Sep 172014
 
Aside from being a swell guy, Ben Solomon had a story in the Shamus Sampler and writes the kind of hardboiled PI fiction in the style that started it all. Because his stories are now being collected in a handy volume I figured it might be nice to have him tell all of you about his influences...

A Writer Under the Influence
By Ben Solomon

The Great Edgar with his great head propped upon a scarecrow frame, awash in absinthe or opium or both. Dylan Thomas spitting and slurring poetry through sprays of whiskey at the White Horse Tavern.
Romantic images, after a fashion. Bleak and dark, stark takes on the artistic life. The stuff of sickness, ill spirit, madness. The stuff of creative myth and bloated legend.
A pathetic panorama of writers and painters sprang to mind when Sons of Spade suggested I riff on my influences. My reflection pales and runs and hides behind vast quantities of coffee, an over-indulgence in vaping. Tame egresses by anyone's comparison.
Of course they had in mind the influences behind my latest book.  What inspired me, moved me and otherwise sparked the fire behind "The Hard-Boiled Detective 1"? It sure wasn't no contract with Doubleday. No Helen of Troy, either. Chalk it up more to the likes Rocky Sullivan and Cody Jarrett.
You could say I grew up with James Cagney. The golden age of Hollywood, presented on late night TV, dazzled and captivated me throughout my childhood. Fairy tales, King Arthur and other bedtime stories gave way quick to "Angels With Dirty Faces," "I was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" and "Flash Gordon." I'm not talking about glitz and glamour or sheer spectacle. What got me most were rough and tumble characters telling a hard-nosed tale, larger than life performers dominating the silver nitrate, their patter and manner and dress. The energy and spirit of those flicks captured me like nothing else.
For a crash course in narrative form, you can't do any better than the Warners gangster cycle. Plotting, pacing, character arcs and dramatic arcs, comic relief and the big finish—those movies had it all, with plenty of action and sex thrown in, too.
The work of Bogart, Huston and Hawks led me to books. S.S. Van Dine, Hammett and Chandler led the way, the simplicity and strength of Chandler making the greatest impact on me.
Funny thing, it took a bad boy writer of the form to impel my taking a crack at it. My first read of a trio of Mike Hammer stories by Mickey Spillane knocked my socks off. Sure, this wasn't no Dashiell Chandler, no great shakes in the literature department. But Spillane was like Black Mask grown up. Adult comic books in words. For me, this work translated that hard-boiled spirit from the cinematic screen to the page.
It's awful subjective when a piece of creative razzle-dazzle knocks the stuffing out of you. But I saw plenty in Spillane's work. I could taste Edward G. Robinson's cigar, feel Bette Davis's stiff swagger, run with George Raft down the sidewalk.
Those yarns made me want it, to capture the zest of those films, to interpret and reinvent every flavor I got from those movies into the black and white combination of letters on the page.
Call it homage. Call it a valentine. Short stories on mugs and molls and murder, a celebration of a vanished era, a world where losers outnumber winners, where right and wrong spar like some two-headed jack-in-a-box. Call it "The Hard-Boiled Detective 1."


Ben Solomon, a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, lives and writes in Chicago.  He launched his ongoing, short story series in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology "The Shamus Sampler II." Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.

"The Hard-Boiled Detective 1," the first collection from Solomon's series is available in paperback from Amazon.

The eBook is available from many distributors, including:
Untreed Reads
OmniLit.com
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
and coming soon to Apple iBooks, etc.

Subscription info about his series and samples can be found here:
http://thehardboileddetective.com/

Dec 192013
 
Guest Post from: L.J. Sellers, author of provocative mysteries & thrillers
Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

As my guest today, I have mystery thriller author L. J. Sellers writing about one of my favorite topics: Villains. LJ shares her thoughts and asks you to share your favorite villains at the end of her post. And be sure to check out the great giveaway contests below. Take it away, LJ!

The villains in thrillers are often extraordinary human beings. Super smart, physically indestructible, and/or incredibly powerful because of their money and influence. As a reader/consumer, those characters are fun for me too, especially in a visual medium where we get to watch them be amazing. But as an author, I like to write about antagonists who are everyday people—either caught up in extraordinary circumstances or so wedded to their own belief system and needs that they become delusional in how they see the world.
 
