uncle and Cowboy is just one of the coolest sidekicks ever.
If you're in for an awesome, light classic PI read you need to pick this one up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

I was convinced Reed wouldn't take the easy way out with this series and he doesn't disappoint. You see, it would have been easy to take the premise Robert B. Parker left him with and just tell the same story over and over again, never changing the character. Reed however manages to make Jesse Stone grow with each novel. I feel like Reed understands, knows, the character almost better than Parker himself did.
Struggling with alchohol and the death of his great love Jesse still manages to act as police chief, although his friends frequently need to cover his ass.
When a bulgary ends up in murder Jess investigates and becomes involved with the search for a missing master tape of a folk singer's biggest record.
For fans of Spenser (and who reading this blog isn't) there's also a cool short scene with the wisecracking PI that makes the book worth your purchase already.
There is absolutely a nice mystery within these pages that is wrapped up quite neatly. We see Jess clash with several authority figures and there's some wonderful characters walking around.  The highlight, however is how Jess moves on with his life and his struggles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Courage Resurrected (Ray Courage) by R. Scott Mackey

College professor turned PI Ray Courage's wife was killed in an accident 13 years ago. Now he receives e-mails from her. Is she really still alive? When he investigates he becomes a suspect in her death. Evading the authorities he tries to find out who is sending them these e-mails and what the truth is behind the accident. He ends up tangling with an ex-MMA fighter who's now a succesful but ruthless business man.
Ray starts out as more or less an everyman character but ends up a bit more hardboiled in this story. It's pretty fast-paced and the villains are interesting. The mystery is solid enough too.
Absolutely good enough to have me interested in more.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Midnight Lullaby (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

I discovered this one via Kevin Burton Smith's awesome Thrilling Detective website. Kevin of course knows his PI's so if he says this is one to watch I take not. Man, was he right!
Former State Trooper Henry Malone is kind of a mix between Spenser and C.W. Sughrue or better yet, a darker version of Rafferty. He's not an official PI but does some favors for friends, aided by his buddy and AA sponsor Woody. That's the kind of team I've loved since Spenser.
In this first novel he is asked to track down a missing young mother. He gets involved with neo-Nazis, meth labs and sleazy lawyers.
What makes this one such a winner is the way Hannah walks the line between the action-packed and witty style of Robert B. Parker with the dark style of say James Lee Burke and Andrew Vachss. He manages to tick every box I like in PI fiction, making me probably his biggest fan.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Q & A with Ed Robinson

There's a long line of Florida adventurers that started with the great Travis McGee. I'm always interested in learning about new ones.  Ed Robinson introduced us to Meade Breeze in his Trawler Trash series that I wanted to know more about...

Q: What makes Meade Breeze different from other hardboiled  characters?  
He lives off the grid, on a boat. No cell phone or computer, no license, no bank account. He deals with the fringes of society, but somehow manages to get into trouble no matter where he goes. Additionally, he’s more often the criminal than the hero. 

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
There’s a lot of myself in Breeze. I live on a boat, mostly at anchor, and travel all over Florida and the Bahamas. Toss in a little Travis McGee and James Hall’s Thorn character, and you end up with a guy like Breeze.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I sell 100 ebooks for every paperback, so obviously I’m all for it. Convenience, price, and our ever-growing dependence on electronic devices tells me ebooks are the future. 

Q: What's next for you and your characters? 
I’m working on the tenth book in the Trawler Trash Series, and hope to keep Breeze alive for many more. Every time we travel on our boat, we meet new and interesting characters which become fodder for more story lines. 

Q: What do you do when you're not writing? 
Boat, beachcomb, and beer. 

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Almost exclusively through Facebook. My fan page has over 10,000 followers.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
Anything and everything Florida. There’s a whole subset of Florida writers that I enjoy; Randy Wayne White, Carl Hiassen, Tim Dorsey, Wayne Stinnett, etc. 

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?
Ed Robinson, of course! Actually it’s hard to say, but I think some of the current indy writers with big followings will change the future of writing and authorship. 

