Friday, December 30, 2016

Favorite Sons of 2016

Favorite Sons of 2016

This hasn't been my most active year as a writer or a reviewer, personal issues and work as well as my gig as rock journalist taking up a lot of my time. Still, I read some good stuff this year and here are my favorite PI reads of the year...

BEST PI NOVEL: An Empty Hell (Jackson Donne / Matt Herrick) by Dave White
BEST DEBUT: TThe Red Storm (William Fletcher) by Grant Bywaters
BEST NEW PI: Gus Murphy (in Where It Hurts) by Reed Farrel Coleman
BEST ACTION SCENES: The Second Life of Nick Mason (Nick Mason) by Steve Hamilton

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

December Boys (Jay Porter) by Joe Clifford

Jay Porter, after some traumatic events involving his brother's death in Lamentation is back. He's working as an insurance investigator now. He learns while investigating a claim that a young boy went to a hardcore behavioral modification center for a minor crime. When he finds out there's a lot of similar cases he decides to find out what is going on, aided by an attractive young clerk. It turns out there's some ties to his brother's death as well.
This is a true hardboiled, noirish tale. Porter is having a hard time dealing with his relationship with his wife, his brother's death and just himself. An upbeat tale this is not. It is dark, moving and rich.
I do recommend reading Lamentation before you read this one though.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Debt to Pay (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Jesse Stone is invited by his ex-wife to be at her wedding. Loyal readers of this series might understand this will be challenging for him.  When Mr. Peepers, a recurring villain and psychopathic assassin is back with revenge on his mind Jesse understands he will have to be at the wedding, if only to protect his ex-wife from Mr. Peepers. Good thing his new girlfriend is ex-FBI and willing to go with him.
Mr. Peepers is almost to Jesse what The Joker is to Batman. Very skilled but also very crazy we see him in action a lot and are treated to his dangerous mind. I usually dislike to many POV's from the villain but Mr. Coleman made it work for me.
As alway, Reed shows an understanding of the Jesse Stone character that makes you forget no he, but Robert B. Parker created him. His development of formerly minor character Suit is impressive as well. I guess that's where this novel shines, not in the fairly standard plot but in the understanding of the characters in it.
I was shocked by the death of a long-running Parker / Spenser character in the first few pages that had me put down the book for a few minutes. Still not sure about what I think about that, although I must praise Mr. Coleman for his guts to shake things up a bit.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Stiff Arm Steal (Miami Jones) by A.J. Stewart

When a football prize is stolen from a media personality he hires Miami Jones to get it back. It turns out his isn't the only one that gets stolen and Miami Jones follows the tracks to the thief.
The relationship with Miami's deputy girlfriend is written pretty nicely and the book is easy to read. In the middle stuff gets a bit dark which almost seemed out of character for Miami but it sure gave it the hardboiled feel that I like.
What I am mystified about is why Miami also has a partner, Ron. This guy seems to have almost no personality or reason to be in the story.
Easy, beach read, even more so because it takes place in sunny Florida.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Prison Guard's Son (Finn Harding) by Trace Conger

Unlicensed PI Finn Harding is back in his third novel. He is hired by the father of a kid who was brutally murdered by two other kids years ago. The father wants Harding to track down the two killers who, after a short stay in a juvenile detention facility went into a WITSEC program and as such very hard to find. He promises Harding he will make sure justice will be done when he knows their locations.
What follows is a fascinating journey into databases, PI tricks and some very creative investigating. It's just amazing how Trace describes this, he'd be one hell of a PI himself.
Of course, there's some brutal action as well, this is not a police procedural but a PI novel.
I enjoyed the earlier novels in this series but I liked this one the best because the writing is much tighter. There's just a better rhythm to it, less padding and better pacing. I just couldn't put it down.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Rough Trade (Boo Malone) by Todd Robinson

We had to wait a very long 4 years for the follow-up to Todd Robinson's Hard Bounce (my ) but here it is and it is worth the wait.
Our favorite bouncers Boo and Junior are back, playing white knight for a friend of a friend who is being stalked. When the stalker is killed and Junior is the suspect the trouble really starts. It takes the help of their friends Ollie and psycho sidekick Twitch to survive this adventure.
There's brutal fights, some sex and a lot of bad jokes. All the good stuff dudes like. What there also is, however, and this is what makes this such a wonderful book, is a hard look at how macho males perceive the gay community as Boo finds out his world is way different from what he thought.
As fun as it is moving this is another example how you can write a very different and original modern day PI novel without making it about zombies.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Zero Tolerance Game (Frank Boff) by Nathan Gottlieb

I have been following the Frank Boff series from the start, loving the unique PI and seeing the writer grow. So, a new one always goes on top of the review pile.
In this latest novel, Boff sees a car of a client explode very near him, prompting him to investigate. Also, an old friend who just came out of jail asks Boff to find the man who was really behind the killlings he was imprisoned for.
Supercool, alcoholic tough ex-cop Emily Lynch is asked to help him out and soon they are battling with wits and fists against snipers, mobsters and more.
As usual in the Boff stories the main plot is satisfying enough, but what makes it stand out is the funny banter between ultra-original PI Boff and the other characters. Add the incredible but vulnerable superwoman Lynch to the mix and it gets even better.
Another entertaining entry in this series with an action-packed ending that will remind you of Lee Child.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Dread Line (Liam Mulligan) by Bruce DeSilva

Liam Mulligan started out as a fairly standard hardboiled reporter, but since last novel he's a PI AND a bookmaker. That earns the guy some extra cool points. Add the banter and pretty hardboiled attitude he and his pals share and this is one interesting book in the series. It takes the series in a new direction that makes sure Mulligan isn't just an imitation of those who came before but an unique character all his own.
There's a lot of cases he's taking on in this one too. There's a serial-killer cat, some creep torturing animals, and a background check on a football player.
Some moments are cute, like the scenes with his new dog. Some moments are harsh, like when he encounters the tortured animals or faces some scumballs with extreme prejudice. It's a mix that makes this novel a joy to read. It never gets too bleak or too Spenser-cute.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Five (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. For earlier episodes click here.


