Dec 212013
 
Some of you may remember that I had a hand in getting Christa Faust's admirable paperback original Money Shot in Finnish in the all-too-short-lived paperback series of the Arktinen Banaani publishers. The book is very good and got some good reviews (some bad as well), but it sold zilch. So the sequel, called Choke Hold, never came out in Finnish.

Which is a pity, since Choke Hold is a very good book as well. Truth be told, I didn't read it until now. I can't explain how this came to be, but now it's finally read - and as I said, it's a great book. It has the same virtues as Money Shot: non-stop action, solid characterizations of fallible human beings, no-nonsense narration and witty banter both in dialogue and the voice of the protagonist, ex-porn actress Angel Dare. She's in witness protection program, but her past - told in Money Shot - gets back to her and she has to flee.

Choke Hold is a short novel, read almost in a jiffy, but in this kind of book that's a virtue of its own. Faust shows respectable professionalism in that she creates memorable characters in just a few lines and scenes of action. You'll remember some of her characters for a long time. The ending tells that Angel Dare's story is not over, which is a good thing, even though I'm not sure if I like the idea of series characters. There's enough grimness in Faust's climax that the next book is bound to start from scratch.
Nov 232012
 

by Alexandra Sokoloff

One place you will NOT find me today is in a mall. Instead, we're having Noir Friday here on Murderati.

So I've professed my undying love for Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, many a time on this blog, but I do have a serious beef with this year’s line up.

The noir panel was all men.

I mean, really? In 2012?  When Megan Abbott and Kelli Stanley and Cornelia Read are attending? When Christa Faust is not only in the room, but up for an Anthony?

I guess all the women were stuck in binders or something.

(Kudos to the one panelist, John Rector, who knows a little about noir himself,  who jumped to point this absence out.)

Bouchercon was over a month ago and this noir sans femme thing is still rankling me, so I decided to blog about it.

 This is also partly because I was asked (multiple times) to take part in the latest author blog hop, The Next Big Thing, in which authors post their answers to a set of ten questions about their latest books on their blogs and then tag five more authors for the next week, and possibly Kevin Bacon is involved, and then we take over the world. 

So my horror/thriller author pal, the wildly dark, or darkly wild, Sarah Pinborough, tagged me two weeks ago, ad I did my ten question interview on Huntress Moon last week - here -  and now it’s my turn to tag five authors and link to their interviews this week. 

And because I am still seething over the noir panel, I chose a theme of fantastic dark female characters, and tagged my authors accordingly:


Michelle Gagnon is a thriller writer who has recently brought her powerhouse female perspective and adrenaline-charged storytelling to the YA thriller genre with her latest, Don't Turn Around. Noa is a terrific tenage role model; I hope we'll see more of her.  Read her Q & A here

 

 

 

Christa Faust knows noir backward and forward, and has virtually created a whole new direction for the genre and its characters. Angel Dare is an alt heroine who brings OUT everything that noir anti-heroines like Gloria Grahame were doing in a coded sense, and Butch Fatale takes the "two-fisted detective" archetype to a new meaning.  Read her Q & A here

 

 

 Wallace Stroby. As Anyone who reads this blog knows, I am VERY picky about men writing "strong women", and on the dark side, Stroby is as good as it getts, both shattering and reversing noir gender stereotypes. His Crissa Stone series presents a thief who doesn't just hold her own, but leads and controls motley collections of male gangsters. And I'm even more fond of Stroby's Sara Cross, who mirrors the classic noir paradigm; she's a truly good woman whose near-fatal flaw is a tragically bad man.

 

 

in the Charlie series is set in New Orleans! http://zoesharp.com/  

- Zoe Sharp needs no introduction here. As we know, she actually DOES write a kick-ass female lead, Charlie Fox, who works as a bodyguard and makes the physical reality of her job perfectly plausible (I've learned a lot about self-defense from these two...) while she battles uniquely feminine psychological demons. And her new installment in the Charlie series is set in New Orleans! http://zoesharp.com/

(Right, that’s only four.  I can count, at least up to ten, but getting authors to do anything on deadline is like heding cats.)

 

 

 

I really encourage you all to click through to their interviews, especially for the fun question on who they would cast in a film or TV version of their books. Always a good exercise for any writer, you might get inspired!