In my Detective Jackson stories, I rarely write from the POV of the antagonists. That would spoil the mystery! But in my thrillers, I get inside those characters’ heads so my readers can get to know them and fully understand their motives. I’ve heard readers complain about being subjected to the “bad guy POV,” but that’s typically when the antagonist is a serial killer or pure evil in some other way.
 
I share their pain. I don’t enjoy the serial-killer POV reading experience either. But when the villain in the story is a fully realized human being, who has good qualities as well as bad, and who’s suffered some type of victimization, and/or has great intentions, then I like see and feel all of that. And I think most readers do too.


Sellers The Trigger_med
In The Trigger, the antagonists are brothers, Spencer and Randall Clayton, founders of an isolated community of survivalists, or preppers, as they’re called today. As with most real-life isolationists/cult leaders, they are intelligent, successful professionals—with a vision for a better society. But these everyday characters decide to mold the world to suit their own objectives and see themselves as saviors—becoming villains in the process.


From a writer’s perspective, they were challenging to craft—likeable and believable enough for readers to identify with, yet edgy enough to be threatening on a grand scale. On the other hand, my protagonist Jamie Dallas, an FBI agent who specializes in undercover work, was such a joy to write that I’m launching a new series based on her.

The first book, The Trigger, releases January 1 in print and ebook formats, with an audiobook coming soon after. To celebrate the new series, the ebook will be on sale for $.99 on launch day. Everyone who buys a copy (print or digital) and forwards their Amazon receipt to lj@ljsellers.com will be entered to win a trip to Left Coast Crime 2015. For more details, check my website.
 
If that weren’t enough, I’m also giving away ten $50 Amazon gift certificates. So there’s a good chance of winning something. But the contest is only valid for January 1 purchases.
 
Who are your favorite villains? Supermen types? Everyday delusionals? Or something else?
 
Sellers LJSellers medL.J. Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery series—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner—as well as provocative standalone thrillers. Her novels have been highly praised by reviewers, and her Jackson books are the highest-rated crime fiction on Amazon. L.J. resides in Eugene, Oregon where most of her novels are set and is an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal. When not plotting murders, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.
 
Other social media links for LJ: Website, Blog, Facebook
Nov 052012
 
Thank you, James, for another opportunity to write a guest post on your terrific blog.

The other day I spoke to a writer pal about the change in subject matter I have been going through the last year, as in turning away from the hard-boiled noir writing I started out with (with books such as Justified Sins and Bullet for One) and switching to more light-hearted adventure fare. My friend, a terrific hard-boiled writer himself, does not understand why I have decided to change gears. Hard-boiled is alive and vibrant and more important than ever, he says. We have the opportunity to write the history of our time the same way the hard-boiled pioneers wrote about theirs using subject matter they were unwilling or unable to use.

Of course he is right. I wouldn't argue with him. But we have been going through one hell of a rough patch in this country and the last thing I want after a day of bad news is to read or write a grim crime novel full of more bad stuff. As an antidote to the bad news I am writing stories that are thrilling and exciting but also contain elements of humor. If you are looking for an escape, you can read this book and not be reminded of what just frightened you on the news. And if you are reminded, you’re being guided through the story by characters who will reassure you that everything is going to be okay in the end.

Which brings me to my just-released title, The Rogue Gentleman. The story features Steve Dane, the Rogue Gentleman, an international adventurer who rights wrongs wherever he finds them. Dane is a mix of James Bond, The Saint, and Nick Charles, shaken and stirred with hard boiled and humorous elements that make for a great piece of escapism.

In the book, Dane fails to prevent a young woman's kidnapping, and the girl's father hires him to get her back.  Dane soon discovers the decades-old vendetta behind the kidnapping and peels back the layers of a plan that goes beyond a desire for vengeance. Assisted by his lover, the luscious Nina Talikova, Dane dives head first into a conspiracy of terror orchestrated by a powerful and mysterious woman known only as “The Duchess”.

