Monday, December 30, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Five (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


Lenny and his friends got to work at the crack of dawn. Mikey had printed out flyers that Casey helped him pass around in the neighborhood. Mohawk, who was often just too abrasive or freaky looking with his face tattoos and spikey hair for people not to stay out of his way decided to just hang the flyers in stores and on trees. Lenny had asked Janice to help out as well. She was glad to help. He didn’t bother asking Cliff.
Janice was standing at Lenny’s truck, picking up some new flyers.  She was wearing jeans short and a tank top that said “Eyes front, sailor.” Lenny had to admit she looked even more attractive than the day before. It probably wouldn’t take long for Mikey to make his move. The metal god with the long hair and strong chin got all the babes.
“That’s a great group of friends you’ve got there,” she said.
“Yeah, they sure are. Good people,” Lenny said.
“The one with the Mohawk looks a bit scary though.”
“Looks often deceive you. Not sure if they do in this case though,” Lenny told her, grabbing another stack of flyers from his car as well.
“The guy with the long hair… Is he single?” Janice asked.
Shit, there we go, Lenny thought. “More or less. Mikey usually has a few things going if you know what I mean.”
“Player, huh? Never mind then. Hate players,” Janice said. “See you later!” She walked off with the flyers. Lenny was embarrassed to catch himself staring at her ass a bit too long.
“Nice ass, right?” Casey said from behind him. That startled him, feeling even more embarrassed and caught. He tried not to blush but failed.
Casey laughed. “Relax, dude. Nothing to be ashamed of. I was checking her out myself. Any idea if she’s into girls?”
Not Casey too, Lenny thought. “She liked Mikey.”
“Maybe she swing both ways. Lot of that going around these days,” Casey offered.
Lenny sighed. “Just get some flyers, okay?”
Casey chuckled, ruffling Lenny’s hair. “Just messing with you, dude. I can see you like her. I’m not the kind of girl to cramp your style. Enough fish in the sea for me.”
“I really don’t think she’s interested in me,” Lenny said.
“Hey, some girls like big dudes. It could happen. And you’re a nice guy, Len. Contrary to popular belief these days, most girls still like nice guys.”
“Haven’t noticed,” Lenny said.
“Ah, fuck it, Lenny! You’re making me sad!” Casey said and smacked him on the arm. “Let’s get these flyers out there.”
With those words they both got to work again.
The whole neighborhood was covered, flyers ended up in everybody’s hands that was willing to listen to the metalheads and the nurse. Nobody had seen Ozzy the last week though. Some people knew the dog and told them how sorry they felt for the old man. While those sympathies were heartwarming it did little in helping them find the dog, though.
It was getting dark when they all got together at Lenny’s car, sharing their progress or lack of it.
“We did our best, that counts for something I guess. And I got some exercise walking all over the neighborhood,” Janice said.
“You don’t look like you need any,” Mikey said, all shit-eating bad boy James Dean smile. Lenny rolled his eyes.
“That’s laying it on a bit thick,” Janice said.
Mikey shrugged, “I just calls ‘em like I sees ‘em.”
“I think it’s still a bit weird nobody saw Ozzy,” Lenny cut in. “It’s like he vanished in thin air. Or indeed, someone did… Dognap him.”
“Did you just really say dognap?” Mike guffawed.
Lenny shrugged. “Best name for it I guess.”
“You might be right,” Casey agreed.
“Hey, you know I already thought that was a possibility,” Janice said.
“But how are we going to find Ozzy then? He could literally be anywhere about now,” Lenny said.
“Hey, don’t look at me. You’re the fucking private eye,” Mohawk said.
Lenny couldn’t argue with that. Maybe he should indeed start acting like a private investigator instead of someone just looking  for  a missing pet. He should start treating this as a real abduction case. Unfortunately he never worked on any of those. He knew someone who probably did though. Time to give her a call.


Monday, December 23, 2019

Favorite Sons of 2019

I had some more time to read this year and managed to enjoy some great new PI writing. As I do every year I managed to pick my favorites again.

BEST PI NOVEL: Behind The Wall Of Sleep (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah
BEST DEBUT: Cobra Clutch (Hammerhead Jed Ounstead) by A.J. Devlin
BEST NEW PI: Auggie Velez by Robert J. Randisi

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Last Sweet Song of Hammer Dylan (Auggie Velez / Nashville P.I.) by Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi shows again what a master he is at the Elmore Leonard style of writing: leaving out the parts people skip. That makes for a highly entertaining, fast read.
I also love the character of guitarplayer / PI Auggie Velez. Never do you think of him as a superman, but he still is a strong protagonist and pretty good private eye. In this novel he is hired to track down country artist Dylan Hammer who went missing years ago, presumed dead. In this mission he stumbles on a dead body and two older ladies with a very healthy sexual appetite to complicate things.
While the mystery isn't that complicated and there's not much action within the pages the strong writing and atmosphere made me really enjoy it. I just love how Randisi uses the country scene to really give the story extra color like I try to use the metal scene in my Lenny Parker stories.
I really hope Mr. Randisi sticks with this character!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Behind The Wall of Sleep (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

