Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Honky Tonk Big Hoss Boogie (Nashville PI series / Auggie Velez) by Robert J. Randisi

Robert J. Randisi is of course a real pro when it comes to PI fiction. He wrote a lot of PI stories and series in the past (like the Miles Jacoby books) and even served as president of the Private Eye Writers of America. So, it should come as no surprise he hands in a solid little story here.
In nicely paced short chapters we are introduced to Auggie Velez, a session guitarplayer in Nashville who is also a PI. He reminds me just a little bit of my own roadie/bassplayer/PI Lenny Parker in that regard. Auggie is hired by a record producer to deliver a suitcase. When the recipient of the suitcase is murdered Auggie sets out to find the killer.
What makes this story great is that Auggie really feels like a real person, not a two-dimensional action hero. I was just a bit sorry he’s a war veteran as I thought his charm is that he doesn’t seem like a real tough guy. Also, the whole Nashville music setting is interesting and the writing very tight.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Friend of the Devil (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

Woody, ex-State Trooper Henry Malone's buddy asks him for help when the husband of an old flame is in trouble. They need to get him out of a biker bar. That seems to go fairly well, but when one of the bikers end up killed the husband is the main suspect. Woody and Henry set out to investigate who the killer is and encounter some nasty bikers and the Russian mob.
This series is what the Elvis Cole & Joe Pike series would have been when it was written by James Lee Burke. That is, it is a fast-paced and often funny PI series but with a hidden darkness and elegantly beautiful prose that sets it apart from the rest.
The way James  describes people is great, for instance: "The woman was somewhere in her fifties, blond via aisle 11 of CVS, and tanned to the color of cinnamon toast. I would have bet she had cancer cells rattling around inside her like coins in a piggy bank." Absolutely brilliant and a huge inspiration to my own writing.
There's a great number of underrated PI writers these days, but in my book James D.F. Hannah is the one earning way more success.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Free Fiction: Man's Ruin Part Four (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.
This time the video is Alice Cooper's big hit Poison. Read the story and it will make sense.


“That was good,” Janey said and handed Lenny the glass back. “Wouldn’t mind another one.”

“You got it,” Lenny said and ordered a new one. He handed it her, this time she sipped it more slowly. Good thing too, this case would be getting expensive otherwise and he didn’t have that much cash. Not until he finished the case successfully and managed to get Keith’s lottery ticket back.

“Haven’t seen you around before, baby… You look pretty rock ‘n’ roll. I dig that. You in a band?” Janey asked.

“Yeah, I’m a bassplayer,” Lenny said.

She moved closer to him, running a finger across his chest. “Those are usually the most sexy.”

Lenny swallowed. He wasn’t exactly used to getting hit on by women that hot. It’s not like his band had any groupies yet. He had to force himself to keep his head clear and on the case.

“Good to hear. You come here often?”

Janey smiled mischievously. “I come as often as I can anywhere.”

That girl had some lines. Lenny couldn’t help and feel a slight stir in his jeans. “That’s a good way to think, I guess.”

Poison, by Alice Cooper started playing. That got her excited. “I love that song. Come dance with me, sugar.”

What she called dancing was more rubbing herself up and down Lenny’s rotund body. Not that he minded. He could see Casey at the bar, shaking her head in disbelief. Dancing, she move her lips closer to his and tasted his lip. Tongues interacted and he loved the way the whiskey taster on her tongue. This wasn’t a bad case to be on, really.

“How’s about you take me to your place, sugar?” she whispered in his ear.

“That sounds really good,” Lenny admitted. “We’ll have to call a cab though, a friend drove me over.”

“Sure,” she said. “I’m going to the little girl’s room while you call one,” she said and walked off.

Lenny joined Casey at the bar. “Looks like I hit paydirt.”

“You’re right on the dirt-part. What a cheap whore,” Casey said.

“You almost sound jealous,” Lenny noted.

“Fuck you, heterosexual.”

“Right. I’m going to take her home. I gotta call a cab. Thanks for taking me over here.”

“Sure, enjoy. And watch your dick. You only got one.”

“I won’t be sleeping with her. I’m a professional. I’m just going to try and find out where she has the lottery ticket.”


Janey returned from the toilet and put an arm around Lenny. “Ready to go, baby?”