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Write what you know, right? 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dead Man's Hand (Calvin Watters) by Luke Murphy

Calvin Watters used to be an NFL star but when he was forced to quit he became a debt collector in Las Vegas. When they try to frame him for the murder of a casino owner he sets out to prove he's an innocent man.
Detective Dale Dayton's marriage is going through a rough time as he is charged with solving this murder. As he investigates he becomes convinced Calvin didn't do it, even if a lot evidence seems to say he did.
Dale is pretty much your average crime novel hardnosed cop with a bad marriage and the police procedural aspect of things didn't appeal to me much. Calvin hower is a very unique character. He starts out as more of villain than hero and the sadistic ways he collects the debts make him a very unlikely protagonist. He's got some very good computer skills, is a good marksman and very intelligent. That makes him a pretty good detective which he shows here.
The story is in part a set-up as well for the second novel in which it seems there's a bad guy returning and Calvin will start a different career.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fox Hunter (Charlie Fox) by Zoe Sharp

Security specialist Charlie Fox (one of the reasons Noah Milano started out as one) is back! This time she is hunting down her former lover / boss Sean Meyer who seems to be killing the men that raped her in the past.
A huge part of this story plays out in the Middle East, full of private contractors and fixers. I was pretty impressed by how well this world was portrayed, obviously well-researched.
Fox is as ever one of the best female thriller protagonists as she is a very tough woman, yes maybe a female Reacher of sorts, though more human. She's not a quirky, witty kind of investigator nor is she a man with boobs. Although for me this one strayed a bit too much from the kind of hardboiled crime fiction into thriller territory for my tastes it does contain some great action scenes and good characters.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Dead Girl (Greg Owen) by Evan Ronan

This one has the same kind of feeling one of my favorite series, the Rush McKenzie series has. The main character isn't really a PI and although he is quite skilled at what he does has a very Everyman kind of feel.
Greg Owen is the owner of several small businesses and has PI license he doesn't really use. He's asked by an old friend to prove a young man went to jail innocent of killing his highschool sweetheart.  He ends up uncovering quite a number of old secrets while they try to warn him off the investigations. Besides that he's also got to deal with the fact his ex-wife and his daughter might be moving to a different city.
Greg is a guy that you might know and want to have a beer with. He's an ex-Marine but no macho tough guy. He's an okay investigator but no Sherlock Holmes. It's those facts and the easy, breezy style of the writing and not difficult plot and number of characters involved that make this one such a hoot to read.
I'll be sure to contact the author soon and tell him he's got a winner here. Author Evan Ronan is probably best known by his paranormal mystery series (featuring Eddie McCloskey), but I hope he'll be writing this series for a long time to come as well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Background Check on Fox Hunter (Charlie Fox) by Zoe Sharp

Zoë Sharp has been earning a living from words for almost 30 years. She left school at the age of 12 and has become an autodidact with a love of obscure words. When not writing or international pet-sitting, she renovates houses, crews yachts, and drives rather faster than she ought to. Find out more about her and Charlie Fox on With a new Charlie Fox novel coming out I wanted to know the details...

Q: Tell us what the novel is about.

A: The jacket copy really sums it up:

Charlie Fox will never forget the men who put a brutal end to her military career, but she vowed a long time ago she would not go looking for them.
Now she doesn’t have a choice.
Her boss and former lover, Sean Meyer, is missing in Iraq where one of those men was working as a private security contractor. When the man’s butchered body is discovered, Charlie fears that Sean may be pursuing a twisted vendetta on her behalf.
Sean’s partner in their exclusive New York close-protection agency needs this dealt with—fast and quiet—before everything they’ve worked for is in ruins. He sends Charlie to the Middle East with very specific instructions:
Find Sean Meyer and stop him. By whatever means necessary.
At one time Charlie thought she knew Sean better than she knew herself, but it seems he’s turned into a violent stranger. As the trail grows more bloody, Charlie realises that unless she can get to Sean first, the hunter may soon become the hunted.