So not everyone above is writing noir, exactly. Stroby, definitely. Faust has a lot of noir influence but I’d say her work is more like female-driven pulp, with a strong emphasis on camp humor, too. Sharp and Gagnon write dark and intense, but it’s not noir any more than I’m writing noir, which is not at all.

I’m also no way a noir scholar, and let’s face it, the lines are blurry (Is it noir? Pulp? Neo-noir? Just a good old B movie?) and I’d like to leave the question open for David - I mean everyone - to jump in and define it for us in their own words.  Personally, I know it when I see it!  No, really - for me, the key difference is that, for example, in Zoe’s and Michelle’s story worlds, there is the possibility and even probability of redemption, while in the classic world of noir, there is none, or very little. Doom and fate figure predominantly.

I liked  John Rector's capsule summation on that B'Con panel: “Noir pushes people to extreme circumstances and there is no happy ending. The hero/ine is fighting the good fight... but loses.”

So I guess the personal line I draw between “noir” and “dark” is about that possibility of redemption and at least temporary triumph. You can win the battle even when you know the war rages on. In my own books, there’s plenty of dark, but not noir’s overwhelming sense of inexorable fate; my own themes are more about the people caught up in a spiritual battle between good and evil. And no matter how dark it gets, there’s always the presence of good. 

In fact, some of my favorite dark thriller writers: Denise Mina, Tana French, Mo Hayder, Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid, seem to me more fixed on exploring that spiritual evil than fate. As dark as they get, I wouldn’t call what they’re writing “noir”, because it IS more spiritual, they’re dealing with a more cosmic evil.  Or maybe the evil they depict is so rooted in a feminine consciousness and feminine fears and demons that it doesn’t FEEL like noir. But that could be me splitting hairs, you tell me! That’s what this blog is about.

And there’s another element that I consider classic noir:

Threatening women.

Threatening to men, anyway, apparently! 

But the presence of shadowy – or maybe the word I mean is shaded – women is key. For my money some of the most interesting women ever put to page or celluoid are noir femmes, and part of that is because quite a few noir writers and filmmakers and actresses actually made a point of exploring the dark sides of women.

And noir takes on significantly different meaning when the leading roles are played by women instead of men. These days Sara Gran, Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Christa Faust and Wallace Stroby are all doing really exciting work genre-bending by putting women in the protagonist’s seat and then absolutely committing to what it would look like and feel like and mean for a woman to take that lead in circumstances we don't usually see women in.

I was enthralled by Sara Gran’s Dope, which explores a noir standard, addiction, and the noir paradigm of the tarnished white knight committed to a hopeless and destructive person - all from a completely feminine point of view. Likewise Wallace Stroby’s Sara Cross (in Gone Til November) is a committed knight... lawman... lawperson... who very nearly falls because of a fatally seductive man, and any woman who’s ever been tempted will understand her struggle. 

Gran has created another classic yet entirely unique noir heroine in her latest, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead; I can’t think of another noir character so reliant on my favorite force in the world: synchronicity. But also, back to addiction: is that synchronicity drug-induced?  Claire’s pot habit might be useful juice for her detecting instincts, but one gets the feeling it’s playing hell with her personal life.

Megan Abbott layers a specifically feminine addiction, the pathological narcissism that anorexia can be, into her latest, Dare Me - to chilling effect. And I’ve never seen anyone else portray the feminine counterpart of criminally sociopathic male athletes, but you better believe these cheerleaders are exactly that.

Abbott, Gran and Flynn (in Sharp Objects) are also sometimes writing female protagonists battling female antagonists, with men relegated to secondary roles. I find it a deliriously welcome reversal of the traditional order.

I suspect it's easier, or really I mean more natural, for women to achieve a genre bend with noir and thrillers because we're working against a very entrenched male tradition. If we're just fully ourselves, it's going to look new to the genre.

But men can get there. I think Dennis Lehane did a brilliant genre bend with his male characters in Mystic River by going places that men don't usually go in their own psyches  - they'd rather assign that scary stuff to female characters to distance themselves from the experience instead of having to put themselves into those vulnerable positions. Which  personally I think is cheating.

And as Stroby is proving, consciously committing to the physical and emotional reality of a complex female protagonist is possible for a male author, too.

By looking at crime through a specifically feminine lens, these authors are creating a new genre. I don’t know what to call it, but I know I love it.