Standard thriller fare, you say. You've seen it before, why should you care? The characters and the humor raise this to a different level. The characters are in on the gag same as the audience; they know what they're doing is ridiculous, and have no qualms about breaking the fourth wall to let you know that they know but we're all out for a good time so who cares, right? It's FUN. That's the point of entertainment, isn't it?

Adventure, humor, romance, cliff-hanger moments....I hope you'll enjoy reading The Rogue Gentleman as much as I enjoyed writing it.

You can find it at the Amazon Kindle store. Thanks for looking.
Mar 262012
 

This week, I introduce eighteen college students to Sam Spade.
We're viewing the John Huston film "The Maltese Falcon," watching Humphrey Bogart outsmart Mary Astor and pals as they pursue "the black bird."
The students are enrolled in a class I teach in the Honors Program at the University of New Mexico. The class is called "Hard-boiled Fiction and Film Noir." I've taught it before, and always come away amazed at how little these very bright students have been exposed to private eyes in fiction and film. Most have never heard of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald before they take this course. A few have never watched a black-and-white movie before.
They do have a sense of what a private investigator is and what he does, but it's a vague notion of fedoras and trenchcoats and window-peeping. Until we talk about it in class, they're not aware of the place the private eye holds in the fiction tradition of the lone hero facing overwhelming odds and an uncaring society.
For those of us who write contemporary P.I. series, this lack of knowledge in the next generation of readers feels daunting and worrisome. Is there no place for the private eye anymore? Do today's youth only care about Harry Potter and sparkly vampires and Grand Theft Auto?
Here's the good news: It takes only a little exposure to get young people jazzed about private eyes. Once they've read some stories, they uniformly love the Continental Op and Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer. My students will debate long and loud over the merits of other types of hard-boiled stories or films noir, but they always recognize the private eye as a heroic figure, even when he doesn't act heroically. The students respect a man who does his job, no matter how nasty or dangerous it becomes. And that's been the lure of the private eye all along.

(Steve Brewer is the author of 20-plus crime novels, including nine stories featuring Albuquerque private eye Bubba Mabry. The latest in the series is the new novella PARTY DOLL.)
Mar 072012
 

C.E. Lawrence wrote a guest post for us to promote the new Lee Campbell thriller Silent Slaughter, coming in 2012.
Crime has been with us for a long time. And, contrary to the old saw, very often it does pay – quite handsomely, in fact. One might even argue that crime – rather than the usually cited occupation – is the world’s oldest profession. It seems to be part of human nature; wherever there is a society, there will be criminals.

You Like Your Private Dick Hard Boiled?
The world of crime writing is wide, and getting wider all the time. From tidy cozies to nail biting political thrillers, people all over the world devour books about the darker side of human nature. And somewhere in between the perennially overcast world of John le Carre and the sunny, well-trimmed lawns of Agatha Christie lives the detective fiction of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler. They more or less defined the genre of PI stories, for all their imitators and offspring who came later.

Their lonely loners in search of justice, and the women who haunt them, have become remarkably sturdy archetypes. Though Chandler himself admitted in the end that even he couldn’t explain the labyrinthine plots twists of The Big Sleep, along with Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, it helped defined the genre that slunk into prominence in the 1930’s.

Depression era life was rough for everyone, and Hammett’s hard-drinking, unlucky-in-love Sam Spade quickly became a template for a certain kind of private dick who might be street smart and tough as nails, but had a soft spot for dames who could melt a mixed metaphor faster than you could say whiskey sour. He was no pushover, though – faced with a snarling cop, he gave as good as he got.
Here’s Sam Spade talking with a copper pal:
“You’ll tell it to me or you’ll tell it in court,” Dundy said hotly. “This is murder and don’t you forget it.”
“Maybe. And here’s something for you not to forget, sweetheart. I’ll tell it or not as I damned please. It’s a long while since I burst out crying because policemen didn’t like me.”

You get the picture.

Raymond Chandler took up the baton, inventing some pretty memorable bad guys along the way, as well as some snappy dialogue. Their brand of detective fiction faded somewhat though the years, though James Ellroy revisited that territory later in his well-crafted noir detective novel, L.A. Confidential.