Ex-State Trooper Henry Malone is back again with his AA buddy Woody. A local stripclub owner wants him to run for sheriff and he's hired to track down the money that got stolen at a local country concert.
Malone encounters some lowlife characters and situations that tug at his heartstrings. Malone again shows that he can be a tough guy when he deals with evil men but is also very human. As ever the dialogue is witty, the action fast and furious and the metaphors funny.
I just love how this book is very dark but always has a little bit of fun thrown in that make you able to come up for air in a dark river of violence and depravity.
This is one of my favorite series of the last few years and this new entry in the series proves again why that is.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Four (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


Lenny was just in time for band practice. He played bass in a thrash/death metal band called The Necromantic Poets. They usually rehearsed in the garage that belonged to their vocalist, Mikey. When Lenny came in Mikey was sitting on a speaker, drinking a bottle of Corona. Casey, sporting blue hair today was practicing her drumming skills. A barrage of blast beats sounded.
“You’re just in fucking time, Parker!” Casey yelled over the sound of her drums.
“Sorry, I’m on a case,” Lenny excused himself.
Their guitarist, Mohawk looked up from the guitar he was tuning and asked, “Anything exciting? Murder case? Extortion?”
“Missing dog,” Lenny answered.
Mohawk snorted. “Sheesh, Magnum PI you ain’t.”
“Never said I was,” Lenny said and unpacked his bass from its case. While he plugged in the bass he told his friends the details about the case.
“I feel bad for the old dude,” Casey said. “I used to have a dog when I was a kid. Broke my heart when we had to put Spike down.”
“Yeah, I get that. If I wasn’t on tour so much I wouldn’t mind a dog.”
“I’m more of a cat person myself,”  Mikey said.
“I got a snake,” Mohawk said. Lenny wasn’t surprised.
“Ugh. You probably feed him living mice? Barbarian!” Casey said. Lenny knew she was vegan.
Mohawk shrugged. “Circle of life, babe.”
“That’s bullshit,” Casey told him.
Lenny figured it was time to nip the argument in the bud. He liked playing with this band. He didn’t want an argument like that to cause it to break up. So he played a bassline that was impossible for Casey to resist. She lay down another assault of blast beats to go along with it. That prompted Mohawk to start riffing and soon they were jamming.
“Niiiiiiiiice,” Mikey approved and saluted them with his bottle.
What followed was an hour of playing their particular brand of loud and heavy music that got them all sweaty and red in the face. They took a break, opening up a case of beer.
“You need some help with the investigation?” Casey asked Lenny while she popped open a can.
“I guess I could use some help. Pay’s pretty damn low, though. I’m afraid it will be hard to compensate you for the time,” Lenny said and wiped off some beer foam from his goatee.
“No pay needed. I’m doing it for the old man,” Casey said. “I could like canvass the neighborhood. Maybe leave some flyers and shit.”
“Count me in as well,” Mikey said.
“Ah, shit… Why not? I’ll help out as well,” Mohawk said.
“Awesome, dudes!” Lenny said. “Tomorrow morning we start? For now, let’s finish our beers and play a Sodom cover, all right?”


Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Detective and the Pipe Girl (John Darvelle) by Michael Craven

I've had this book for a few years but never got around reading it. I was glad I finally did, though. It has an interesting style where the narrator really tells you the story like he's there sitting in front of you, nursing a beer. To some that style might be a bit annoying, as might the narrator's diversion into his personal gripes and interests. Personally, I like it when a writer has a style of his own while still following the tropes I so love about PI fiction.
John Darvelle is a ping pong playing private eye in Los Angeles. He's pretty much a regular guy but can take care of himself in a fight. He's hired by movie director Arthur Vonz to find the love of his life and hand her a letter. That plunges Darvelle into a world of Hollywood secrets, prostitution and dangerous thugs.
Fast-paced, breezy and funny with a dark edge this one will appeal to fans of Robert B. Parker and early Harlan Coben.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Q & A with Mike Baron

I have been a fan of Mike Baron's comic books for decades (Punisher, Badger, Butcher) and he has been an influence on my early writing. So it's a delight to be able to ask him some questions.

Q: What makes Josh "Biker" Pratt different from other hardboiled characters?
John D. MacDonald grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. Travis McGee is a brilliant character. He's of a type. Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Jack Reacher. You know the type. A man of integrity, close-lipped (except for Marlowe,) who stands with one foot in civility and the other outside. I've been a biker all my life. I wanted to create a character in Travis' vein, but unique. The name Josh Pratt comes from a roadside memorial I passed one day. I have friends who were patched in bikers and they generously shared their knowledge with me.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
The name came from a roadside memorial. A bicyclist killed in a traffic accident. The protagonist must be sympathetic, someone with whom the reader can identify. He must be violent, when necessary. He must not be a smart ass. There's room for smart asses in hard-boiled fiction. Marlowe. Spenser. But my guy had been through the mill and had all the smart ass beaten out of him in prison. Abandoned at fifteen, bounced from foster home to foster home, the Bedouins were the only family Josh ever knew. Josh came together while I was writing Biker. I wrote it five times before I was satisfied. Now I see his path clearly. Josh became a Christian in prison. This informs his personality. Man needs to believe in something larger than himself if he is going to be happy. Josh doesn't spread the word. He speaks as little as possible. He prays regularly.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Hell, I'd still be typing on a manual if it were up to me. I'm grateful for ebooks expanding readership. Most of my sales are ebooks. But I prefer a book I can hold in my hand. I like gas-burning vehicles with manual transmissions. I like vinyl. Thank God for small, independent booksellers, who keep this vital tradition alive.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
 I just turned in the 7th Biker, Unfortunate Son. Josh's father Duane, who abandoned Josh at fifteen, returns to hit Josh up for money. Duane's in a whole lot of trouble. He stole something from Ryan Gehrke, the former Miami Running Back who took a knee, and now spends most of his time partying.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Ride my bike, sleep, go to karate.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
I just talk. I have no idea how to promote myself. I wish I did! I do what Ann says. She's my promo expert. She's got me on a schedule.
Monday: artwork or graphic
Tuesday: blurb of book
Wednesday: video
Thursday: writing tips “Never Say Nebudchadnezzar Again”
Friday: blog

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
Historical novels, horror, biography.

