Friday, December 21, 2018

Favorite Sons of 2018

I got divorced this year as most PI's seem to do as well. It kind of cut into my reading time and I had a little trouble concentrating on the written word. I didn't write a lot myself either. Next year I will probably be more active again.
Still, I managed to read and review enough to come up with my Best Of list again:

BEST PI NOVEL: Broken Ground (Jay Porter) by Joe Clifford
BEST DEBUT: August Snow (August Snow) by Stephen Mack Jones
BEST NEW PI: Marker by Marcus Pelegrimas
BEST ACTION SCENES: Miami Burn (Titus) by John D. Patten

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Miami Chill (Titus) by John D. Patten

Miami tough guy Titus rolls into another hardboiled adventure. He is hired to bodyguard a hot pop singer (and manages to bed her) and sets out to take down a human trafficking ring.
There's the same amount of action as the first book served up but what makes this one so enjoyable is the banter between Titus and the pop singer. Titus is very much his own man, very unique and self-contained.
I'm not a big fan of the love interest Sofia. There's too much PI-types already lusting for hot cops.
Aside from that another nice mix of Lee Child and John D. MacDonald.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Colorblind (Jesse Parker) by Reed Farrel Coleman / Robert B. Parker

Paradise police chief Jesse Stone is just back from rehab when an African American woman gets murdered. When more racially motivated crimes are committed he gives it his all to find out who is behind this. That task doesn't become easier though when his black female officer Alisha guns down a what appears to be unarmed man.
There's also a young man named Slayton Cole (how cool does that name sound) who fills in a role that reminded me of Spenser's bond with Paul in several novels.
Coleman manages to weave a tight mystery in with another piece of  character development of Jesse Stone quite nicely. Keeping his own writing style, but offering the kind of short chapters Robert B. Paker used Mr. Coleman shows again why he was such a good choice do continue this series.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Fatal Sisters (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan

Patty Akister's husband goes missing. According to her he's a secret agent. Rafferty, who is hired to find him finds that pretty hard to swallow. When her husband turns up dead in a whorehouse Rafferty tries to find his killer while he goes out of his way to prevent shattering Patty's positive view of her husband.
This one has all the hallmarks of a good Rafferty tale. That is, nice banter between him and his girlfriend, macho and witty exchanges between him and his cool sidekick Cowboy for one. Aside from that there's some nice moral choices to deal with and some good action scenes.
As ever the writing is fast-paced and loose, making this a quick and easy read.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Northtown Eclipse (Raimo Jarvi) by Robert White

It's hard to do something original with the PI story without involving robots and the undead. Robert White takes a shot, using the best weapon you can use. He has an original protagonist. A PI who has enough in common with the archetype we love but still brings something new to the table. In what reminded me of T. Jefferson Parker's Silent Joe he offers us a PI with a badly scarred face, Raimo Jarvi.
When his estranged brother is in a lot of trouble this PI steps in to help. Raimo is way less macho and slick than most guys in the genre. He's not the asskicking wisecracker but a troubled and romantic soul. There's quite some moving scenes in here and the whole writing has an interesting literate bend.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Back Mask (Dan Spalding) by Richard Prosch

Ex-cop turned record store owner Dan Spalding's old friend Digger has gotten himself into quite some trouble. When he blackmails the wrong person he needs some help to get out alive.
What follows is the hunt for the secrets an old record holds and the story behind an old skin magazine.
Dan's a pretty cool guy and the relationship with his beautiful employee goes to the next level in this one. Still, this is hardboiled fiction so you know it won't all be happy times.
A short, fast-paced novel with a nice and sleazy mystery and a cool protagonist it's a great read.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Wrong Light (Rick Cahill) by Matt Coyle

Some PI's (like my own Noah Milano) try to find redemption. Some PI's (like Dana King's Nick Forte) just get darker. Rick Cahill is one of the latter as well.
When sexy-voiced radio personality Naomi is stalked the radio station hires Rick Cahill to protect her and locate the stalker. Then a girl is abducted and Rick has to get involved with that while trying to work out his issues with the Russian mob he got into in the earlier books.
The several plot threads come together nicely and Rick keeps growing as a character. He becomes more hardboiled and darker as we near the exciting climax.
Nice pacing, good prose, good characters in a tight and traditional PI story every fan of the genre will enjoy.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Stripper! (Natalie McMasters) by Thomas A. Burns

Well, this is something different... The PI in this one isn't a 40-year old ex-cop with a drinking problem, not even a feisty thirty-something independent woman who cuts her hair with a nail clipper... Nope, she's a 20 year old bisexual college girl!
Natalie McMasters is going through college and working as a trainee at a PI firm when she gets involved with a webcam girl who gets killed. Trying to find out who is the killer while coming to grips with her sexuality she gets involved with police corruption and a cyber stalker.
Sometimes the plot veered a bit too much into eighties softporn thrillers for me (you know, the Shannon Tweed kind) but I have to admit this is one novel where we get most things we expect and crave from a PI novel while still doing some new stuff and putting the genre firmly in this era.
It could have been a bit shorter, the pacing isn't always good and the dialogue can falter. However, this is the writer's first PI novel so I expect him to become better with every new book in this new series.
It's something new while not entering supernatural or spoof territory, for that alone you should check it out.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Grimes' Punishment (Roger Grimes) by H.A.L. Wagner