Lenny managed to work out a plan with Casey. She had nothing to do that morning and offered her help. Like most of the others in the band she liked the excitement of helping a real PI with his work. Since Lenny was the closest to one they knew they chipped in every now and then when Lenny needed some help on a case.
Lenny had parked his car across the street from Larry Thunder’s place, a bungalow in the heart of Northpark. The neighborhood didn’t look like it had a lot pimps living there. Obviously, Larry was a very successful pimp.
Lenny was watching the bungalow from the car, using the powerful zoom lens of his Nikon. Casey was sitting next to him, eating a bag of Cheetos.
“I can see Larry is in there. Looks like he’s playing around with an iPad. No sign of Jill but it’s hard to look inside,” Lenny said.
“That’s where I come in, right?” Casey said.
“I’m not really sure if it’s such a good idea you suggested. Thunder is a really nasty guy, you know. And he’s got a history of hurting women. Also, I’m not sure he’s going to believe you in the role you want to play.”
“Trust me. I can take of myself and I’m probably a better actress than you think. For one, I’ve been pretending to be straight for the first sixteen years of my life with big success.”
She wiped her Cheetos-stained hands on my jeans and left the car. Lenny watched her walk over to the door to Thunder’s bungalow and ring the bell. It took a few minutes before the door was opened and Thunder appeared in the doorway. He was shirtless, his muscles impressive. A gold chain was around his neck. Lenny watched Casey do her act, playing the part of a beauty product saleswoman, asking for the lady of the house.
Thunder just shook his head. Casey brushed a hand through her hair and change her posture, sticking out her boobs, her shirt lifting just high enough to show her belly button. The full charm offensive. Lenny worried Thunder might want to put Casey into his stable so to speak.
After a brief conversation the door was shut and Casey was left alone on the doorstep. She walked back to the car and got in.
“Maybe you should have thought about bringing some samples or something to sell the act a little bit better,” Lenny suggested.
“Fuck that. He told me there were no ladies in his home. When I flirted with him a bit, suggesting he’d offer me a drink he didn’t blink. Guess he’s not straight either,” Casey said.
“I think he’s just used to seeing a lot of hot women, being a pimp and all. Don’t take it personally.”
Casey leaned back. “Right. So now what do we do?”
“I guess we wait. He has to leave the house sometime. We try and find Jill then,” Lenny said.
“Cool. Put on some Death Angel then,” Casey said.
“Sure,” Lenny said and fiddled with the buttons of the car stereo, looking for the right MP3.
“Lenny?” Casey said.
“Yeah, just a minute,” Lenny said, continuing to search through the playlist of his stereo.
“Yeah, yeah. Hang on.”
“LENNY!” Casey yelled.
“What?” Lenny said, slightly annoyed and looked up at Casey. Casey was pointing out the window.
Lenny looked out of the window and say Larry Thunder walk over, a big gun in his hand. Lenny knew it was a Desert Eagle from one of his favorite PS4 games.
“Shit! Shit!” Lenny said.
Thunder pointed the gun at the car and yelled at them. Lenny was pretty sure it was something like, “Get the fuck outta here.”
Maybe it wasn’t the smartest move to park in front of Thunder’s home in the same car he used when he first encountered the pimp. Lenny thought it best to follow Thunder’s advice and indeed got the fuck out of there, driving away with rubber burning.

Stealling the Countess (Rush McKenzie) by David Housewright

The McKenzie series I've been constantly enjoying for years now. Like clockwork there's a new book every year that may not be very surprising but very entertaining. I compare it to the first few Elvis Cole novels before Crais felt the need to experiment with different ways of telling the story.
Although a hardboiled detective novel there is a certain lighter mood to this series that makes it an enjoying read for all mystery fans.
Ex-cop McKenzie is rich enough to be able to spend time taking on some unofficial PI work. He is asked to find a stolen Stradivarius, a mission that takes him to a small time. There he meets semi-regular Heavenly, a Travis McGee like salvage consultant but with a more criminal bend who's got the same mission. She's becoming more interesting with every novel. Beautiful and smart, I wouldn't be surprised if she's going to star in a novel of her own soon as David Housewright seems to lover her so much as any man she meets.
The chemistry between Heavenly and McKenzie is fun to read, the mystery entertaining and McKenzie one of the most likable PI's out there right now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Four (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man who turns out to be a pimp called Larry Thunder. For earlier episodes click here.


Lenny was just in time for practice. The Necromantic Poets jam in their vocalist’s , Mikey Taylor garage. Mike is a good looking guy with long brown hair.
“You cut that one close,” Mikey said. “We were all looking forward to hearing about your life on the road. It’s been awhile.”
“Yeah, but first let’s jam. I’ve been aching to put up my riffs against Lenny’s bass lickfs long enough,” a wiry guy with a Mohawk said. That’s what the band called him too, Mohawk. Nobody knew his name but Lenny figured it had to be something embarrassing like Theodore or Harold.
“Yeah, let’s rock,” a girl with a lot of tattoos and pink hair said. She was sitting behind the drums. She was called Casey. Last time Lenny saw her she was dating a stripper and her hair was blue. Next week he knew she might as well be dating a waitress and her hair might be green.
Lenny unpacked his bass. “Fine with me. Time to make some noise. What will we start out with? Zero Tolerance? I love the intro to that one.”
Casey hit the drums with a quick solo. “Go for it!”
Lenny served up a low throbbing bass that Mohawk followed up with a down tuned riff. Mikey screamed, “Zero Tolerance!” Then they were off.
They played a mixture of death metal and thrash that they liked but didn’t seem to find a big audience. Perhaps because Casey had a habit of getting so pissed off at the mistakes Lenny made she sometimes walked off during a gig. Or the fact Mohawk showed up drunk for a lot of them. Or didn’t show up at all.
They played two more songs before they decided they needed a break. And a beer. They got some bottles of Corona from the fridge which they drank with a rockstar’s gusto.
“So, how was life on the road?” Mikey asked Lenny.
“What’s to tell… Long drives, hard work schlepping around stuff. Managed to ace the opening riff to Iron Man while sound checking which the audience loved,” Lenny said.
“Did you manage to party some with the band?” Mohawks asked.
“Yeah, two nights. Had fun with those guys. I did a few shots too many though. Almost barfed over the lead singer.”
“That’s a pretty good way to get yourself fired,” Mohawks chuckled.
“Luckily I just managed to get the champagne bucket. After that I went to the hotel right away. Shit, makes me wonder what happened to the bucket. Hope they got wise and…”
“Just stop it,” Casey said, shutting my mouth with two fingers. “Maybe you should tell me a bit more about your side job instead. Any new interesting cases?”
“There is a confidentiality thing attached to the gig,” Lenny said.
Casey handed Lenny a new beer and said, “You know we can keep a secret.”
“I guess. And I wouldn’t mind getting this one off my chest.” Lenny gave them the short version of his latest adventure.
“That Larry Thunder sounds like a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with,” Mikey thought.
“That’s not the thing worrying me. I’m bothered by the fact that I don’t know what I should tell me client. Poor guy. Would you want to hear your fiancée is a hooker?”
“I dated one or two in my time,” Mohawk said. “But you really think she’s a whore?”
“It’s pretty much the only reason I can think of why she would be hanging with him.”
“Ever think of the possibility she’s dating him?” Casey offered.
“It didn’t really look like that. And do you think that would sound better to the poor guy?”
Casey shrugged. “Maybe he’s got a right to the truth, even if it’s ugly.”
“He did hire you to find out why she left him,” Mikey said.
“Maybe I just pull out and pay him back. I just don’t want any of this shit on my conscience.”
Mohawk slapped Lenny on the back of the head. “Fucking pussy! You’re such a damned softy.”
“Maybe you should try to get the details from the lady first. Ask her why she left him in person,” Casey said between to pulls from her Corona.
“But try not to face Larry Thunder,” Mikey brought in.
“Sounds like a good idea. Now I just need to know how I’m going to do that,” Lenny said.
“Never mind that for now. Let me hear you do that Iron Man riff,” Mohawk said.

