Friday, September 19, 2008

Pretty Girl Gone (Mac McKenzie) by David Housewright

Rushmore McKenzie always strikes me as Spenser if he were a real person. By that I mean he can be witty, he can be tough and take on the bad guys but without turning into a superhero. Sure, he might take a bullet wound with a bit more ease than your average joe, but his character keeps being believable, even if he is a rich ex-cop doing favours for friends (a premise perhaps less believable). Also, while he loves his girlfriend, in this novel he is unfaithful to her, sleeping with a pretty sheriff. Not nice, but human.
Bringing him to this sheriff is a favour he’s doing for an old flame who’s married to a governor. She’s being blackmailed by an unknown party that says her husband killed his girlfriend many years ago. Mac sets out to investigate this in the small town called Victoria. There he delves into the victim’s past, stumbling on meth-cookers. While several people try to keep him from finding out the truth, McKenzie perseveres and uncovers several shocking truths.
Very readable, a good mystery with a satisfying amount of action and drama.

Q & A with Raymond Benson

This time our Q & A is with the author of the new Spike Berenger series, Raymond Benson.

Q: What makes Spike Berenger different from other PIs?
He works in the world of rock 'n' roll... he's a rock 'n' roll musician himself... and he's a former military CID officer who's now a music geek. He runs a music business security firm, but hires himself out on the side as a PI for the rock stars. He has not one sidekick, but rather a whole team that supports him and his activities. He's a walking trivia book on rock music and has a wry sense of humor.

Q: Why did you set your series in the music business?
Because I love music! I'm a musician myself (I play piano two nights a week in a bar) and I'm very knowledgeable about rock, having grown up with it. I was in front of the TV when the Beatles first played Ed Sullivan. I also thought it might be a good idea because it hadn't been done. It gave me an opportunity to create a series with funny titles based on popular rock albums-- "A Hard Day's Death", "Dark Side of the Morgue"...

Q: How did you get published?
I'm the author of twenty published books and have been at it a while. I may not be a NY Times Best-seller name, but I'm fairly well known in the publishing industry. I was the official author of the James Bond novels between 1996-2002. So, my agent usually doesn't have a problem getting publishers to look at any new material I write. Granted, I don't always sell my stuff-- like any writer!-- but I'm something of a veteran at this.

Q: What’s next for you and Spike?
The second book, "Dark Side of the Morgue", comes out in March 2009. I'm sure there will be a third book, but I don't know what it is yet. In the meantime, an anthology of some of my James Bond novels will be out in October 2008, entitled "The Union Trilogy." My novelization of the popular videogame "Metal Gear Solid" came out last May and I'm currently working on the sequel to that. There's always something in the works!

Q: How do you promote your books?
Not as well as I'd like! Authors these days have to do everything they can to promote their books, because publishers rarely do anything. A personal websites, MySpace, Facebook-- these are all good tools. Personal appearances, speaking in public, attending writers' conferences-- they help. Sending out press releases, postcards to bookstores-- you name it, I've tried it.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
I'm a fan of Michael Connelly's work. My favorite living author is Ruth Rendell. She has a long-running series since the 60s featuring Inspector Wexford (not a PI but a police detective). There are plenty of others.

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 and in that way?
I imagine Connelly will. He's made quite a career for himself and is very well respected not only by readers but by his peers.

Q: Reed Farell Coleman came up with the following question: Faced with telling the truth or producing a just result, which should the PI choose?
I think that depends on the PI's character. There are some PI's who might feel a moral obligation to tell the truth no matter what. Others are a little more hard-boiled in their life outlook and merely want a just result.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Would you want to be a PI yourself?
My answer: No. Absolutely not! :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Head Games (Mike Garrity) by Thomas B. Cavanagh

Mike Garrity has one thing all other private eyes don't have... A tumor in his head calle Bob. Furthermore he's a divorced ex-cop with a big sense of justice. Yep, it's what we all love in a PI with a nice twist.
Mike wants to leave some money for his daughter and make her proud of him before he dies. He gets a chance at both when he is hired to track down a missing member of a boyband. Taking on the side-effects of his tumor as well as the mob we are offered a moving tale that never gets sentimental and a very real and likable protagonist.
I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes the Shamus Award winner this year!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Q & A with Reed Farrel Coleman

