jvdsteen

Feb 222014
 
This is the story of JL Abramo's regular protagonist's mentor, Jimmy Pigeon. He tells Jake Diamond the story of the murder of his former partner and we see how he takes on Jake as his partner in his PI firm. Yep, it's a prequel to the excellent Jake Diamond series.
The murder of Pigeon's partner, Lenny Archer (nice  homage) is linked to the actor who played Charlie Chan it seems. In fact, there seem to be some connections to Bugsy Siegel, giving this one a Max Allan Collins / Nathan Heller / historical mystery vibe. Wait a minute... Lenny's brother is called Nathan... Another homage?
Anyway, we follow an assortment of cops, crooks and private eyes move like chesspieces across the board that is Hollywood. They investigate, cheat, and murder as one stupid move leads to another. I really enjoyed seeing these diverse stories intertwine even though I usually like first-person better. And I'm sure you won't guess the surprise ending... I sure didn't see it coming!
It's nice to see Mr. Abramo isn't afraid to experiment a bit. You might want to pick this one up soon because there's a special bonus edition on sale right now.
Feb 142014
 
I discovered Charles Salzberg work via Facebook and figured I would like his work and so would you.
To get an idea about his stuff, here's an interview.

Q: What makes Henry Swann different from other hardboiled characters?  
Although Henry Swann purposely shares a number of traits of the classic American PI—a loner, living on the margins of society, perpetually broke, cynical and a little self-destructive—he also differs somewhat.  For one thing, he’s not particularly brave—he doesn’t go out of his way to engage in conflict, in fact, he’ll do practically anything he can to avoid it.  Also, he’s very well-educated, not that the classic detective isn’t intelligent, he or she most certainly is.  But Swann was educated to be something else, anything else.  He’s literate, can quote poetry and prose, and he likes putting together puzzles.  And yet he will do practically anything for money and he isn’t above occasionally stretching the truth, shall we say, to get what he wants.  For another thing, he isn’t strictly speaking a detective or a private investigator.  He’s a skip tracer, someone who looks for folks who’ve skipped on their obligations, financial or otherwise.  He’s good at finding things.  I like to think of him as a journalist who happens to get involved in all things criminal.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
The character really grew out of an idea.  I realized that as one critic said, detective fiction is very theological in nature.  If you follow all the clues you’ll wind up with a solution.  In religion, that’s God.  But what, I thought, if the world isn’t so rational and is, instead, messy and chaotic?  And so I created a character, Henry Swann, who at first does think the world is rational but soon learns otherwise.  I made him a skip tracer simply to set him off from both amateur sleuths and the classic detective.  He’s just a working class stiff who happens to find people.  He’s actually based on a fellow I interviewed, a real skip tracer, when I was first starting out as a magazine journalist.


Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I love physical books.  I love to touch them, hold them, read them.  But I think is a real place for eBooks.  For one thing, they’re cheaper, which means more access to readers.  For another, they’re much more portable than physical books.  When I’m traveling I can take my Ipad or my Kindle or my phone, and with them have access to scores of books, which means I don’t have to make choices and worry about carrying more than one or two books in my bag, or in my case, knapsack, since I travel almost anywhere and for anytime with just that to hold all my things.

