Thursday, December 31, 2015

Corner Blitz (Burnside) by David Chill

L.A. PI Burnside is hired to find the missing daughter of a governor. A second case finds him involved in the investigation of a football star who is on trial for beating up his girlfriend.
As always David Chill tells the story with great ease and confidence as we follow Burnside in his investigation, as often taking him into college and football territory.
He also is ready to become a father,  making sure this book is also another importan chapter in his life.
We get a better look at how Burnside became the tough guy we know and love which made this one stand out from this reliable series.
There's not a hell of lot more to say, really. Every book in this series is solid, good old fashioned PI fiction without gimmicks, but full of heart.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Favorite Sons of 2015

Every year I tell you all what my favorite PI reads of the year were...
Well, here are my favorites again...

BEST PI NOVEL: The Ashtabula Hat Trick (Milan Jacovich) by Les Roberts
BEST DEBUT: The Shadow Broker (Finn Harding) by Trace Conger
BEST NEW PI: Greg Salem (in Bad Citizen Corporation) by S.W. Lauden
BEST ACTION SCENES: Hail Storme (Wyatt Storme) by W.L. Ripley

Friday, December 11, 2015

Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

I'm a mystery fan. So when I read a crime novel my main interest is usually in how the plot unfolds. This time, that came second to the scenes where Jesse Stone ponders about his state in the world, his struggle with alcohol. His descriptions of a glass of whiskey made me all thirsty for one and I felt I was invited into the very most intimate life of a man I respect, understand and care for.
In this novel Jesse Stone investigates the death of two girls who went missing during their high school years. One of the cops in Jesse's team, Molly, has a connectioin to the girls and one of the other main cops in the series, Suitcase, has a chance to shine as well. The relationship to Jesse's officers is investigated in as much detail as the murder case, deepening the value of this novel and improving upon the framework created by the great Mr. Parker.
I also noticed Mr. Coleman managed to channel the specific rhytm Parker's prose seemed to have a bit more, which made me enjoy the book even more.
Perfect merging of the style of two great crime novelists.

Bad Citizen Corporation (Greg Salem) by S.W. Lauden

I love punkrock and metal. That's why my character Noah Milano listens to it and Lenny Parker is a roadie. I love the surfer setting in crime novels, ever since shows like High Tide on TV and the Dawn Patrol book. How cool is it when a writer combines the love of punkrock and surfing and combines it into a PI novel? THIS cool!
Greg Salems used to play in a punkband, Bad Citizen Corporation and became a cop. When he is being investigated for a shooting one of his friends gets killed. He sets out to investigate, delving into is own past as well as that of the victim.
There's some awesome scenes in this book, like the exciting climax that is made for Hollywood and the fantastic scene in  a punkrock club that made feel like I was there. I've been to a lot of punkrock shows and that scene described the sounds, the sights AND the feelings perfectly.
The feelings of Greg are written in a very compelling way and the book is as much about a punkrocker in his forties as much as a about a murder mystery. What is so well-done is that one never takes a backseat to the other. If you love crime novels or literary fiction about musicians you need to pick up this book.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tropical Depression (Billy Knight) by Jeff Lindsay

You all know Dexter, tight? The serial killer targetting serial killers. If you haven't read the books you will have seen the TV show. What you might not know is that Dexter's creator published a less succesful book in the nineties, featuring fisherman / ex-cop Billy Knight. This is a reprint of that book.
Billy Knight lives in Key West, he moved there after his family got killed in LA. When an old friend from the force asks his help, trying to find out who killed his son during the LA riots Billy isn't planning to help him. He just doesn't want to face the demons he left behind there.
When something happens to his friend he decides to go to LA anyway and investigate. There he falls in love and faces an almost superhuman foe.
There are some pretty good action scenes in this book and Billy is a real knight in tarnished armour, carrying around some deep trauma. The kind of damaged, but tough character that makes for the best protagonist in (unofficial) PI novels.
The good news is that Jeff Lindsay followed up this one with a totally new book in the series, Red Tide that I will be reviewing as well.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Scar Tissue (Finn Harding) by Trace Conger

The first book in this series was very popular, even nabbing a Shamus Award. That should make this book extra popular.
Set just a little while after the first book we follow Finn Harding as he agrees to help out his ex-wife's new love. This guy is working at a hospital and is being forced to steal drugs for a few bad guys. Finn is reluctant to help him out, but because the bad guys also threatened his ex-wife and his daughter he uses his unique methods to help. When the bad guys ask him to find a mysterious man called The Banker, who serves as a bank for criminals, he uses all his manhunting tricks and contacts to complete his mission.
We also meet his brother, an ex-Army man and there's a subplot involving his father who is also forced to take on some bad guys.
I again loved the unique character of Finn and his methodical ways. I thought the subplot with his father didn't add much to the book though. I also thought it a bit of coincidence his brother was ex-Army and involved with some semi-shady deals himself.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Q & A with S.W. Lauden

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available now from Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016. He's also a punk rock fan. That combination made me want to interview him.

Q: What makes your Greg Salem different from other hardboiled  characters? 
Thanks for having me at Sons Of Spade. I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with this concept, but the main hook for Greg Salem is that he’s a punk rock cop. This juxtaposition—going from self-destructive youth, to literally becoming “the man”—shapes his main internal conflict. He’s also a bit of a softy when nobody's looking, despite the badge, guns, fistfights, womanizing and binge drinking. This is California, after all.

Q: How did you come up with the character? 
I grew up near the beach in SoCal and hung out with guys like Greg in my teens and twenties. Blue collar, salt-of-the-earth types who spent their weekdays working backbreaking jobs, but blew off steam on the weekends by surfing, skateboarding, drinking and fighting.
I eventually moved away, but occasionally run into some bros from the old neighborhood or keep up on Facebook. A few of those guys are still living a slightly tamer version of that life and, I have to admit, it makes me a little jealous. The beaches there are beautiful, the locals are mostly laid back and there’s always a party going on. So part of creating the Greg Salem character—at least initially—was about me trying to imagine what my life might have been like if I’d never left. Once the murders started happening, though, the story took on a life of its own.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love the feel of a paperback in my hand, and I have lugged some of my favorite Vonnegut, Borges and Chandler books around with me for twenty years, but I have to admit that I mostly read on the Kindle app these days. As a reader, I like the ease of eBooks, the reduced cost and the fact that I have available storage space in my home again.
I also have a soft spot for the Indie authors who have found new audiences thanks to eBooks. A lot of that carries over from my love of Indie record labels, which have always produced some of the most groundbreaking work. Same for Indie publishers. Just look at some of the titles being released by 280 Steps, Down & Out Books, Double Life Press, Broken River Books and All Due Respect—among many others. The quality and diversity is pretty stunning.

 Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I am half way through writing the second Greg Salem novel. I started BCC five years ago, so it's been a blast reconnecting with some of the characters that survived the first book. Hoping to have that one out by the end of next year.
My novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in March 2016. That one's about an ex-NYPD cop named Tommy Ruzzo who follows his drug-addict girlfriend to a small town in Florida. He ends up getting hired as head of security at a retirement community filled with a colorful cast of ancient New Yorkers. That's when the mayhem starts.

 Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I've been a drummer for most of my life, so I try to keep my chops up when I can. Not as easy to find the time these days, but I'm actually going into the studio with a friend very soon to play on his solo record. Other than that, I'm a father, husband and full-time desk jockey.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your love for punk rock and your favorite bands? How does that love influence your writing?
The area where I grew up is the home of bands like Black Flag, Descendents, Circle Jerks, Redd Kross and Pennywise. Most of them were a few years older than my friends and I, so we kind of worshipped at their alter—despite the best intentions of my heavy metal-loving older brothers.
Punk rock was some of the first music I learned how to play once I convinced my parents to get me a drum set. My musical tastes evolved over the years into alternative rock, pop, glam, country and Indie music, but punk rock will always be an important part of the mix. Some of my all time favorites that are currently in heavy rotation: The Gun Club, The Misfits, Fugazi, 7 Seconds, The Minutemen, Generation X and Lagwagon. Here's a "SoCal Punk" playlist I threw together on YouTube.
So far punk rock has been a pretty big influence on my writing, especially with BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION. Rather than attempting to write within a specific genre, I spent most of my time and energy trying to infuse the BCC story and the characters with the dark, manic intensity of my favorite punk songs. I really hope it comes through on the page. Punk's a lifestyle for many people and I wanted to pay homage to that.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
I blog pretty regularly at, including weekly author Q&As like this one. That's helped me connect with some pretty amazing writers and learn from them while also helping to support their incredible books. I also do a fair amount of blogging about music there too.
Other than that, I like to do readings and have been very fortunate to get on the bill for a couple of recent events in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Raleigh, North Carolina. I also have a few bookstore events coming up in LA and San Diego. And social media, of course.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I'm kind of a garbage disposal when it comes to reading. Crime and mystery are what I read most often, but I'm also a sucker for good YA, literary fiction, and some occasional science fiction.

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?
Tough question. I imagine Don Winslow will be up near the top of that list. THE CARTEL was a real break-through for him, but he also has a fantastic back catalogue. Some of my favorites, for pretty obvious reasons, are THE DAWN PATROL and THE WINTER OF FRANKIE MACHINE. On the Indie side, I think Eric Beetner is a real dark horse. He is wildly prolific, incredibly talented and knows the crime genre inside and out. If you've read THE DEVIL DOESN'T WANT ME or RUMRUNNERS, then you know what I'm talking about. If not, you're welcome.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I started my trunk novel—a sprawling, unpublished literary tome—around 2001. A few years after I finally abandoned that project I was drawn back to mystery and crime fiction as a reader. That's when the wheels started spinning. The two authors who are probably most responsible for inspiring me to take the leap with BCC are Jo Nesbo and Arnaldur Indridason (although I don;t know them personally). Both have their own well-defined styles, but I really dig the thoughtful character development, strong sense of place and addictive plots. What more could you ask for from a good book?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Varied Traits (Salem Reid) by Patrick Brown

Salem Reid makes Jack Reacher look soft-boiled. In the first part of the book we get to know Salem as the owner of a personal protection company, a tough but quite gentle guy. He falls for a woman he rescues in the first few pages.
He is asked by an old friend to investigate the death of a woman he found in his home. It turns out Salem has an extra personal stake and soon, together with some company friends, he's knee-deep into some depraved stuff. The last half of the book shows just how hardboiled and coldblooded a vigilante Salem can be.
I loved Salem, I loved how he's not a wisecracking PI but a professional soldier who goes about his business in a workman manner.
Patrick does a good job describing the supporting cast and excels in describing the tough lives of strippers and working girls. His depiction of the villains is very dark and scary.
I will be reviewing the second novel in this cool new series soon.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Unidentified Woman #15 (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

During some nasty weather Rush McKenzie barely avoids hitting a bound woman with his car. Helping her, he finds out she lost her memory and decides to aid her finding out who she is.
He ends up getting caught up with a ring of thieves, making good use of his criminal alter ego Dyson.
McKenzie, the unofficial PI with a lot of money in the bank is always nice to read about. He's got a lot of everyman about him, a lot more than guys like Reacher, Hammer or even Cole. That's what makes him such a nice character.
The main storyline I enjoyed less then I usually do, I'm just not sure I liked the villains / the main crime and I started to have a hard time knowing which character was who in the middle of the book.
Still, David Housewright doesn't write a bad book, so while this may not be my favorite in the series I still liked it and am looking forward to the next one.

The Man in the Window (Nick Forte) by Dana King

I'm so glad Dana King decided to contintue to write these Nick Forte books... He's just really good at it, understanding which dose of the legacy to follow and what new parts to add.
In this one he is hired to do some divorce work but when his client gets killed he becomes involved with a murder case that takes him to the worst corners of classic music, mobsters and terrorists.
I loved how Nick's relationship with his daughter was developed, a nice contrast to his tough side. In fact, as seems to be the path the book follows we see him getting rougher, tougher and darker book by book.
There are multiple twists in the end, two cool sidekicks, good action scenes and some pretty nifty Chanderlisms in this book, adding up to a perfect PI read.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Q & A with George Snyder

I love super-productive writers, they make think of the good old pulp writers... George Snyder is certainly very productive, writing three cool hardboiled series. I grilled him about all of them...

Q: What makes your main characters (Bay, Logan and Mac)
different from other hardboiled  characters? 
Bay Rumble (40) was found in a dumpster, an orphan, went to the streets at fifteen, has no formal education. He is not a PI, just a sailor living on his small boat sailing from place to place who keeps running into trouble. He has a wisecracking attitude. At no time has he ever killed anyone.
Logan Sand (47) is so hard he has become uncivilized. A former boxer, Navy Shore Patrol then SEAL then Naval Intelligence, he grew weary of government atrocities in the name of patriotism and quit. When a fighter his hands were crushed in a vise and never healed quite right. He vowed and got revenge. Logan will kill you quickly and without mercy if you violate his sense of justice, metered through his twisted hands. He has a PI license and permit to carry. He operates out of Bellingham, Washington.
Makayla “Mac” Tuff (37) is a licensed tough gal PI operating out of the small fictitious town of Branch Lake, Arizona, eight miles north of Lake Havasu. She quit five years with the Phoenix PD due to harassment and conflict of interest. She lives and operates out of an Airstream 22’ travel trailer on land she owns, with old men renters, bees, and wandering wild critters. Divorced three times she has no illusions about love and loyalty. When pressed she will and does kill. Her mother and sister live nearby in a mobile home. Mac worries about her growing hardness. She considers herself female, not feminine—her sister is feminine. Her love interest with Ace—(Evan Hunter)—keeps her somewhat balanced.

Q: How did you come up with the characters? 
I have been accused of being Bay and Logan. Not true. Bay Rumble has been around the longest. He is actually loosely based on my old Operation Hang Ten surfer screw and kill series of paperbacks I wrote in the seventies. That guy was rich and worked a spy triangle between California, Mexico and Hawaii. He had an attitude I liked and that was the basis to create Bay Rumble.
Logan Sand is patterned after Parker, written by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). Though I wanted him to be as hard as Parker (even harder) I think I have too much softness to carry it off. He is weakened by the damsel in distress, something that would never touch Parker. The Parker novels weren’t big sellers because most readers are women and they want men they read about to be intimately in touch with their feminine side. Parker has no feminine side and neither does Logan Sand. I wanted to meld Logan as part Parker and part the great main characters created by the masters, (Hammett, Chandler,  etc.) walking the mean streets meeting the bad people. I continue to work that angle, hopefully to make Logan meaner. Maybe if I keep soft women out of his life I might carry it off, but that’s a tough write for me. I too am a sucker for the soft influence of women, though some can be quite mean.
Mac Tuff is a gal all her own. I put together a conglomerate of all the women I’ve known and been with, and admired. I chose the character traits from each that might make up an interesting PI, and molded them into one gorgeous, bright, built, brainy broad. She has emerged into her own character. She is competent but has doubts. She is tough but can be sentimental. She can hate and love equally. Each book I work more on her character. Reviews tell me she is becoming softer, more vulnerable with each book. I don’t want her too soft so I have to put a check on that.        

