Friday, June 29, 2012

The Whole Lie (Conway Sax) by Steve Ulfelder

I thought crime fiction couldn't get much better than Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder. Steve proves me wrong with his follow up The Whole Lie.
Ex-con Conway Sax is still the Barnburners' (sort of like the AA) special problem solver. Savannah Kane used to be a Barnburner and Conway's lover. She returns into his life after seven years. She has some problems involving blackmail and a Massachusetts politician.
When he gets involved his wife isn't too happy about it. Soon people start dying and more and more lies turn up.
Sax sacrifices his relationship and risks his life to make good on the promises he made in the past and tries to fulfill the duties he feels he is honor bound to fulfill.
The writing is exceptionally hardboiled, the characters vivid and interesting, the plot dark and exciting. One of the best PI novels of the year so far.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Q & A with Sean Dexter

Here's an interview with a writer you might not know yet, but who deserves the attention... Sean Dexter, author of the Jackson Burke series...

Q: What makes Jackson Burke different from other hardboiled detectives?

A: For one thing, Burke isn't a PI by trade. But, like Jack Reacher, crime and violence have a way of finding him. He is a deeply flawed man who was responsible for the deaths of his family. He is also a killer and ex-con. There is little to like about Burke other than his unwavering sense of justice and his desire to protect those he loves. In the Burke books, he becomes involved in real-life crimes from the past. The stories are not set in the past like the Nathan Heller novels by Max Collins, however. For example, in Maggie's Drawers, John Kennedy's actual assassin is released from prison after 50 years and seeks Burke's help in retrieving evidence about the men behind the plot. In Dark Artist, a real life serial killer from the 70s (who was never identified or apprehended) resurfaces and targets someone that Burke cares about.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: Jack Burke is a composite of many of the characters that I have loved and followed for years. Lee Child's Jack Reacher is a big contributor to Jack Burke.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: For years, I attempted to publish the traditional way. I have been represented by two well-known agents in the past, but the books didn't sell. E-books take some of the stigma out of self-publication and allows independent authors a chance to be noticed.

Q: What's next for you and Jackson?
A: I am working now on a third Burke book that revolves around the real reason for the My Lai massacre that took place in Vietnam in 1968. In the next few weeks, I plan to release a book called Denial of Duty. This one is not a Burke novel. It is a political thriller about the Secret Service, a dirty president, and a nuclear capable Iran.

Q: How do you promote your work?
A: I wish I knew.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
A: There are other genres?

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
A: Every protagonist needs one. Burke has Curt Turner, Vietnam vet. He is volatile, extremely dangerous, and fiercely loyal to Burke. These characters are able to do the things that the main characters can't quite bring themselves to do. Essentially, they are the dark half of the protagonist's personality.

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: I think Robert Crais is the new gold standard for this type of novel. Although he has been around for quite a while, he will continue to influence the genre for many years. I also believe that the Spenser novels written by Robert B. Parker will continue to inspire new writers long into the future.

Q: Charles Collyot came up with the following question: Why write a PI story?
A: People want a chance to live their tough guy fantasies through this type of character. It's what all men want to be: Tough, wisecracking, and fearless.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: "Is your character anything like you?" Jack Burke is like me in quite a few ways, but I would rather not share what characteristics we share. I was a private investigator for a number of years. However, my work was not terribly exciting. Mostly I found people and located assets for lawyers. I spent 90% of my time on the telephone. My activities were always within the law (well, mostly anyway) whereas Burke is not limited by the law, and wouldn't that be cool.

Crosscut (Nicholas Colt) by Jude Hardin

After reading Pocket-47 I was sure Nicholas Colt couldn't be put through more misery than he went through already. This novel proves me wrong, very wrong.
When the MO of his old enemies from the cult Harvest Angels is used in another few killings Colt decides to investigate. He ends up being captured and brainwashed and involved in an evil plot larger than anything I've read in PI fiction. It's very, very dark and the punishment Colt is forced to take sometimes made me stop reading, just to take a breath and not be enveloped totally in it's darkness.
This one is more of a thriller in the David Baldacci mode than a PI mystery but the writing is excellent and Colt still an interesting character. He ends up in a state that will make it very challenging for Jude Hardin to write about him in the third novel, so even more interesting for us.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Curse of the Jade Lily (Rushmore McKenzie) by David Housewright

David Housewright & Rush McKenzie... A combination that never ever disappoints.
McKenzie, the rich ex-cop is asked to deliver the ransom money to some artnappers, trading it for a sculpture called the Jade Lily. A corrupt cop, a garbage disposal company, and a US State Department official are just some of the people involved in the case as well. Returning is Heavenly Petryk, fortune hunter after her previous appearance in Jelly's Gold. Heavenly is a wonderful, Catwoman-like nemesis to McKenzie's Batman.
The plot is pretty good and exciting but as always Rush is the element that makes this read so enjoyable. A perfect example how to make a PI hardboiled but extremely human an likable McKenzie is one of my favorite modern PI's.
Highly recommended!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Q & A with David Duffy

We interviewed David Duffy, author of the new Turbo Vlost series...