Lenny gave it a try and fucked it up.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Three (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Hired by a young man to find out why his fiancee ran away roadie / PI Lenny Parker finds her quickly and sees her drive away with a big black man. For earlier episodes click here.


Lenny gave the daughter of his old mentor a call. They called her Baby Jackson, because they called her father Old Man Jackson when he was still alive and heading up their PI agency. They didn’t call her that because she was such a sweet and innocent girl.
“What the fuck, Parker? Who the fuck do you think I am? Your personal assistant? If you’re too damned cheap to pay for the databases we own maybe you should quit PI work.”
“I kind of need the money to pay for my bass guitar and shit. And gas ain’t cheap, you know?”
“Maybe you should sell those guitars. And drive a cheaper car than that gas-guzzling monster you own now.”
“You sound like my mom. If she cursed every two words,” Lenny said. “Give me a break, for old time’s sake. And look at it this ways if you help me do this case it might lead to more cases and after some time I might make enough dough to indeed own those databases myself.”
“That’ll be the day. Well, I ran the plate when we were having our little conversation and I think I have some advice for you… Stay away from the owner of that plate.”
“You sure know how to get a guy’s interest. Tell me more.”
“That car belongs to one Lawrence Thaddeus Walker. But people on the street call him Larry Thunder. He’s the biggest pimp of San Diego and has done some time for beating a man into the hospital with the lid of a garbage can. They fucked up his trial in some way, unfortunately so this piece of trash is still on the streets. He’s been known to beat his girls into submission violently.”
“Sounds like a sweetheart indeed. He doesn’t look that tough, though. I’ve faced some tougher customers in seedy bars while on tour.”
“Fuck that bravado, Parker! You’re a drinker, not a fighter. I’ll admit you probably gained some strength from hauling around those huge-ass speakers and shit but that doesn’t mean you can fight. And besides, Larry Thunders is known to carry a gun. You don’t even own one.”
“Those things are too loud. Don’t want to damage my ears. I need them to play my axe.”
“Another reason to avoid this guy. He’ll break your fucking fingers just for kicks and you won’t play that bass ever again.”
“Didn’t know you cared. But I’m afraid that’s a negative. Isn’t it in the PI code that you never quit on a client?”
“Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“I won’t. What’s his address?”
She gave it to him. “That’s the last favor I’m doing you for now.”
“Sure, sure. Thanks! If you want I can get you tickets to my next show.”
“You know I hate that fucking noise you play.”

Lenny knew. She was into jazz and blues like a PI should be according to fiction. Too bad for her. He thought The Necromantic Poets were killing it the last few months. That reminded him he was going to be late for band practice if he didn’t hurry up.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Iron Goddess (Shea Stevens) by Dharma Kelleher

Shea Stevens is absolutely one of the more original crime fiction heroes to come along since Lisbeth Salander. Ex-con, lesbian bike mechanic Shea gets involved with a kidnapping of her niece when some bikes she crafted for her rockstar clients get stolen.
She learned some badass skills from her biker gang dad that come in really handy as she clashes with cops, biker gangs and other enemies.
The tone of this book is very dark and violent as are most of the characters. There are some positive things in Shea's live, like her girlfriend and some friends from work that make this story just a bit easier to digest.
The prose isn't special but does its job. The story itself folds out nicely, but isn't too exciting or surprising. It has a very punk/metal feel to me which I enjoyed.
The best thing this book has going for it is unique and tough Shea Stevens and I will be happy to see her return.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Second Life of Nick Mason (Nick Mason) by Steve Hamilton

I was intrigued when I heard Steve Hamilton had a new series coming out. I've been enjoying his McKnight books forever.
Nick Mason manages to leave prison because of the intervention of criminal kingpin Darius Cole. As part of this deal he will have to answer his new cell phone at any time and do what Cole orders him to do.
At first I figured he would do some kind of detective work, allowing him to stay a heroic character. I was wrong. He's used as a hitman, killing people (although criminals) in cold blood. Still we are able to like him, partly because he was kind of suckered into this and the fact he deeply loves his child and protects his friends.
During the novel we follow his comeback to society, meeting a new love, struggling not to meddle to much into the life of his daughter and clash with the cops who think he's their ticket to nabbing a killer.
Nick Mason is the closest thing to Richard Stark's Parker we can find in novels right now and I love him.
I have to mention that Steve's writing is better than ever in this one. It's a bit tighter and cleaner than it used to be. The plot a bit more fast-paced.
Yeah, I guess he managed to top his Alex McKnight series!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Nickel Package (Burnside) by David Chill

I'm a loyal reader of the Burnside series, so of course I read this one as well. The LA PI is now a dad of a 3-year old kid and happily married. That makes for some nice warm scenes, making him very human an likable. He's hired to do a background check on an employee for a big company he gets involved in several murder investigations.
As always the story doesn't break much new ground, though of course Burnside being a married dad is a bit unusual for a PI. What it does do is entertain! Burnside investigates and solves the mysteries like a good PI should, trades some blows with thugs and clashes with the cops.
This sixth novel in the series satisfied me enough to be eager to read the 7th.

The Red Storm (William Fletcher) by Grant Bywaters

In 1930s New Orleans ex-boxer William Fletcher makes a living as a PI. He's a black man in an era not ready for black snoops but he makes the most of it.
An old criminal friend asks him to track down his missing daughter. As Fletcher investigates he soon has to do battle with both cops and robbers.
While the story takes place in the past the writing feels fresh and exciting. Fletcher is an enaging character and the ending has quite some nice pulpy action.
This one won the PWA Best First PI Novel contest in 2015 and I can see why. It ticks all the boxes a PI novel should tick while the era and race of the PI gives it that little extra to make it stand out.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Nocturne for Madness (Thomas Haftmann) by Robb White

This was one hard to read novel. Not because of the writing, but the fact it was so dark and sometimes shocking I had to put it away. Haftmann is not the light-hearted hero like Spenser or Elvis Cole and the bad guy is not an amusing mobster like Joe Broz.
Ex-cop Haftmann is a drinker, a gambler and mentally unstable. He's also on the trail of a serial killer that kills women who he picks up from swinger sites. Working with, but still hated by the police and FBI we follow Haftmann's descent further into insanity on his hunt for the killer.
The writing is dark and lyrical, gruesome details are not spared at all. The atmosphere unsettling.
So, if you that Andrew Vacchs writes too light-hearted and Spenser novels are too Disney for you, this is your book.

Honky Tonk Samurai (Hap & Leonard) by Joe R. Lansdale

There will probably be a lot of extra readers for this one because of the Sundance TV show based on this series. Well, let me tell you that it's not written for those new readers. It does give the loyal fans all the Dr. Peppers, vanilla cookies, laughs and outrageous characters they can want.
In this ninth novel in the series Hap (our narrator) and Leonard (a gay black tough guy) become official PI's. The first case involves the search for the missing daugther of an old lady. What they stumble upon is a used car dealership that is a cover for an escort service.
Their investigations lead them to do battle with the toughtest, craziest bunch of villains they ever faced. Luckily, they have some of the toughest, craziest bunch of partners to help them out.
This book is very violent, sometimes very funny, often in a crude way and yet still very endearing at times. This is one of my favorite series of all time and this one shows again why.
Beware, the ending of this one will very much surpise and sadden you.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Q & A with Grant Bywaters

When you win the prize for  Best First Private Eye Novel in the PWA competition you are bound to draw my attention. So I interview Grant Bywaters about his debut novel and his own PI work.