A dark and action-packed tale featuring a unique anti-hero.
What a dark and action-packed tale. I had read a lighter PI tale after this one to get me out of a dark state of mind. The story reads well while listening to death metal (Morbid Angel in this case) I found out.
In this story we follow the journey of a criminal into a PI, his name is Grimes and he's very cool. He's big, he's got tattoos and he's a total badass. He's enlisted by a lawyer to do some good but when an old friend dies from heroin he just goes on a vigilante rampage through Daytona Beach.
The action is gut wrenching in it's realism, the characters described so well they get you either mad or give you a hard-on.
The story works both as a standalone but also as an introduction to a series.
All in all, a dark and action-packed tale featuring a unique anti-hero.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Unknown Devil (C.T. Ferguson)

Hacker / PI C.T. Ferguson is back in his second full novel. I've enjoyed his novellas and short stories but this my first of his full-length reads. He actually seems a bit more of a standard PI in this one compared to those.
He's hired to find a missing programmer while a crime boss tries to hire him to develop some ransomware. There's a lot of stuff about ransomware and computer wizardry but because the writer works in the cybersecurity business it's all pretty realistic and well described.
C.T.'s dalliances with the ladies add some nice spice, but I could have done without the Spenser-style scenes of him cooking.
There's some nice action scenes in this one as well, especially the hand-to-hand combat scenes were some of the best I've seen written in PI fiction.
All in all another solid entry in the series.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Cannon's Mouth (Rafferty) by W, Glenn Duncan

When Rafferty gets mistaken for a hitman. He tries to warn the intended victim but is too late. Then the chase for the real killer starts.
I'm a fan of this series, and the mood is always nice and breezy but this time the plot seemed a bit too thin. Also, while not a long book I had a feeling the story could be told in half the pages.
Still, if you like Spenser you will absolutely enjoy this fun and action-packed series. If you dislike this particular one, don't be discouraged, the other books are better.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Guest Feature: 5 Private Investigators That Influenced Joe Rey by Tom Leins

Tom Leins, author of the Joe Rey stories is kind of enough to visit  my little site and tell you all about his biggest influences...

Joe Rey is the protagonist of my Paignton Noir series, which started with 2017’s SKULL MEAT, and continues this year with MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Near To The Knuckle) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect). He is a cut-price private investigator with a nasty side-line in muscle-for-hire work. As the series progresses his investigative skills are honed, and his client list improves, but he never really loses his willingness to get his hands dirty for personal gain and his unwavering commitment to revenge. His influences are a mixture of anti-heroes, rogue cops and bareknuckle fighters, but a number of private eyes have also permeated his character. I’m sure they are all obvious to varying degrees, but that is for the readers to judge!

1. Matt Scudder (Lawrence Block)
The first Matt Scudder novel I read was one of the later books in the series, when he was less tormented, and (I think) living in domestic bliss with Elaine. While I enjoyed the mystery, it wasn’t until I went back to the first book in the series – The Sins of the Fathers – that the character clicked into place for me. Again, that book isn’t one of my favourites, but it does a great job of introducing the character of Scudder – a man seemingly trapped in a purgatory of his own making, numbing the pain with booze and making a meagre living doing ‘favours for friends’. It is a unique, irresistible set-up, and the winning formula is only really tweaked when Scudder gives up the alcohol. Rey’s rooming house is a brief nod to Scudder, although my character’s ‘tragic back story’ – the traumatic episode which has set him on his current path – hasn’t made it into print yet. (All will be revealed in the still-in-progress BONEYARD DOGS...!)  

2. Burke (Andrew Vachss)The early Burke books were shocking, brutal tales which gripped me with their beyond-the-pale narratives about exploitation and degradation in 1980s New York. After reading a number of books featuring more conventional private investigators, coming face to face with the shadowy Burke was a real shock to the system. His survivalist tendencies set him apart from the crowd, and he is a man whose methods can come uncomfortably close to those of the ‘freaks’ he is trailing. In some ways, Rey could be likened to a sloppier, less paranoid version of Burke, but that has never really been a conscious decision. I appreciate Burke’s moral code and his ‘Family of Choice’, but the shocking, transgressive cases that he takes on really showed me how dark noir could get.

3. Patrick Kenzie (Dennis Lehane)I really enjoyed the Kenzie and Gennaro books back when I first read them, and Ben Affleck’s 2007 film version of Gone Baby Gone was pretty damn impressive as well! Affleck’s brother Casey was brilliantly cast as Kenzie and excels in some of my favourite scenes in the book, perfectly capturing the character’s inner turmoil. While I have tried to steer clear of a brooding protagonist, I like the moral dilemmas that Lehane presents his characters with. Another element that I have embraced from time to time is the conscience-free tough guy sidekick, in the vein of Patrick’s buddy Bubba Rogowski. It may be a cliché, but sometimes you need to lean on a violent supporting character to get the job done, and Bubba is one of my favourite sidekicks! 