Q: What's next for you and Henry Swann? 
I just finished a non-Henry Swann novella for a company called Stark Raaving Group.  It’s a wonderful idea.  The fellow who came up with the concept has rounded up a whole bunch of crime writers and we’re all writing novellas that he’s going to offer by subscription to readers.  I believe for the first year, he’ll issue one a month, and then after that, two or three a month.  It’s a great opportunity for readers to be exposed to a number of wonderful crime writers and an even better opportunity for writers to reach a new audience.  The name of the novella is “Twist of Fate,” and the protagonist is a female TV reporter.
I’ll also have a third in the Henry Swann series out in October, first as a hardcover.  It’s called, Swann’s Lake of Despair,” and it takes place in the world of professional photography, as well as adding an historical angle—trying to solve a real life crime of a woman named Starr Faithfull, who died in the ‘30s under suspicious circumstances—and also a romantic subplot of a man who’s girlfriend disappears.  While I’m waiting for that to be published, I’m working on the fourth Swann, Swann’s Way Out.  I guess I’ll keep writing them till I run out of catchy titles.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Which is way too often. I love going to the movies.  I’ll see one or two a week.  Having lunch with friends is also crucial to a writer, since we’re isolated much of the time.  I have a weekly lunch with my good friend, novelist and screenwriter Ross Klavan (author of Schmuck) who also happens to have two brothers who are crime writers: Andrew Klavan and Laurence Klavan.  I actually use Ross as one of the characters in the Swann series.  He appears in the second book, Swann Dives In, and he was so much fun to write that he’s in all my others. He’s also the voice of Henry Swann on the videos another friend of mine produced, which can be found on the Henryswann.com website. I also use my friend, Mark Goldblatt, as a character.  It’s not really them, just the names, though certainly parts of them are incorporated in the characters. There’s also plenty of time to watch TV, read, and I teach three writing classes a week, which keeps me pretty busy reading students’ submissions.

Q: How do you promote your work?   
It’s the part I hate most, but we have to do it.  Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and I do as many readings and bookstore appearances as I can.  I used to get very nervous before readings.  I still do, but not nearly as much.  And I love meeting people who like to read and like authors.  I also do a lot of blog posts for others and write essays, which also helps promote the work, as do interviews like these.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?  
My first love is literary novels.  I’m a big fan of Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer and others.  I also read a lot of non-fiction.  Lately, true crime, espionage and biographies of people like Arnold Rothstein, Billy the Kid and Jesse James.  And I’m hooked on the New Yorker and several other magazines, which is probably why I drifted into becoming a magazine journalist.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?  
I love sidekicks, psychotic or not.  Some of the best parts of reading these novels are the characters created to populate the world of the detective.  That’s what keeps these books interesting, at least to me.

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? 
That’s really tough to answer, especially since I now know a bunch of crime writers personally, having met them through Mystery Writers of America and from being on various library panels.  It’s tough to beat the names of those you’ve mentioned, but there are so many good crime writers out now.  But as far as influencing us, gee, it’s tough to be more influenced than our generation has been by the people you mention.

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
I fell into it accidentally, but I’ve found that crime is so universal that I can write about any theme I want.  In fact, with the Swann books, ever since the first one, I’ve shunned murder.  There is no murder in Swann Dives In, nor is there one in Swann’s Lake of Despair, or in any the three Swann short stories I’ve written (“A Starr Burns Bright,” in Long Island Noir, Train to Nowhere, in Grand Central Noir, and “The Duke Steps Out,” in How Not To Greet Famous People.  That’s purposeful because I think murder is too easy.  I’m more interested in the non-lethal crimes, crimes that can be almost as serious, especially crimes of the heart.  You watch TV and the movies and we seem to be a nation of twenty, thirty murders a day.  But most of us bump up against the non-murderous kinds of crime, and those are the crimes I’m most interested in.

Feb 142014
 
This isn't a PI story, even not in the unofficial sense, really. It's more of an action / crime story and would make a pretty good action flick.
Ex-war hero Bill Conlin returns from the war to live in New York. His cousin Jimmy asks him to join the mob and after some refusals ends up doing their bidding. He saves some sex-slaves, kills some gangsters and is set up in a fancy appartment, complete with loads of guns and a good-looking woman. Stuff gets more dangerous, bloody and violent by the second and Bill is soon hip-deep in blood.
There's a lot of tough guy conversations and a lot of violent encounters in this book. There's also a lot of bourbon being drunk. So yeah, the title sums up the story pretty well.
If you think there's not enough action in a Lee Child novel and an Andrew Vachss novel isn't dark enough this one might be for you. Personally, I like a little bit more mystery in a crime novel and a little less action.
Feb 102014
 
THE NEWEST NOAH MILANO NOVELLA IS AVAILABLE  NOW...