Whatever the genre, whatever the setting, all private eyes have a common goal: to expose lies and pursue justice in the face of all obstacles. And they do it, more often than not, without the help of institutionalized law enforcement – in fact, often in opposition to local law enforcement. Like Greek heroes, they are doomed to fulfill their noble but tragic destiny, driven by their own sense of justice and just plain stubbornness. The best private dicks are ornery, single-minded and utterly determined.

Detective fiction has remained remarkably resilient and pliable – modern masters of the genre include Tony Hillerman, with his spectacular use of the setting and culture of Native American tribal life in the Southwest. Carl Hiassen’s comic mysteries take advantage of their Florida setting. Sometimes detective fiction follows the form of classic murder mystery, and sometimes it doesn’t – like all great genres, it’s pliable. In detective fiction there is usually an independent investigator of some kind, often a professional, but he or she could be an amateur, or a member of a police force. The key here is that the detective is working more or less on his own. In that sense, the Conan Doyle stories qualify as detective fiction, for example – though Holmes often works with the London police, he is very much out investigating on his own.

Somewhere in between the hard-boiled world of Hammett and the foggy streets of Holmes and Watson’s London lies the Police Procedural. Sometimes dry, reading at times more like a documentary than fiction, these books focus on the methods and types of police investigative techniques. Jack Webb’s Dragnet is a perfect television example of this genre; today’s writers of the genre include Sweden’s Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. In this variation of the crime fiction genre, the criminal is sometimes known to the reader before the crime is solved, and the pleasure lies in following the detective through his paces (remember Peter Falk in Colombo?) These types of books, rather than Who Done Its, are How Solve Its.

There are other kinds of crime fiction, certainly – the “caper” novels of Donald Westlake, for example, but it is rare to find a reader of crime fiction who will sit through an entire novel, no matter how amusingly written, to find out who stole the jam . . .

The Mists of Time
There seem to be historical novels in every genre – romance, vampire, lesbian vampire romance – you name it, and crime fiction is no exception. Historical crime fiction is merely crime fiction with a historical setting. One of the most well known historical detectives is Brother Cadfael, Ellis Peter’s medieval monk whose knowledge of potions and passions combine to make him a terrific predecessor of Sherlock Holmes. But there are others: though the writers are all post Conan Doyle, their detectives are not. Caleb Carr’s The Alienist and its sequel, Angel of Darkness, are both historical crime fiction, taking place in 19th century New York City.

Of course, PI’s are not always loners with a drinking problem, and they are not always unlucky in love. But we like them that way. Or, as Raymond Chandler so eloquently put it:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid . . . He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.”
Mar 032012
 
Livia and I have a guest post on the Petticoats & Pistols blog this morning, all about the way we collaborate on our books, and everyone who comments will be entered in a drawing for a couple of copies of my new Redemption, Kansas novel HUNTERS. So check it out, leave a comment, and maybe get a free Western novel. (And a pretty good one, if I do say so myself.)
Feb 142012
 
The new Sherlock Holmes novel The House of Silk

Any detective fiction buff worth their salt will be familiar with the adventures of Sherlock Holmes outside the current star-studded movie series. And those who’ve read entries in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s timeless series will note a substantially small amount of testosterone-fueled action, but no shortage of quick British wit or clever plot construction. Indeed, in many ways the mysteries of the Sherlock Holmes series set the stage for countless future mystery and detective fiction authors whether or not they realize it. The superhumanly analytic Holmes and his ever-present sidekick Dr. Watson tackled seedy crime rings and uncovered suspicious deaths all over London to the delight of millions of readers, all of whom assumed the adventures ended with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death in 1930.

But there are more adventures yet. Last year and for the first time ever the Conan Doyle Estate approved the publication of a new Sherlock Holmes work by an author other than Sir Arthur himself. The renowned English hard crime author Anthony Horowitz was allowed to publish the latest installment in the Sherlock Holmes series, known as The House of Silk. While it should be noted that there do exist other Holmes tales outside of those written by Conan Doyle, this work by Horowitz represents the first that is recognized by Conan Doyle’s Estate as befitting of the author’s tone and aesthetic for the series.

What’s it about?
Anthony Horowitz was quite clever with his construction of this novel. Set up in the traditional style of Dr. Watson narrating events of a past case, the introduction sets up a practical reason for the absence of another classic Holmes story in the past hundred years. The contents of “The Case of the Man in the Flat Cap and the House of Silk” involves topic deemed to dangerous to discuss at the time, so Watson instructed his heirs to publish the work a hundred years after his death.