4. Nick Stefanos (George Pelecanos)I read the Nick Stefanos books many years ago, and I was always struck by how much of himself the author had seemed to put into the character’s personality, while preserving that fictional angle. In an interview Pelecanos once admitted: “He is my alter ego. He is whatever age I am or was, depending on the period of the book.” I like that idea, and it is something that I have fooled around with when writing Joe Rey’s character, and filling in certain blanks in his personality. He is nothing like me, but I have no qualms about letting him share certain minor personality traits and features. Also, it is important that he ages in real-time, which is another theme that comes to the fore in future books!

5. Joe Pitt (Charlie Huston)
My fifth and final choice is probably the biggest curve-ball. I read very little in the way of supernatural fiction, but I really enjoyed this series. Joe Pitt is an unaffiliated ‘vampyre’, living in New York, carrying out assignments for the city’s various ‘clans’ in exchange for blood and freedom. Ultimately, it was Pitt’s relationship with the clans that captured my attention more than anything. Due to the awkward logistics of travelling between the Five Boroughs, the Clans tend to remain within the confines of their own stomping ground, while Pitt is free to drift between the different regions of the city. I found myself loosely applying this rule to the Paignton Noir-scape – partitioning up different parts of town along perceived criminal fault-lines. Rey has increasingly uncomfortable relationships with most of the town’s would-be kingpins, but he is similarly free to explore all corners of Paignton without fear of reprisal – for now! 
Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Near to the Knuckle, Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction. A pair of Paignton Noir novelettes, SKULL MEAT and SNUFF RACKET, are available via Amazon. MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES will be released by Near To The Knuckle on 2nd June 2018, and REPETITION KILLS YOU will be published by All Due Respect (an imprint of Down & Out Books) in September 2018.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

A Hell Within (Griffin & Price) by James A. Moore and Charles R. Rutledge

I stay away from sci-fi / PI mash-ups or paranormal romance / urban fantasy featuring PI's. I do have a soft spot for true occult detectives though.
Sheriff Carl Price and ex-mercenary, now PI, Wade Griffin get involved with some pretty dark forces in the town of Wellman. Luckily they're pretty tough guys and get some help from occult detective Carter Decamp.
There's lots of Easter eggs here for occult detective fans. Wellman is obviously named for the creater of several occult detectives, Manly Wade Wellman. And Wade Griffin of course as well. Decamp probably owes his name to L. Sprague Decamp, author of some cool Conan books.
Anyway, this is a lively mix of a PI story and a fantasy / horror story. The creatures are pretty cool, there's a lot fo fast-paced action and the characters are very cool. This probably would do great as a comic book as well.
All in all, I loved the ride.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stateline (Dan Reno) by Dave Stanton

Dan Reno takes some time off from the PI agency where he works to investigate the death of a tycoon's son who gets killed just before his wedding.
His investigations take him from the cold Sierras to the hot Nevada desert as he takes on a bunch of crooked cops.
There's not much news to this novel, but some stuff stands out. I've read a lot about PI's who talk to hookers in investigations but it's not often they sleep with him. Reno had a bit of a booze problem, but is not a real recovering alcoholic. He started out as a cop, became a bounty hunter, then a PI.
The ride is enjoyable enough, though I didn't care too much for the basic plot. Still, I'm going to read a few others in this series to see if the flaws get better because I see some promise in Dan Reno.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Shadow of a Thief (Saul Fowler) by Norman Green

Thief-for-hire Saul Fowler is enlisted by his stepfather to find out who killed his supposed half-sister, prompting him to leave a hermit-like existence and brings him to New York City.
There's a fair amount of extra depth to this tale, aside from the usual clashes with the local mob, several thugs and hookers with hearts of gold. This comes from a subplot that digs into African culture as well as the slow unraveling of Saul's dark past with his mother and his addictions.
Saul turns out to be pretty likable a character even though I thought he'd be a bit more of a rogue in the first few chapters. He can certainly hold his own in a fight. He seemed to be able to follow people a bit too easily though.
Norman is best known for his Allesandra Martillo series, but I really hope we will see Saul return soon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

August Snow (August Snow) by Stephen Mack Jones

August Snow is half Mexican-American, half African-American and a former detective and Marine sniper living and independently wealthy life in Detroit. When a succesful business woman enlists his aid to investigate strange doings in her company he ends up investigating her death instead. He digs deeper and deeper and ends up needing all his tough skills to take on professional killers.Meanwhile he tries to help out his local Detroit neighborhood, befriending several rich characters who end up aiding him in his quest.
Snow is a pretty tough and compelling character, his mixed heritage and the city of Detroit adding that extra richness that makes it stand out from the rest. The main plot is pretty basic but will satisfy most PI fans. I have to admit the action scenes were pretty well written, so I can surely see a movie adaption coming out.

Q & A with Richard Godwin

Ex-military PI, Tammy Wayne, tracks serial killers for a living in Richard Godwin's novel “Insincerity”, coming out in June. I grilled Richard about his characters and PI fiction...

