Apr 142014
 
• Here’s a book I very much look forward to adding to my library: The Art of Robert E. McGinnis. Slated for release by publisher Titan in October, and put together by McGinnis and co-author Art Scott, it will trace the career of this Ohio-born artist “best known for his book cover and movie poster work”--someone whose illustrations I have frequently highlighted in my Killer Covers blog. I can’t tell, by reading the brief Amazon write-up, whether this is an expansion of a 2001 book McGinnis and Scott put together, or a wholly new volume; I hope it’s the latter. By the way, the cover art decorating this Titan book appeared originally on the 1960 novel Kill Now, Pay Later, by Robert Kyle.

• I was sorry to hear that Minnesota businessman-turned-novelist Harold Adams died on April 4 at 91 years of age. He was the author of 17 novels featuring Carl Wilcox, an itinerant sign painter and “happenstance private eye” who operated in the small South Dakota town of Corden during the Great Depression. That Shamus Award-winning series began with Murder (1981) and concluded with Lead, So I Can Follow (1999). Adams also penned two novels (1987’s When Rich Men Die and 2003’s The Fourth of July Wake) about a wise-ass contemporary TV news anchor, Kyle Champion, who winds up taking on P.I. work himself. “I consider Harold Adams to be one of the major voices of his generation of crime fiction writers,” Ed Gorman wrote in the Minnesota mystery anthology Writes of Spring (2012). “His unique voice, his strong sense of story and structure, and his rich, wry depictions of the Depression-era Midwest have stayed with me long after the works of flashier writers have faded. There’s music in his books, a melancholy prairie song that you carry with you for life … I consider him to be a master.” Learn more about Adams here.

• Good-bye, as well, to a couple of other famous figures: Peter Matthiessen, whose National Book Award-winning works The Snow Leopard (1978) and Shadow Country (2008) sit prominently on the bookcase just in front of my office desk; and Mickey Rooney, the child actor who grew up to wed the lovely Ava Gardner, appear in such films as Drive a Crooked Road (1953), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), and The Black Stallion (1979), and headlined the 1982 TV series One of the Boys. Matthiessen was 86 when he passed away on April 5; Rooney succumbed a day later, at age 93.

• The 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards won’t be given out until May 1. (Here are the contenders.) But publisher Open Road Integrated Media is already endeavoring to build up excitement with this infographic, which looks back at the breakdown between male and female winners, the occupations of the protagonists in those books, the two U.S. presidents who’ve been given Edgars, and much more.

• Speaking of Open Road, one of its digital marketing associates, Emma Pulitzer, asked me to pass along word that the publisher is “looking for someone to join our mystery team in marketing. … The job is called ‘Digital Marketing Manager – Fiction,’ although it’s specifically for mysteries.” Learn more here.

• I’ve previously featured, on this page, the trailer for Frank Sinatra’s 1967 detective film, Tony Rome. But I have to confess, that I have never taken the time to read Marvin Albert’s novels featuring Rome, the Miami police detective turned gumshoe who lives on a boat called The Straight Pass. In fact, I was only reminded of the protagonist because William Patrick Maynard wrote about him last week in the blog Black Gate. As he explains: “The first book in the series, Miami Mayhem (1960), plays like an update of Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939), with its exposure of the dirty secrets wealthy families can afford to hide most of the time. The second title, Lady in Cement (1961), sees Tony stumble into the middle of a sordid mob connection after discovering the corpse of a nude woman in a block of cement while snorkeling in the deep blue sea. The third and final book, My Kind of Game (1962), sees Tony on a mission of revenge when the surrogate father figure who mentored him in the private eye business is worked over while investigating big crime in a small town.” If anyone out there has read the Rome novels, let us all know what you thought of them in the Comments section below.

• In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Chris Walsh revisits the largely forgotten TV movie The Execution of Private Slovik, which starred Martin Sheen, was written by Columbo creators William Link and Richard Levinson, was based on a tragic episode from World War II, and aired 40 years ago last month. Walsh’s piece is here.