Noah Milano used to work for his mobster father but now tries to find redemption for his dark past working as a security specialist. Minnie is his best friend and works at the Medical Examiner's office. When an old friend of Minnie (a gossip columnist) is found dead at a club's toilet stall the cops think it was an overdose. Minnie is not so sure however and asks Noah to investigate. The investigation soon endangers Noah and Minnie's lives as they try to uncover Hollywood's dirtiest secrets.

PRAISE BY OTHER AUTHORS:
"Noah Milano is all too human, which makes him more appealing." Les Roberts, author of the Milan Jacovich series.

''Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I.'s, but leaves his own tracks.'' Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award.

Jochem's deep and abiding love for classic pulp fiction comes through on every page, and his stories continue the time-honored tradition of the hardboiled American PI." Sean Chercover, author of Trigger City.

''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." James W. Hall, author of Silencer.

''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop.


Feb 072014
 
I was expecting a story that was more amateur sleuth than PI... What I got was a story so action-packed it would make Lee Child blush.
Mark Tanner is a wise-cracking ex-Army veteran now making a living as a personal trainer and sometime-bounty hunter. His best friend is Bear, who wears a prosthetic arm filled with gadgets. There's another man with prosthetics, Mole, who uses his extra fingers to hunt down the information on the digital highway Tanner needs. Tanner agrees to train a young and attractive tennisplayer but when she disappears is forced to track her down and face some enemies from his dark past.
The incredible toughness of Tanner, the many fights and the gadgets The Mole and Bear carry takes this story a bit too much into pulp / Doc Savage territory sometimes, but basically the story is very entertaining.
Tanner's backstory is very large and an important part of this story. Sometimes it feels like the author put a bit too much story into one novel but will have to admit I stayed glued to the pages during the entire narrative.
Feb 072014
 
Last adventure we learned Thorn has a son. In this one he has to help him survive his involvement with a group of eco-terrorists called ELF. Meanwhile, FBI buddy Frank Sheffield is preparing to prevent a plot against a nuclear plant.
Every time I open up one of his books I'm reminded about how cool James' writing style is. It is unique but still hard to pinpoint why, in a way John Sandford's style is. It flows very naturally and is a joy to read.
Thorn is cool as always, putting in a few good oneliners but never becoming a pastiche of the hardboiled hero.
Frank Sheffield steals the show here, though. He's a unique character with an original voice and a number of flaws (like his weakness for women). I hope we will see him around in the future.
Jan 262014
 
I'd read a few of Mark Troy's Val Lyon stories and found out he had a cool new female character now, Ava Rome. Time to get the lowdown on that I figured...

Q: What makes Ava Rome different from other hardboiledcharacters?  
Ava believes in the Hawaiian law of the Splintered Paddle. It was the first law of Kamehameha the Great who united the Islands. The name of the law addresses an incident in his life, which might be apocryphal, but the essence of the law is that the defenseless will be protected from harm. It is no longer a statute in the state, but it is deeply ingrained in the culture of the Islands and deeply ingrained in Ava. The law does not require innocence, but merely defenselessness, and neither does Ava. She will protect anyone who is defenseless, even if this puts her in opposition with the police. 

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
I had a series with another character, Val Lyon, who, I would characterize as medium boiled. I wanted a harder character and seized on the guiding philosophy of protecting the defenseless as a way to do that. Creating a new character allowed me to develop a new backstory that is more consistent with her actions. Ava is a former MP/CID agent so she has the skills necessary to stand up to very powerful opponents. The military experience is also the source of some of the dents in her psyche. The deepest dent, however, was her failure to protect her brother when she was a teen-ager. That failure was what caused her to adopt the splintered paddle philosophy. 

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I like ebooks and the experience of reading them. I have a lot of ebooks on my iPad. So does my wife. Between us we have a huge library on our devices. We also have a huge library of print books, which require a different level of interaction than ebooks. Print books need to be shelved and displayed. Although I like ebooks for their compactness, for their potential to expand the reading experience with interactive elements, and for the instant gratification you can get from buying in online stores, the lack of a way to display them is a drawback. The books a person owns tell something about them. When you walk into a person's home and see books, you know that these people are living on a different plane than people in homes without books. The books a person displays in their home or when they are out in public give you an entre into interacting with them.  