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I love my Kindle and read it with the same joy I read page turning books. What makes eBooks work is cheap price. And that’s all. When the price of eBooks reach $8, $9 too often it will be a shotgun blast through the eBook heart. You can buy a lot of used paperbacks for that and less. I buy my paperbacks at the $1 bookstore. My limit on buying Kindle is $4. I won’t pay more than that, and I’d think long and hard at that. I charge $3.25 for my Kindle books. I’d go $2.99 but you can’t get a 70% royalty on that price. The fanatic enthusiasm for eBooks has leveled off. Some research books and Atlases don’t work. Greed has made all books overpriced. I like to brag that I refuse to pay such prices, but if it’s a research book I absolutely must have, I will and have spent as much as $100. Maybe eBooks are better for writers than readers. But, what do I know?  

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
Another Bay Rumble is in plan, taking place in the Florida Keys. He has a Coronado 25’ sloop now named after the lost girl that ended BAJA BULLETS, and his quest will be to find the girl now about fourteen. After that he will sail for the Caribbean.
Currently, I am about through writing the next Logan Sand, SLUT. His next will be HARD TROUBLE, both in Bellingham.  
I just finished the third Mac Tuff, BODY SHOT that deals with drug running; after that comes RANDOM SHOT where Mac investigates the priest and little boys/girls/nuns mess.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I chair a local writer critique group. We meet in the basement of B&N. Though I have 177 members, our core is about ten to fifteen attendance. I wish more of them were mentally and physically working for publication. It’s been going five years now.
Since I live and work on my boat, I belong to a sailing yacht club. I still enjoy the boat life and sailing even in my advanced age. I keep a meat hook over the stern when I sail. I catch sharks but now and then I snag a tuna.
And I still enjoy motorcycle riding though I don’t tour as far as I used to. My last trip was 500 miles round trip, Long Beach to Kernville and back. I sometimes ride to San Diego to visit my son and daughter-in-law, mostly on holidays. The elderly KLR (50,000 miles) is a dual purpose machine and sometimes I think I’d like another road bike, but this will likely be my last two-wheel transportation. The reflexes aren’t what they used to be and car drivers are full of rage and hostility.
I like to gold prospect, mostly along the San Gabriel River unless I’m taking a week or more. I have the panning/sluice equipment plus three metal detectors. I always get a little color but I’m still searching for the big strike.
I don’t SCUBA as much these days as snorkel. I metal detect beaches for treasure.
And, of course, there is constant reading, plus I’m a rabid movie fan, and the NFL (go Seahawks) and on and on.
I don’t date anymore because there isn’t much about me that would interest an interesting woman.  

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Social media almost exclusively. I’m ashamed to say I sell few paperbacks. Why? I don’t promote via paper to the people. No brochures, flyers, mail-outs, post cards, letters—that’s what it takes. I do sell some paperbacks but mostly it’s Kindle. I’m on Kindle Direct. I use, Facebook, Twitter, Tweet, Goodreads. And my reviewers use them too plus Amazon and their own web sites. I have a profile site on Amazon that lists all my books. At times, I set up my table, either anchored at Catalina Island or at Farmer’s Market to peddle my books. The sales are okay but not great. I’ve thought about creating a newsletter through my web site and charge maybe $15 a year for weekly or bi-weekly writer tips, and subscribers get a 30% discount on all my paperbacks. Still kicking that idea around.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I love westerns. I’ve read a bunch of them. I even have an outline for my own, THE GUNFIGHTER’S LADY. That would just about round out the inventory. I’ve written memoir, crime, science-fiction, romance, a children’s book, spy stuff—a western might be more than folks can stand. I also have an outline for a historic seafaring yarn, CHINA SEA SAILOR, a real swashbuckler. I do intend to get to them. I want at least five books out in each of my three present series. I do have the final memoir in the research stage, BLUE COLLAR WRITER, about my fifty plus years in the writing racket, and how it has changed for better and worse.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike? 
They are great sounding boards and I have them. Bay Rumble is a true loner; he has nobody. The characters he meets are mostly antagonistic. He has no pal to talk the case with. He’s just a guy getting into trouble ; not a PI. Logan Sand has his gangster pal, Gabe Gatlin, who provides a small army of ex-army rangers to help out. They often shoot it out with the bad guys together. Mac Tuff, of course, has her Ace—friend, lover, researcher, and shoot-out sidekick.    

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
Tough to say. The crop of new writers are hard for me to read. They keep too much fat on the language and their narratives move agonizingly slow. I’m no fan of long fat chapters. They get bogged down in minute descriptive detail and slow unwinding plots. I got excited about Lee Child but his best book was his first. I’ve read two others but that’s it. Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke can only catch my interest in spurts. I find many places to skip. I like Harlan Coben but again, places to skip. James Patterson started well then sold out for big bucks and brought on a crowd of computer hacks and his stuff became shallow. Some who don’t like me say I write like Patterson, only less. I don’t take it as a compliment though I’m envious of the money he makes. I like novels that move along with action and speed. It’s what I write. I’m afraid my reading still goes back to the masters, plus Elmore Leonard, Richard Stark, (you can always find new stuff to learn), some of Robert Parker, (not the present one) though Spencer never had his personal ass on the line.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I see a time when I move away from the novel. I mentioned a memoir. I might wind up with non-fiction or maybe switch to articles and essays, or that newsletter. For now I still enjoy working out the plot and characters. And the crime genre is mostly what I read. I definitely will continue to interject stand-alone crime novels, and maybe even some deeper stuff, though there are those who say that as a blue collar writer I’m incapable of writing anything serious.        

Storme Front (Wyatt Storme) by W.L. Ripley

I am so pleased I get to read this great series, back in print now. Wyatt Storme might be clearly made of the Spenser-mold, he still has an original enough voice to stand out from other Spenser-clones.
This book he gets involved with a weapons deal and ends up trying to help an old friend from his football-playing days. Luckily, skip-tracer / bodyguard and ex-spook Chick Easton (coolest psycho sidekick since Joe Pike) is along for the ride.
This is quite a personal tale for Storme. He has to face his attraction to an old flame, the nightmares from his Vietnam days and just how much of an adrenaline junkie he is.
Lots of action, some mystery and introspection make this a must-have for every PI fan.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Two Redheads & A Dead Blonde (Ronan Marino) by Lloyd L. Corricelli

This isn't a novel... It's a comic book! It's also full of the stuff I love so here's my review.
Former Air Force investigator Ronan Marino won the lottery and now spends his time collecting comics, playing  in a band and as a vigilante. When his girlfriend is found dead, the cops pick him up, suspecting him of murder.
There's some fast action as he takes on neo-nazi arsonists and various other thugs. The dialogue is pretty fun with lots of references to comic books. The art isn't fantastic but serves to tell the story.
Marino is a pretty cool character and the supporting cast will be sure to help him along the way to have some interesting stories.
Pick it up if you love both comics and PI's.
If you don't dig comics, you can also pick up the prose novel version by the way. I will!