For my own part, it’s a book about revenge, betrayal, and justice.

Q: How long did it take you to write the novel?

A: Far too long! I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from writing, and it was undeniably hard to get back into the mindset again. So, this probably took me well over a year to write, when normally I would complete a book in about 4-5 months.

Q: Did it take a lot of research?

A: Oh yes. Although I did travel to the Middle East a couple of years ago, obviously there were places I was not inclined to go. Nevertheless, I worked hard to get the right atmosphere and feel without over-describing any particular location. I worked very hard, also, on the cultural aspects of the book, and was enormously pleased, when I read out a section at Noir At The Bar in Toronto, just before Bouchercon, to have a guy from Saudi Arabia come up to me afterwards, shake my hand, and tell me I had it nailed. I also had a former CSI from the UK tell me she had seen numerous similar cases during her career. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile.

Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: I learned that the smuggling of ancient artifacts from the Middle East was a major source of terrorist funding, and that little or no provision had been made to prevent looting in Iraq—often perpetrated by the Iraqi people themselves—of important archaeological sites after the US-led invasion. I wanted to write about the abuses against women in all countries, and Charlie’s search for answers concerning her past. The book opens with fears that Sean has gone off the rails and may be on a mission of bloody revenge on Charlie’s behalf against one of the men who raped her when she was in the army. I wanted to put her in the position where she might possibly be called upon to protect one of those men. There were a lot of interesting psychological and emotional elements to give depth to what was also a fast-paced thriller.

Q: Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

A: I always like openings, because the start of the book is never the start of the story—it is where you choose to introduce the reader into the story. And I bear in mind that if the reader has looked at the jacket copy, they will already know something of the backstory to the plot, so why waste time telling them something they already know? For this reason, Charlie is already in Iraq as the book opens, in the morgue, looking at the corpse of one of her former comrades and trying not to be too grateful that he’s dead, because at the same time she’s worried that her former lover and boss, Sean, might be responsible. Setting that scene was one of my favourites.

There are others, too—the ambush of the military contractors’ vehicle in Basra, the second-hand story of the Iraqi woman in the clinic in Kuwait City, the stand-off in the remote farmyard on Saddleworth Moor and the conversation that follows with one of the other men who raped Charlie, her meetings with ageing Balkan gangster Gregor Venko in his Bulgarian stronghold, her clashes with Sean throughout the novel, and the denouement. In fact, there had to be something I enjoyed about every scene, or why include it?

Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?

A: That again is a hard question. There are a few returning characters in this novel, as well as the usual ones like Charlie, her boss Parker Armstrong, and of course Sean. I’ve revisited one guy from the second book, and another couple from book three, as well as Madeleine, who took over Sean’s old close-protection agency in the UK and has popped up from time to time along the series. Perhaps more than previously, Charlie is surrounded by strong women. I really liked the military contractor Charlie meets, Luisa Dawson, who developed very clearly on the page. I liked Najida, the Iraqi woman who only appeared briefly but still sticks in my mind. And Aubrey Hamilton, the CIA agent fighting a losing battle—Aubrey’s name, incidentally, came from a charity auction where she bid to be included in the novel. Finally, I grew really fond of Moe, the kid Charlie and Dawson hire in Kuwait City to be their fixer and guide into Iraq.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Invisible Dead (Dave Wakeland) by Sam Wiebe

For anyone thinking the USA is the only place where real good hardboiled private eyes are from... This one proves you wrong.
Dave Wakeland is an ex-cop and former boxer who runs  PI business in Vancouver with his partner Jeff Chen. Chen is the one with the business sense, Wakeland the one with a soft spot for lost causes and hard cases. Hired to look for a missing prostitute he gets involved with an old classmate who seems to have fallen from grace and clashes with a motorcycle gang.
Wakeland is partly the standard tough guy with some great oneliners, good with his fists and has a troubled past. What makes him more original is his involvement with a serious, bigger PI firm.
But hey, I don't read PI novels because I want the protagonist to be totally unique. I like the archetype, that's why I read them.
The story is dark, the social commentary never overblown but written with just the right amount of anger to make it work.
Definitely a new series I will be following.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What The Dead Leave Behind (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