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?
Those same guys.

Q: How has having been a comic book writer influenced your work?
It helps me visualize, so I can show rather than tell. You can show in prose almost as effectively as in comics.

Q: I was a huge fan of your Butcher series? Any chance we will see any of that work back again?
I don't know. I understand DC has brought him back for some adventures.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I don't choose my stories, my stories choose me.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Big Crescendo (Lou Crasher) by Jonathan Brown

As anyone who reads my Lenny Parker serial knows I dig some music influences in my PI story. And this one really has that one covered. My Lenny is a roadie and bassplayer, this novel's Lou Crasher works at a practice joint and plays the drums. He's also black and Canadian, trying to make a living in the City of Angels.
When the gear of a beautiful customer gets stolen Lou sets out to find it back, citing his hero Rockford as an example. Using his work as a drummer as a cover he gets entangled deeper and deeper in criminal doings and drugrunners. Not a real PI, he makes his set of mistakes but never backs down. Luckily he's got some goodlooking martial artist and a tough black dude in his corner to help him out.
Enjoyable, with a dash of action and fun. Low on the mystery, high on the pacing. I'm looking forward to the second novel in this series.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Biker (Biker/Josh Pratt) by Mike Baron

I've always really enjoyed Mike Baron's comic book writing. Especially his work on Badger, The Punisher and The Butcher. It's  no surprise I enjoyed this novel. It has all the things I liked about those comics. Great fights, motorbikes, Native Americans and badass dudes along with an intelligent and original sense of humor.
Josh Pratt is a biker and ex-con who found Jesus while in jail. Now the tries to make an honest living as a private investigator. He's hired to track down the missing son of a dying woman. That has him investigating while at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and clashing with an almost inhuman Native American psycho.
At first sight Josh might sound like your average hardboiled tough guy, but I assure you he isn't. Yeah, he's tough. But he's also very religious, and a bit clumsy with women.
Low on the mystery part, very heavy on the action adventure part this is great reading for fans of Men's Adventure paperbacks and lovers of Mike Baron's comic books.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Three (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the other parts here.


Lenny tried Janson’s other neighbor's door. She had a doorbell which he rang. It took a while but the door opened. He could understand why Cliff classified her as hot. She was a full-bosomed redhead with wide hips that were clad in tight jeans. Her skin was unblemished, her lips thick, eyes a sparkling blue.
“Hello,” Lenny said.
“Hello?” Janice greeted slowly. She didn’t have metalheads visiting every day, obviously.
“I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m Lenny Parker, I’m a private investigator.”
“Okay?” She seemed a bit scared. Could be the tattoos. Or the goatee. Lenny didn’t look like an insurance salesman.
He held up his hands, showing he meant no harm. “Nothing to worry about, Janice.”
“How do you know my name?” All right, that might not have been the smartest move on his front, mentioning her first name.
“Chill, your neighbor told me your name. It’s okay. I’m here because your neighbor, Mr. Janson hired me to find his dog.”
“Ozzy is missing?”  Lenny wasn’t sure the worry she showed was because she felt sorry for the dog or its owner.
“Yes, for a week now.”
“Oh, no… Now that you mention it… I haven’t seen the little rascal for a few days now. That’s terrible. Mister Janson loves that dog!”
“Indeed he does. That’s why he hired me to get it back.”
“All right… Wow. Okay. So you’re like that guy in the movie, the pet detective?”
“Not really. Only thing I have in common with that character basically is his love for Cannibal Corpse.”
“Never mind.” Lenny wasn’t surprised Janice didn’t get the hint. She might have seen the movie, but she hadn’t recognized the death metal band playing in one of the scenes. He figured her for an Ed Sheeran fan. Springsteen on a good day.
“Well, do you want to come in then?” she asked.
“Yeah, thanks a lot,” Lenny said.
Janice’s place was the exact opposite of Cliff’s crib. It was clean as a whistle, nicely decorated with vintage but well-kept furniture.
“Have a seat,” she told Lenny.
He sat down on a comfortable chair, declining the coffee she offered.
“So, I was wondering if you’ve seen or heard anything a week ago… I mean, did you see Ozzy maybe out of the backyard? Or did you maybe notice the gate was open?”
“Mr. Janson never kept the gate open. He wouldn’t want Ozzy to escape. Oh he loved that animal like crazy.”
“He’s not the youngest anymore. Maybe he forgot to close it?”
Janice shook her head vehemently. “No, no way. I know Mr. Janson. His mind is still working very well. He wouldn’t be careless about that.”
“Strange… How did the dog escape then? Maybe he could have jumped over the gate? Have you ever seen Ozzy jump that high?”
“There’s no way Ozzy could jump that high,” Janice said.
Lenny stroked his goatee. “Odd… Any idea what could have happened then?”
“The only thing I can think of somebody else opened the gate.”
“Any idea who could have done that? Maybe some visitor of Mr. Janson?”
“He never invites people in really. I only meet him when he’s walking Ozzy. Maybe… Maybe someone took Ozzy?”
“Took? As in dognapped?”
She shrugged. “These days, you never know what people will do, right? Maybe someone has wanted a dog like that for a long time but can’t pay for one or something?”
“Doesn’t sound very likely. But maybe if we have to rule out that he just escaped you might be right. Thank you for your time. If you think of anything that could be of importance to the case, give me a call.” Lenny handed his business card to Janice.
She had a look at it. “Here it says you’re a guitar technician/roadie.”
“Yeah, I do that too. I don’t have the budget yet to get one printed that says I’m a private investigator as well.”
“Oh, okay. Well, I’ll let you know if I think of anything for sure. I hope you find Ozzy. Oh poor Mr. Janson…”


Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Reed Farrel Coleman really managed to make Robert B. Parker's character Jesse Stone his own, infusing him with a deeper character and managing to make his story less static.
In this one Paradise police chief Jesse Stone seems to be doing pretty okay after some hard time. He's going to AA meetings and slowy manages to be better at working with his feelings.
While investigating the death of a high school cheerleader who seems to have died of a drug overdose he uncovers a clever gang of drug dealers, dealing in pills.
Reed cleverly moves the chesspieces of characters across the board of Paradise until a dramatic ending. Jesse's cast of minor characters comes to life even more than usual, Reed clearly having gotten intimate enough with them to understand what makes them tick.
There's the loss of one of Jesse's new loves and the very real threat of Demon Alcohol returning that will make the next novel no doubt just as interesting. As long as Reed is writing them, I will be reading them.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Headstone Detective Agency (John Headston) by Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi has done so much for the private eye novel heading up among other things the Private Eye Writers of America for some time. Aside from that he's written some pretty good PI series. After treating us to the Nashville PI series he's now back with a brand new series.
It features John Headston, a 50 year old PI who used to have big agency but is now back to a one man operation.
In this first novel Headston is hired to find a missing stockbroker by his wife. As these cases often turn out he is drawn into a murder investigation. During this investigation he gets a new employee, a young girl with tattoos more or less his own counterpart.
The best thing about this novel is the tight writing. Never do we get bogged down by too detailed descriptions of furniture, houses or the weather. Instead the plot is moved forward by dialogue and short scenes, just how I like it. Aside from that Headston starts out as pretty standard PI but we get to see deeper layers of his character as the story continued. And you will fall in love with his female sidekick Ally for sure.
Randisi shows off what experience can bring you in this very solid tale that is bound to be loved by all PI fans who want the good old stuff instead of the fancy thrillers like Robert Crais seems to be writing these days or the Reacher novels.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part Two (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture. This time he is hired to track down a missing dog. Read the first part here.


Lenny decided the best place to start the investigation was at Janson’s place. Specifically, the neighbors. Janson might have thought they hadn’t seen anything, but Lenny figured it couldn’t hurt to double-check. He parked his Dodge Ram in front of Janson’s place, ending the Destruction album he was playing when he turned  off the ignition. He left his car and knocked on the door of Janson’s left door neighbor. The blinds in front of the window told him this was probably the pot-smoker’s place.
There was no answer. He decided to knock a little bit harder. Still nothing. Of course, you don’t earn a living as a private eye if you’re detained by such a little thing. He walked over to the window and banged on that.
The door opened. A lanky, pimply kid with a mullet and a Kyuss T-shirt opened the door. Lenny had to admit he approved of the kid’s taste in bands. He wasn’t sure about the mullet though.
“What the fuck man? You startled the living shit out of me, dude!”
“Sorry about that. I really want to talk to you,” Lenny said, holding up his hands apogolepticaly.
The kid squinted. “About what?”
“Your neighbor’s dog.”
“What about that stupid mutt?”
“It’s missing. And dear to your neighbor.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Maybe we can talk about this inside?” Lenny suggested.
“Well, you sure as fuck don’t look like a narc. Come the fuck inside. Nice battle jacket, by the way.”
“Thanks. Sowed it myself,” Lenny beamed.
“Good for you.”
Lenny followed the kid inside his home. “What’s your name?”
Cliff’s place reeked of marihuana. It was also very dark inside, the only light coming from a weak table-lamp. The floor was littered with pizza boxes and empty cans of beer. Lenny recognized the band playing on the kid’s stereo as Monolord. Fine riffage.
Cliff dropped down on a ratty chair and pointed to an old crate for Lenny to sit on. Lenny slowly lowered his ass, not sure the crate would hold his considerable weight. It creaked, but didn’t break.
Cliff lit a joint. “You want a hit, dude?”
“No, thanks. Haven’t smoked one since high school.”
“Shit, really? Can’t miss it, dude. Not that I’m hooked or something, you know? I just like the fucking way it makes me feel. A beer then?”
“I’m fine, thanks.  So, can you please tell me if you saw how Mr. Janson’s dog got out of his yard two weeks ago?”
“How the fuck should I know? It’s not like I sit staring at his yard, you know. Good fucking riddance too, that dog. Sometimes that fucking creature barks so loud I can’t even hear my tunes.” Cliff blew a huge amount of smoke to the ceiling. It was as yellow as egg yolk.
“Come on, Cliff… That animal means a lot to the old man. Don’t be a dick. Anything you saw or heard might help.”
“Why the fuck are you asking these questions anyway? Who are you?” Paranoia had struck the stoner.
“I told you. I’m Lenny.”
“Yeah, but why are you off busting your ass for the old man? I know he ain’t got no son.”
“Mr. Janson hired me. I’m a private investigator.”
“What the fuck? In that outfit? I would never have figured you for one dressed like that!”
“We don’t all wear trench coats or Hawaii shirts, Cliff. Now please, humor me… Is there anything you can think of that might help me track down the dog?”
“Sorry, dude. Really don’t. Maybe the hot chick next door to the old man.”
“The nurse?”
“Yeah, Janice. She usually works nights, though. But she likes the old man. And the dog. So you never know.”
“Guess I will try that, then. Keep on rockin’. I’ll let myself out.” With those words Lenny left the place before he got high from second-hand smoke.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Daughters and Sons (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