Q: What makes your William Fletcher different from other hardboiled  characters?
Fletcher is a black man trying to make a living as a private detective in the late 1930s New Orleans. Unlike your conventional detective of that time period, Fletcher has to navigate through segregation laws and racial tensions which make his job more difficult.
Fletcher also carries a deep bitterness from not getting a chance at fighting for the heavyweight title in his youth which was due to the color line being drawn after the country’s call for a Great White Hope to defeat the first black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson were answered. Fletcher was one of many great black heavyweights during this period that never got a chance to fight for the title for decades until Joe Louis came around.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
During the time I was getting my private investigator license, I was also working on my Associate’s Degree. I was taking an African American history class and the two things going on in my life kind of blended together. I got to thinking how difficult it would be doing my job during times of segregation. That’s when the first concepts of my character started emerging.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
eBooks are today’s version of the paperback novel and before that dime novels and magazines. Which is interesting since the great writers that defined the hardboiled genre all started off writing in dime magazines, like The Black Mask. They also faced the same unfair stigmas that eBook authors face. That it is not a legit form of publication. That the majority of work in this format is unreadable.
For me personally, I have no issues whatsoever for eBooks and indie authors. I am all for getting your work out there.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I will be starting the next installment very soon. I have a vague concept of what will play out. What I can say is Fletcher’s years in the ring will continue to haunt him.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I went back to school recently to finish my BA in Psychology and will be graduating next year. So outside of school, I like playing and watching sports. I am a big sports fan. I also like motorbiking and I am planning on taking the bike out on some trails this summer.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about how you won the PWA First PI Novel?
I sent my manuscript into the contest in June of 2014 and a couple of months passed and I had forgotten I had even sent it. Then in September just before I was to start fall classes I check my phone and saw the email congratulating me on winning. I had to read it over a few times to make sure it was legit. It was a very surreal moment. So that November they had me go out to Bouchercon in Long Beach where I got my award and then I started working with my editor to get the story ready for publication.

Q: How has being a real PI influenced your work?
I worked mostly in workman compensation fraud. For instance, catching individuals reroofing their house on the weekend when they claim that their back is broken and they can’t even get out of bed. For my writing, I tried to do away with some of the unpractical things you see in literature and movies involving private investigators. For example, we all know the now cliché scene of the femme fatal showing up to the detective’s office wanting help. Well, I never had an office nor did the investigators I know have one. It was just an unnecessary added expense. You usually met clients at their home, their office, or a coffee shop. Your car was pretty much your office because you were always in it. So Fletcher also does not have an office.
Also, I had Fletcher actually do some sort of paperwork, something you hardly ever see. Paperwork is pretty much your job because that’s how you get paid and represent yourself if you ever get called to court. From day one, you are constantly being told: “If it is not written down, it did not happen.”

Q: How do you promote your work?
I was fortunate enough that my publisher provided me with a great publicist, Shailyn Tavella. On my own end, I have been working on building up my hometown readership by doing the local media and radio show circuit along with an upcoming book signing. I am also a big fan of doing giveaways and other interactive ways of promotions.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I am a big history buff, so I like to read a lot of non-fiction historical books. I like to know how things came about. From Augustus Octavius building The Roman Empire to the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps on elephants in the Punic Was to how the Hoover Dam was built and the history behind it. I am a sucker for it all.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
It is a vital dynamic. You can have a psychotic sidekick as long as the main character is more grounded. It doesn’t work if both characters are crazy because then it just becomes the norm and usually the story will suffer for it.
For example, in the first season of True Detective, McConaughey’s character was eccentric and the almost crazy one while Woody Harrelson’s character the was more grounded one. However, in the second season, all the characters had psychological issues so nobody really stood out the way McConaughey’s Rust Cohle did.

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?
Only time will tell. There are a lot of great new mystery writers out there, but it seems the entire genre is changing. I read an article in the New York Times a few years back proclaiming the death of PI fiction because of the internet and investigators being able to do their work without getting out of their bathrobes. I wish that was the case when I was doing the job instead of following people and doing a lot of waiting. Yes, you can now do more stuff online, but it is only a tool. And more and more modern detective stories have incorporated the new technology. The biggest example, of course, being Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Trilogy.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I have always like writing and investigative work. So the two really just go hand and hand. Eventually I’d like to branch out to other genres like thrillers and suspense. But detective fiction and noirs really are my calling. I love the rich characters, the realism, and psychological aspects of the genre.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Crosswise (Tommy Ruzzo) by S.W. Lauden

I love novellas, that's why I mostly publish the Noah Milano stories in that format. It gives you all the good stuff, without the fluff. This one's no exception.
Former NYPD cop Tommy Ruzzo moved to Florida where he works as a security guy for a retirement community. When dead bodies start to turn up there Ruzzo investigates and finds some hints the murders are connected to his life in New York. Crozzword puzzles in the local paper serve as clues and of course as the basis of the title.
Like a novella should be the story is fast-paced and a bit more pulp-oriented than Lauden's fantastic punkrock / PI novel Bad Citizen Corporation.
The story is enjoyable but lacks that little bit of extra originality of that book's premise. Ruzzo is however, a nice flawed character and the setting and characters would make an excellent Tarantino movie.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

An Empty Hell (Jackson Donne / Matt Herrick) by Dave White.

In a stroke of brilliance Dave White introduces his ''other'' PI, Matt Herrick (first seen here) to his main man Jackson Donne. The result is great!
A lot of bad people are looking for ex-PI, ex-cop Jackson Donne because men who used to be in his police unit are showing up dead. Potential victim Alex Robinson hires Matt Herrick, part-time PI to find Donne.
The story changes POV mainly from Herrick to Donne with some interesting flashbacks. There's a lot of movement in the story, and at times it gets a bit too much of a commercial thriller for me in scope and the ''evil supervillain'' qualities of the bad guys, but it never ever gets dull.
I love Herrick, basketball coach / PI who has the war trauma to give him some interesting backstory and how he is so different from Donne who is a lot more grizzled.
I remember reading Dave White's first short story years ago and it is amazing how good an author he has become, breathing life into the PI genre like Dennis Lehane did years ago with Gone Baby Gone.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Brooklyn Justice (Nick Ventura) by J.L. Abramo

J.L. Abramo introduces us to his new PI Nick Ventura who is a lot more hardboiled than his Jake Diamond character. In this hybrid of novel and anthology he serves up five tales which are strongly connected.
Nick is like a an old fashioned pulp era PI in a modern world. The prose is written in that style and he is pretty much a guy in the classic Sam Spade mould, way more than sensitive PI's like Elvis Cole or Spenser.
The tales are good enough, but none of them really stood out. I also thought Ventura just lacked a few standout characteristics to make him stand out from the crowd. Still, they format used was interesting enough and the stories had a nice mix of action an mystery.
Not bad, but I liked the Jake Diamond series just a bit more.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Where It Hurts (Gus Murphy) by Reed Farrel Coleman