They walked outside, the cab just arriving. They got in the car and as soon as they were seated Janey put her tongue in Lenny’s ear. He saw the driver looking at her lecherously. Lenny gave him his address and they drove off.

Lenny barely had time to pay the driver as Janey pulled him along, out of the car to his apartment building. They walked over to his place, Lenny somewhat fumbling with the keys as Janey was now rubbing his crotch. Man, he wasn’t used to that.

The door opened and they went in. Janey looked around the place. “Nice bass guitars.”

“Thanks,” Lenny said. He was pretty happy with them as well, they looked pretty cool on his wall he thought. “I would have cleaned up the place if I knew I would have female company though.”

“Never mind. Just take me to your bedroom, baby. I want you.” She threw her jacket off, then pulled her top off, displaying a lacy black bra and small but firm breasts.

Lenny felt eager to take her to the bedroom and enjoy all of the good things her body seemed to offer. Then he decided he was a professional and locked the door of his apartment.

“No, we stay here,” he told her.

“What do you mean, here?” Clearly she wasn’t used to that.

“In the living room. You stole something from a buddy of mine. I want it back.”

“I don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.”

“The lottery ticket you stole. He wants it back.”

“You’re creeping me out. I’m outta here.” Janey walked to the door, but Lenny blocked it with his rotund body, arms crossed.

“Just get me the ticket and you can go.”

“This is kidnapping! I’m calling the cops!” Janey said.

“I’m pretty sure you won’t do that,” Lenny said.

She charged him like a bull. She crashed into him, Lenny bouncing with his back against the door. She tried to push him away from the door, but Lenny was just to steady on his feet. She tried to knee him in the balls, but he saw it coming, twisting his hip and taking the knee on his leg. Then she went for his eyes, long nails like claws. He grabbed her wrists and pushed her away from him. She fell down on his couch.

“You bastard!” she said.

“I’m really sorry, but I really want you to give the lottery ticket back. I’m not going to hurt you, but I’m also not going to let you leave until you do.”

“I know some nasty people, asshole. They will really enjoy killing you.”

Lenny really didn’t like being threatened. He didn’t want to die and was no hero. Still, he took on Keith’s case and couldn’t just back down. So he tried to act as much as a tough guy as he could.

“Many have tried. As you can see no one has succeeded.”

Then she started to cry. “It’s not as cut and dried as you think. I need the money. I’m in trouble.”

Q & A with A.J. Devlin

A.J. Devlin surprised me this year with a great, fast-paced PI novel featuring a fun new private eye. Of course that made me eager to learn more about the writer and his work.

Q: What makes "Hammerhead" Jed different from other hardboiled characters?
A: I would say what makes Jed different first and foremost would be his professional wrestling pedigree, followed by his sense of humour. While he has several trademarks of a hardboiled detective in that he's emotionally damaged and drinks too much, he also has a really big heart and cracks wise in a way that I hope comes across as unique due to his wrestling history.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: I conceived of the character at a time when I had come across professional wrestling documentaries and biographies and was concurrently reading lots of books from what I like to call the "hybrid-athlete detective" mystery novel sub-genre. I've read mysteries about private eyes / amateur detectives who balanced sleuthing with their backgrounds and careers in boxing, surfing, hockey, basketball, working as a sports agent -- but as far as I could tell no one had ever cooked up a wrestler detective before. So that along with my longtime passion for professional wrestling was definitely my inspiration. I also sort of set out to write a classic Chandler / Spillane style story set in Vancouver, but by the time I finished the book it had morphed into a mystery-comedy. Since professional wrestling is rife with comical in-ring theatrics but also has a real life dark underbelly, it felt like the only way to accurately reflect the world of sports entertainment was to embrace the over-the-top action while also showcasing the behind the scenes drama.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: I think anything that gets people reading more is a great thing. COBRA CLUTCH was my debut novel and only came out last Spring, so I'm still navigating my way through this new career as I go and am learning lots about the publishing industry along the way. But since I know of so many people whose amount of reading has significantly spiked due to the advent of eBooks it's hard not to see it as something very beneficial to authors overall.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
A: ROLLING THUNDER, book two in the "Hammerhead" Jed series, is set to be released in Spring 2020 by NeWest Press and I'm currently working on book three.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
A: I keep pretty busy as a stay-at-home dad for my 7 year old son and 4 year old daughter. I also really enjoy going on long walks or runs with our family dog and tend to do a lot of outlining in my head for the "Hammerhead" Jed series when it's just the two of us alone on a trail or out in nature. And of course I try to read as much crime fiction as I can.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
A: I'm very fortunate that my publisher has the most awesome and tireless Production & Marketing Coordinator and GM who do so much to get the word out about the "Hammerhead" Jed series. Also, due to my stay-at-home dad lifestyle, I have a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to attending author events or arranging in-store signings at bookstores. And of course having a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram has been invaluable.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
A: Interesting question! Although at this point I pretty much exclusively read crime I would have to say I enjoy a good sci-fi story for sure.