The Ashtabula Hat Trick (Milan Jacovich) by Les Roberts

If there's one prime example how to keep a series fresh for years it's this one.
Milan Jacovich as been around for about two decades now and I still love the guy. A few books ago Roberts made the brilliant idea to introduce sidekick K.O. Bannion, a young and angry man who gives the series the more modern edge it needs. With the introduction of Milan's new love the black homicide detective Tobe Blaine we have a great cast that reminds you of the old classic private eyes but still feels relevant and fresh.
In this novel  Jacovich and Bannion assist Blaine who investigates a number of homicides in Queenstown. What they encounter is redneck crooks, religious fanatics and a femme fatale.
Bannion gets enough asses to kick, Jacovich and Blaine's relationship deepens and there's some interesting moral questions being asked in the ending.
Awesome book.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Gold Coast Blues (Jules Landau) by Mark Krulewitch

Jules Landau returns, tougher than ever. We've seen him get a bit more hardboiled with every book and I like the fact he seems to have gained a bit more attitude.
Hired by a shady character to track down his missing girlfriend he gets involved with counterfeit expensive wine.
The fact wine is used as one of the reasons wrongdoings are being done is original. I am used to seeing either drugs or maybe art for that.
I liked the character of Amy, a psychic with a secret who has a love-hate thing going with Jules which made for some nice tension and fun dialogue.
There's some nice twist and turns to spice up the story, but a lot of it felt slow-moving. I'd say the novel could lose a page or 20.
Fairly standard, but not bad stuff. I will be along for the 4th one.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Shadow Broker (Finn Harding) by Trace Conger

I knew Finn Harding would be a bit on the shady side for a PI but what I got went beyond that. He crosses the criminal line frequently, although he doesn't seem such a hardboiled character from the first look. He's got a dad and a kid to look after for example and knows his way around a Search Engine.
Finn Harding lost his PI license some time ago and also divorced his wife. Now he not only wants to make a living but also figures having money might be the way to get his wife back. When he's hired by a black market information brokerage outfit he sinks deeper and deeper into the darkness.
Finn is a cool character, the the mix of regular Joe and hardboiled criminal / shamus is very interesting. The criminals are Elmore Leonard material and pretty original. The action is fast and furious.
All in all, an interesting new series. Great for fans of characters like Quarry, Burke or Parker.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

No Hard Feelings (August Riordan) by Mark Coggins

I was happy to get an advance review copy of this one. It's been some time since we last saw Mark Coggins' August Riordan, but here he is.
This is a pretty much different kind of book than earlier ones in this series. Earlier ones starred Riordan in a bit less effective Philip Marlowe, in this book he's more a less effective Jack Reacher.
Winnie, a tough girl from earlier book Vulture Capital returns, wearing some high-tech implants that enable her to walk. The man behind the implants wants his hardware back though, and Winnie enlists Riordan for help. What follows is a summer blockbuster kind of ride full of action, thrills and some romance.
I'm not entirely sure if I like the fact this series is moving into thriller instead of mystery territory, but it sure was an engaging and fun read.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Background Check On: I, the Jury (Mike Hammer) by Mickey Spillane, adapted for audio by Mike Dennis

Mike Dennis is not only a pretty good writer, he's also the producer of cool audio books. This week he's got the audio adaption coming out of Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury. I asked him all about it...

Q: Please introduce yourself to the readers
I'm Mike Dennis from Key West. I've been narrating and producing audiobooks out of my home studio down here for a couple of years now. Prior to that I was a professional musician (piano/30 years) and a professional poker player (6 years). I also wrote six novels and two novelettes, all in the crime/noir fiction genre. The two novelettes and one of my novels were in the private eye sub-genre.

Q: Tell us about the road to  get I, the Jury done as an audiobook
Last summer, while trolling Amazon one day, I was shocked to discover Mickey Spillane's I, The Jury was not available as a modern downloadable audiobook. This of course was Spillane's first novel and the introduction of Mike Hammer. They had released an audiocassette (remember those?) back in the 1980s, I think, and they were no longer available except used copies from 3rd party vendors on Amazon. Plus, it was heavily abridged. I looked at the other Hammer novels and they were all available in downloadable audio format, with the great Stacy Keach as the narrator. I looked again to be sure I hadn't made a mistake and sure enough, no audiobook for I, The Jury.

Well, I set out to locate the holder of the audio rights and eventually discovered they were in the hands of Simon & Schuster. After much painstaking work, I finally dug up the name of S&S's audiobook division chief (they don't really want you to know who these people are), and I tried calling him on the phone. After many attempts, I finally got him on the line and told him who I was and that I wanted the opportunity to narrate and produce this great Spillane novel.

Naturally, he could've easily told me to get lost. Key West? Home studio? Very little track record? Are you kidding me? Buzz off!

Instead, I told him I had prepared a brief recorded sample from I, The Jury and could I send it to him. He paused, then said, "Okay." I sent it to him immediately and then waited. And waited. And waited.

Did I say I waited?

A couple of months went by and he emailed me back and said he had sent my sample off to the audiobook production chief and she would be listening to it. So I waited again.

After another month or so, the production chief emailed me and requested a finished recording of the entire first chapter. I put it together with great care and sent it off to her.

A month or two later, she wrote back and said they wanted me to do the whole book. Naturally, I was thrilled beyond words. We agreed on the terms, I signed a contract, and I recorded the entire novel. I uploaded it to them around the middle of April. As a result, I will be the new voice of Mike Hammer.

The moral of the story is: cold querying works!

Q: Who are your favorite private eyes?
My favorite PIs are not surprising. Mike Hammer (of course), Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, and James Crumley's CW Sughrue.

Q: What challenges do you encounter getting an audiobook done?
The biggest challenge for me in getting an audiobook done is maintaining a consistent sound quality throughout. It takes me many days to actually record a complete novel in "raw file" form, so I have to make sure the conditions are similar each time I sit down to record. My voice has to sound the same and if it doesn't — for example, I might be very tired or slightly congested — I can't record that day. Then in the editing and mastering phases, which I also do, I have to ensure a consistent, seamless sound through the entire novel.

Another big challenge is narrating a poorly written or poorly edited book. It is really tough going if the book is not well-written. Fortunately, of course, that problem didn't exist with I, The Jury.

Q: What is coming up next for you?
Because of my success with I, The Jury, I've cold-queried a few other big novels which I've noticed do not have modern audiobooks attached to them. I'm hoping to hit at least one of them. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Q & A with Trace Conger

It's always so much fun when I plan to interview a writer and he contacts me just before I contact him. This was one of those cases. Trace Conger tells us all about Finn Harding and hardboiled fiction...