The tale itself is in the same late nineteenth century London setting familiar to diehard Holmes fans. The case in question involves a Mr. Edmund Carstairs, an art dealer who claims to be harassed by a mysterious man in a flat cap. The man is allegedly part of a crime organization that may or may not be behind the loss of several prized paintings in Boston that Mr. Carstairs had intended to sell for a fortune. This simple enough case, of course, is complicated by events not fully realized by Holmes or Watson until much later in the book. The perpetrators behind the piling crimes and conspiracies stretch higher and higher in the hierarchies of London government and society until it’s climactic end, which of course I’ll let you discover on your own.

Is it worth a read?The truth is that The House of Silk is a great novel no matter where your loyalties lie with Sherlock Holmes. Some purist fans won’t give the novel the time of day because of the new authorship, but the writing is so true to form and the story so engrossing that the matter of authenticity is irrelevant. Even if you’re not familiar with crime novels in a Victorian setting, I’d still heartily recommend this book. Anthony Horowitz does Sir Arthur Conan Doyle credit and then some with The House of Silk, and we’re all the luckily beneficiaries of his work.

Byline:This is a guest post from Jacelyn Thomas. Jacelyn writes about identity theft protection for IdentityTheft.net. She can be reached at: jacelyn.thomas @ gmail.com.
Feb 072012
 

Here's a guest post by my friend and Hardboiled Collective member Michael Haskins. Check out his blog as well.
As the two or three followers of mine who read this know, my newest Mick Murphy Key West Mystery – Stairway to the Bottom – is now available as an eBook and on Amazon as a trade paperback. If I had gone the conventional way and presented it to my publisher it would have been sometime in 2013 before it was available. I wrote Car Was Blues right after Free Range Institution (published Feb. 2011, written in 2009) and it will not be available until Aug. 2012, by my publisher.

Since eBooks begin to make money, or have the possibility to make money, as soon as they become available, logic says go eBook. Small, conventional publishers do little to help the author on book signings, to get exposure on radio or TV, and so forth. From what I’ve heard from a few writers I know who are with the larges house, the support they receive from their publishers is receding too. Of course what we all know is that the publishing world on the ‘90s is gone and reinventing itself in the 2000s.

As a newly published writer (2008) this change has left me in a quandary. Like many wannabe writers, being published was a dream and when it happened, I expected my life to change. In a way it did! I learned that I was not only a writer, but a public relations person, travel agent, and the list continues to grow. Not all the things the larger houses offer a writer are available from the small houses. Maybe that’s why they’re called “smaller publishing houses.”

Nothing will ever match the feeling I had as I opened my box of hardback books and held my first book in my hand. It was something! Or the first time I walked into a bookstore and saw my book on the shelf! Wow! What an ego trip. Too bad, it didn’t go all the way to my bankbook balance.

The eBook revolution came and I have friends who’d never published that are making money; more money than me, a traditionally published writer. My advance, small as it was, went the way of the unicorn as I did my self-arranged book tour and PR.

It didn’t take me long to join the revolution, but I haven’t walked away from my publisher. They have Car Wash Blues and as I begin to rewriter my third, and last of the ‘lost manuscripts,’ they may be offered it when finally done. It’s not a Key West Mick Murphy, but one of the first three I began writing. (If you care to know more about the ‘lost manuscripts’ you can find a story by Shirrel Rhoads from Solares Hill news on my website – www.michaelhaskins.net – that explains it all).

There is one major downside of eBooks. Many of the awards for books shy away from eBooks. That is slowly changing in both the MWA and ITW. That’s a good thing.

For writers like me with only a few years and/or books it is also unlikely that a major publisher will ever consider anything I writer. I know there are exceptions. But let’s get real, the odds are
against eBook authors ever getting the four or five figure advance from the large publishing houses. Of course, the large houses are growing smaller and even some of their favorite authors have switched sides and come over to the revolution.