Q: What makes Tammy Wayne different from other hardboiled characters? 
Tammy Wayne is a unique creation, in that she is not hard boiled at all, but a vulnerable intelligent woman who uses her own grit and realism to tackle an extreme psychopathic killer. She allows herself to feel all the raw grief of her sister's violation and murder at the hands of the very man she is pursuing, a man known as The Pimp, who has her and her lover under deep surveillance. In this way she exploits his need to harden her by psychological  brutality and she does do by resisting and overcoming it. She is an extremely strong female who does not lapse into stereotype once.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I heard her voice and began writing. It stemmed from the desire to write something about a non-cop pursuing a killer, rather than the other way around.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Like anything else it has its pros and cons. On the one hand it has opened the world of books up to a much wider audience and allowed for an accessibility that is breathtaking and great, in that you can download a book anywhere. On the other hand there is a lot of crap out there. It has also exposed the greed and dishonesty of many publishers.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I have 7 more lined up for publication, including the sequel to my first novel Apostle Rising, Apostle Unbound. I am of course writing new novels also.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I am a regular at the gym, training 5 times a week. I socialise a lot. I also like sport. I travel. I like Art exhibitions. I love music, most genres. 

Q: How do you promote your work? 
My publishers do a lot of that for me. I have two Pr's working for me. I do a lot of online stuff. I create a stir.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
All of them apart from YA, which I consider to be a spurious genre cooked up by prurient and bored right wing theocrats intent on turning America into a theocracy. It is based around the control of developing sexuality and absurd. It lacks all realism. In the old days you read the classics. I say read the classics.
I read a lot of crime fiction of all types from Noir to mystery. I also like sci fi, slipstream, horror, literary, experimental, avant garde, Westerns, giallo, and erotica. There is also well written porn. Of course there is.

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?
Robots, the rise in ethnology is a foregone conclusion. We will have android PI's with huge and morally untethered sexual and Erotic appetites influenced by the canonical and prophetic works of Philip K Dick and also by incisive works such as Android Love, Human Skin, and Paranoia and The Destiny Programme.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Because it allows me to explore both the human condition without too much enclosure created by over labelling, and I dislike the need to genre classify, as it is primarily an academic and publisher-driven pursuit aimed at historicising the living and profiteering from them, and because in Noir, which I am best know for, you have men and women who are not necessarily criminals, nor recidivists or hardened criminals in any way whatsoever, but who step over a moral line and become criminalised by the society they inhabit and as such it allows for a lot of psychological excavation of the kind I enjoy as a Novelist. Noir is the genre of losers since they always fuck it up, be it  a heist or a blackmail, be it a murder or a con trick perpetrated on the corrupt deserving gulls they may seek to fleece. It is the genre of seductions in bars. Note I also write in many other genres.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sophomore Slump (Mackenzie August) by Alan Lee

This is one of those books where all the good things are the exact same things that don't make it good. The hero is a reluctant PI with a long backstory (ex-cop, MMA fighter, teacher), a violent sidekick (US Marshal Manny) and a dry wit in the old Spenser / Cole style. Yep, it's not the most original of series. However, I really like all that tropes (my own Noah Milano is full of them) when done well. Also, there's some nice extra more original touches. The hero, Mackenzie August lives together with his dad and his on, Kix. Turns out he donated his sperm so his cop partner and his wife could conceive. When both his partner and his wife die he takes care of the kid. Sounds almost like a sitcom, right? Well that's what August's flame Veronica seems to think. Veronica is another of those tropes that is used with a nice spin. At first she seems the Susan Silverman type of fantastic, perfect girlfriend, but that's not how it turns out to be.
What about the main plot? Well that didn't engage me as much as the setting. August is hired to go undercover at a high school to unmask some drug dealers and solve some gang killings.
Basically, this is a fast-paced, easy to read tale with a nice mix of action and comedy that will appeal to any fans of Robert B. Parker, Robert Crais, Sue Grafton, David Housewright or my own stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Two (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, every new part starting with a metal video. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. In the first episode of this new story he was hired to track down the girl who robbed an old buddy of his lottery ticket. Read the first part here.

Lenny walked into the Tower Club, they were just playing some AC/DC. There were about twelve people inside, most older guys with tattoos and two women in their forties with way too much make-up. Behind the bar was a wiry guy with a Black Sabbath T-shirt and a buzzcut.

Lenny sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.

“Nice crowd,” he told the barkeeper.


“Don’t any younger girls come in here?”

“Sometimes. Mostly weekends. Those ladies are always  here, trying to pick up dudes. Divorced women, you know the type.”

“Sure. I like Asian girls myself. Plus when they wear tattoos.”

“No kidding. That’s creepy,” the barkeeper said.


“There’s a regular here, this Asian chick with blond hair and tats everywhere. Incredibly hot.”

“No kidding. Has she been in today?”

“Last time I saw her was yesterday. Went home with this big dude.”

“She sounds great. Do you know her name?”

“Janey they call her. That dude was pretty big though. You wouldn’t want to get on his bad side, trying to put the moves on the chick.”

“Who says it’s serious now?”