Q: What makes Finn Harding different from other hardboiled  characters?   
 One of the most significant differences between Finn Harding and other hardboiled characters is he’s not invincible. He’s a tough guy at times, but he also gets his ass kicked more than the archetypal hardboiled character would. When you think of Spade or Marlowe, you have this idea that they always control the room. They don’t get flustered. If they walk into a bar, they’re the toughest guy there. Finn isn’t. That's not to say he’s a coward, but he’s more real than what the genre typically presents.
 To use a more modern example, you’ve got characters like Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher (while not hardboiled characters in their own right, they do share traits of the hardboiled bloodline). You know that when these characters are surrounded by six men in an alley, they’re going to take care of business and walk out without much effort or blood loss. Not so with Finn. He might get out of the situation, but he’s going to need more than two flying fists or the butt of his .45. I like to think of Finn as a problem solver, and he’s going to use whatever he can to solve problems, but that doesn’t always mean his fists.

Q: How did you come up with the character?   
 I really liked the idea of a PI who lost his license (and by extension his livelihood and family). He’s desperate, but he’s also intelligent. With his backstory, I’ve opened the door to explore a wide range of issues. How far will he go? Who will he work with? What ethical lines will he cross or not cross? How can be protect his family given his new career choices and criminal associations.
 The Finn Harding character emerged from a conversation I had with a PI who, early in her career, admitted she’d done some illegal work for a high-paying client. She was going through a rough patch in her life and needed the money. She didn’t get caught, and once she was on her feet, she went back on the straight-and-narrow and never looked back. Her story intrigued me, and it was the basis of Finn’s backstory, with the difference being that Finn got caught, and he lost everything he’d worked for as a result.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
It’s a strange time to be in publishing (or to be publishing). eBooks have opened up a lot of opportunities for authors, but there are still a lot of questions out there. I’ve read some reports that eBook sales have plateaued, while other reports say they’re still growing.
 As with any industry, technology enables access. There is more access for authors to publish their own work and there is more access for readers to read on a variety of platforms (tablets, phones, etc.). I strongly believe that authors should do all they can to create the best story possible and then make it available on as many platforms as necessary in order to reach readers on whatever devices they prefer to use. That means eBooks, but it also means print and audio too.

Q: What's next for you and Finn? 
I’m almost finished writing SCAR TISSUE, the second novel in the series. While THE SHADOW BROKER revealed much of Finn’s backstory, it also introduced a variety of characters, including Finn’s father Albert, who is a fan favorite. SCAR TISSUE picks up where THE SHADOW BROKER ends. It dives deeper into Albert’s past and introduces a new set of problems for everyone who survived the first book.
 I’ve also started outlining the third “Mr. Finn” novel.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing? 
When I’m not writing, I’m usually busy with my family. I have two young children, so they take up the majority of any free time I have, which is minimal to begin with. When I can escape from them, I usually spend time reading or working in my woodshop. If I’m really lucky, I might find my way onto a golf course.

Q: How do you promote your work?  
My marketing strategy has been to engage with as many readers as possible, so that means attending book fairs, signings, and book club meetings to talk about my work. I also spend a lot of time reaching out to book blogs and reviewers to build an audience. It’s a lot of work, and promotion takes away from writing, but I enjoy it.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?  
I love suspense. While my novels focus on crime, most of my short fiction is in the horror genre. I don’t deviate too far from the crime/suspense/mystery/horror aisles of the bookstore.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?  
Sidekicks (and I hate to use that term) play an important role. They are similar, yet opposing, characters to the main character (Hawk to Spenser and Pike to Cole). On one level, they serve a specific purpose, usually to reveal something about the main character, perhaps to show us what the main character will and won’t do. For the things he/she won’t do, the sidekick is there to take over.

In THE SHADOW BROKER I introduce a character named Little Freddie. While not a sidekick (he’s one of the antagonists), he is a psychopath. He serves as a warning to Finn, the main character, of what Finn might become if he stays on the path he is on. Freddie has lost his family to a ruthless murderer and in his eyes has very little left to live for. So, he has no boundaries. He can do whatever he likes because he doesn’t fear the consequences. He doesn’t fear death. At one point in the novel, Freddie tells Finn “I’m you in five years.” They are walking a similar path, and he is a barometer to Finn who can see what could lie ahead for himself.

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 think the writers you mentioned will continue to influence writers for years to come. I just read THE BIG SLEEP again last week. To me, it’s timeless. While I think some of the references are outdated and could even be comical today, the writing holds up. These masters have written classics, and their work will be around for a long time to influence generations to come.

One of my biggest influences in Joe Lansdale, especially his Hap and Leonard series. I eat those up because they are a great combination of action, violence, and humor. I think Lansdale is one of the best writers out there, even though I wouldn’t consider him a hardboiled writer. I also credit Elmore Leonard as a key influence to me. His language is flawless and his plots are fantastic.

There are so many wonderfully talented writers out there, and I suspect coming generations will take bits and pieces from each. Maybe they’ll pull from Leonard’s dialog or Chandler’s tight prose and craft their own voice to raise the bar even higher.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?  
The criminal mind, and more specifically, the idea of why people do the things they do, has always fascinated me. Crime is also real. I don’t like to read fantasy or science fiction, because I can easily separate the fiction from reality, but crime and (certain sub-genres of) horror fester around us. We can and do experience them on a daily basis.

I don’t have to worry about a dragon devouring my town or a vampire hunting me down, but I do have to worry about the convict who escaped from the prison three miles from my home or the little girl who got snatched from the local park. These are real and they tap into or greatest fears of our own safety and the safety of our families.

On a lighter note, criminals are fun to write about. I can kill someone with a few keystrokes and I won’t go to the gas chamber (though I guess today it’s the lethal injection table). It’s a way to experience homicide without killing anyone.

Q: How can readers get ahold of you?  
It’s easiest to find me online at There they can sign up for my author newsletter and even snag some free fiction. Readers can also find me on Facebook ( or Twitter (@TraceConger). I reply to all my emails, so shoot me a note.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Safety Valve (Burnside) by David Chill

Cliff Roper, first seen in the Burnside novel "Bubble Screen" hires LA shamus Burnside to prove he didn't attempt to kill his business partner.
As always, Burnside is a comfortable guide through the mystery. There's some twists and turns, some fights and of course we  read how Burnside's relationship with the love of his life continues.
There's also a plot concerning a jewel thief. Burnside seemed just a tad bit out of character when confronting the thief. Usually he seems just a bit less gung-ho than say Spenser, Reacher or Burke. I did like the attitude I have to admit.
Every novel in this series is enjoyable and contains everything you'd expect from a solid PI series. This one is no exception.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hail Storme (Wyatt Storme) by W.L. Ripley

For me, Storme Warning, the first new book in the Wyatt Storme series was the first one I read by W.L. Ripley. I loved it, so I am happy to see the older books being reprinted. This one is the first in the series and first came out in 1993 as "Dreamsicle" after a drug that appears in the book. I must say I like the new title a lot better.
This novel tells how Vietnam veteran and ex-NFL player Wyatt Storme meets superspook Chick Easton and stumbles upon a field full of marijuana. When the local sheriff is killed Storme investigates.
This is again, Spenser-type adventure and mystery. Fast-paced, witty and All American Hero kind of writing. Just the kind of stuff I like.Ripley's newer writing is maybe just a bit tighter than this first novel, but it still reads as one impressive debut.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lullaby (Spenser) by Ace Atkins / Robert B. Parker

When I first heard that Ace Atkins would be taking over the Spenser series after Robert B. Parker's demise I was very happy. Not only would that mean I wouldn't have to miss my favorite PI but I knew the series would be in good hands, Ace being a big favorite writer of mine.
Still, it took quite some time before I got around to reading Ace's Spenser books. Why? Not sure. Maybe there was some fear of disappointment? Well, that fear was unfounded.
It is almost creepy how well Atkins writes in Robert's style. It is almost if he is channeling the writer from beyond.
Atkins makes a very smart choice in making his first Spenser novel all about protecting a young teen, bringing back memories of the best Spenser books of the past with Paul Giacomin. That, and the return of favorites like Vinnie Morris, Broz, Hawk, Rita Fiore, Susan, etc make this a solid and true Spenser read.
Atkins also does a good trick of placing Spenser in the modern world, but still making him the original, old fashioned hero we know. He might use a cellphone but only to make phone calls for instance.
One of the best Spenser novel in the past few years. Amazing, right?