As fans know Rush McKenzie isn't a PI because of the money. In fact, he isn't an official licensed one. He's an ex-cop now millionaire who sometimes does favors for friends which end up with him solving crimes. I'm a fan of this series and gladly review every book.
As always we slowly follow how he further deepens his relationship with his girlfriend and her daughter. In fact, the daughter is the reason he starts an investigation in an unsolved murder in this book. He ends up investigating corporate espionage and fraud and a different cold case.
After a few books that had Rush go undercover and a bit less traditional sleuthing it's nice to see him really investigate a murder cause again. I must say I had a bit of trouble keeping all the female characters apart that pop up in this one.  The way all kinds of secrets pop up seemed a bit overdone at times.
Mostly though I enjoyed the book, happy to ride along with one of my favorite PI's again. Never too dark but too hardboiled for a cozy by far a nice, enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Skull Meat: A Paignton Noir Mystery (Joe Rey) by Tom Leins

This is a pretty dark novelette. Joe Rey is a PI in Paignton who really is more of a thug / fixer. We follow him kicking the crap out of people and wielding a pigknife. There is no honest or nice person in the book and that includes Joe. The prose is very fast and to the point, which I absolutely loved. The violence plays out in your mind very vividly without spending a huge amount of description, not an easy feat.
I must admit I sometimes got lost in the plot, the chapters almost a series of short stories.
All in all I liked the writing style but wasn't 100% sure I liked the plot. Eager to read more though.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Down & Out: The Magazine Volume 1, Issue 1 - edited by Rick Ollerman

Lately I've been reading a LOT of books from publisher Down & Out. They have been responsible for the return of old favorite PI's like Nick Polo and have been publishing work by favorite writers like Dana King, Steve Lauden and many others. When they announced a digest magazine I was excited as hell, especially once I learned one of my favorite writers (and nicest ones as well) Reed Farrel Coleman would be contributing an original Moe Prager story. But there's more goodness besides that!
The magazine starts out with a punchy Ron Shade tale by Michael Black. Ron Shade is a personal favorite of mine who I haven't seen in action for way too long so that was a treat right away.
Then editor Rick Ollerman serves up a PI tale with a surprising POV. Terrence McCauley writes a dark espionage tale . Eric Beetner writes a prequal of sorts to one of his crime novels while Thomas Pluck does what he does best with his dark crime story featuring everyday men. And of course Jen Conley shows that she can write really believable and moving characters with her story.
An article pays tribute to great pulp writer Frederick Nebel, reprinting one of his stories as well.
Those stories alone would make this a very good magazine. Add to this mix the dark and moving Moe Prager story that deals with concentration camp survivors and you just have the best crime fiction magazine since Black Mask.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Rafferty's Rules (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan

This book was first published in the late eighties. Rafferty can be seen as a Texas version of Spenser. He's got a slightly psycho sidekick, a significant other who can be both cute and annoying, knows his wisecracks and has his own rules and sense of honor. As a huge fan of Spenser I don't see those things as bad. In fact, I cannot deny my own Noah Milano series owes a lot to Spenser.
With the news that the author's son will be writing a new Rafferty story it makes sense this series is reissued.
In this first book in the series Rafferty tracks down the biker gang that raped the daughter of a wealthy family.  What follows is not a challenging mystery nor a dark character study. What does follow is one heck of an action-packed and fun ride! I loved Rafferty's rules, his wisecracks, the great pacing and action scenes.
I will be reading the rest of the series for sure and very eagerly await Duncan Jr's first Rafferty novel

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Lost Ones (Nora Watts)