The barkeeper shrugged. “Guess you’ve got a point there. I’ve seen her with a lot of dudes, never the same one.”

“So maybe I could be one of them.”

“Who knows. She never seemed too picky.”

“Was that an insult?”

“Sorry, dude. None intended,” the barkeeper said. “Have a beer on me.”

Lenny wasn’t one to say no to free beer, even when he was investigating.  After a sip of it asked, “Could you give me a call when you see her?” He handed the bartender his business card, not the one for his PI gig but the one that identified him as a roadie.

The bartender had a look at the card. “Roadie, huh? Did you work with any bands I might know?”

“Bad Citizen Corporation?”

“The punk band? Cool. Not sure if I should give you a call when Janey is here, though. That sounds kinda wrong and creepy?”

“All in the name of love, man!”

The bartender laughed. “Okay, maybe. If you get me tickets for the next BCC show then?”

“They’re not playing anymore, but I guarantee you a spot on the guest list for the next Necromantic Poets gig.”

“Never heard of them.”

“No? They’re huge in Japan,” Lenny bluffed.

“Hey, how about some service here?” A muscular dude with graying long hair next to Lenny was apparently annoyed he had to wait to get the bartender’s attention.

The bartender told the guy he was sorry and took his order. It consisted of a large beer and a whiskey back. He downed it in the blink of an eye and ordered another. Lenny slowly finished his own drink and left the place.

As soon he was outside a hand grabbed his shoulder. Lenny turned around. The muscular dude from the bar.

“Yeah?” Lenny asked.

“Heard you asking about Janey. Leave her alone. She’s mine,” the muscular guy said.

“Huh? It’s really not cool to see a woman as property these days, dude.”

Lenny saw the fists coming but wasn’t fast enough to evade it. He rolled his head with the punch a bit, minimalizing the impact as much as possible. He was pretty good at taking punches.

Lenny pushed the man away from him. “Not cool!”

The muscular man punched Lenny in the gut. He was even better at taking a punch there, a result of many days on the road eating fastfood and drinking beer.

“Stop it!” Lenny yelled and hit his attacker in the mouth. Blood trickled from enemy’s face. Lenny followed up with another hard push, putting all his considerable weight behind it. The guy stumbled backwards, lost his balance and landed on his ass.

“Bastard!” the muscular man said.

“Hey, you’re the one who started it.”

The muscular man jumped up, tackling Lenny against the floor. On top of him now he started to punch him in the face. The guy was pretty strong but Lenny had muscles of his own underneath his fat. Dragging along all those heavy amplifiers and stuff had been a better workout than a gym. He heaved the graying man off him with a grunt. A painful crack sounded when his back hit the pavement.

Slowly Lenny got up, feeling the blood drip down his chin. His face hurt like hell. He made his way to his Dodge Ram, not looking back, just getting in. He drove off, dared a glance in the rearview mirror and saw the muscular guy still lying on the floor, shaking an angry fist at him.  

Friday, March 30, 2018

Albatross (Richard Dean Buckner) by Ryan Sayles

Richard Dean Buckner helps out his cop buddy Clevenger to solve the murder on two nuns. When a priest is suspected Buckner is reminded of a case back when he was a cop himself and he becomes determined not to make the same mistake he did in the past.
This is, as we are used to in Ryan Sayles' stories a dark ride. Buckner can be quite the bastard, violent, hard-drinking more vigilante than private eye. I love the fact he's a bearded guy in his sixties with a necktattoo and carries a .44 Magnum. I imagine him as Jonathan Banks or Clint Eastwood, those tough old bastards.
What I admire in Ryan's writing is that it really looks like a lot of thinking went into every line, every word. His style is very hardboiled, but not in the sense of the old pulps. He manages to evoke a very dark, slightly tired and cranky mood that makes this the perfect stuff to read with a pitch black cup of coffee or a nice stout or whiskey.
I guess the only thing I didn't like was the fact I had to suspend a lot of disbelief to accept the cops were so willing to have Buckner along for the ride.
Nice, fast-paced and dark stuff.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blackout (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

Now sober, Pete Fernandez the reporter-turned-private eye is back to investigate a cold case from his own past. A girl he had a crush on in college was murdered before it could go anywhere. When new evidence in that case turns up Pete is compelled to investigate of course. He travels from NYC back to Miami where he meets his old partner and former lover Kathryn as well as his FBI agent friend.
The investigation leads him to a dangerous cult and what seems to be a political assassination.
The stakes are higher than ever and the last few chapters are very, very cinematic and exciting. But that last chapter... That last chapter will have you leaving full of surprise for sure...
With every novel Alex seems to become more ambitious and the story more multi-layered, luckily without losing some of the good more pulpy elements of the genre like a wisecrack or two and some good fight scenes. I love how the relationship between Pete and Kathryn evolves, as always reminding me of McKenzie / Gennaro from the Dennis Lehane books. I was sad to see that series end. If you were too, this will be the series for you.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part One (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial. He’s my slightly more humorous version of the PI. He doesn’t exactly know what he’s doing and sure as hell isn’t the martial arts master my Noah Milano is. Also, starting with this new serial I will be showing more of my love for metal by posting a link to a metal video that someway is connected to the episode, this time a live performance of Code of the Slashers by death metal legends Cannibal Corpse.