Just a sidenote that Robert B. Parker was one of my biggest influences as well, you can see that in my currently free Noah Milano novelette that you can get here.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Don't Lose Her (Max Freeman) by Jonathon King

Max Freeman returns! Good thing too, because I enjoyed earlier books in this series.
In this one Max is asked by his buddy, lawyer Billy Manchester to look for his kidnapped wife, a pregnant judge. Sometimes aided by the FBI Max searches the Everglades for her.
This time not only Freeman's POV is used to tell the story, but also that of the judge and one of the kidnappers. While those POV changes might make the story a bit more interesting, it also took away some surprises for me and took up space I'd rather see used for some more action-scenes or twists. The ending seemed somewhat rushed to me as well.
All in all though, Max is a good character, the writing is tight and the atmosphere perfectly described.
Not the best in the series, but still pretty good.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Serving Justice - A Noah Milano flash fiction

Every now and then I start a novel but I decide to go in another direction. Still, the first chapter I was writing makes for a nice little short flash fiction tale that shows how tough our man Noah Milano is... So here it is...

Business was exceptionally slow. You’d think the crisis would make more people go out and steal or kidnap folks, resulting in a higher demand for a security specialist like myself. I had been forced to dabble in private investigations as a result before, but even that wasn’t really paying the bills these days. I guess that kind of work went to investigators with nicer offices or that didn’t have the reputation of being the son of a mobster following them around. Anyway, that’s why I was forced to add process serving to my services. Noah Milano, Security, Investigations and Process Serving. Soon I’d have to add housekeeping and gardening to the list.
I’d been sitting in my Dodge Charger for hours now, listening to the new Drowning Pool record and an audiobook by Michael Connelly. I’d eaten three donuts and downed three coffees. I hated peeing in empty bottles but also had a hard time staying awake without caffeine. I was just hoping my target would show up soon.
My target’s name was Julian Brooks, who makes his living as MMA fighter. That’s why it was hard for his agent to find someone willing to serve him. Personally, I’m not as intimidated by guys who break people’s bones in the ring. I’ve been honing my skills on the streets, where stuff gets a lot rougher than in the ring. My dad’s hitman / bodyguard Kane taught me to fight and I have been forced to keep up with my fighting skills ever since, either because of guys coming after me because of my father or during my work as a security specialist. You come after me with a gun, I get worried. You try to take me on with just your fists, I’m pretty sure I can get things under control. Of course, I was still hoping I would be able to serve Brooks without any fisticuffs.
I found out where Brooks’ girlfriend lives and I’d been parked across from her apartment waiting for Brooks to exit. I figured there wasn’t a better time to catch him unaware than in post-coital bliss.
And there he was. Big, muscular guy, shaved head, goatee, black leather jacket costing more than my entire wardrobe and lots of gold around his neck and fingers. Some of that gold came from deals he made with other agents, breaking his contract with the guy who hired me. That’s why he was being asked to appear in court. He walked out the door of his girl’s apartment and headed over to his Cadillac.
I got out of my car and walked over to him. “Julian Brooks?”
“I ain’t in the mood for no autographs, man,” he told me.
“That’s not what I’m here for,” I said and shoved the serving papers into his jacket pocket. “You’ve been served.”
“What? Asshole!” Brooks said and pushed me in the chest. I managed to stay on my feet, but it was one hell of a push.
“Sorry, man. Just doing my job,” I said.
“Yeah? I’m gonna take you apart for that, motherfucker!” Brooks yelled and his fist travelled to my face. Those rings on it were going to hurt if they hit me.
I blocked his fist with my left arm, kicking his knee as a follow-up. He was pretty quick though and twisted his knee enough for me to barely graze it.
His elbow hit me in the chest with dazzling speed. It was like getting hit by a truck. Then there was a foot against my chin before I could think of a counter. I had to admit, this guy was fast and sure as hell could fight.
I was beginning to think I shouldn’t have left my Glock in the car. That thought was confirmed with a fist to my breadbasket. I wheezed. I was starting to understand why this guy was such a successful MMA fighter. Still, if he was going to kick my ass to the hospital my mentor Kane was going to visit me and kick my ass again, angry because he taught me better than getting beat up by someone who fought as a sport.
“Fuck this!” was my battle cry as I spin-kicked him in the face. That got him woozy enough for me to grab his jacket and smash him into his Cadillac. He hit the closed door with his face and sank down on the concrete. He tried to get up but I opened the car door right in his face two times. Blood ran down the door. Brooks sat against the car with his eyes closed and his lights out.
That all got a hell of a lot uglier than I’d planned. And to think I had another document to serve. Luckily that sounded like an easier job.
I walked to my car, ignoring the people coming out of their homes or cars, daring to take a closer look now the fight was finished. I had to get out of there before someone called the cops. I’m not exactly the best of friends with LA’s finest. Something to do with them not liking the son of known mobster.
I wasn’t happy with what I saw in my rearview mirror. My chin was looking pretty bruised. Good thing Brooks’ other hits were in the gut and chest of course, if they had landed in my face it would have been even worse. I wouldn’t want to turn off the ladies. Well, I sure as hell got even with him.
I started the Dodge and drove off, making my way over to the next address on my list...


Hungry for more Noah Milano action, click this link....

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sign Wave (Aftershock/Dell) by Andrew Vachss

All fans of Vachss know that his books are less about the narrative and more about the messages and characters. This novel in the Dell/Aftershock series is no exception and I was eager to see the ex-mercenary return. Dell's history as a mercenary is very interesting as are his views on the world. His methods are very inventive and hardboiled.
Dell can be even more ruthless than Burke used to be, even though he has a wife. In fact, that relationship is the one who gets him involved with the bad guys most of the time. Here his wife, Dolly, gets a veiled threat that sends Dell after prominent local figure and his plans with the environment.
As always the prose style is very engaging and hardboiled, the story nice and dark. What I really enjoyed was the return of some characters from the second novel, like Mary Lou.