This one got quite some praise, comparing it to the best Scandinavian Noir while it comes from Canada. Not sure why those comparisons, because it's just as much an American hardboiled detective / noir story. Maybe it's the fact the protagonist is a broken rape victim/survivor like Lisbeth Salander?
Nora Watts used to be in the Army, was raped and birthed a daughter from that traumatic event. She had the baby adopted, not ready to take care of a kid then.
As the novel starts we find her working as a researcher for a PI firm. She gets hired by the people who adopted her child to find her. Yes, her own daughter ends up missing. When she investigates she ends crawling back into the bottle she swore off and basically goed down the deep end, however never stopping to look for the girl. When a link is discovered between the rape and the fact her child is missing things get even more personal and dark.
This is not a light novel. While the first hundred or so pages read like just a nice take on the female PI story what follows is a very dark and sometimes depressing story. It sometimes hurt to see Nora alone, hurt and drunk. That's good writing there!
Yep, this one will be nabbing the Shamus this year and other awards for sure. A literary but absolutely hardboiled detective story that will be sure to win over all critics.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Occult Detective Quarterly (by Various authors) # 1

As much as I love the PI genre I have a soft spot for the occult investigator, a nice mix of the PI genre and horror.  This magazine presents a lot of great stuff with and about these monsterhunters. I was quite surprised I liked the story with an occult investigator / gorilla so much. It sounds outlandish, but it worked. I'm a big fan of the Royal Occultist, so I was happy to see another story with him appear. I was intrigued by "The Baron of Bourbon Street" which managed to find an original use for voodoo deity Baron Samedi.
On the non-fiction front there's an interesting article about comic's occult investigator Dr. Spektor and one about writing Victorian occult investigators.
All this and some cool illustrations too! A must for fans of this genre!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Beholder (Zac Hunter) by Steven Hague

It's been almost eight years since the last Zac Hunter, but I haven't forgotten about him. I liked the character because he liked rock music and because he was more of a vigilante than a regular PI. I liked the writer because like me he lives in Europe but writes about LA like I do in the Noah Milano series.
I was thrilled to find out there was  new book in the series, finally. Hunter is back, hired to track down a missing girl he gets knee-deep in the people smuggling and prostitution in LA and Mexico. Aiding him is cool Native American sidekick Stone and his awesome dogs. When they investigate they clash with a serial killing mastermind. And that's where the part is that makes this latest Zac Hunter novel less enjoyable to me. I don't like serial killer stories in general, especially when there's scenes written from his POV. This novel was also very much more full of blood and gore than the first ones, a bit too much for my taste for this kind of book. I like horror, but usually in a horror book, not a crime story.
Apart from those dislikes the characters (especially the Mexican girls involved with the people smuggling) are very well written, the duo of Hunter & Stone are almost as cool as Cole & Pike and there's enough of tough guy action to satisfy fans of pulpy hardboiled action & adventure books.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Q & A with Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal is a fast-rising star with her excellent debut The Lost Ones featuring Nora Watts. This Canadian researcher for crime investigation reporting will be picking up all the awards this year. So I was happy to interview her...

How did you come up with the character?
I was working as a researcher for a television crime drama series and was compelled by stories of gender violence in Canada. An idea came to me, of a complicated woman with a dark past. Her voice was present almost immediately, and it's through this voice that the rest of the story fell into place. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
However a reader connects with a book is fine by me. I read both ebooks and physical editions, so it's really about how books fit into the reader's lifestyle. As long as people are reading and finding books that excite them, I'm happy. 

Q: What’s next for you and your characters?
I'm working on the sequel, and planning the third instalment of Nora's story. For the time being, I'm completely immersed in her world, so to keep things fresh I use different settings to create new challenges for Nora to work against. It's research-intensive, which I enjoy immensely. 

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
I've taken to running in the woods. I'm not happy about it and I don't know exactly why I'm compelled to do it all of a sudden, but this is what I do when I'm not writing these days.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Badly, and after much self-recrimination. I wish I was better at it, but I do try my best. I have a website. 

Q: What other genres beside crime do you like?
I read just about everything and what I choose depends largely on my mood. These days, however, I'm all about shameless escapism and books that will give me a laugh. The news cycle these days is brutal-- and what I write is quite dark, as well, so I'm getting my fun in my fiction. 