This lack of display is also a problem for discovering new authors. Physical bookstores, in my opinion, are more egalitarian than online stores. In a bookstore, the books by new authors or lesser-known authors are shelved side-by-side with those of established and best-selling authors. Sure, stores use end-cap displays and other techniques to feature the bestsellers, but it's easy to walk past them. Online stores, such as iBooks or Amazon, tend to present books based on sales rank. iBooks is especially bad about this. It's hard to get past this feature. If a book is not already a best-seller, you need to know the author or the name of the book so you can search for it.  

Q: What's next for you and Ava? 
Ava is working on a cold case from World War II. A Japanese-American Buddhist priest died under mysterious circumstances in the Tule Lake concentration camp in California. She uncovers a serial predator who might still be active. I'm aiming for publication in 2015. After that, she will take on environmental degradation and international timber smuggling.  

I'm also planning to do more ebook short stories. I like shorts, but I think the word count required by most publications is too limiting for the detective story. A story of 5000 words is fine for amateur sleuths or stories with twist endings, but it doesn't allow enough room for the convolutions of the detective story. Detective short stories work better as novellas, but until ebooks came along, there were not many places that published novellas. The Rules, is an Ava Rome novella that is only in ebook. I'd like to do more of those. 

Q: How do you promote your work?  
Not very well, I'm afraid. I have a website—www.marktroy.net. I try to do social media, but I'm not comfortable in it. I have heard publicists say that every author should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, so I do, but reluctantly. I try to tweet a couple of times a week, but, seriously, does anybody actually read Twitter? I contribute to some of the lists, such as Short Mystery Fiction Society and DorothyL. My preferred way to promote is to attend conventions. This year, I will be at Left Coast Crime, Killer Nashville, Bouchercon and maybe a few others. I enjoy appearing on panels, but mostly, I like to hang out in the bar and talk to readers. 

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?  
I like history and historical fiction. When I was in high school, I discovered the novels of Frank Yerby. From that point on, I was hooked on epic, historical fiction. This cold case, WWII story in progress is a lot of fun to do, because there's so much history about it. However, I'm finding that I have to limit my reading or I will never get the story finished. 

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?  
Sidekicks are important in the PI novel because, although the hardboiled fictional PI is a loner, nobody is truly alone. Nobody is possessed with all of the skills and knowledge necessary to do the job in a complex world. Sidekicks help to round out the main character and provide an extra dimension to the story.  

Are Hawk and Pike psychotic? They have worldviews that are more limited, less nuanced than the main characters' and they don't hesitate to use violence when necessary, but neither they nor most sidekicks are unfeeling. As the Spenser and Elvis Cole series have gone on, Hawk and Pike have become more complex.  

What I find most interesting about these characters is the bond of loyalty and respect that connects the main character and the sidekick in spite of all the obvious differences between them. Those differences are often cultural and philosophical, and they can also be racial, linguistic, and sexual. Two other protagonist-sidekick pairs that I find interesting are Joe R. Lansdale's Hap Collins/Leonard Pine and Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise/Willie Garvin. Ava Rome's sidekick is a Japanese American named Moon Ito. Like Hap and Leonard and Spencer and Hawk, there's a racial difference between Ava and Moon. Like Modesty and Willie, there's a gender and linguistic difference. Willie Garvin speaks Cockney English; Moon Ito speaks Pidgin English. Like Joe Pike, Moon keeps his emotions under a lid 

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 willinfluence the coming generation? 
Robert Crais is surely influential in the way he has developed Joe Pike from Elvis Cole's laconic gun supplier into a complex character with a lot of baggage of his own. Another influential author is Lee Child. His character, Jack Reacher, is not technically a PI, but, in Reacher, Child has stripped the PI character to the barest of bones. He is a complete outsider and loner who enters a culture, sizes up the problem, sets things right and moves on. I think more and more PIs have to navigate multicultural landscapes and the best examples of this are S.J. Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith stories. Another writer who brings multicultural settings to life is Mercedes Lambert. Her stories featuring LA lawyer, Whitney Logan, are beautifully written, noir tales. Sadly for us, Lambert passed away leaving us only three stories, so her influence is limited. The list of influential authors should include Laura Lippman who has updated the female PI in a dowager city. 