High Lie (Miami Jones) by A.J. Stewart

Miami Jones is a PI working in Palm Beach together with his partner Ron. Miami is more or less a PI in the Elvis Cole mode, that is he owes a lot to Spenser. He's got a lot of Cole's laidback style and a psycho sidekick like Cole and many private eyes that came after Spenser have.
He's not the most original PI to come along, but surely one of the most enjoyable ones. Both very human but tough enough to face the baddies Jones is one to watch for.
I must say his partner Ron seemed a bit dull to me and I really don't think there's much for him to do that sidekick Lucas (Australian ex-SAS) wouldn't be able to do. Jones' significant other is a likable character, she's a deputy sheriff so she can take care of herself better then, say, Susan Silverman.
When a young boy is fished out of the water by Miami's pal Lucas he sets out to investigate who and why dumped the kid in the water. He gets involved with some shady characters involved with gambling and the kind of forgotten sport Jai Alai.
The story flows nicely, without too much fluff / scenes to just fill the pages. The mystery is good enough and the action is well-written and easy to follow.
Will be reading more in this series.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Background Check on Circling the Runway (Jake Diamond) with JL Abramo

JL Abramo is back with a new novel featuring Jake Diamond (Circling The Runway) after quite some years... I was eager to find out about it...

Tell us what the novel is about.
Circling the Runway is about how the personal greed of one man can impact the lives of so many others, about how common cause can make for unlikely partnerships, about how long trust can outweigh suspicion, and about 260 pages.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
Usually when I get started, with an opening scene I find intriguing and hope will capture the reader’s attention, it goes very quickly out of the gate.  But since I never know how it will end when I begin, I eventually reach what I would call a turning point.  When I finally decide where I want the story to ultimately arrive, and realize I can’t get there from here, I usually need to backtrack to find the path I need—and that can be time consuming.  Generally, a Jake Diamond mystery will take at least six months of writing and editing before I feel it is ready to show my publisher.  This book took a bit longer because I was bringing Jake and his gang back after a hiatus of nearly a decade, and I needed to become reacquainted with Diamond, Darlene, Vinnie, Joey and the other North Beach regulars.

Did it take a lot of research?
Jake Diamond turns forty in Catching Water in a Net, which appeared in 2001.  Clutching at Straws and Counting to Infinity soon followed.  I made a decision in writing the new book.  I chose to keep Jake and his sidekicks from aging too quickly.  Therefore, I set the novel in 2004.  This required researching the cultural period—films, music, sports, and politics of the time.  San Francisco and Los Angeles are familiar ground by now, but I had to do a lot of research on Oakland, where much of the action takes place.

Where did you come up with the plot; what inspired you?
The idea from the start was to have a series regular—a well liked and respected police lieutenant—act very suspiciously with regard to a murder which kicks off the story.  And then have her partner, Sergeant Johnson, so concerned he is forced to turn to Jake Diamond for help—and Diamond and Johnson have not shared an amiable history.  Inspiration?  I think it developed from considering classic duos and their varied dynamics—Liston and Ali, Holmes and Watson, Frollo and Quasimodo, Felix and Oscar.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most? 
I always particularly enjoy the interactions between Jake Diamond and his associate Darlene Roman—who keeps Jake honest and keeps the business afloat.  Developing their relationship and their special rapport over the course of the series has been great fun—and, from what I hear, keeps readers guessing about where it may lead.

I can do no better than to provide an example.

Judging by the sound that woke me, I expected to find myself sitting beside Quasimodo atop the cathedral tower; him pulling the rope with one hand and punching me in the side of my head with the other.  Another peel of the deafening bell and another sock in the ear and then another.  When it happened the fifth time, I realized at last it was the telephone.  I struggled to grab the receiver and hit the talk button; it reduced the buzzing in my head by fifty per cent.
“Since when does my name have five syllables?”
“Give me a break, Darlene. I’m not doing very well.”
“I’ll say. I’ve heard myna birds with better diction.”
“Did you call this early to torture me?”
“I called this early because Joey tried calling you and when he couldn’t reach you he called me.”
“I was outside smoking and must have missed the call.”
“Well, I was having a very pleasant dream featuring Hugh Jackman.”
“What’s so special about Hugh Jackman?”
“You’ll never know until you see the X-Men movies.”
“And what is it with grown women dreaming about movie stars?”
“It’s probably a bit like a World War Two G.I. keeping a photo of Betty Grable in his locker; or like the picture of Rachel Weisz you keep in your wallet.  Are you going to ask why Joey called, or do you want to continue trying to beat the subject of idol worship to death?”
“Why did Joey call?” I asked.
“Tony Carlucci called Joey so Joey called you.”
“I’m having some difficulty putting the two actions together.”
“The way you’re slurring your words makes me wonder if you could manage to put your two hands together,” Darlene said, without a hint of sarcasm. “Call Joey.”
“Are you going back to sleep?”
“Too late for that, Hugh’s gone.  I may as well go for my morning run and get ready to go to the office.  Pay some bills, stare at a silent telephone, and calculate the odds that you will show up there before noon.  Call Joey.”
The line went dead.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Aside from Jake, who is like a stepbrother to me, it would have to be Darlene.  She is the perfect foil for Diamond.  Darlene can match wits, be as smartly humorous, set Jake straight, cover his back, challenge him to show his good side, and prove that with all of his faults Jake Diamond is at the end of the day an admirable character.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
It was both challenging and rewarding to resurrect Jake and the recurring cast after so long.  It was truly like a reunion with old friends.  I hope it will please and satisfy the many fans who have been asking for ten years if and when the gang would return.

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of (Nick Forte) by Dana King

Dana King sure knows how to start a novel. The violent opening shows us very clearly that his Nick Forte is one tough customer. He has plenty of opportunity during the course of this novel which seemed just a tad more action-packed than the first one (A Small Sacrifice).
Hired to bodyguard an actor who is quite an annoying pig Forte ends up hunting for the Maltese Falcon! That's one Macguffin that is appropiate to a PI story, right?
King really knows his hardboiled prose. I really enjoyed the lean and mean writing style and the great use of Chandlerisms that never got stupid, annoying or forced.
Forte might not be the most original of the PI's but he is sure as hell one of the most satisfying ones.
Solid PI stuff.

A Scourge of Vipers (Liam Mulligan) by Bruce DeSilva

This one reads as a real turning point in the Mulligan series. Looks like Bruce DeSilva really knows how to keep a series fresh.
When the governor wants to legalize sports betting events start that end up getting reporter Liam Mulligan involved with a murder investigation and a missing briefcase full of cash.
What is really more interesting in this novel are the subplots. Like Mulligan dating a black woman and how that works in today's society. Like the fate of the dying newspapers. Or how Mulligan gets a chance at a new beginning, as both PI and reporter, making sure there's bound to be more great novels.
There's some thought provoking scenes in this one. Both about politics and racism. And DeSilva manages to wrap all of that up neatly in a story about a cool, wisecracking detective. This is what hardboiled fiction is all about.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Black Hood # 1 (Black Hood) by Duane Swierczynski

Me, reviewing a comic on this blog? Yep! Why? Well writer Duane has been writing some awesome crime fiction and I am a fan of  Alex Segura's work who is the brain behind the whole Dark Circle line this comic is a part of, so why not. And this Black Hood guy is one hardboiled guy...
Philly cop Greg Hettinger is shot in the face as he takes down a vigilante killer. That makes him a hero, but also a scarred and disfigured man who plunges deeper and deeper into depression. In the end he pulls on the hood of The Black Hood which ends this origin issue.
The story of Hettinger is told at a brisk space and could have been a novel by Duane by itself. The dark, gritty art perfectly enhances the story and has me wanting more.