For more Lenny Parker stories look here.


Lenny Parker thought his band, The Necromantic Poets, was killing it that night. After their most popular song Zero Tolerance and their new song Maim, Kill, Slaughter they did an encore playing a cover song, Cannibal Corpse’s Code of the Slashers. Lenny had a blast with the steady bassline and how it played off against Casey’s insanely fast drumming. Their aptly-named guitar player Mohawk gave his all with the buzzing riffs and their vocalist Mikey amazed Lenny once again with how gruff and guttural a guy of his stature could sound.

Their audience consisted of roughly only twenty people, the half of which was more interested in drinking their beer or their phones, but that didn’t really matter to him. He just wanted to play and The San Diego Batcave was always happy to give them that chance, offering them as much beer as they wanted as their pay. Didn’t every great metal band start that way?

Lenny was sweating like crazy when he walked off stage, cracking open a beer as he he did, holding it against his head to cool off somewhat. The other band members patted him on the back, telling him how well he played. He told them he was pretty about it himself.

One of their only local fans, a huge dude with even more tattoos than Lenny walked up to him. Keith had made a career out of getting shit-faced and visiting metal shows. He had a day job as a garbage man, nice and honest work that earned him enough money to pay for his habits. He was a pretty stand-up guy. He shook Lenny’s hand. Lenny wasn’t a weakling, but even he had to admit Keith’s grip was pretty strong. Sweaty too.

“Hey man, great show!” Keith told Lenny.

“Thanks, dude. I appreciate it,” Lenny said.

“Next time play Leatherface Should Kill Britney though. I love that one.”

“Yeah, our drummer Casey hates that one. She thinks Britney is hot. Go figure.” Of course Casey had the sexual appetite of a class of sixteen year olds on Viagra.

“Can I buy you a beer?” Keith asked.

“Still finishing this one, but thanks!” Lenny said. He didn’t mention their free beer arrangement with the Batcave so he wouldn’t sound ungrateful.

“Okay, just let me know if you want one. Say, I heard besides working as a roadie you also do some PI work?”

“Yeah, every now and then between tours.”

“I think I can use your services then.”

“No kidding. Tell me more.”

“Let’s have a seat,” Keith said and led Lenny to the bar. They sat down on the barstools, Keith ordering another beer. Casey was downing shots of Tequila with Mohawk. That girl could drink like a fish. Meanwhile, Mikey was talking to some teenage jailbait who was admittedly pretty cute, as he was wont to do.

As the DJ started his death metal mix with some Gojira Keith confided in Lenny. “I got robbed of a million dollars yesterday.”

Lenny’s beer went out through his nose. “What? How much exactly do you make on that garbage truck because maybe I should think about a career change.”

“No, it’s like this… I bought this lottery ticket… And yesterday I went for some drinks in town, met up with this hot Asian chick… We ended up at my place, you know, fucking… Then I saw on the ‘net that my ticket fucking won… A million bucks man, can you believe it? To celebrate we had some more Jack Daniel’s and some weed and fucked some more, you know… At some point I must have fallen asleep and when I wake up my lottery ticket is gone.”

“Wow, that’s some story,” Lenny had to admit. “So you tried to get it back from her?”

“That’s the problem, I don’t know where she is. All I know is she called herself Jade. I want to hire you to find her. I’ll pay you 10% of the prize when you get me the lottery ticket back.”

Lenny whistled. That was a lot of money. Maybe now he could build that home studio he’d been dreaming about. “Sounds good.”

“You’re the only PI I trust with that ticket, man. I know you’re the most stand-up fucking guy in the whole of San Diego.”

“Well, thanks. All right. Can’t say no to a job like that. I’m going to need some more information about this Jade though.”

“Sure. She about five-ten, slender, Asian… Hair dyed silver and she’s like covered with tattoos. And she’s insanely hot.”

“That’s actually a description that should get me somewhere,” Lenny had to admit. “Where did you meet her?”

“Dive bar called the Tower Club, you know that one? I walked in for a little nightcap after a show here and when I saw her dancing by herself, holding a vodka in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other I just knew I had to have her. The way she moved, the way those tattooed legs looked in the Daisy Dukes she was wearing… Dude, she was something.”

“All right. She tell you anything about where she worked or lived. Or something about her family?”

“No man, it wasn’t that kind of night, you know? I just know she liked rough sex and prime weed.”

“Right. Of course. Well, I guess that’s a start. Sounds like I should start at The Tower Club then.”

Keith squeezed Lenny’s shoulder. Lenny winced. “Thanks, dude! Thanks!”

It had been a tiring night but for the kind of dough that was to be earned with this job Lenny figured he shouldn’t waste any more time and as the DJ segued into Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast he walked out the door, ready to play the PI.