• Belated congratulations to Reed Farrel Coleman, who has been tapped to compose four new novels in Robert B. Parker’s series about small-town Massachusetts police chief Jesse Stone. Commenting on this assignment in his blog, Coleman said, “Jesse Stone is a character with enormous appeal for me. I’d written an essay about Jesse entitled ‘Go East, Young Man: Robert B. Parker, Jesse Stone, and Spenser’ for the book In Pursuit of Spenser, edited by Otto Penzler. In doing the research for the essay, I found a rare and magical thing that only master writers like Mr. Parker could create: the perfectly flawed hero. Easy for writers to create heroes. Easy for writers to create characters with flaws. Not so easy to do both. But Robert B. Parker was an alchemist who turned simple concepts into enduring characters.” Coleman’s first Stone book, Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, is due for release in September by Putnam.

• Laura Lippman (After I’m Gone) picks her 10 favorite books about missing persons for Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Her most unexpected choice may be Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

Dashiell Hammett--Sherlockian parodist?

Darkness, Darkness, John Harvey’s 12th and last Detective Charlie Resnick novel, isn’t due out until September. In the meantime, though, UK readers can appreciate--this month!--an e-book short-story prequel to that release, Going Down Slow. Harvey offers background to the brief tale in his own blog.

• Editor Steven Powell, who wrote on this page two years ago about Theodora Keogh’s forgotten 1962 novel, The Other Girl, notes in The Venetian Vase that “Pharos Editions, a Seattle-based press, has just reissued Keogh’s novels The Tattooed Heart (1953) and My Name Is Rose (1956) in a single volume featuring an introduction by Lidia Yuknavitch. Apparently, this is the first time these novels have been reissued since the 1970s, although Olympia Press did reissue Keogh’s other novels between 2002 and 2007.” Go to the Pharos Editions Web site for more information.

• Speaking of forgotten thingsLongstreet!

• Double O Section has the trailer for A Most Wanted Man, a forthcoming film adapted from John le Carré’s 2008 novel of the same name, and featuring “one of the final lead performances from the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman.” Watch it here.

• And the Pierce Brosnan espionage film November Man (based on the late Bill Granger’s 1987 novel, There Are No Spies) has finally, at long last, been given a U.S. release date of August 27.
Dec 232013
 
Every year I tell you all what my favorite PI reads of the year were...
Well, here are my favorites again...

BEST PI NOVEL: Point Doom (JD Fiorella) by Dan Fante
BEST DEBUT: The Hard Bounce (Boo Malone) by Todd Robinson
BEST NEW PI: Mark Paris /The Professor (Subtraction) by Andrew Peters
BEST ACTION SCENES: One More Body (Moses McGuire) by Josh Stallings

Runners-up in various categories were:
Dirty Work (Gulliver Dowd) by Reed Farrel Coleman
Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me (Vic Valentine) by Will Viharo
A Small Sacrifice (Nick Forte) by Dana King

And an award should for WRITER WHO GETS BETTER EVERY YEAR should go to Steve Ulfelder for Shotgun Lullaby (Conway Sax).
And another one for WRITER WHO WORKS THE HARDEST should go to Nathan Gottlieb of the Frank Boff novels.

I also want to thank Keith Dixon and Sean Dexter for helping me bring out my own stuff.
Dec 202013
 
By Russel D McLean

Yes, its the time of year where everyone does their "best of" lists of the year, so I figured I'm one for jumping on bandwagons and therefore give you my top 5 reads of this year (in no particular order and probably missing out one or two that I completely forgot about, but these are in my  brainpan right now):

1) THE CRY - Helen Fitzgerald: Wow. Oh, wow. A devastatingly well written novel about a woman whose child is killed during a holiday and the aftermath of the terrible decision she may or may not have made. Its got a straight from the headlines hook,  but Fitzgerald is such an exceedingly clever author that she never once judges her characters or their decisions, leaving the reader in the uncomfortable position of having to work out who to trust and who not to believe. Its a brilliant and unsettling novel that you absolutely have to read.

2) ONION STREET by Reed Farrel Coleman: Coleman's Moe Prager series is drawing to an end, which is sad news for fans of the conflicted and always intriguing wine-store owning hardboiled eye from Brooklyn. But this book - which skips to Moe's college years - is one of his finest adventures yet; a mix of recent history, character development and brilliant plotting that confirms Coleman's place among the greatest crime writers you might not yet have read. If you haven't read Moe yet, you really need to start. Now.