I know there are more of these authors and books out there, and I want to hear about them, so let’s have it. Who are your favorite dark female leads – and villains? Which authors in our genre do you think are portraying ALL the facets of women, black, white, and every shade of gray in between?

And yes, what is your definition of noir?  I'd love to know.

- Alex

 

Jul 312012
 

A Wild Card Tuesday Special brought to you by Stephen Jay Schwartz

 

You are about to get a real treat. The lovely and talented Christa Faust is in the room.

When I first began my trip into authordom I asked fellow authors whose works I should read. One author's name came up time and again, and the "must-read" novel was Money Shot.

I read the book and fell instantly in love with Angel Dare, Christa's kick-ass protagonist. The novel struck me as high-calibre literature, filled with sharp, witty, gritty lines and real, three-dimensional characters with real, three-dimensional problems. Christa's style is a nod to old, L.A. pulp noir, but her voice is entirely her own. I became an instant fan and told everyone I knew about the gem I had found. (Everyone who hadn't already told me about Christa's work, that is).

I can't remember exactly where I finally met her - it could've been Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, or the Mystery Bookstore party the night before the L.A. Times Festival of Books. I do remember the fanboy grin I had on my face the day I got her to sign my copy of Money Shot, though. I can't help it, her work evokes that kind of response.

So do me a favor. Check out the interview. Then check out her website, which is about as cool as websites get.

Then buy her books. You won't be disappointed.

                                                                 *    *    *

Stephen: Christa, you are about as unique as an author gets. There are many of us who play at being tough and cool and hip, but, in my opinion, you're the real deal. You exude a confidence I've only seen in a handful of writers. Have you always been this way? Was there ever a point in your writing career where you were timid and insecure?

Christa: I don’t know about tough, cool or hip, but I’ve always been confident about everything, not just my writing. That’s just a natural part of who I am. It’s not that I think every word I write is genius and that I’m always perfect, I just don’t sweat my own fuck ups and don’t take criticism personally. People are entitled to not like my work and if one guy doesn’t like my book, it doesn’t mean that book is no good. It just means that one guy doesn’t like it.

In this like-button world we live in now, it seems as if 90% of reviews boil down to “this is cool” or “this sucks.” My advice to fledgling writers is not to take either one too seriously. I’m not saying that you should ignore thoughtful criticism from people you trust, just don’t base your sense of self worth on how many people “like” you or how many stars you have on Amazon.

Stephen: How did you get your education as a writer? Did you go to college, study literature and creative writing? How did you develop your style?

Christa: I never made any kind of conscious decision to develop my style. I just tell the stories I want to tell using the voice I have. That voice has grown and developed over the years because I’ve grown and developed as a person.

I did go to college and enjoyed exploring a variety of subjects just to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, but I didn’t learn a single practical thing about being a professional writer. I’ve never had a publisher ask to see my diploma before cutting me a check. The most valuable lessons I learned about the craft of writing were learned on the job, working on novelizations and tie ins.

Stephen: What are media tie-ins and how did you get involved in this arena?

Christa: There are two types of licensed, media-related books. The first is novelizations, like the one I did for Snakes on a Plane. That means that I take a preexisting script for a feature film (often months before it’s even cast, let alone shot) and translate it into prose, embellishing and adding detail and backstory until I reach the required word count, usually 95K.

Tie-ins are books that follow the further adventures of franchise characters, like my novel Coyote’s Kiss, featuring Sam and Dean Winchester from the television show Supernatural. While tie-ins must take into account what has already happened in the existing film or show and what may be planned for the next sequel or season, they are original stories invented by the author.

The most important thing to understand about this kind of work is that, unlike unofficial fan-fiction, it’s licensed and contracted by the franchise owner and you don’t get to pick which characters you will be chosen to write about. Sometimes you might be given a choice between show A or movie B and you are always free to say no to any job if it’s a property you really hate, but you can’t just call up your editor and say “I love Star Wars, so I want to write a Star Wars tie-in.”

As far as how I got into doing this kind of work, a friend of mine got asked to do a tie in and was unable to take the job. He recommended me. I took the job. Once the editors saw that I was fast and solid and could be relied upon to hit those skintight deadlines, they started piling work on me. It was like learning how to swim by being dropped out of a helicopter into the ocean, but that’s how I made my bones as a pulp writer.

The thing I like about writing these kinds of books is the mental workout. It’s like weight lifting for your writing muscles. It might seem simple and repetitive and you’re exhausted  and sore after you’re done, but when it comes time to get in the ring with one of your own original stories, you’re a lean mean writing machine.

Stephen: To my understanding, you were the first (perhaps only?) female author to be published by Hard Case Crime. How did you come to be published by Hard Case and how did it make you feel?

Christa: I am, as of yet, the only female author in the Hard Case line up. Which is not to say that there aren’t other amazing women writing in the genre right now, like Megan Abbott and Cathi Unsworth. I just got lucky and got their first. I like to think that other women, maybe new writers none of us have even heard of yet, might eventually follow in my high-heeled footsteps.

I got asked to submit to Hard Case in a funny roundabout kind of way. I was all fired up about the HCC re-release of the Richard Prather standalone novel The Peddler and so I posted on my blog about it. Ardai read my post and responded saying that I should submit something of my own. I didn’t have anything ready to go, but I turned around and banged out Money Shot in about 6 weeks. To my surprise, he liked it and bought it.

Being a part of that stellar line-up made me feel honored and proud and kind of like a freshman crashing a senior party. I still get such a kick out of seeing my books on the same shelf as some of my hardboiled heroes.

Stephen: You've lived through some pretty fascinating experiences, Christa. Most authors would call that "research," and a handful of us would have to attend twelve step meetings to make up for it. What has your experience as a Times Square peep show girl, a fetish model, and a Dominatrix added to your work as an author?

Christa: It’s funny that you say “lived through” as opposed to “enjoyed” or better yet “continue to enjoy.” While I haven’t worked the peep booths in twenty years and don’t do much in the way of modeling these days, I’m still active in the BDSM scene both in my private life and as a professional Dominatrix.

I see booking pro fetish sessions as kind of like writing tie-ins. You don’t get to pick the characters, but you are still free to be creative and have fun within the confines of that set storyline.

But back to experience and writing, I think everyone’s personal life experiences can and do influence their fiction. But I also don’t think writers should be limited to writing only about themselves. I’m not a fighter, but I was able to write about that world by talking to and spending time with fighters. I’ve never killed anyone either, but I’ve never had any problem writing about murder.

Stephen: Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite novels are I always include Money Shot. Your voice is crisp, authentic and timeless. I've read your early novel, Control Freak, which I also loved, but your voice seems to have coalesced in the pages of Money Shot. How did your style evolve between the writing of these two novels? What influenced your voice in Money Shot?

Christa: As I said earlier, I think my style evolved because I evolved. I was 21 years old when I wrote the first draft of Control Freak. I was pretty green and hadn’t made my bones as a pro. I was reading mostly Splatterpunk horror novels and that influence is strongly evident. As I got older, I found myself reading more vintage pulp and hardboiled novels and falling in love with that genre and it’s tougher, leaner kind of prose. But none of this was planned or on purpose. Mostly I just think it’s a combination of life experience and building up those writing muscles over the past 20 years.

I will say this, Money Shot and Choke Hold are both written in the first person, which probably makes them feel more intimate and immediate.

Stephen: Your recent novel, Choke Hold, is a sequel to Money Shot. Will there be more in this series? When can we expect to see the next one?

Christa: Man, I hope so. I don’t have a regular day job so I’m constantly hustling to make the bills. Side projects, tie-ins, teaching, and my BDSM sessions. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough money saved up to take off the time I’d need to work on another Angel Dare book and I’ve never been able to work on two or more books at once. Especially not a more intense, personal project like that. Hard Case Crime is fantastic and Ardai is hands down the best editor I’ve ever worked with, but he doesn’t have a huge budget. The advances aren’t enough to live on. I wish money weren’t a factor, but it is. A writer’s gotta eat.

So if you want another Angel Dare book, buy the shit out of the current Butch Fatale novel, Double D Double Cross.

Buy six copies. Tell all your friends to buy six copies. Or your mom. Or your dog. You know the drill.

I’m being facetious here, obviously. But in all seriousness, if you love a writer, support them by buying their work. It seems like basic common sense, but there’s been this unfortunate trend towards viewing writers as a kind of free reality entertainment on social networks. If everybody who “likes” me on facebook or follows me on twitter actually bought a copy of Double D Double Cross, I’d be able to write that third Angel Dare book.

Stephen: Could you tell us a bit about Double D Double Cross? Where did this idea come from? How did it develop? Will it continue as a series?