Shadow Boys (Jonathan Cantrell) by Harry Hunsicker

Former DEA contractor Jonathan Cantrell is now a fixit man for a big law firm, his ex Piper is working for the cops. At first glance live seems to be good for both, but as the story progresses we see that is not really the case.
Jon is asked to track down a missing boy but ends up tangling with a vigilante killer. Aside from Jon's story there's the story of Deputy Chief Raul Delgado who has lived an interesting life that is really important to the story and possibly outshines Jon's plotline. Sometimes it even seems there's two books in one, but it really all makes sense in the end.
What I really enjoyed in this one was the fact that Harry Hunsicker really outdoes himself with the hardboiled prose in this one. It really, really reads very tough and hardboiled, like listening to a good blues album. I also liked the fact that this was more of a crime novel than the first one in the series that seemed to be more of an action thriller.

The Death Dealing Game (Frank Boff) by Nathan Gottlieb

The most original PI of the decade, Frank Boff teams up with the most flawed, toughest female investigator of the decade as suspended, hard-drinking cop Emily Lynch debuts. They make a deal: Frank helps her with her murder investigation, she helps him with a missing person investigation. When the cases collide there is hell to pay!
The introduction of Emily Lynch really makes the plot more exciting. There's some very great lines from this politically incorrect character that had me chuckling quite a few times.
I wasn't sure about the ending though. It seems Boff might be moving away from the Dark Side more and more, which I thought made the character so cool and interesting.
Anyway, another great entry in the Boff series. If you want to know a bit more and aren't sure if my word is good enough you can pick up a free copy of the first one in the series here for 2 days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fifty Shades of Fedora (Anthology) by Robert J. Randisi

One of the most important reasons I developed the Shamus Sampler series of anthologies was that the Private Eye Writers of America didn't seem to put out theirs anymore. Lucky for me, they're back with this one, as always expertly edited by Robert J. Randisi. I'm sorry he didn't do introductions for each tale, used to love those.
The running theme, as can be guessed a bit by the title is sex. Some graphic and kinky, some more implied. Some tales didn't really seem to be real PI tales to me, but of course that wasn't advertised either. A LOT of them are, I'm happy to say, though.
Among the writers are Carolina Garcia-Aquilera, Justin Scott, Gary Phillips, Jerry Kennealy, Michael Bracken, Christine Matthews, Robert J. Randisi, Warren Murphy, Ted Fitzgerald, Dick Lochte, and John Lutz. I loved seeing Max Allan Collins with a Nate Heller story and Jerry Kennealy put in a short and sweet Nick Polo tale. The fact there's a VI Warshawski tale in it should sell some extra copies. Some tales are a bit raunchier than others, Bracken's probably the more hardcore one. If you don't like that kind of stuff, don't worry, it is at the beginning but  not indicative to the rest.
Special mention should go to Ted Fitzgerald's Tex Texeira who is a PI that does background checks for a nudie magazine. I thought that idea was very original and the tale very enjoyable. @Ted: if you are reading this, be sure to contact me for an interview.

Storme Warning 0Wyatt Storme) by W.L. Ripley

Man, as much as I love Ace Atkins writing Spenser, here's a guy that would be able to continue that series really well. This is totally new book featuring Wyatt Storme that will have me pick up the reprints coming soon as well for sure.
Wyatt Storme is an ex-football player and Vietnam veteran who is visited by his old pal and psycho sidekick, the ex-CIA agent Chick Easton. Chick asks him for help protecting a bad boy movie-star during the shoot of a Western movie. There's also an old enemy of Storme lurking around.
Storme is a really cool guy, a real John Wayne kind of guy. Tall, honest, kind to women and a bit of a loner. He also gets in quite a few witty lines in the Spenser veign. Chick is an almost superhuman sidekick, where there's of course some comparisons to Hawk
The story is paced well with enough twists and action and a shift to the POV of Storme's old enemy that nevers confuses or annoys.
Great, old-fashioned PI writing and a MUST for fans of Spenser, Elvis Cole or my own Noah Milano.
One of my favorite books of the year so far.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Night Tremors (Rick Cahill) by Matt Coyle

Every time I seem to think I am tiring of the PI genre maybe another novel like this one pops up and affirms my love of the genre.
I loved the first one in this series so I was excited to read this one and it didn't disappoint. In fact, I loved it even more than the first book. The story flows better and faster, the prose is even tighter and the mystery more interesting.
Haunted by the memories of the man he killed and the death of his wife Rick Cahill now works as a PI for a larger firm, snapping pictures of cheating husbands and wives. When a lawyer (great, fun character) asks him to prove a young man did not murder his family he gets involved with a dangerous group of bikers.
As he investigates the case gets more and more personal and in the end Cahill is forced to face his demons and embrace his dark side. The ending might really surprise you and had me anxiously awaiting book 3.
This is shaping up to be one of my favorite new series.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


I'm going to try something with you all on my blog. You can help me choose what my next short story will be about and which hardboiled detective it will star. I will use polls here and on Facebook to ask you what you want to see. First we choose the basics of the detective, next poll we will go into further detail.
So, all of you... Please vote and ask your friends to vote as well. Just have a look at the poll at the right frame...

Windy City Blues (Jules Landau) by Mark Krulewitch

I pretty much enjoyed the first one in this series so I was eager enough to read this one.
When a parking cop is killed Jules Landau is hired to find out who did it. Jules is still pretty new at this game, but he's got a good mentor who is unfortunately very old so might not be around for long.
His investigation takes him into Chicago corruption and has him falling for a beautiful Georgian baker while he is forced to take on the Georgian Mob as well.
It's all pretty standard modern day PI stuff but written with heart and I fell in love with the Georgian baker a bit. I have to admit I didn't enjoy it as much as the first novel which had that special first novel energy this one lacks.
Still, if you want a solid PI series that ticks all the necessary boxes of the genre you will like this one.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Q & A with Lynn Chandler Willis

I was very happy with the first Gypsy Moran novel, Gypsy was my favorite new PI of 2014 even. A good reason to talk to his creator, Lynn Chandler Willis...

Q: What's next for you and Gypsy?
I'm working now on the second book in Gypsy's story and am super excited about the story direction. He revisits the situation with his father and the missing girls.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Chase toddlers, change diapers, and supervise art and playdough time. I'm the granny nanny to eight of my nine grandkids which gives me a tremendous amount of blog material. Did you know the easiest way to get a fruit snack out of a nasal cavity is to tell them to blow?

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Social media, social media, and social media. I hear so many writers complain about the time vacuum social media can be, but I think it's great. We as writers have never before been giving such an opportunity to share our work with potential readers. I'm also doing the more traditional things like media interviews and book signings.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
I like general fiction and am a sucker for very well written literary fiction. The beauty of way words work together in some pieces can take my breath away.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike? 
I adore Joe Pike! Love him. I think the role of the sidekick should be to compliment the main character and offer a good balance. The psychotic sidekick, like Pike and Hawk, offer ways for the main character to get things done that he/she may not be able to otherwise.

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?
Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, Lee Child...and I think, like with each of these great authors, their characters are in an "investigative" field but not necessarily the "private investigator" of days gone by.

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
I've always enjoyed digging a little deeper to see what else can be unearthed—thus, uncovering the mystery page by page. The "why" a crime is committed is more fascinating to me than how, when, where, etc...I think many people share an interest in what makes people do the things they do. It's like driving by a car wreck and not being able to look away. It doesn't make us morbid, just curious.