Gus Murphy used to be a cop. When his son dies he loses his marriage, his house and his job. Now he works as a driver for a hotel and works as a bouncer. When an ex-con contacts him, asking him to look into the death of his son reluctantly agrees. He tries to give meaning to the loss of his son through this investigation, but it leads him into a very dangerous search for valuable goods.
Reed has written some really good books, like the Moe Prager series and the latest Jesse Stone novels. This one might be his best one yet, though. The mix of character study and development with a classic hardboiled PI story is so incredibly well-balanced it's hard to put down the book.
Sometimes the words on the pages just tear into your heart, making you feel the pain of Gus Murphy so vividly it... hurts. If you have kids it will hit you even harder.
Gus is so tough, but also so very human that in my eyes he could be the standard the next few PI characters will try to follow.
An amazing new series.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Background Check on: Brooklyn Justice (Nick Ventura) by J.L. Abramo

J.L, Abramo, writer of the Jake Diamond series has a brand new book coming out... With a new PI! Reason enough to ask him some questions here...

Tell us what the novel is about.
Brooklyn Justice is a work of fiction which I have come to affectionately refer to as a novel in stories.
It is about a man who know trouble—but not how to keep his nose out of it. A pool of blood spreading across a casino poker table, a Buick plowing through a storefront with a dead detective aboard, a fatal rendezvous in the shadow of a Coney Island landmark, a childhood friend gunned down walking his dog in the wrong place at the wrong time, a film distributor who thinks he can get away with murder through intimidation and violence, a mob boss assassinated leaving a neighborhood restaurant, and the particular brand of retribution necessary to level the playing field in the fourth largest city in America

Where did you come up with the plot? What inspired you? Why a new PI character?
It began with Pocket Queens, inspired by my observation of a high-stakes poker game at an Atlantic City casino and the crime-fiction writer’s mantra: What If? Pocket Queens became too long for a short story, and resisted being stretched into a full-length novel—resulting in something resembling a novella.
The story introduced Nick Ventura—a Brooklyn private investigator unlike Jake Diamond in that Ventura is considerably more hardboiled. Why a new PI character? I suppose the character developed from my subconscious interest in writing a much more dangerous protagonist.
When Pocket Queens was completed, my new ‘hero’ would not let me go. Ventura insinuated himself into five short stories—Buick in a Beauty Shop, The Last Resort, Walking the Dog, Roses For Uncle Sal and The Fist. The six pieces are tied together by common characters—and the action from the beginning of Pocket Queens to the finish of The Fist cover a period of only ten months. So, although they can be taken separately, consecutively they become a six-part work called Brooklyn Justice. The plots of the stories came from imagination and experience and the idea for each was partly dictated by the one previous.

How long did it take you to write BROOKLYN JUSTICE?
The writing went unusually quickly—ten months in the hazardous life of Nick Ventura penned in only a few months real time. In part, the quick result was inspired by the novelty of developing and making acquaintance with new characters—particularly Ventura who is much less inhibited than many of the protagonists in my other work. The was also a thread running through the stories, weaving them together and driving the writing—legal justice and street justice are, in many instances, very different things.

Did the writing require a great deal of research?
In terms of research—I did a bit with regard to the dynamics of a casino poker match, and a lot with regard to the logistics and character of Atlantic City. The Brooklyn characteristics, environment and geography came naturally—since Brooklyn was my little hometown.

What scenes did you most enjoy writing?
There is a secondary character in all of the parts, John Sullivan, who is in fact the narrator of Walking the Dog. I think the relationship between Ventura and Sullivan were the most enjoyable to write because they are often at odds but remain loyal to each other. I also enjoyed writing the opening poker hand—it has a sense of urgency that I believe ambushes the reader.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?
I like many of the characters. Ventura and Sullivan stand out. Freddy Fingers because he is such a colossal screw-up. Carmella Fazio, Nick’s landlady and proprietor of the pizzeria below Ventura’s office because she is the mother figure every hard guy needs. Roseanna Napoli, Nick’s very smart lady friend. Uncle Sal. Uncle Sal. Uncle Sal. And several others I will not name here—because, sadly, they do not survive.

Is there anything else you would like to say about the book?
All I can add is I believe Brooklyn Justice will appeal to current fans of my work and perhaps attract those who savor a little more cold-blood. Readers who enjoyed the journey through Gravesend should also relish a return to the Borough of Churches.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Q & A with Ryan Sayles

You know that awesome new school of noir writers who publish in all the cool zines like Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Shotgun Honey? Not too many of them write PI fiction, but our man Ryan Sayles actually does. Here's what he's all about...