Today we offer a Q & A with the talented author of the Moe Prager (and other) series, Reed Farrel Coleman.
Q: What makes Moe Prager different from other PIs?
A: I realized that I was fairly bored with reading retreads and imitations of Spade, the Continental Op, and Marlowe. I felt that no matter how well I might be able to do it, my version of the Christian-white guy-wisecracking-alcoholic-gun happy-quick fisted-loner would only be another iteration of what had been done as well as it could be done. So in creating Moe I decided to take all the cliches, conceits, and conventions of the PI genre and turn them on their ear. I didn’t want to destroy them, just play with them. So yes, Moe is white, but Jewish. Yes, Moe is an ex NYPD cop, but not a detective. He was just in uniform and he wasn’t very distinguished at the job. Yes, Moe was hurt on the job, but not in the line of fire. He slipped on a piece of paper and ruined his knee. Yes, Moe is haunted, but not by anything he did on the job. He is haunted by something he’s done after retirement. And what haunts him is an act of ommission, not commission. Moe drinks, but he’s no drunk. He’s happily—for the most part—married, has a family, a steady source of income, a mortgage and a car payment. The trick for me was to still produce entertaining books in spite of going against the tide of cliches.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
A: I am hesitant to criticize my colleagues for choosing to employ what I call the psycho ex machina in their books. The psycho sidekicks have been used to great effect by Walter Mosley, Lawrence Block in the Scudder novels, and many other PI writers. For me, however, it spoils the opportunity for the PI to confront great moral dilemmas. If the PI can simply turn to an already lost soul to do the nasty work, then what is it that the PI has to face? In many ways, PI novels are built on moral dilemmas. So distancing your protagonist from the most powerful moral taint works against that.

Q: You are of course also the writer of the Dylan Klein books as well as some under the Tony Spinosa name. What happened to Dylan and why do you continue writing under the Spinosa name?
A: I had never written any long fiction before trying the Dylan Klein series on for size. Amazingly, the very first long piece of fiction I ever wrote was published as Life Goes Sleeping, my first novel. I actually used the series to teach myself how to write crime fiction and to work through all the issues—overwriting, perspective, plotting, etc.— nascent authors must write past. I just happened to be lucky enough to be published while I was teaching myself. You can actually see my growth as a writer and the development of my skills during the course of the three books. What happened was the series ran out of steam and I felt a need to move on, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Dylan. So much so, my son is named Dylan!

I came up with the invention of Tony Spinosa(Hose Monkey, The Fourth Victim) because I was at the end of my contract with Viking/Plume and I didn’t know if they would renew me. But I needed to write and I wasn’t willing to sit on my hands and wait to see what their decision would be. So I invented Tony and wrote under his name. His books are different from mine and I enjoy writing in third as opposed to first person. It helps me grow as a writer.

Q: How did you get published?
A: I wonder that myself sometimes. I did it in a way that would not be possible in the States any longer. I had no agent, wrote no query letters, and broke every rule. I simply mass mailed two thirds of the manuscript to every publisher in New York. And as I always say to my writing students: One yes is worth all the nos.

Q: What’s next for you and Moe?
A: Moe is kind of on hiatus now. I needed to change the series if it was to keep me interested and for me to move ahead. And if you read the fifth Moe book, Empty Ever After, you’ll see that I moved the series up just prior to September 11th, 2001. Moe’s older now and his life has taken a radical change. I’m done with the overriding story arc of the first several books and want to explore Moe as an older man, closer to my own age(52). I want to see what Moe can do with the future instead of the past. Can he, I wonder, move on? I’m now negotiating for new books with Bleak House.