3) WOUNDED PREY by Sean Lynch. An unexpected entry for me as this one just kind of dropped through the letterbox. But with its Michael Connelly-esque feel and its brilliant understanding of the psychotic nature of its bad guy, this is one of the few serial killer novels I really enjoyed this year. Or indeed, ever (I'm not a big serial killer novel fan, so they have to do a lot to convince me) Lynch has a great future in the genre, and I'm glad to have got in at the ground level.

4) THE HARD BOUNCE by Todd Robinson. Another debut, and one I admittedly read a year or so ago (but it was just released this year - yeah, check the front pages, this one's got a blurb on it from me) - - but its a great read and Robinson has an authentically tough new voice. THE HARD BOUNCE is the kind of novel I love. Full of street level violence and barely any hero cops to be seen. Boo Malone is a brilliant creation and frankly I'm looking forward to whatever Robinson does next.

5) NOS4R2 by Joe Hill. Hill has been on my watchlist for a while. His HEART SHAPED box was a little too constrained by its King-esque conventions (and yes, Hill  is King's son, but I didn't know that, then) but was very readable and great fun. HORNS was brilliantly good fun, although fell apart a little towards the end. Still, an original concept and even more assured writing. But NOS4R2 is brilliant. A sustained (and huge - we all know I usually don't like big novels) and thrilling novel that never quite does what you expect, it starts with a killer whose car takes him to his "inscape"; a place inside his own head he calls Christmasland. Our killer takes children to Christmasland in the belief that he is helping them. To do this he employs the assistance of a strange individual known as GasMask Man. Meanwhile, a girl discovers her own inscape and soon finds herself in the path of this monstrous killer. Nothing happens the way you might expect, and Hill creates an imaginative, epic horror that never once forgets about character or atmosphere. Its all a little surreal but very well conceived, and I admit to shivering more than once. I can't wait to see where Hill goes from here.
 Posted by at 10:33 am
Oct 162013
 
Great things can come in small packages, and this series is proof of that. Not only does it feature a little person as a  PI but it is also a pretty short novel. It's also a fantastic piece of PI fiction.
Gulliver Dowd, a little person and PI offers to help a street kid find his missing (and aptly-named) dog Ugly. When the kid gets beaten up Dowd is determined to find out who was behind that. Meanwhile he falls in love with the assistant of a veterinarian which results in some interesing conversations about how ''normal'' anyone really is.
Dowd is such a wonderful character. He is 100% old-fashioned PI on one hand, on the other hand the fact he's a little person gives him some unique perspective that gives the story just that bit extra to make it stand out.
This is a novel in the Rapid Reads imprint, which means it is easy to read. Short sentences, not too many difficult words. This by no means makes the story any less interesting, just a faster read. I really think a lot of writers can learn a lot about writing a fast-paced, readable book by studying Coleman's prose in this one and it was an inspiration for my own writing. So DON'T hesitate to pick this up because it's a Rapid Reads, instead DO pick it up for that reason.
Sep 272013
 
COMING SOON

An anthology full of exciting PI fiction written by popular names like Reed Farrel Coleman, Bill Crider, James Winter, Fred Zackel, J.L. Abramo, Keith Dixon and some newer names like Kit Rohrbacher, Peter DiChellis and others.
Of course there's a Noah Milano story in there as well.
It is edited by me and formatted by the talented Sean Dexter, who has a cool story in the anthology as well.
The Shamus Sampler will be available next week and will only cost you 99 cents.
May 152013
 
I read this one in one sitting, and not just because it is a book in the Rapid Reads series, designed for fast and easy reading. I just loved the characters, the story and the writing style too much to put it down.
Main character Gulliver Dowd is a New York PI and a midget (ironic first name, right?). All good private eyes are outsiders, and Gulliver's size makes him just that. If you think he won't be able to take of himself because of the fact you're wrong, however. He shows himself to be just as tough as Spenser and tougher than Moe Prager!
Asked to track down the daughter of an old flame who seems to be his own daughter as well Gulliver clashes with a mobster that gives him the chance to strut his hardboiled stuff. It's all written in a nice crisp style which comes over a bit more pulpy than Reed's normal work.
I just loved Gulliver. Don't think his size is just a gimmick. It's integral in the way he does his work and I loved the fact his size was used to illustrate what a good manhunter he is, with his nose close to the ground.
Excellent stuff! We need more books like these. Fast-paced work, great for reluctant readers and just the stuff we need to get more PI fans! Looking forward to the second Dowd novel and hoping there will be many more!
Apr 242013
 