Q: What makes Richard Dean Buckner different from other hardboiled  characters? 
Easy. He’s a magic alien from another universe.
Just kidding.
I actually struggled with this question a little bit before deciding RDB is different just because of his personality and how I write him. I followed a lot of tropes when I first began, trying to give them my own spin as I went. He was a celebrated homicide detective who wound up getting punished for an incident where he probably should have gone to prison. That punishment put him in a spot where he did some high-stakes undercover dope buys, and that led to an assassination attempt which forced him to retire from the PD. So now he chain-smokes, binge drinks hard alcohol and gets work as a bare-knuckles PI. He’s funny and has a solid moral compass, but he’s able to crush and destroy bad guys without remorse to get what he wants. That was the number one comment most people had about the first book. RDB hammer-smashed everybody without blinking and then just went off to the next scene. Maybe got a sandwich after drowning a man in a dirty toilet bowl. Apparently it was a standout trait.
I just figured that was what was necessary.
I always wanted him to be a damn good cop. Now that he’s a PI and not restrained by the Constitution or department policies, he should be more effective. Right?
But mostly I just wanted to write a badass. I love tough guys, I love tough guys who don’t hesitate to throw the first punch, and I think we need a renaissance of chivalry. RDB doesn’t mind meeting bad guys on their level and dealing with them in terms that they understand. He’s a little tough rough around the edges to be truly chivalrous, but in my mind that’s always something that pulls at him to do what he does. In his limited way, he tries for that brass ring. And if he has to stand on a mountain of dead rapists and molesters to reach it, well, so be it.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
In 2006 I read a book called Shadows Over Baker Street which was a short story collection about Sherlock Holmes dealing with the world of H.P. Lovecraft. His superior logic versus insane evil. Then I read Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer and fell in love with the narrative voice. I wanted to combine the two. I wanted a badass cop whose skills as an investigator were matched up against the forces of evil. For real. So my first RDB novel was a horror story. When that didn’t pan out, I returned to him later without the monsters.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Doesn’t bother me. I think the rise of the eBook really helped writers get published. This blockbuster movie, The Martian, is based on a novel which was self-published as an eBook. That’s tremendous. I remember back in the day eBooks and self-published folks were, generally speaking, looked down upon but now the cream of their crop is completing with the cream of traditional crop. The most successful writers published through eBooks are setting their own terms with traditional print, just like the most successful traditional writers.
I tie in eBooks with print-on-demand publishers, who existed well before electronic media. But with POD, any goofball with a computer--like me, for example--could become a writer. The eBook thing was a huge boon for that. I have never landed an agent and I’ve been looking on and off since 2005. Either I’m marketing wrong, am not really publishable outside of genre fiction and the indie scene, or I have the worst luck known to man. But, I’m a published novelist and that is because of eBooks.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I’m working on RDB3 now. I’ve already got the main ideas for RDB4 lined out as well. As long as Down & Out books will publish me, I’ll have an RDB for them. In RDB3, Buckner meets an abused woman who reminds him a lot of his deceased wife. He’s intoxicated by her, and winds up getting his balls in a sling over her. Then his best friend and former partner Detective Clevenger has to investigate Buckner. Now he’s on the run from his old alma mater and violent hijinx ensue.
 I’m at a point in my life where I want to do different things, and I think with the exception of RDB--I’ll always write him because, well, RDB--I’ll be dipping my toes in different waters. After becoming friends with Craig McNeely I’ve really developed an interest in writing pulp action/adventure and sci fi.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I work. Right now, the question is really what do I do when I’m not working? I was a police officer for six years and left that to become an industrial maintenance technician. I work on the machines and systems in a nearby factory. And man, it’s a lot of hours. At the PD I could write between calls and in that way was able to keep up with my obligations. As a tech, I’m running around constantly. When I get home, I have to be a husband and father to five first. That, and sleep.
I am enjoying listening to audio presentations of various Catholic things. My drive to the PD was around twenty minutes each way, so I got used to popping in a CD or streaming a podcast and learning. I dig that more than listening to music now. For Christmas my wife bought me the “history package” from Catholic Answers, an apostolate based in San Diego, CA. It consisted of four audio presentations and four books, all covering Catholic history topics. The one covering The Battle of LePanto, where a Christian League of sailors and swordsmen repelled the vastly superior fleet of the Ottoman Empire in a decisive and world-changing fight, was incredible. If they’d lost, the Ottoman Empire probably would have taken control of much of Europe.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Ha! Not well. I have a Twitter, an author page on Facebook, a website. I’m not good at keeping up with any of them.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
Most, really. I’m not a romance guy. But if it has some adventure, mystery or cool plot twists I’m pretty game. I’m not really attracted to Lord of the Ring knockoffs; elves, dwarves, magical swords, evil sorcerers. I don’t seek them out but if one were recommended I’d read it.
I’ve gotten past the “more noir than any other noir” concept people seem to be latching onto nowadays. If things are so damn bleak that you want to commit suicide after reading it, I don’t want to read it. I’ve lost enough faith in humanity over the past several years to where I don’t want to read about it as well.
That affects my writing in a lot of ways. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so attracted to the not-crime stuff now. I like the Indiana Jones-type stories where it’s serious but fun. Big chase scenes, mostly unbelievable fist fights and action, exotic scenery. That’s something I’d like to get into.

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?
No idea. That’d be a great question for Brian Lindenmuth, Benoit Lelievre or Craig McNeely. Or are you asking if I will be the sole influence for the next generation? Because if you are, then yes. Without me, there are no 21st century private investigators.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I started off writing in it for two reasons: one, I liked the tone and two, I used it to work out my own moral experiences. I had to be someone different than who I am to cop where I did. People don’t really understand how shitty that job can be. I think that’s why some cops--not nearly as many as the media would have you believe--turn bad. No one calls the police when they’re having a good time. People only call police when they need back-up. Your nephew show up uninvited to Thanksgiving high on meth? Again? Can’t make him leave? Call back-up. Grandma is dying in the hospital tonight and the whole family is in the waiting room, letting their drama take center stage and you can’t control the crowd? Call for back-up.
So we show up and deal with other people’s messes, and inevitably they don’t like that we had to arrest someone so now we’re the bad guys. They spent years cultivating problems and we were supposed to fix them in five minutes.  I’ve pulled over people for doubling the speed limit, zipping in and out of traffic like they were bumper cars, and when I give them their well-deserved ticket I get to listen to how there are murderers and rapists out in the world and I was wasting my time on that particular stop. “Well, I mean, sure, this is crime right here,” they’d say as they motion to their ticket, “but there are real criminals out there. This is just ridiculous.” But I imagine that same person would see someone else driving just like they were and whine, “Why isn’t there a cop pulling over that asshole?”
People like cops when the cops aren’t applying the law to them.
So I wrote crime to illustrate that in some way. To work out the moral oddities I saw in people. I never really wrote about cops per se because I saw it everyday. I usually wrote from the “bad guy’s” perspective because it gave me a way to work through why they were doing what they were doing. That took a long time to find peace, but I think I have now.

BIO - Ryan Sayles is the author of Subtle Art of Brutality, Warpath and the forthcoming Goldfinches and Swan Songs Always Begin as Love Songs. He has over two dozen short stories in print, online or collected in That Escalated Quickly! and the forthcoming I’m Not Happy til You’re Not Happy. He is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp and may be reached at Vitriolandbarbies.wordpress and myBEARDDOMINATESyou.wordpress.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Down The Darkest Street (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

I commented before the first book by Alex Segura reminded me a lot of early George Pelecanos. With this book he finds his own voice and style. It is easy to read, engaging and well-paced.
Pete Fernandez struggles with an alcohol addiction and his ex-wife after the first novel. Now he tries to find purpose by trying to find a missing girl. He ends up involved with the FBI's hunt for a serial killer.
I don't like serial killer books much, but if done well it can work in a PI novel. I tried it myself in GUILT even. Alex manages the trick, even though he uses some of the tropes (switching to serial killer POV, then to victim POV, the FBI involvement) that I have grown tired of.
What makes this book work is the fact Pete Fernandez is such a complex character, a real anti-hero and the excellent prose.
I just loved reading the book, couldn't put it away... That is just the most important praise I can think of really. That's what a good book should be about. I wanted to know how Fernandez manages to overcome his struggle against depression, his feelings for his wife... I felt involved.
I think the story would make a pretty good movie as well, that's what makes it unique as a PI book I guess. The PI story is interwoven so well with the more commercial serial killer story it will be a treat to the larger audience as well as the fans of true hardboiled fiction.
I was lucky enough to get the review copy, you will have to wait until April but can pre-order the book here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Two (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Last episode Lenny Parker, roadie / PI was hired to find out why a young woman (Jill) left a young man (Tommy) without any good explanation...