A new C.T. Ferguson book is always sure to be an enjoyable read. In this one the hacker/PI is hired to protect a hooker from a stalker. It turns out she's not the usual kind of woman who ends up in this business as he uncovers some dirty family secrets.
There's another case waiting for him though as he discovers his sister's death was not natural. Seeking out her killer and swearing revenge he has to do his best to juggle both cases.
The fact this one is personal gives this entry in the series a nice extra edge. We also see C.T.'s relationship with his girlfriend Gloria deepen a bit more.
A nice, fast-paced read.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Under Water (Duck Darley) by Casey Barrett

I don't know how this one has managed to elude me for two years, but I'm glad I found it now! It's probably my favorite read of the year. Part of it comes from the gritty story itself, a lot of it comes from the protagonist, pill-popping, Bulleit-swilling, ex-swimmer Duck Darley.
Darley could have been a contender, as an Olympic swimmer. However, like his dad he ended up in jail. After taking some aikido lessons he hires himself out as a self-proclaimed finder. He's more just an unlicensed PI though, specializing in catching married men cheating on their wives. He's not above accomodating the clients with some revenge sex as a bonus. He drinks too much, swipes pills wherever he can find them... Yeah, he's an anti-hero I guess. He really cares about his dog and sidekick, Cassie though. Now don't think she the Joe Pike / Hawk sort of psycho sidekick. Nope, she's a dominatrix and sometimes the real brains of the outfit.
In his first book he is hired to track down the missing sister of a former teammate. When her ex is murdered she's painted by the media as a killer. Digging deeper and deeper he uncovers several dark secrets and ends up in lethal danger.
The "fun" here is in how Darley managed to continue the investigation while drugged and drunk. How he manages to fight off thugs. How he stays in character as an asshole but also as an underdog to root for.
Writer Casey Barrett chose to write what he knows in part as he used to be an Olympic swimmer himself. That angle is however not needed at all. The book is written well, the mystery interesting and the characters lively and original. Top notch.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dead Man's Mistress (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

When some previously unknown paintings of a famous artist are stolen Rush McKenzie is asked to look for them. He ends up in a small town called Grand Marais and discovers a dead body. Tangling with some people who want to stop him from investigating and being hampered as much as well as helped by a young reporter the unofficial private eye is on one hell of a case again.
I always like McKenzie in every tale he's in. It's like meeting up with an old friend in every novel. I have to admit though this particular story was a bit dull at some times. It could have done with some more twists and turns or a higher degree of danger. Decent, but there have been better in this series.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Free Fiction: Doggone Part One (A Lenny Parker serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, PI / roadie / metalhead is back in a new serial, blending a bit of comedy with a hardboiled detective story, one feet into metal culture.