Cut You Down (David Wakeland) by Sam Wiebe

Tabitha Sorenson dipped her hands in the college fund and disappeared. Her college professor hires PI David Wakeland to find her and ends up sleeping with him. I cannot say more about this plot without spoiling too much but I guarantee you that there will be twists you didn't see coming as half way the book it turns out in a whole different direction.
The other plot is about how David's ex-girlfriend, who's also a cop, asks him to investigate her corrupt partner.
There's the darkness of the first novel alleviated by some nice funny tough guy dialogue and more tender moments of the first novel in this series. There's also a more spare writing style and short chapters that I personally have loved since picking up my first Spenser novel. Good stuff once again.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Bad Samaritan (Nick Forte) by Dana King

I loved the first few Nick Forte books because of the pretty straightforward, no frills nature of them. The draws were the clean writing and the strong bond of Forte and his daughter, described in scenes both fun and moving. This one starts out that way as well, even more fast-paced and with sparer prose. All great. He is hired by an author who is getting some disturbing sexual letters and comes to the aid of a former prostitute he helped out before. During these investigations he tangles with a men's rights movement and the Mob.
The further you get into the novel the further you notice Forte's descent into darkness. There's a scene with him getting very rough with the prostitute that was a bit shocking and we witness how the criminal you might think of as psycho sidekick acutally has to cool Forte down.
A strong PI story with an interesting twist. It reads so good an fast I was suprised when I already arrived at the last chapter in just two days.

Killed in Action (The Equalizer) by Michael Sloan

I used to love the Equalizer TVseries back in the eighties. Edward Woodward as Rober McCall was a very compelling and original protagonist. Not a younger, macho kind of handsome hero but an older, tough gentleman. The premise made for some really cool stories that sometimes were very PI in nature and sometimes more spy stories. I was disappointed about the movie remake and felt it had little to do with the series.
Equalizer creater Michael Sloan is now writing books about Robert McCall. It seems to be more of a reboot than a continuation of the TV show. McCall is kept busy by taking on a white slavery ring, freeing a soldier in Syria, preventing a terrorist attack and taking on a ruthless vigilante who is operating under the Equalizer name, much to McCall's chagrin.
Some favorites from the show like Control and sidekick Kostmayer are in the book as well and the business card the fake Equalizer uses seems to show the image of McCall in front of his Jaguar that was used in the opening credits of the old show.
There's a lot of action and it's nice to have McCall back. The number of plotpoints might have been a bit too numerous to make for a good coherent stories, though. I also felt the many pop culture references McCall makes in the book seemed a bit off. It made me think this McCall is much younger than the one in the TV show, but he sometimes if referenced as ''old man'', so maybe not.
All in all, not all I hoped it would be, but better than the movie.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Q & A with Tom Fowler

Tom Fowler writes books about a PI without a cop background who's a bit younger then a lot of private eyes and has a soft spot for novellas. Sounds like my kind of guy, you will understand if you know my Noah Milano stuff. All in all, a guy I just had to interview...

Q: What makes C.T. Ferguson different from other hardboiled characters? 
A: Mainly that he doesn’t come from a law enforcement background. Characters like Spenser and Scudder are great, but I didn’t want to write someone who’s an ex-cop. I wanted a character who would be more of a fish out of water. I think the series starts more “medium-boiled” in the first book, but the more C.T. sees and does, the more the harder edge comes in.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: Basically, I asked a lot of questions once I knew I didn’t want to write another ex-cop. What’s his background? Is he licensed? What makes him want to be a PI? Is it his full-time job? Etc. It didn’t take long to come up with a character bankrolled by his parents, and the reasons why flowed pretty well from there. I spent a few months cranking out short stories. Most of them were terrible and unprintable, but they allowed me to flesh out the character more and find his voice.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: I say this as someone who loves physical books: it’s great. Paper books will never go out of style. Look at music: vinyl is still a thing (niche, but it’s around), even though we’ve had CDs for a generation or more, and despite the ease of downloading and streaming songs. Ebooks allow people to read more easily, in more places, and to carry entire libraries in their pocket, purse, or backpack. It’s terrific. As an author, anything that makes it easier to reach readers is a good thing.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
A: I have the next couple of C.T. novels written, and a couple more plotted out. Obviously, I don’t want to spoil anything, but in coming books, C.T. is going to have some personal conflicts he never expected, and he’ll deal with a case that rocks him right down to his core.
As for me, I have a couple other characters I want to explore at some point. I wrote two spy thrillers years ago. They’re awful, but the main character is good, and I can salvage elements of the plots. I also have another crime thriller protagonist I’m kicking around and developing. Those will come after I’ve published a few more C.T. books and established both him as a character and myself as an author. Later this year, I’d also like to get into audiobooks. I want a bigger platform first, and I’m hoping that sometime in the fall or winter will be good for that.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
A: Well, I do have a full-time job. Besides work and writing, my wife and I bought a house last summer, so we’re doing projects and working on some things to make it our own. It’s coming along nicely. As a writer, reading is a big hobby. I like movies and TV, and there seems to be a lot of good TV these days now that we have so many more people and networks making shows. There isn’t enough time for us to watch all the shows that look interesting. I’m also a sports fan and am a total homer for Baltimore teams. Both my full-time job and writing are sedentary, so I try to get to the gym three or four days a week.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Probably not very well yet. 😊 I have a website with a blog ( It’s not super important for a fiction writer, but people have found me that way. I’ve promoted my free novella, The Confessional, on Instafreebie and BookFunnel (and I’ll have another free one out in early March called Land of the Brave). I try to write good book descriptions and have engaging covers. Especially since The Unknown Devil came out, I’ve dabbled in ads on various platforms. With only two books at the moment, I can’t get a ton of read-through, so I haven’t immersed myself yet. My initial impressions are that AMS ads on Amazon are probably the best, and that Facebook ads are better at building a mailing list. Other authors’ mileages may vary, of course.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I do most of my reading in the mystery-crime-thriller space. Outside of that, I read graphic novels and trade paperbacks (I’m liking some of the DC Rebirth stories after not caring for The New 52). I’ll also read some occasional fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural thrillers, and science fiction. In the nonfiction world, I like books that teach me something or come at an idea from an interesting angle. And, of course, books for writers.