Christa: The idea for Butch Fatale series has been brewing for more than 10 years. It’s basically my tribute to the Shell Scott novels by Richard Prather. Only I put a butch lesbian in the role of the private eye and I don’t cut to the blowing curtains during the sex scenes.

In most pulp and hardboiled fiction, queer characters are usually villains or comic relief. If they’re main characters, they tend to get cured and made normal or utterly destroyed by their “sickness.” I wanted to make the queer character the hero. And while I was at it, I wanted to entertain the hell out of the reader along the way.

Stephen: Are you experimenting with different publishing platforms? What do you think about the e-book phenomenon?

Christa: A quirky little pet project like the Butch Fatale series seemed like the perfect way for me to test drive the concept of e-publishing. It’s been quite a learning curve, and I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m having fun with it. Not a kindle millionaire yet, but should be any day now, right?

We really are living in interesting times. What it means to be a professional writer has changed more in the past few years than in the whole rest of my life. It’s exciting and intimidating and challenging and I don’t have any idea where this bus is ultimately going. But I’m going to find out and I hope all my readers will come along for the ride.

Stephen: I've never met an author so fully actualized in life and career. Are you happy? Are you doing what you want in life? What else do you want to do?

Christa: I’d like to be less broke. To be able to spend less time hustling to make rent and focus more on just telling the stories that really matter to me. Healthcare would be nice too. And more shoes.

Stephen: What is a typical day like in the life of Christa Faust? A typical week?

Christa: Write, write, write, walk the dog, write, write, write, foot worship, write, write, sleep. Repeat.

I’m basically a hermit. I spend the majority of my time alone at my desk. Not very sexy or bad-ass, but unfortunately true.

Stephen: What are you working on currently?

Christa: I just kickstarted a second Butch Fatale novel called The Big Sister, which was a whole other new and curious experience in this brave new world of internet-era fiction. In addition to the e-book version, I’m also creating a special Ace Double style paper edition that will contain Double D Double Cross and The Big Sister. I’m hoping to have that one available by December to the people who chipped in to get it off the ground and shortly thereafter to everyone else. You can read more about it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/310000831/butch-fatale-dyke-dick-book-2-the-big-sister 

Thanks, Christa, for giving us a peek into your life and your process as an author! And thanks for sticking around to answer questions from our Murderati authors and readers. We appreciate it!

Feb 292012
 

Loyal visitors to my blog know that every year I pick out my favorites in PI fiction of the last year. It just might be the case my Favorite New PI is already known... Butch Fatale rocks!
Roberta "Butch Fatale" is a lesbian Mike Hammer / Shell Scott... In fact, she has sex with more women in this novel than Hammer, Scott and Travis McGee combined!
Butch is hired to track down the missing girlfriend of a woman called Mickey. Soon she gets to tangle with the Armenian mob and a beautiful killer.
There's a lot in this book to enjoy: Armenian gangsters, hot killers, lots of well-figured babes, car chases and nude skateboarding (no, really!). Oh, and quite a lot of graphic sex. If you're bothered by that kind of thing just skip those scenes... There's a good, pulpy PI story between those (by the way, well-written and hot) scenes. The writing is very tight and clean. Butch is a tough girl with a good heart you will get to like for sure.
I really enjoyed the LA setting and fast-paced plot.
I hope to see more of Butch Fatale soon.
Nov 052011
 
The second installment of my Los Angeles Review of Books column, "The Criminal Kind," has been posted on their website. In the piece, I discuss Christa Faust's Choke Hold, Ken Bruen's Headstone, Ed Gorman's Bad Moon Rising, and Day Keene's Dead Dolls Don't Talk, Hunt the Killer, and Too Hot to Hold.

Excerpts are below, or read the full piece here.

Christa Faust
Choke Hold
Hard Case Crime, October 2011. 256 pp.
Written in a casual-but-confident first person perspective, Faust skillfully weaves some of today’s most kinetic hardboiled action with her endearingly earthy humor and moments of unexpected poignancy.

Ken Bruen
Headstone
Mysterious Press, October 2011. 256 pp.
“Taylor, I heard you were dead,” yells a cabbie in Ken Bruen’s ninth Jack Taylor novel,
Headstone. Bruen’s series detective has endured enough booze, coke, beatings, and bruises to bury most of his private eye predecessors, but like a hardboiled Sisyphus, Taylor’s eternal punishment is to push bottles back-and-forth across a bar, taking cases as they come, seeking atonement that’s always out of reach, and accepting yet another glass of Jameson as a consolation prize.