Lenny Parker shook the old man’s hand carefully. His hand looked brittle. The old man sat down at Lenny’s usual table at Mister Janpong’s Thai restaurant. Lenny had been using it as his office for a few years now.
“Can I get you something to drink, Mister Janson?” Lenny asked the old man.
“Some iced tea would be good,” Janson said. He was in his early eighties, dressed impeccably in a beige jacket and matching tie.
Lenny ordered the tea and a bottle of Singha beer for himself.
“What can I do for you?” he asked Janson.
“I want to hire you to look for my Ozzy. He’s been missing for weeks now,” Janson said.
“All right. How old is your son?”
“Ozzy is my dog, not my son.”
Lenny had to admit he didn’t see that one coming. “Eh… All right…”
Mister Janpong put the iced tea and beer on their table. Lenny and Janson nodded in thanks. Mister Janpong made a little bow and left.
“Ozzy is pretty much the only thing I have left. I want him found.”
“I can understand that, I guess. If I wasn’t on tour so often as a roadie I probably would want a dog as well. They’re pretty loyal creatures. But I must tell you I have no experience tracking down missing pets. Missing person, yes. Pets, no.”
“I haven’t got the stamina to go look for him myself. And I have no family left to help me. My daughter died in a car crash five years ago. She was all the family I had left. Now, Ozzy is the only thing I have. I’m afraid I can’t pay you much, but I once heard you took on a case for two bottles of Jack Daniel’s and a concert ticket.”
“Yeah. But it was a Slayer ticket.”
“I’ve got a collection of Black Sabbath albums. The original ones. I think they are worth quite some money. And I know you’re really into metal…”
“What gave me away, the battle jacket, the Megadeth T-shirt or the long hair?” Lenny said, smiling.
“Your reputation,” Janson said.
“Good to know I’m building one. Not sure if the fact I work dirt-cheap is one I want to spread around too fast. Did you name your dog after Black Sabbath’s singer?”
Janson nodded. “I used to enjoy some heavy metal back in the day. Can’t stand that new crap, though. You know with the grunging and all.”
“That’s what I said, yeah. So, can I hire you?”
The next tour would be a month from now and right now Lenny had no other cases. So he figured why not. And he was a big Black Sabbath fan. He shook Janson’s hand. “You just hired yourself a private eye, Mister Janson. Now tell me some more about Ozzy. How did he get lost?”
“That’s the bloody strange thing. He was in the backyard one moment while I was on the crapper. At my age that can take a while. When I came back from it he was gone, the gate unlocked.”
“Did you forget to lock it?”
“I’m old, not damned senile.”
“Any idea how it got unlocked then?”
“Hell if I know. It doesn’t unlock itself. And Ozzy can’t do it either.  Almost has me thinking someone dognapped him.”
That sounded a bit unlikely to Lenny. “What kind of dog is Ozzy?”
“A Rottweiler. Here, that’s him,” Janson said and took a picture from his jacket. It showed a huge Rottweiler lying in the grass.
“Nice animal,” Lenny said.
“You got that right.”
“Didn’t your neighbors see anything?”
“One of my neighbors is a pot-smoking kid who never opens his curtains, the other is a nurse who works nights. I’m afraid they haven’t seen anything.”
“Too bad. Well, I guess I can ask around, see if anybody saw Ozzy. Any distinguishing characteristics?
“What? Like a tattoo? He’s a big dog. That’s it.”
Sarcasm. Not Lenny’s favorite character flaw.  “It would be good if I had a way to make sure it’s Ozzy.”
“You call his name, and he will react,” Janson said.
Lenny shrugged. “Guess that might work. Okay, Mister Janson… I will see what I can do. Don’t get your hopes up, though.”
“After the life I’ve led I never do.”


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Four Years Gone (Carlos McCrary) by Dallas Gorham

Carlos McCrary is asked by his Aunt Carrie to again investigate the disappearance of her daughter. PI has little hope of being succesful. Still, he flies from Florida to Texas and finds some new clues that get him involved with a dangerous pair of psychopaths.
McCrary isn't the most original PI in the world. He used to be a Green Beret and has two sidekicks who he asks for help during the case. The sidekicks don't add much to the story and get very little time on the pages. Also, there's some chapters from the POV of the victims and criminals, a device that I'm not fond of.
The story is written professionaly enough, though. Also, there is enough action and danger to satisfy readers of PI novels AND thrillers. So, not a favorite, but good enough for me to pick up more books in the series.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Rag and Bone (Jay Porter) by Joe Clifford

Jay Porter has been on a crusade against the Lombardi family for some time (and three novels). He returns home after a year on the run. He sets out to investigate who set fire to his old friend Alison's farm. The thing is, Porter stories are never really about the crime but all about the man. Jay is such a strong and damaged character his life story is what makes the book great.
Smoking, drinking, getting beat up Jay Porter is a real anti-hero. He also has a desire to find out the truth, more as a way not to think about his problems than anything else though.
He's close to losing all ties to his son which for make some heartbreaking scenes as a father myself. They are written so powerfully I had to stop reading several times during those scenes.
Powerful, dark stuff. And a great farewell for this series.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Wrong Quarry (Quarry) by Max Allan Collins

He's not really a PI but a hitman. Still, in this novel of the series he does some investigating. Hired to put a hit on the hitman who intends to kill a dance instructor he also tries to find out who hired this hitman in the first place.
During this investigation he has sex with women of various ages and kills some people without any remorse. This is pure pulp, and I love it. It's pretty amazing how Mr. Collins can write about a cool and calculated killer who can think with his dick a bit too much and has no second thoughts about killing someone in cold blood and still make you like him in a way.
Pure, hardboiled fun. The influence of his Mr. Collins' idol Mickey Spillane is clear throughout this enjoyable crime story.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bad Guy Detective (Jake Hancock) by Dan Taylor

Private investigator Jake Hancock is hired to find out who the biological father of an actress is. As he does there seems to be some kind of mutual attraction going on, making for some fun scenes. The mystery behind the father is pretty surprising. Well, not to me as I figured it out. But still...
I'm not quite sure what I think of this one. I like the main character because he's a bit of an anti-hero (using drugs, being an asshole to women etc) which is fun. I like how he works for Hollywood stars as some kind of fixer. The dialogue is fun and the writing the way I like it, leaving out stuff people skip. The writer wrote something about it here and I totally agree, it's how I write.
However, I do think that although the mystery is nice enough I could have used a bit more danger posed to Jake or his friends. There is some danger involved near the end though, which reads like the ending of a Netflix episode. That's something I didn't like either. I like it when a book is really more standalone in a series.
So, I will be reading the second in the series to see if the story gets better. The writing and PI are enjoyable enough to give it a chance.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Sins of the Sons (Keeper Marconi) by Vincent Zandri

What would happen if Spenser was written by Mickey Spillane instead of Robert B. Parker? That's kind of the feeling I had with this book.
Jack "Keeper" Marconi, former jailer and now PI is hired to prevent the old childhood friend of his new client to rat him out about a dark incident from their past. You see, they were involved with the death of a lawyer when they were young. When Marconi is asked by the cops to look into the case as well things heat up.
Aided by big and hunky black ex-con Blood (can you say Hawk?) he sleeps with an older woman, falls in love with a younger one and investigates the case until all secrets are uncovered.
There's a roughness to Marconi that reminds you of the old hardboiled days. However, in the use of technology it is clearly situated in the now.
It's pretty much an enjoyable story and although they reminded me a bit too much of Spenser and Hawk or Hardman and Hump main characters Marconi and Blood are entertaining guys.
I was expecting a bit more hardboiled fistfights and shootings though to spice things up, especially with the whole old pulp style.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Sins as Scarlet (Inspector Iwata) by Nicolas Obregon

Former Japanese inspector Kosuke Iwata spends most of his time working divorce cases after his move from Japan to LA. When he sets out to investigate the murder of his wife's transgender sister he gets involved in a dangerous case that takes him to Mexico where he has to confront the dark ways of the people smugglers there.
A good private eye is somewhat of an outsider and Iwata as a Japanese detective is one for sure.His backstory is quite engaging and dark. In fact, this backstory, the number of flashbacks and the way of words make this quite a literary crime novel. This has two effects: one is that this is a thoughtful, haunting read. The other is that sometimes the flashbacks and background cost some of the pacing of the story.
The research that went in this one is very clear and you are taken to the world of LA or Mexico very effectively.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Free Fiction: On Bad Behavior (a Noah Milano serial) part 1

It's been a while since you last read about him, but here's a new serial featuring Noah Milano, security specialist and son of a mobster.


In the old days I could afford an office. Those days were long gone. That’s why I was as happy as a 14-year old who found his dad’s stash of Playboys when I got a new client. Well, that analogy is pretty outdated with the internet now, I guess. Shit, who knew I’d ever feel old?

The lady sitting at my table at Starbucks was pretty good looking. Even for LA-standards. She was tall, with long dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a body that would make a model envious. She was drinking one of those fancy-ass mocha-cookie-dough-tutti-frutti coffees. I just had a regular black coffee.

“Doesn’t that coffee hurt your teeth? I can almost hear the dentist rubbing their hands in glee.” I said.

She smiled. “You don’t like these kind of coffees?”

“I wouldn’t dare to call it coffee.”

She laughed. “Maybe you’re right. And you’re joking to make me feel more at ease, aren’t you?”

“Me? No, I’m just a smartass all the time.” I tried to look as innocent as I could.

“Right. Well, thanks.”

“So, Miranda. What can I do for you?”

“It’s my husband. He’ll be out of jail tomorrow. And that worries me. You see, I testified against him to get him in there. He beat up my brother and abused me for years. I’m afraid he’s going to hurt me when he gets out.”

I couldn’t help but grit my teeth. “Shit. That sounds bad. So you need some protection?”

“Yes. I heard you’re the least expensive bodyguard in Los Angeles. I hope I can pay you.”

“I think I can charge my lowest rate for a case like yours. Say one dollar a day. Plus expenses. Which, if you make me coffee at your place will be a whole lot less.”

“A dollar a day?” She gave me an inquiring look, as if she wasn’t sure I was kidding her.

“I’ve got some good karma to earn,” I told her. “A case like yours might help. I’ll be there with you the day he gets out. After that I’ll see if I can do anything to keep him off your back. There’s a limit on how long I can pay my bills on karma alone, so I can’t be guarding your charming body forever.”

She blushed a little at that. I couldn’t believe a woman like that still knew how to blush. “How do you think you can reach that?”

“I can be very persuasive. If I sold girl scout cookies I’d be rolling in dough. And not the dough the cookies are made of. I meant money, you know?”

She laughed. I liked the way her eyes seemed to sparkle when she did. Miranda Shaw was definitely a very attractive woman.

“All right. But Max is a pretty savage guy. He used to be in the Marines. It took four cops to take him in.”

“Don’t worry about that. I can take pretty good care of myself.”

“Okay, thank you so much,” Miranda said.

“I’ll go get my stuff and will meet you at your place this evening, okay?”

“Yes. That would be good. Thanks.”

I shook her hand and left the Starbucks, thinking this would be a walk in the park. Just protecting a nice lady from some abusive asshole. Shit, would that turn out to be wrong.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Miami Midnight (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

I remember when Pete Fernandez was just a nosy reporter. During the course of this series he's turned into a hardnosed private eye who can disarms his enemies with a few quick moves like he's Elvis Cole or something. Considering the huge amount of misery and death he's been facing that doesn't come as too big a surprise. Just as it's almost natural that this one ends the series. There's only so far you can take a character through the wringer. And there's only so much backstory you can expand on.
Pete is hired by an aging mobster to track down the killer of his son and his missing daughter in law. That's just a catalyst though for a complex story that digs deep into the death of Pete's mother, has his old enemy Silent Death return and uncovers mysteries that go back to almost every other book in this series.
Also, Pete's complicated relationships with Kathy, the Gina to his Patrick (if you don't get the Dennis Lehane reference, buy Gone Baby Gone or watch the movie) moves in surprising ways. Those scenes are written with such a moving voice you understand Alex cares about his characters.
An engaging and complex read. I think this one is going to nab some awards.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

First Kill The Lawyers (Holland Taylor) by David Housewright

David Housewright manages the feat to write two good PI series at the same time. This one, the Holland Taylor series (versus the Rush McKenzie series) is the most hardboiled of the two probably. In one particular chaptere Taylor proves he doesn't need any psycho sidekicks.
Taylor and his partner Freddie are hired by a group of attorneys who are being blackmailed because their files have been hacked. When they investigate and try to track down the hacker they get involved with a rich, but strange family.
The story has a slightly slow start with many different characters to keep up with, but when the stakes get higher the story becomes quite thrilling. There's also some great secondary regular characters in this series, especially the female ones.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Red City Blues (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

Regular readers of my blog will know how much I love the novella. It's the best way to tell a really fast-paced PI story with all the fit trimmed off. It's a joy that Tom writes a lot of these.
C.T. Ferguson, hacker and PI is hired to find out who killed the son of Erma Johnson. He was found dead, wearing gang colors, but she's sure he wasn't in any gang. Aided by his police friend Ferguson investigates and uncovers several other killings.
Ferguson is a neat character because he's paid by his rich parents after solving a case, a concept that I like. His voice is nice to read, with some Spenser-like wit.
What did irk me a bit, as it did with other Ferguson stories, is how close the cops sometimes are willing to work with him. Also, the explanation Ferguson expected to do a lot detective work behind the computer but ends up in fights a lot was given a few times too many.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Atlanta Deathwatch (Jim Hardman) by Ralph Dennis

Too be honest this book wasn't what I was hoping for.
Ex-cop Jim Hardman, partnered with ex-NFL player Hump Evans is hired by the black mafia to investigate the murder of his white lover. There's a nice helping of action along the way and the prose is crisp enough. Jim and Hump are a good duo with some good banter, you can see the way they inspired guys like Hap & Leonard for sure.
However... At times the story seemed a bit too drawn out. The pacing sometimes slowed down for no good reason. I guess for an old mass market paperback I was expecting a bit more pulp and speed.
Still, good enough to pick up the rest of the series. Just not as good as I thought.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Five (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. See previous parts here.


“Okay, have a seat and tell me about your trouble,” Lenny said. He was prepared to hear some kind of bullshit sob story. But still, he felt obliged to listen to it. There was no harm in listening, right?

Janey sat down on the couch and started to cry. Her make-up ran down her face, reminding Lenny of the corpse paint his favorite black metal acts wore.

He sat down next to her. He couldn’t help but be moved. Her teams seemed genuine. And he’d always been a big soft-hearted sap. He patted her back. “Just go ahead and tell me.”

“It’s terrible. So terrible… You see, for years I’ve been a junkie. I just recently got clean. But five months ago, when I was still using… I kind of sold my baby…”

“You what?” Lenny wondered if all that heavy music had damaged his ears.

“I sold my baby. You see, I didn’t have the money to pay for my drugs anymore. And my dealer told me he would take my baby as collateral until I could pay him back for the drugs.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“I told you it was terrible. I’m so fucking ashamed of myself…”

“Relax. I’ve seen what drugs can do to people while I was on tour. I know it makes you do crazy things.”

“So, now I’m clean and I want my baby back. But my dealer wants me to pay a lot of interest before I get my baby back.”

“So he hung on to your baby like a fucking watch at a pawnshop?”

“I guess you could put it like that. But I must admit I’m afraid my baby isn’t alive anymore. Or that he just sold it to some rich folks who can’t have babies of their own.”

“I’m afraid that sounds somewhat likely. A drug dealer doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of person to spend the time taking care of a baby. Haven’t you seen any recent proof your baby is okay?”

She shook her head. “No, no I didn’t. But that’s why I’ve been stealing from guys I slept with. To get the money to pay to get my baby back.”

“I guess I understand that. How old is your baby?”

“Ryan is sixteen months old now.”

“We’ll get him back,” Lenny decided. “Did you already cash in the ticket?”

“Not yet. I figured it would be wiser to wait just a little while and not cash it in in San  Diego.”

“That’s better thinking then when you used your baby as collateral,” Lenny said.

“Fuck! I know I’m terrible! I hate myself for what I did!” Janey said and dug her nails into her cheeks, drawing blood.

Lenny grabbed her wrists, pulling her hands away from her face. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I’m going to help you get Ryan back and then you give Keith back his ticket.”

With large eyes Janey looked at Lenny, like a dying man hearing he is going to live anyway. With the make-up all over her face and the blood on her cheeks she looked so terrible it made Lenny’s heart ache. “You think you can get my Ryan back? Really?”

“I think I have an idea how to do that, yeah. I’m just going to call some friends and see what I can do.”

“Thank you… I’m really not a bad person, I hope you can understand that.”

“I try not to judge,” Lenny said. “Tell me more about that dealer of yours.”

“His name is Anthony Roth. He’s one of the biggest coke dealers of San Diego. He’s got a bunch of three henchmen doing his dirty work.”

“Can you reach him?”

“Yeah, I have his number. For when I get the money together.”

“Good. I will call some friends. Then you call him, set up a meeting with him. Tell him you want to exchange the money for Ryan,” Lenny said.

“What do you have planned?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet, but I’m sure together with my friends I’ll come up with something. We’ll get you your kid back. Whatever it takes.” Lenny thought he almost sounded like a real hero. Too bad he wasn’t so sure about his success as he made her believe. Still, he felt he had to try.