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 facebook.com/wiebesam, and at samwiebe.com.

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.