I don’t know, on one side I have my ego that is great at remembering the feeling of holding the hardback in my hands and seeing my name on the cover. On the other hand, my banker (not half as exciting as my ego) loves me, as my small balance seems to grow a little each month.

Maybe I’ve not joined the revolution totally. I would like to see the publishing world come into the eBook world and work something out that would benefit writers and publishers. I am losing faith in that possibility as the days go by, especially when you hear of a top selling author leaving his/her publisher and going into the self-publishing eBook world.
Feb 052012
 
Jochem has been good enough to invite me to guest blog on the back of the release of my psycho-noir novel “Drawing Dead”.
It got a cracking review over at Spinetingler...Check it out here.

Also these nice little quips to boot:

Drawing Dead is a brilliant noir from one of Australia's most exciting new novelists."

-- Adrian McKinty, author of 'Dead I Well May Be", "Fifty Grand", "Falling Glass" and "The Cold, Cold Ground"

A terrifying portrait of a man destined to lose, Drawing Dead is at once stark and lyrical, with the ghosts of Jim Thompson and James M. Cain whispering all over the pages. Keep an eye out for JJ Deceglie, a stunning new voice in crime fiction.

--Jon Bassoff, publisher of New Pulp Press

“An impressive, memorable voice, with dark echoes of Bruen and Sallis and Ellroy. You won’t soon forget this book.”

--Charles Ardai, publisher of Hard Case Crime

And remember if you feel it, why not leave a review.

Enough of that though.

I thought what I'd do is share some books with ya, some works that really got me going, books that set me alight and burnt to the bone...I went to the old Moleskin and went through my reading lists. I checked and rechecked carving it down to these eight works that have stuck in my skull.

Works that inspired, delighted, debased and enthralled me.

I read them all in 2011, and have doubled up on a couple of authors (with good cause):

Hard Feelings – Jason Starr
Jason Starr's work, especially those early novels, are benchmark neo-noir nightmares. Starr's stories are dark urban jewels where no one, say again, no one gets off easy, where grit, paranoia and tension build into borderline surreal mayhem. Here we have Richie Segel, a boring IT salesman with marriage problems, on and off alcoholism and a shocking secret in his past that pops up in the present and offers the possibility for brutal sadistic retribution; and of course a lovely little spiral into madness to boot.

Dead I Well May Be – Adrian McKinty
McKinty is a great writer. Equal parts of dark brutality and literate poetics run through all his works. I only found him last year and read almost all his books in one hit. He's that good, a real find. That said, I liked this one the best. We meet Michael Forsythe in New York, a Irish immigrant working for Darkey White. Forsythe is a great creation. A tough, dangerous and intelligent protagonist. This is a brilliant novel from start to finish that takes great unexpected turns, but I especially liked the prison section in Mexico, and the calculation of the revenge exacted post. This guy can write.

Cockfighter – Charles Willeford
Willeford does here for cockfighting what Hemingway did for bullfighting. He captures the art, shape and love of the sport. The appreciation of animals and the men who live the life. The man is an original and writes with a beautiful, distinct voice that draws you into the psyche of the protagonist and his no-holds barred mission to win the Cockfighter of the Year award on the Southern American Cockfighting Circuit. You come away with a thorough understanding and appreciation of the bloody carnage and death of the pit and men who take part in it. A classic by a champion of the genre.

Drive – James Sallis
This is a concise, clear sledgehammer of a book. A lesson in simple existentialism and measurement; LA sunshine noir at its very best. Hard-boiled, tough as nails. The loner making his way in the absurd world. I'm sure you know the plot (due to Refn's excellent film adaptation last year) but I tell you the novel delves deeper and hits harder, grabbing you by the throat and never, never letting go. I was disappointed when it ended, yet impressed with its discipline to do so at that particular moment.

Fake I.D – Jason Starr
The second Starr book on my list, some say this is his finest hour and it's hard to disagree. Tommy Russo is your anti-hero, a struggling actor working as a bouncer at a bar, a completely unreliable narrator, degenerate gambler, philanderer and sociopath. His luck goes from bad to worse and so do his decisions and we get to sit back and enjoy the dark, dark ride...and man is the ending goddamned perfect.