Reed Coleman has been a praised master of PI fiction for years now and his Moe Prager series has been a fan-favorite. This novel gives us the chance to see just how Moe became the determined, principled and tough investigator we know.
It is 1967, Moe is a student in New York. His girlfriend is beaten into a coma, prompting the young man to investigate. It turns out his friend, Bobby, is also in danger and soon Moe as well.
Facing gangsters, anarchists and the challenges of becoming a man Moe has a tough time in store for himself that explains how he became a cop and a PI later.
The story is exciting enough by itself, it's simply a good mystery story, but what makes it so great is the little pieces of foreshadowing of Prager's future and in fact some of the inventions that we take for granted right now. An interesting character study as well as a piece of good historical hardboiled fiction this one's recommended. Highly.
Mar 222013
 

The popular multiple Shamus Award winner Reed Farrel Coleman has two books coming out soon. Of course I had to ask him all about these...

Tell us what to expect from your two new books, DIRTY WORK and ONION STREET.
DIRTY WORK  is a very interesting project. It’s the first of two novellas featuring a little person (dwarf) PI named Gulliver Dowd. Gulliver is a bitter man whose cop sister has been murdered. Her murder has never been solved and Gulliver becomes a PI in order to find her killer. This hunt for his sister’s killer is the subtext to the story. The main case features a woman from Gulliver’s past who reveals a secret that can turn Gulliver’s world upside down. ONION STREET is the next to last Moe Prager Mystery and is a prequel set in 1967. It tells the story of how Moe became a policeman in the first place. It begins with his girlfriend being viciously beaten and left to die in the snow on a Brooklyn Street. Moe needs to find out why and who did it. And Moe learns for the first time that very little in life is as it seems.

 How long did it take you to write them?
As DIRTY WORK is a novella, it took me about four or five weeks. ONION STREET took me about four months to write. But in all fairness, when you get to the eighth book in a series, even if it is a prequel, the canvas is already partially painted.  

Tell us about how you were inspired to write them.
DIRTY WORK was sort of a creation between my agent, Bob Tyrrell at Raven Books—Rapid Reads, and myself. They’re a Canadian publisher whose market is the emerging or late to literacy reader. Those readers like hard-boiled and noir to. So they approached my agent who approached me about doing some books for them and I agreed. They loved Gulliver as a character and so do I. I think readers will love him too.
ONION STREET filled in a big gap in Moe Prager’s history that the fans have been curious about. It essentially tells the story of how the Moe readers know became Moe. I think readers, myself included, love to see the roots of how a character they identify with developed into that character. I have dropped hints throughout the course of the series, but I thought the time for hinting was over and to explore the origins of Moe more deeply.  

Will we see Gulliver Dowd return after DIRTY WORK?
For at least one more adventure. I’ve written a second Gulliver Dowd entitled VALENTINO PIER. I hope readers respond as I hope they will to Gulliver because I really do enjoy writing him.
ONION STREET is the penultimate Prager novel. Will you be coming out with a new PI series to follow that up or would that be Gulliver?
Gulliver is a fun character, but I’m not sure I consider him a successor to Moe. I think I’d like to do some other type of writing for a while. I am halfway through with a Sci Fi YA novel and have an idea to write a more standard literary novel. But I love the PI form and I will probably always have a toe in the private detective genre.

Did writing the books take a lot of research?
In all honesty, I have always hated research. Google has made life much easier for someone like me. I try not to weight myself down with research. For me the thrill of fiction writing is making stuff up.

What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
Let me answer that in reverse. The scenes I hate most, the ones I know most of my friends hate most, are bridge or transition scenes. Getting the reader from here to there can be awfully burdensome. I love writing scenes where the physical setting is a reflection or a foreshadowing of the action that will take place later in the novel. For instance, read any of my scenes that take place in Coney Island and you will know I loved writing those. I also can do dialogue in my sleep.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the books?
If I had to choose one character, I would choose Israel Roth. He’s the moral compass by which Moe steers his life. But Mr. Roth is terribly flawed and scarred. I just love him.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the books?
Buy them! I’ve got a son in college and a daughter in graduate school.
Jan 232012
 
My most recent post at the Los Angeles Review of Books is called, "Hell, Hurt, Blood and Rapture." Check it out for reviews of Jake Hinkson's Hell on Church Street (New Pulp Press), Reed Farrel Coleman's latest Moe Prager book, Hurt Machine (Tyrus Books), John Rector's Already Gone (Thomas & Mercer), Alan Glynn's Bloodland (Picador), and a Harry Whittington anthology from Stark House Press that includes Rapture Alley, Winter Girl, and Strictly For the Boys.

Read the full article here.

Excerpts below:

Hell on Church Street is one of the rare novels that actually deserves the over-used comparison to Jim Thompson, not just because Webb follows in the footsteps of such crazed protagonists as Lou Ford (The Killer Inside Me) and Nick Corey (Pop. 1280), but because Hinkson takes a risk and deviates from Thompson’s iconic moulds.


Rector writes hardboiled noir with a rare poetic élan, tight, almost violently compressed action, and reticent melancholy... He’s already proven himself among the freshest and most stylistically austere voices working in the thriller field. In fact, labeling his books “thrillers” feels too limiting. There’s a tonal ambience and doleful vibe that permeates his work, which comes as a surprise, considering how action-packed and tense his narratives tend to be. Acutely visual, Already Gone pulses with cinematic urgency and visceral punch.


Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager saga, about a Brooklyn ex-cop turned reluctant wine merchant and occasional PI, is that rare series that improves with each new entry. Coleman is now up to the seventh book, Hurt Machine, and it’s not only the best one yet but also the darkest... Coleman’s novels, like Ed Gorman’s, impress not with distractingly complex plots (though they’re both certainly capable of spinning real page-turners) but with their profound clarity and expert simplicity. Coleman’s characters don’t need grand schemes or million dollar payoffs as motivations: as Moe too frequently discovers, there’s enough potential for lifetimes of pain in our everyday lives.


Alan Glynn’s Bloodland, a loosely related follow-up to 2009’s Winterland, is a stunningly intricate and timely piece of globalization noir... In its depiction of immoral business practices and the increasingly blurred lines between criminals and politicians, Bloodland is like an amped-up 21st-century version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key. From the exploitation of human labor through umpteen middlemen to who-knows-where, Bloodland captures the fragmentary and alienating mechanism of international affairs with prismatic clarity.



The real prize of the anthology, however, is Strictly For the Boys, originally published in 1959, and the only one of the three to bear Whittington’s own name. The story is about a battered wife attempting to flee an abusive husband who refuses to let her, her mother, and her new boyfriend alone. Downright disturbing in its realism and sobering depiction of domestic violence, Strictly For the Boys displays a social consciousness that was prescient for its time, and which continues to be relevant today... Editor and scholar David Laurence Wilson deserves special commendation for his tireless efforts to restore Whittington’s reputation (and, in the case of Winter Girl, to restore the text itself). Wilson and Stark House publisher Greg Shepard give their books scholarly attention on par with the Library of America. Meticulously researched and lovingly edited, Stark House presents these forgotten paperback novels not as pulp curios, but as real literature, and set the bar high for other reprint series.

Dec 282011
 

With this novel Reed shows us again why he’s the crime writer’s writer.
Moe Prager has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, but that doesn’t hold him back from investigating the stabbing of his ex-wife’s sister.
There’s a lot of people out in NY that hated her, because she neglected her duties as a paramedic and let a man die in a restaurant. Uncovering her secrets Moe infiltrates into the macho world of the New York fire department. And it must be said, Moe might be getting old, he might be getting sicker and sicker but he can still be a pretty tough guy.
What makes this such a great PI novel is the fact it never strays from what makes the genre great but also adds more. The mystery is very satisfying but we also can read the story as social commentary, as a more literary view of a man fighting age and disease. Excellent work.