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?
A: For me personally I was heavily influenced by the works of current master storytellers like Joe R. Lansdale, Michael Connelly, Carl Hiaasen, and Robert Crais — and they are all still consistently publishing outstanding crime novels. However what I've found most exciting is the recent surge of top notch mystery novels set Vancouver, led by award-winning authors like Sam Wiebe and Sheena Kamal, who are fearless in depicting what a unique and rich city my hometown truly is, and something I aspired to emulate in COBRA CLUTCH.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
A: Probably because I've been a massive fan of crime fiction since I was a boy and once spent a summer tearing through the entire HARDY BOYS series, so it definitely got into me early. And also because I grew up on movies like THE GOONIES, BACK TO THE FUTURE, and DIE HARD, and I believe that crime fiction lends itself beautifully to escapist entertainment, which is ultimately the thing I hope people take away if they give COBRA CLUTCH a read.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Miami Storm (Titus) by John D. Patten

This one has a pretty original, very high concept triller start. Ex-cop Titus wakes up in a hospital with a tarnished memory. When he manages to leave and some of his memory returns he discovers the lawyer he threatened to kill has been murdered, making him the prime suspect. With old and new enemies he takes on various bad guys as he unravels the mystery behind his memory loss and the murder.
I have to credit John D. Patten for creating an original story while still giving fans of the genre all they need. Titus is still the ultimate tough guy, but he seems just a bit more vulnerable this time, emotionally and physically.which gives the story something extra.
I read this one in two days, the story was that engaging and fast-paced. I have to warn you that, especially in the end, it pays to have read the first two novels in this series to get the most out of it.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Flea Flicker (Burnside) by David Chill

A football coach who likes to drink a bit too much is missing and his wife asks Burnside to find him. As you might expect it turns into a murder investigation. I still like the very human investigator Burnside and so far his domestic life with his wife and kid doesn't annoy me. Slowy though, the football angle is getting a bit stale.
Another comfortable enough read, but the story was a bit slow for my taste this time. Also, I guess I would have enjoyed a bit more action and a different environment.

Crimson Blood (Max Sawyer) by Douglas Pratt

If you visit this blog often you know I prefer fast-paced books with easy to read, spare prose. Well, that makes this book a winner.
Max Sawyer is a former reporter who has enough money to basically live well. When he meets an attractive woman at a bar who is murdered that same night he sets out to find out who killed her. Together with his ex-Marine buddy Leo he uncovers a nefarious child pornography ring and dispenses some vigilante justice.
I was a bit surprised how hardboiled a killer Max could be. He didn't really seem the type at the beginning, coming over like  a laid-back kind of guy who liked to drink and have a good time. Also, as he had no background as a cop or soldier I didn't figure on it. Leo is of course, the traditional psychotic sidekick we all love.
I really liked how the story flowed and was always eager to read the next chapter. I liked how the scenes with the casual love interest were written and the tight way the action scenes were written.
Really going to read more of these. Yeah, it's pulp I guess, but I love that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Cobra Clutch (Hammerhead Jed Ounstead) by A.J. Devlin

Now this is what I like. A fast-paced and funny ride with a great new PI.
Jed "Hammerhead" Ounstead walked away from professional wrestling when he hurt a friend. Now he works as a bouncer and for his PI father.
When an old partner asks for his help in tracking down his kidnapped pet snake he gets involved in a murder investigation. Luckily he's getting some help from an attractive female cop, his Irish buddy Declan (who has some very funny lines) and his dad.
What makes this book so cool is that Jed is a fun character with a painful past. That is, shit happened but there is some lightheartedness to him, his wit and his love of banana milkshakes. There's also a lot of fast-paced action and with 250 pages it never gets boring.
A great, enjoyable modern PI novel.