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?
Hmm, good question. I'm not sure. I personally hope that genre boundaries are being erased and that there is so much crossover that you never know who the influencers may be. There's something exciting about that.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I think a story presented itself to me this way and I was pulled more by this particular character and her journey, rather than deciding to write crime fiction and then figuring out how to do it. Dark suspense is how The Lost Ones took shape-- and I followed where it led rather than allowing the genre to lead me. It felt organic and that feeling is something that now I work hard to hold onto. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bad Penny (Frank Shaw) by John D. Brown

This is an action-packed book, more action/adventure than hardboiled crime fiction. Ex-con, Army Special Forces vet Frank Shaw gets into trouble when some old prison ''buddies'' show up asking for a favor and his nephew gets kidnapped. Trying to get him back he clashes with his old prison ''buddies'' and encounters a ring of people smugglers. Luckily he is aided by some unexpected heroes.
Basically, this is one long action movie. Frank shoots, flies, drives and fights his way into and out of trouble. Along the way there's some buddy movie style banter to lighten the mood and to give some moments of rest between the action scenes.
I'm not a big fan of this kind of book, preferring just a bit more mystery to the mix but I have to admit that John Brown knows how to write an action scene. You can just see the bullets flying in your head.
Good reading for fans of Lee Child, Matt Hilton and action blockbusters of the nineties.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Exit Strategy (Nick Mason) by Steve Hamilton

I absolutely loved the first book in this series. The original premise, the whole coolness of it all were so great I really was waiting for this novel to come out. I got a little bit worried reading it as it seemed to go to a definite end. Would it be only two books? That couldn't be the case! Come on, it's going to be a movie I read! Or would the direction change so much I wouldn't enjoy it as much anymore? Wrong! I won't spoil things, but the ending WILL make you eager to read the third book and only takes the idea of the first books to an even stronger direction.
Like the first novel ex-con Nick Mason has to do a mission for the man who got him out of jail, Darius Cole. This time he has to kill some enemies of Cole who are in the witness protection program. There's some very strong action scenes that take place because of this mission sometimes taking this novel even beyond Lee Child / Jack Reacher territory. It's not all shooting and car chases, though! We get into Nick's relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, with the woman he is sharing a house with and his own conscience.
It's full of twists and turns, it's very dark and it's very action-packed. Reacher meets Parker I would say. You simply need to read this series.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Q & A with Sam Wiebe

It's not just the guys from the USA writing good PI fiction. Sam Wiebe is a Canadian example of that. Here's a little talk with the author of the Dave Wakeland series

Q: What makes Dave Wakeland different from other hardboiled characters? 
He's young, in his late twenties, and successful--he and his partner Jeff Chen run a growing security company. This causes Dave some unease, as he's more comfortable taking a hands-on, street-level approach.  Wakeland has a social conscience, but like all of us he must temper that with the dictates of making a living, and trying to make ethical choices that he can live with.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
 When I finished grad school I was buried in student debt and searching for my niche, a way to make money in an ethical manner. When I started the book I'd gotten a job at a private college teaching, and was falling back in love with the city of Vancouver. At the same time, there was a major judicial hearing, the Oppal Conmission, looking into the many disappearances of at-risk women in the city. I wanted to write about that doubleness, that sense of not really knowing a place that you've lived all your life, and not quite knowing your place in it. Wakeland was born out of those tensions.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
If you prefer reading on a tablet or phone, that's great; I prefer paper, but ultimately it's about the story.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
The second Wakeland novel, CUT YOU DOWN, will be out February 2018 from Random House Canada and Quercus USA.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Hang out with my girlfriend and watch NYPD Blue reruns, or take walks around East Vancouver.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
 As well as I can. I'm on twitter, @sam_wiebe, on Facebook at, and at

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I'll read pretty much anything, if it's good and if I'm in the mood.

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 list is great, but leaves off Walter Mosley, John D MacDonald, Sue Grafton, Laura Lippmann, Sara Paretsky and others. I think the future of PI fiction will have to be diverse, but will stay working class. I hope it keeps a little philosophical and sociological insight, because that's what I love about those authors--they have something to say.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I'm fascinated by work, and ultimately that's what the PI genre is about--not trenchoats or fistfights, but the ethical dilemmas of running an independent business, testing your ethical boundaries while trying to get ahead. As Chandler put it, "How to be in business and stay reasonably honest." That's the heart of the genre, to me, and that's something that applies to everyone.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Promise (Elvis Cole) by Robert Crais

The Elvis Cole series is without a doubt one of my favorites. I loved how Crais managed to take the Spenser template and breathe some youth into it and without him there probably would be no Noah Milano. Lately they have read more like thrillers than PI novels and I haven't loved them as much. Still, it is always a joy to read about Cole and his buddy Pike. This one also stars Scott James and K-9 Maggie from the earlier novel, Suspect.
Cole is hired to find a missing, grieving mother and finds himself encountering a suspect at a house in Echo Park. Scott James and Maggie are there as well, trying to track the fleeing suspect. The suspect turns out to be a dangerous killer who now targets Scott.
While Cole investigates he finds out the grieving mother was quite a complex person and discovers links to terrorism. He needs the help of mercenary Jon Stone to get through to things.
The scenes written through the eyes of Maggie are pretty amazing and they helped me understand my own dog better! Those scenes and those that shine a different light on Jon Stone save this novel. I thought the plot could get too confusing and a bit too unlikely. Also, often Cole seems to be an almost passive character in a plot and has only a very small part to play in the conclusion.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Q & A with John D. Brown

John D. Brown writes, besides a fantasy series, a series about ex-con, Special Forces vet Frank Shaw. The series is doing pretty good, so I figured I'd ask him all about his series and his view on our favorite genre.

Q: What makes Frank Shaw different from other hardboiled characters? 
Frank is an ex-con who is out of prison and trying to fly straight. Yes, he has skills. He is a Special Forces veteran and worked for a private contractor afterwards. But the thing that distinguishes Frank from many other characters is his down-to-earth appeal. There are some action thriller characters who never make a mistake and always seem to have the upper hand. Not Frank. I also enjoy his sardonic wit.

 Q: How did you come up with the character?
Frank was inspired by a fine old brother in my church in Ohio who was one of those salt of the earth folks who also happened to have at one time been a bank robber. When he got out of prison, he determined his life would change. He married a good Methodist girl he met at a church dance, went into the laundry business, and never looked back. It was my privilege to record his life history. At the time, it struck me that I rarely saw stories about ex-cons who actually make it out of the recidivism cycle. I thought, I’m going to write one and have a ball doing it.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love it. My debut was with a big New York publisher, and I learned a lot working with them. But there’s so much freedom with indie ebooks.

 Q: What's next for you and your characters?
Frank’s nephew Tony makes a reappearance in the third book, which is called Gray Hat. I’ll be working on that in the coming months. Tony and a group of his nerd friends have stumbled onto a crime and have gotten way in over their heads. And Frank comes in to work with them to save the day. After that, I was invited to co-author a book with New York Times bestselling author Larry Correia. That one will be a big, fun, high-action science fiction story about gun runners in space.

 Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Teach, hike, and enjoy my time with my wife and children. And have a blast researching the next book. For example, some of that recent research included shooting carbines, riding horses, taking a class from those who have trained our special operations forces on how to disable an attacker, and traveling to Southern Utah where my second novel is set.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
The most effective promotions I’ve found are advertisements on social media and discount book services.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I like almost all genres. What I’m looking for is a good story.

 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 have no idea. In the last century you had a small set of publishers effectively controlling which stories and authors made it to the market. With the ebook revolution those constraints are gone. And so you will have thousands of authors inspiring thousands of other authors. As for who the next biggie will be, that’s like predicting who will win the lottery.

 Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Because it’s fun. Really, it boils down to that.