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 those classic writers (and a few others) will continue to be influences. It’s hard to innovate in the genre without knowing the tropes and understanding what came before you. But I also think the coming generation will take their cues from more than just books. Teens and college-aged people today absorb information and stories in ways that just weren’t possible when I was younger. I think you’ll see people influenced by movies and TV, especially now that more studios and networks are creating content.
TV and movies can also lead people back to books. Someone could see the Jack Reacher movies, for instance, and like them enough to check out the books. (This is how I got started with the series—I watched Jack Reacher on a long flight, bought Killing Floor a few days later, and have since read all the books.) Then, after twenty-some books, our hypothetical person may fancy him or herself the next Lee Child. I wonder how many people watch Bosch on Amazon, read the Michael Connelly books, and are inspired to write their own crime stories? Or maybe someone streams House, M.D. on Netflix and goes on to write a medical mystery.
I don’t know which newer writers will be the influencers. Reading some of them, I can tell they were inspired by the masters. If you don’t know and understand what Chandler, Parker, Block, Grafton, etc. did, I think you’ll have a hard time meeting reader expectations. And meeting those expectations is important, regardless of what genre you write in.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Crime stories are great. You have a hero, usually flawed with his or her own problems, trying to solve a major problem for someone else. Done well, you get a lot of elements of the hero’s journey. They’re classic, timeless tales. You can graft anything onto a crime story and it still has the same heart. Look at The Dresden Files—magic and supernatural creatures play a big part in it, but if you strip all that away, you’re left with a damaged detective trying to solve a mystery. There’s not much better than that.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Slaughterhouse Blues (Bill & Fiona) by Nick Kolakowski

I first met Bill and Fiona, the con man and the killer in A Bunch of Heartbroken Saps and was delighted by the fun and fast crime story. The couple is back in this one, living in Havana and on the run for the mob since the events in that book. Via some detours they end up fighting an assassin couple and with a decades old loot.
What makes this one so fun is pretty much the same things as the first one. Bill and Fiona are so much fun and there's such a wonderful sense of humor that goes very right with the fast-paced action.
So don't be fooled by the dark and depressing (though very beautifully written) first chapter. There will be laughs along the way.
Not a mystery novel or the kind of PI stuff I usually review it IS a solid crime novella. Regular readers of my blog know how much I dig a novella.
Icing on the cake is the snarky references to Coldplay, kudos for those!

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Nine (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. Luckily Lenny convinces him to let her leave. Here's the last chapter in this serial. For earlier episodes click here

Lenny and Casey smiled happily at the couple in front of the altar. Lenny had managed to find a blazer he wore over a Metallica t-shirt and Casey actually turned out to own a modest black dress. They looked pretty respectable although a bit out of place among the other guests. Still, they felt honored to be invited to Tommy and Jill’s wedding. It had been a few weeks since their encounter with Larry Thunder and now Lenny’s nose only hurt when he sneezed.

Casey nodded at the two bridesmaids, dressed in pink dresses. “Wouldn’t mind hitting that.”

“Sheesh, you’re awful,” Lenny whispered.

Casey shrugged. “Living life to the fullest, that’s all.”

The metalheads listened as the couple said their vows and sealed their marriage with a kiss. There was so much love in both their eyes Lenny couldn’t help but be moved.

“Are you tearing up, you big wuss?” Casey said.

“It’s the incense,” Lenny said.

They headed out the church where the newlyweds were greeted with a handful of rice. Lenny and Casey shook their hands and congratulated them.

“I owe you so much,” Jill told them. “Tommy was so kind to me. We’ll have Larry paid off within a year.”

“That’s great,” Lenny said. “If he bothers you after that don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

“Thank you, thank you!” Jill said and hugged Lenny and Casey both.

The couple walked to the big white limousine with the cans and sign saying “Just Married” waiting in front of the church. They got in, waving at everybody. So much happiness, no sign of the hardships they went through. Lenny felt really good about that and told Casey so.

“You know what also felt good? That hug from Jill. What a body,” Casey said.

Lenny just shook his head, glad to have seen from the newlyweds that romance and true love wasn’t dead yet.