Q: How do you promote your books?A: I do most of the traditional things: tour, post cards, conventions, guest blog, etc. But I’ve also begun to do some non-traditional things. This coming November, for instance, I am booked at three large Jewish book fairs. My publisher for the Tony Spinosa books is trying to book me with trucking associations(Tony’s protagonist Joe Serpe drives a truck). I teach writing at Hofstra University(founded by a Dutch family, by the way) in the summer and am trying to develop a summer mystery conference. I try to do as many writing related activities as possible because name recognition helps with sales.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
A: As I mentioned, I love Block’s Scudder books. I too love Peter Spiegelman’s John March. I love Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor. I adore SJ Rozan’s Bill and Lydia books. Frankly, I’m a sucker for PIs.

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 and in that way?
A: Tough, tough question. I don’t think that’s a knowable thing because you can’t look at the current slate of PI writers, even the biggest names, and know. It’s like the old argument about the lasting impact of the Beatles vs the Beach Boys vs The Rolling Stones. Oddly enough, it’s the Who and the Kinks most later bands point to. I hope my work has some influence. I think Ken Bruen’s has a chance to make an impact. Maybe Daniel Woodrell. I think you can already see the effect of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher on various sub-genres. The concept of serial stand-alones is genius. Sorry, I know that’s kind of amorphous.

Q: Christopher G. Moore came up with the following question: “When does an author of a PI series decide to bring a series to a final end?”
A: That one’s easy for me because I’ve been there. When I have nothing left to say through the words and actions of that series’ particular protagonist, it’s over. Pay me enough money, though, and I’ll bring Dylan Klein back to life faster than Lazarus!

Q: Faced with telling the truth or producing a just result, which should the PI choose?
A: A just result. The truth nearly always makes things worse.

Sanctuary (Jack Taylor) by Ken Bruen

We offer you a guest review by talented writer Tony Black...

SANCTUARY is the seventh, and possibly final, instalment in the Galway-based Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen...if this is the end, and God forbid that's true, then Jack's going out on a high.

The booze-soaked sleuth has been battered and bruised in just about Biblical proportions from book one (The Guards) and this latest outing offers no, er, sanctuary for him.

Jack is up to his neck in bad shit from just about page one, when he receives an anonymous list of 'victims' including two guards, one judge, and a nun, signed only by the mysterious, Benedictus.

Followers of the groundbreaking series will know Jack's a man who's never been overly keen on the 'finding business'; in fact, if he's interested in finding anything, it's an escape from his own misery. He seems close to doing just that at the outset of SANCTUARY -- he even has his tickets for New York in hand -- but then the case dramatically draws him in.

And what a bitch it turns out to be.

To the list of victims is added...a child.

Bruen is a master of the slow burn, adding fuel to the mounting fire of Jack's rage, until finally, the reader has scorched fingertips and the threat of spontaneous human combustion seems a real possibility.

Unputdownable is an overused catch-all these days but SANCTUARY demands the description. The relentless incident, the mounting doom and the unshakable knowledge that here is a tale told by a master storyteller -- at the peak of his form -- makes for one b'Jesus of a read.

The beauty of the prose can only be described as that of a genius. Bruen applies a finesse to his slickly-crafted sentences that's unmatched. It's a Salinger-esque trip told with the kind of insight you'd expect from an author with his own unique, cultural X-ray vision. And, in SANCTUARY, the new Ireland, in all its complexities, is never far from his field of view.

Those of you who have stayed the course throughout the bestselling Jack Taylor series are duly rewarded with the return of a host of recognisable characters -- savoury and otherwise -- that Jack has drawn around him. Jeff and Cathi. Ridge. The odious Father Malachy. And none are mere cameos. They all earn their right to be there, contributing the kind body-blows you'd expect from Bruen. But be warned, the revelation about Serna May is a particularly lethal hurley smack to the nut.

If SANCTUARY spells the end for Jack, he has earned his rest. But for those who don't want to believe it's so, Bruen leaves a tantalising prospect in the final few lines...which I won't reveal here. All I will say is, let's pray Jack's back...and soon.

Tony Black's PAYING FOR IT is out now. The nice folk at Crimespree said: "I’d put him up there with Rankin and Kernick and Billingham with just this first novel." Visit his site at: