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.