Lenny figured the best place to start was Tina Tristam’s. He debated with himself if he should ring the bell or be a bit more covert in his actions. He decided it would be wise to be covert first. He could always ring the bell after that. So he sat in his Dodge Ram, playing the new Iron Maiden record and watching Tina’s house. She lived in an apartment building in a nice area of San Diego, all white stucco and potted plants on the balconies.
A Honda drove up the parking lot. A chubby brunette left it after it got parked. She fit the description Tommy had given Lenny of Tina. Lenny watched her walk to the apartment building. She was wearing one of those power suits and was curvy enough to still look feminine in them.
He figured he could get out of the Dodge and ask her some questions. He also figured she wouldn’t want to talk to an overweight PI with arms full of tattoos. If Jill didn’t want to talk to Tommy her friend probably wanted to keep her mouth shut about anything she knew as well. Besides, the Iron Maiden record was really good.
Tina disappeared into the building. Lenny waited, putting on the Iron Maiden cd a second time when it was done. Another car appeared on the parking lot. An Audi, a preppy looking young man exiting it.
More waiting, the Iron Maiden record being replaced by the new Lamb of God album. A few more people arrived, a few more left. And then things got interesting.
The car that parked then was very different from the Audi, Honda and other run of the mill cars that had been arriving the last few hours. This was an honest to gosh Cadillac. It was red, had some fuzzy dice in the window if you can imagine that.
Out stepped a huge black guy in a leather jacket. It reminded Lenny of the one Samuel Jackson wore in Shaft. He loved that movie. The guy was wearing a ton of rings and bling around  his neck. He was wearing shades while it was already in the evening. Yeah, this guy stood out.
The guy glanced at Lenny’s car. Lenny ducked and banged his head on the steering wheel. The claxon honked. The black guy was startled, but when he saw Lenny rubbing the painful spot on his forehead he chuckled. He shook his head and walked towards the apartment building.
Lenny wondered what he should do now? This guy made him. Well, made him… Noticed him. He didn’t really seem to have him identified as a private investigator.  Maybe he should just get rid of the car. He’d been taught by his mentor, Old Man Jackson, that people focused on the car, not the people behind the wheel. Except when you were a good looking woman. All rules changed then. Lenny was neither good looking nor a woman.
Lenny drove off and parked the car a street down the road. He got out, carrying the latest copy of Metal Hammer and walked to the parking lot of the apartment. He leaned against a tree, pretending to read the magazine while he in fact kept a keen eye on the building.
He stood there for about ten minutes when the black guy and a pretty young woman left the building. He almost yelped out when he realized the woman was in fact Jill. She wore white shorts, a pink tank-top and stiletto heels. She was even better looking in person than on the picture Tommy had shown him with her long, smooth, milky white legs, small but firm bosom. He’d found her already! He was even better at this than he thought. Maybe he could do this fulltime, ditch his roadie job. He’d probably miss the life on the road, though. Hanging out with the bands, seeing the sights. Of course he could do without the hangovers, aching back and lousy motel beds.
Then he understood this might have been only the easy part of the job. He found her, but he still had no clue why Jill left Tommy. Unless of course she left him because she had a new lover, namely the big black dude. They didn’t look like much of a couple though. He had an arm around her, but they weren’t strolling like lovers. It was more like he was dragging her along.
The black guy opened the door of the Cadillac, seemed to shove Jill inside and slammed the door. He got in as well. They drove off.
Lenny ran to his Dodge. He made it halfway until he had to stop for a second, wheezing, hands on his knees, throat burning. He didn’t work out as much as he used to. And used to was a few times a year. In January, the first few days after his usual new year’s resolution. He just wasn’t built to run.
He watched the Caddie disappear from view. He made up for his lack of stamina with his razor-sharp mind though. He’d memorized the license plate of the Cadillac. He was going to find out who owned it soon enough.

See, he was pretty good at this job.


Q & A with Corey Lynn Fayman

Corey Lynn Fayman writes a cool series featuring PI Rolly Waters. The fact he's a guitar-player makes this particular blogger / rock reporter very excited. I asked him a set of questions, just in time for his newest book, Desert City Diva.

Q: What makes Rolly Waters different from other hardboiled  characters?
I like to call Rolly a cozy hero in a noir world. He’s not the tough guy protagonist that usually defines hardboiled mysteries. He’s over forty, overweight, and he doesn’t own a gun. His only advantage in a fight is his weight and I doubt he could throw a decent punch. Also, he lives next door to his mother.
The situations he finds himself in end up more noir, though. He meets nasty people and has to deal with some horrific crimes. He is tough as nails on the inside, though, and won’t give up on a client. It’s part of his promise to himself that he’ll see a job through. In that way he is a lot like a more hardboiled character.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  And does he owe his name to Muddy Waters?
Nice catch there. Rolly does owe his last name to Muddy Waters. Most of the character names I come up with are combinations of musically-related names. His first name, Rolly, is short for Roland. Within the world of the books, the backstory on his first name is that his mother had been reading “Song of Roland” when he was born and saddled her first born with that noble moniker. It got changed to the nickname of Rolly in high school. I got the Roland name from Roland Instruments, a company that’s been making electronic instruments for years, including one of the original and most well-known drum machines, the TR-808.
As far as where Rolly came from, I’m not quite sure anymore. I had an idea for a musical play that would include a private eye narrator who was also a guitar player. The play never got very far, but the idea for that character morphed into Rolly Waters.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I’m all for disruptive technologies and I think eBooks have revolutionized the publishing business in ways no one fully understands yet. It’s always good to threaten the dinosaurs, which in this case are the major publishing houses and chain bookstores. Ebooks have made publishing available to anyone who’s interested in writing a book. There’s basically zero cost. In the late 90s and early 2000s I worked for a company called, which made the distribution of music available to anyone. The record companies were so resistant to it then, but they’ve had to go along now. It can’t be stopped. The same thing’s happening with publishing companies.
That said, I find more and more these days that I like the tactile feel of a book and most of the books I read now are in hardback or paperback form. But I still read things on my Kindle, especially when I travel.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I’m working on the fourth Rolly Waters mystery now. The working title is “Ballast Point Breakdown”. Rolly has been traveling pretty far afield in San Diego County in the last two books, so I’m bring him back, closer to home. This case takes place in and around San Diego Bay. The U.S. Navy’s ocean mammal training program was based in San Diego for many years and if you hung around the bay you would occasionally see a training session in process, with scub divers and sea lions or dolphins. I’m building the book around that.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I read a lot, because that’s what writers have to do. You learn a lot from great writers, but also from average ones. I’m still a big music fan, so I’m always listening for something new and interesting. My wife and I moved to the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego a few years ago. Aside from the all the great restaurants, it’s fun just to walk around the city these days. There’s a lot going on, much more than when I was growing up here.

Q: Any special reason why your main protagonist is a musician? Are you a big music lover?
I’m a big music fan. In my teenage years I was mostly interested in blues-based rock, but I like almost everything. Except Smooth Jazz. It’s literally painful for me to listen to that stuff. That and all this American Idol power ballad schtick.
I played piano and keyboards for many years in various bands and I wrote a fair amount of songs, as well. Basically, I got to watch and study guitar players for many years from behind my keyboards. That’s probably why I made Rolly a guitar player rather than a keyboard player like myself. Guitar players tend to have more dramatic personalities, especially rock and blues players.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I have some background in web design and such, so I developed my own web site using Wordpress. I’ve developed a mailing list over the years, as well. At first it was just friend and acquaintances, anybody who knew me and wouldn’t automatically delete the email. I’ve been adding to the list over the last couple of years with people who come to signings, sign up for giveaways, and people I meet at conferences. If you give me your business card, you will be on my list.
I have a Facebook business page in addition to my personal page. I’m playing around with Facebook advertising, as well. I like the way you can focus it on very specific audiences like “People who read mysteries in Southern California.” I have a Twitter account, although I’m not a very dedicated Tweeter.
For other promotion work, I found a publicist in San Diego, Paula Margulies, who’s great about tailoring her efforts to your budget. She’s been a great help getting me into bookstore signings, speaking engagements and more traditional media.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I grew up loving Science Fiction, although I may have burned out when I was young since I don’t read much of it anymore.  I’m a big fan of William Gibson, who really combined the science fiction genre with the noir tradition. He is the father of cyberpunk. Other SciFi writers I’ve enjoyed are China Miéville and Neal Stephenson.