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
The short answer is that this genre is what I like to read most. I started writing mysteries with an amateur sleuth in mind, but soon after I began, I discovered the Shamus Awards. When I read the list of nominees/winners, I realized these were the authors I admired most and that I had read most of the books. So I abandoned the amateur sleuth and took up the PI. 

My take on the PI is that he/she is an outsider who must make sense of the culture and people in order to solve the mystery. This is different from the amateur sleuth who is usually confronted with an anomaly in a familiar milieu or the police procedural in which the protagonist works a familiar system with known rules. The PI, on the other hand, enters a strange milieu with unfamiliar rules. He/she is like an explorer in the wilderness or a traveler in a new land. As reader and writer, I feel I'm learning a lot more in the PI story. 

Ava is an outsider. Like Reacher, she grew up on Army bases so she has no strong roots anywhere. She is living and working in Hawaii, but is not Hawaiian. She's a newcomer to the Islands and the culture, like I was when I lived there. Even though she adopts its philosophy, she is still learning all its nuances. 

Finally, what I like about writing in this genre is working through ambiguity to get to a mostly satisfying conclusion. 
Jan 262014
 
This is one dark and violent short story.
PI Jack Reece is paid a cool million to track down the monster that raped and killed the young daughter of a billionaire widow. He is also offered another 4 million dollars if he kills the monster. Jack decides to take her up on the first offer but declines the latter. But when he meets the monster he gets some serious doubt.
This is more a vigilante than PI story. There's little to none detecting done by Jack but the opening reads like a standard PI story, making the start of the story seem real familiar. When the story proceeds I soon realized this was a different kind of story. A dark tale of revenge and violence so graphic it seemed like a horror story.
I'm not a fan of explicit violence but it belonged to the story and gave it the dirty edge it needed.
Don't think this is Punisher / Executioner style vigilantism. It makes you think about the right and wrongs of playing judge, jury and executioner and the violence is so explicit it is never glorified or never makes you cheer for Jack's actions.
Jack didn't grow on me as a character yet, but there's some potential in his voice and Mark Allen know how to pace a story.

Jan 172014
 
At first I was disappointed when this one first came out. Why wasn't Jeff writing another Noah Braddock novel? Well, let me tell you I shouldn't have been.
In this novel we meet Joe Tyler. This ex-cop has become an unlicensed investigator specializing in tracking down missing children after his own child went missing. He returns home when an old friend is in the hospital and accused of beating up a teenage girl. Investigating this he becomes involved with a missing girl, her rich dad and his dangerous female bodyguard. Also, he has to face his ex-wife and try and find out where their relationship is at now.
Joe Tyler is an interesting tough guy. A bit darker than your average Marlowe-type and his specialization and the reason he's got it makes him extra compelling.
What I enjoyed even more about this one is the writing. Very to the point, dialogue driven, hardboiled stuff. I always love it when a writer leaves out the parts people skip (as Elmore Leonard would say).
Jan 172014
 
I love the writing of Les Roberts. David Chill is influenced by his writing. So, it should be a no-brainer that I like David's work. I already enjoyed his first novel and so was pretty sure I was going to like the second his his Burnside series.
When a politician involved with charity work for the homeless is killed ex-football player and ex-cop Burnside, now a PI, investigates. What follows is a pretty solid murder mystery with a lot of suspects, reveals and some action. I liked the fact some social commentary was added (something a PI novel lends itself to very well) and liked the fictional Bay City that was a nice nod to Raymond Chandler.
The Burnside series might not be the most ground-breaking PI series, but it IS a solid one. Tight writing, good characterization and a good mystery.

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