I Spit On Your Graves – Boris Vian
I stumbled across this at second hand bookstore down the street, picked it up and read a section, bought it in an instant and have read it twice since; written by a Caucasian Frenchman (a contemporary of Camus and Sartre) it's the story of a black man who can pass for white. He arrives in a small Southern town in the US and sets about becoming part of the community. The entire time he is plotting revenge for the lynching of his brother. He finds a pair of young, rich beautiful white sisters, seduces them, humiliates them and then kills them, and yet you still kinda like the guy. Violence and sex and horror compellingly dominate this book, it is pulp and yet isn't, you should be disgusted with the narrator yet aren't. It's an anomaly. I have a funny feeling this is some sort of masterpiece.

Zombie – Joyce Carol Oates
This is a serial killer novel, written in a simplistic, chilling diary format that reads very easily and is horrifying at times. It is an extremely realistic look at the mind of a psychopath, nothing is glorified, nothing has the volume turned up for effect. The killer slowly grows in confidence with his hunting, fine-tuning his quest for a zombie of his own (he bungles repeated lobotomy attempts on his victims reading from medical books as he goes). His plots become more elaborate and his need for sex and violence grow. It reads like a case-study. This one stays with you.

Falling Glass – Adrian McKinty
Another cracker from McKinty. Probably my second favourite of his (though I hear the new one “The Cold Cold Ground” ups the ante again). This is a slow-burning, layered story that builds to a fantastic conclusion. Tense, thoughtful, gripping and intelligent.
Killian is the protagonist this time round, world weary, semi-retired enforcer of Pavee stock (Nth. Irish traveller) called on by a filthy rich businessman living in Macau to hunt down his ex-wife and two children. Perhaps three-fifths of the action takes place in Northern Ireland, and its here that McKinty shines telling a story in the land of his birth. Man, he does it again, wonderful language, humour, brutal violence and a fast paced, ripping story. There is more than one scene in this one that stick very clearly in my mind. Including a fantastic finale involving none other than Michael Forysthe himself from the “Dead” Trilogy .
Jan 222012
 
Great PI Novels From 2011

If you’re looking for a fun read, you may find these PI novels to be a ride worth taking.

“Started Early, Took My Dog” by Kate Atkinson features the stories of three characters: a retired cop, an aging actress, and a semiretired PI. When the retired police officer discovers a lowlife scumbag is essentially abusing a child, she buys the child from him, saving the child, but also putting herself in a risky situation. The actress, who is experiencing the first signs of senility, reviews her life experiences, while the PI investigates an adoption, which causes him to re-examine his own past. All three characters wrestle with thoughts on abandonment and redemption as the stories intersect and separate.

“The Troubled Man” by Henning Mankell will keep you reading into the wee hours of the night. Now that the series by Steig Larsson is so popular both in the United States and Europe, more people are discovering other Scandinavian authors such as Mankell. In “The Troubled Man”, Mankell pulls on the heartstrings as he puts his PI Kurt Wallander into a highly personal and emotional investigation involving his daughter, her fiancé, and her future in-laws. The case goes back to Cold War days and explores mysteries past and present, culminating in a rewarding finish.

“The Second Son” by Jonathan Rabb is both thrilling and heart-rending. Set in rural Spain in the mid 1930s, it is a story of violence and tragedy. Nikolai Hoffner, a PI who holds strong anti-Nazi sentiments, travels throughout the outlying Spanish countryside looking for his son who has gone missing when working for anti-Franco politicians. Hoffner deals with additional personal angst as his other son dives into the Nazi regimen, turning against Hoffman and his ideals.

“A Lesson in Secrets” by Jacqueline Winspear is a charming British cozy infused with a jolt of modern shock factor. The PI Maisis Dobbs is kind and insightful, but she’s no dummy, and she detects evil from afar. The story is set just before war with Germany; Dobbs is sent into the fray to determine what exactly is going on with suspicious college staff members who may or may not be involved in some insidious pre-war activities.

We hope you enjoy these suggested readings! Feel free to comment with your thoughts on these novels and others suggested on this site.

About the author:
Amanda Tradwick is a grant researcher and writer for CollegeGrants.org. She has a Bachelor's degrees from the University of Delaware, and has recently finished research on grants for women and minority scholarships grants.