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’m not sure I have an answer to that question. I’ve read some very good young authors, but none that were innovative enough to make me want to put them in that kind of company yet. So I’m not offering any names yet, but they may develop that way. It will be someone who has a feel for the changes technology will have on our lives, as well as understanding the traditions of the genre.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Many years ago, I got a B.A. in Creative Writing with a specialty in poetry from UCLA. I rarely wrote poetry after that, but it was helpful with my songwriting efforts. I came to the crime genre fairly late. Chandler, of course, made an impression, but the three writers who really made me want to work in the genre were Ross MacDonald, Elmore Leonard and John LeCarre. They all write deeply, and in very different ways, about character and morality and the delicate strands of experience that tie them together.
From a more technical point of view, writing mysteries forces you to work with plot. It’s essential that you plot well. That helps me focus and keeps me from running too far off track with my characters, settings and philosophical ruminations. I like that discipline. It’s a kind of navigational device that gives me a star to fix on.

Dog Gone (Dev Haskell) by Mike Faricy

Screwball PI Dev Haskell is back in already the 12th book in this popular series. Of course there's a lady getting him in trouble again. When Dev's latest girlfriend is out of town he is asked to watch her dog. Walking with this dog he meets a showdog even as well as its peculiar hippie owner. It turns out this owner is something of a social activist but her involvement with a big amount of weed gets her into a lot of trouble with some dangerous thugs.
Haskell tries to help her out, while bedding and offending the ladies, getting into trouble with cops, getting beaten up and sharing some BBQ chips with a dog.
There's a lot of laughs in these one, even more than usual in this series I guess. That's what you get when there's a damned funny couple of dogs in a book. Make no mistake though, Dev isn't above getting an AR-15 out of his car's trunk to take on the bad guys!
A fun book.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part One (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Lenny Parker, the roadie / PI, is back in action right here at my blog. Here's part one of a new story.


Lenny Parker was in the Thai restaurant that he used as his office, eating Mister Janpongs’s famous soup.
“Good to have you here again,” Mister Janpong said. “Long time ago, yes?”
“Yeah, I’ve been on tour for a few months with The Texas Sons. Cool band. Just returned yesterday in time to catch the Bad Citizen Corporation show tomorrow.”
“You are talking about music, yes?” Mister Janpong didn’t keep very up to date about the latest metal and punk music.
“Indeedy-do,” Lenny said. “Thanks for playing my answering service again when I was gone.”
“My pleasure. In fact, a client is on his way no,” Mister Janpong told me.
“What? No shit? You take good care of my side business!” Lenny Parker supplemented his income as a roadie working as a part-time private investigator.
“I think he is coming in right now,” Mister Janpong said, pointing at the door. Lenny knew the man was probably right. When you weren’t a regular, you had to be one of my clients or someone looking for directions. Janpong’s wasn’t the most popular place in San Diego.
The man coming in looked to be in his late twenties, white pants, experty creased, pullover and well-combed blond hair. Since Lenny and Janpong were the only other people in the room it was easy for him to assume I was the man he was looking for.
“Lenny Parker?” he said, hesitantly extending his hand.
“In the abundant flesh,” Lenny said and shook the hand with his chubby mitt.
“Oh. Okay. I figured you had to be but, eh…”
Lenny smiled. “I know, I don’t look like the prototype of a PI.” He was referring to his tattoos and Slayer T-shirt.
“Uh… Yeah.”
“I left my fedora at home,” Lenny joked. “Have a seat and let me know what I can do for you.”
“Sure,” the man said and sat down. “I’m Thomas Whitman. Tommy.”
“Nice to meet you, Tommy. Can Mister Janpong fetch you a drink? He stocks Singha beer. It’s really good.”
“Sure. Thanks.”
Lenny took a sip of his own bottle of beer and said, “Go ahead…”
“Yeah… It’s like this… I had this thing going with this wonderful girl, Jill. We’ve been engaged for half a year now, had the wedding date set and all. Then she broke up with me a week ago. Just out of nowhere, without any real reason. We’d been already living together ever since our engagement but she just moved out.”
“What do you mean when you say no real reason. Did she give you the old it’s-me- not- you speech?”
“Not even that. She told me she thought it would be better if we didn’t see each other any more. She gave me a hug and a kiss and just started to pack her bags.”
“Sounds pretty weird. Sometimes they really seem to be from Mars, right?”
“I guess. It’s just that… It’s not like her, you know?”
“Not really. I don’t know her. But listen, I’m the last guy you should ask about relationship advice. I haven’t been in a relationship longer than half a year. I’m a private dick and a roadie, not a relationship counselor.”
“I know, I know. But you could maybe investigate why she left me, right?”
“Huh? Can’t you just ask her?”
“She isn’t picking up her phone or reacting to my e-mails. I don’t even know where she is.”
Lenny sighed. “All right. I’m a real romantic at heart, you know? Let me see what I can find out for you. I’m going to need some more information, though.”
“Sure, whatever you need.”
“I’m going to need a picture of her. Names and addresses of friends and family. Where she works, places she used to frequent. You know, bars, clubs, restaurants, shops.”
“Sure, sure. I’ve got her picure right here,” Tommy said and produced a polaroid from his pants. He put it on the table.
Lenny whistle through his teeth, reddening and apologizing immediately. Jill was beautiful. Milky white skin, auburn hair, incredible green eyes.
“It’s okay. I of all people appreciate how beautiful she is.”
“I can imagine you want her back.”
“It’s not just about looks. She’s really funny, warm and intelligent.”
“I’m sure. Well, that takes care of that. Now how about the rest. Her work?”
“She works at the reception desk of a hotel. But she hasn’t been at work all week. I checked.”
“Give me the address please,” Lenny said and Lenny asked Mister Janpong for a pen. He used a napkin to jot down the information Tommy gave him. Then  Lenny asked Tommy about Jill’s family members and friends.
“She always told me she didn’t have any family she was still in contact with. She’s from Ohio originally but couldn’t get along with them. It’s one of the reasons she moved to San Diego. She had a friend from work she sometimes had coffee with, though. Tina Tristam. I’m not sure about her address though.”
“That’s it? That sounds a bit weird? No friends, no family?”
“I guess she didn’t need much of those, the way our relationship was going. I guess my family and friends became hers.”
“Yeah, guess so then. Fine. Let me see what I can find out for you. I’m yours for 300 bucks day plus expenses. I will email you the contact.”
“Okay, fine. Do think you can find out why she left me?” Tommy asked eagerly.
Lenny shrugged. “Don’t know, buddy. But  I will sure as hell do my best.”