Q: What makes Turbo Vlost different from other hardboiled detectives?
For one thing, he’s Russian. For another, he’s funny. He definitely takes his cue from Spade, Marlowe and Archer, but in a manner similar to how Walter Mosley used the influence of those guys to create a totally new and different hard-boiled hero in Easy Rawlins, I guess I’m trying to pull off a similar trick with Turbo Vlost. He’s a tough, brutally realistic guy. He’s been an outsider all his life—first growing up in Stalin’s Gulag and then as a former zek—Gulag inmate—serving in the KGB. Now he lives in New York, where is a foreigner, albeit a very adaptable one. He sees the world through a different lens than most people, which is one of the things I like about him. Add to that a keen sense of irony and an understanding, built through experience, of human weakness, and you’ve got the basis for a new hardboiled hero.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
It started with his crazy full name, which is based in Russian/Soviet history—a story that he’ll tell you. It grew with the idea of a Gulag inmate being recruited into the KGB—something that happened more often than you might think in the Soviet Union. Then came the idea of putting in him New York, in self-imposed exile, in the second half of life. He carries a ton of baggage—from his childhood, his failed marriage, theself-demolition of his KGB career. He’s seen and experienced just about everything life can throw at someone, and he’s come through it all still standing. The literary agent Al Zuckerman said that determination and self-awareness make a great protagonist, and Turbo’s got those qualities in Spades—so to speak. (Like many Russians, he also, for better or worse, loves wordplay.)

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I’m in favor of anything that gets people—especially young people—to read. The rise of e-books appears to be stemming a decline in book sales overall. I do much of my own reading now on an iPad and love it. The economics of this revolution are still being worked out—meaning fought over—but new models will emerge. The fact that we writers now have viable alternative in e-book self-publishing to traditional publishing is definitely a good thing—for us and for readers.

Q: What's next for you and Vlost?
As his girlfriend periodically points out, Turbo has a penchant for finding trouble. He’s back, in a big pile of it, in In for a Ruble, which comes out July 17 in the USA.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Not as well as I should. The irony is, I had a successful first career in the public relations business. I’m supposed to be good at marketing and promotion. I do readings and signings and the occasional interview like this one. I have a Facebook page. I don’t do a lot with it, however, and I don’t tweet because I can’t image they are many people out there, outside a few friends, who have much interest in what I have to say. I’m old school in this regard—I think the work should stand on its own merits, and if it’s good—which I believe these books are—they will get noticed and bought and read. That’s an anachronistic view of the world in the 21st Century, however.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I don’t think so much in terms of genres, more authors and attributes. The Victorian novelists—Trollope and Dickens—are among the very best storytellers ever. Any writer can learn a ton from them. I like seemingly effortless prose stylists—Orwell, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor. Alan Furst can sculpt an atmosphere and put a character on the horns of dilemma like almost no one else. PD James is just a great writer, period. I like political novels: All the King’s Men and The Last Hurrah. I love satire (one reason I admire Dickens so much), but it’s a tough trick to pull off. The late Ross Thomas was very good at it. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is brilliant. Michael Chabon’sYiddish Policeman’s Union is a hugely enjoyable effort to write a satirical detective novel. I give him enormous credit for trying.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Sidekicks—partners—are fun and useful, though they don’t have to be psychotic. I guess from a technical point of view, guys like Hawk and Pike (don’t forget Mosley’s Mouse) enable a level of violence in a story that readers might notstand for if it were the protagonist inflecting it. On the other hand, Hawk always struck me in some regards as very level-headed dude. He just has a different way of dealing with things. In the milieu Robert Parker created, it works. Same, sort-of, with Joe Pike, who does push the envelope.Turbo’s got a partner who’s borderline fanatic on the issue of privacy—yet he owns and runs the most invasive data mining computer system ever invented, which he lets Turbo use. That’s kind of psychotic (without the violence) but it doesn’t concern him—or Turbo.

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?
Walter Mosley, definitely.If anyone inherited the Chandler/Macdonald mantel, it’s him. James Ellroy is another. That machinegun prose is tough to forget. The late, great JamesChumley who showed that hardboiled stories are just as much at home in the wilds of the West as they are in the streets of LA—and can be hilariously funny too. It’s a tragedy for fans like me that he didn’t write more. And don’t forget Ellmore Leonard—one of the most economical, and funny, and prolific, storytellers ever.

Q: Charles Collyot came up with the following question: Why write a PI story?
Because the PI-type is such a great American icon. Independent, alone, existential—he/she is at once a part of society and aloof from it. He/she makes his/or her own rules and lives by them. The rules may not—and often don’t—line up with everyone else’s, but the PI character is true to them, which is why we all root for him/her to win.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Q. Are you making a living at it, and if so how?
A. As soon as I figure out how, I’ll let everyone know.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All The Lucky Ones Are Dead (Aaron Gunner) by Gar Anthony Haywood

Open Road is doing a great job making old PI novels available again. This is a prime example.
The sixth Aaron Gunner novel tells the story of how this PI investigates the suicide of a famous rapper and bodyguards a talkshow host threatened by a Black Panther-like group he faced before.
Gunner is a tough, but believable protagonist. The LA setting is put to great use, showing us the darker parts of the rap-business. The mystery has some nice twists and turns and there's enough action to keep the excitement level high.
It should also be note that Mr. Haywood writes some excellent dialogue and manages to craf every sentence to perfection.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

And Flesh And Blood So Cheap (Joe Hannibal) by Wayne Dundee

Aren't ebooks great? Here's a reprint of a Joe Hannibal novel that first came out in 2001. Joe is hired to prove an unpopular ladiesman wasn't responsible for killing a beloved member of a Wisconsin summer resort center. Along the way he falls for a female reporter and is hindered in his investigation by several persons not happy with his investigation.
It starts out as a standard PI investigation but turns into a pulpy action fest involving throwing stars, half-naked babes with machine guns and white slavery. It may sounds a bit seventies but as always Wayne manages to write a solid hardboiled novel that is never ashamed to be a good piece of entertaining hardboiled pulp without feeling dated.
Good reading if you dig like Mike Hammer or Matt Helm.

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Relatively Small Sum (Burleigh Drummond) by Kent Westmoreland

New Orleans fixer Burleigh Drummond is hired to find a missing heiress. Soon he finds out that there's an evil scheme behind it all and he decides to set things right.
A short, but enjoyable little tale featuring a great, original take on the PI archetype. Get it here