Ed Gorman
Bad Moon Rising
Pegasus Books, October 2011. 256 pp.
Gorman is in top form in Bad Moon Rising. Rather than wax nostalgic or reactionary about the sixties, Gorman cuts through the mythology to reveal a much more nuanced and confused socio-political landscape... Sam McCain is Gorman’s most compassionate and endearing character, and Bad Moon Rising is another triumph in an already extraordinary career.

Day Keene
Dead Dolls Don’t Talk /Hunt the Killer /Too Hot to Hold
Stark House Press, August 2011. 371 pp.
Rounding out the Keene anthology is Too Hot to Hold (1959), in which average joe Jim Brady steps into a Manhattan cab on a rainy day and walks out with a suitcase full of money... Circumstances get so twisted that even Joe wonders, “What kind of a nightmare had he gotten himself into?” The type of nightmare that Day Keene can dream up: the result is a lean, dizzying, and masterful thriller to rival any of today’s top-sellers.
Oct 072011
 

CHOKE HOLD
By Christa Faust
Hard Case Crime
251 pages

Christa Faust, Hard Case Crime’s only female writer returns with a brutal, hard hitting sequel to her first Angel Dare story, “Money Shot.”  Dare is a former porn star who in the first novel found herself mixed up with a group of Croatian mobsters running a sex-slave operation. By the end of that story, Dare had destroyed their organization, freed the captive girls and was on the wrong side of a sadistic criminal mob.

As “Choke Hold” begins, we learn Dare had gone into the government’s Witness Protection program and been given a new identity in rural New England. Somehow the revenge seeking killers learned of her whereabouts and by sheer luck she manages to elude them and escape, this time completely on her own.  Eventually she stops running somewhere in the Arizona desert where she becomes a waitress in a run down, out of the way diner until she can afford enough cash to pay for new counterfeit identity papers. 

Then the whimsies of fate intervene and into the place walks one of Dare’s old lovers, a former porn actor known as Thick Vic Ventura.  He is there to meet his estranged eighteen year old son, a mixed martial arts fighter who he has never met before.  No sooner do the two men greet each other then the joint is invaded by a trio of gun wielding Hispanics who shoot Ventura and attempt to kill his son.  By the time the lead has stopped flying, there are several corpses on the floor and Dare is fleeing out the back door with Cody Noon, Vic’s son, in tow.  He takes her to his mentor, a famous ex-fighter named Hank who is more than a little punch-drunk.

Dare begins to suspect Cody was the real target of the attack  at the diner and by the time she and Hank can fathom the cause, the boy is grabbed by several goons who work for a local Mexican crime boss.  It seems of the mob’s cocaine stash had been pilfered and Cody is the prime suspect.  Having promised Vic, as he lay dying, that she would protect his son, Dare feels obligated to save him, she and Hank, who has become enamored with her, head south on an ill-planned rescue mission.

“Choke Hold” is a chase novel that weaves its way from the barren Arizona badlands to the illegal fighting rings of Mexico and comes to a gun-blazing, bullet rain of destruction in the glitzy American Mecca of Los Vegas.  It is classic noir in that the characters, both good and bad, are lost souls without an ounce of hope between them.  Life has kicked Hank in the head so many times, he has serious medical issues, Cody is pursuing a naïve dream without the slightest idea of the dangerous world he inhabits and Dare is a tired porn queen on the lam from obsessed foreign killers barely able to keep one ahead of them from one day to the next.

Had there been some concrete resolution to any of these characters, the ending would have been a pleasant surprise.  Unfortunately from the first page to the last, “Choke Hold” is a one way trip down a railroad track to meet the oncoming train of death head on and thus offers up no surprises. 

Angel Dare is a well envisioned protagonist and in “Money Shot” there was progression in her development as a character.  That is totally missing in “Choke Hold” and thus questions the books very purpose for being, save to watch her run around being chased by killers.  Noir fiction is not easy to write and nearly impossible in a first person narrative when from the very first “I”, you know the hero will survive.  “Choke Hold” feels like a bad sequel and if there is to be a third Angel Dare book, here’s hoping it has a real finish.