Tag Archives: mystery novels

The Rook Lives: A New Book Deal

The Rook and his special brand of justice will live on. Look for him to return in 2018!

Just as I was about to give up on writing mystery novels, Down and Out Books offered me a contract to re-issue Alphabet Land and continue the series. So it looks like the Rook, one of my favorite characters, will live on. . .as soon as I sit back down at the computer and dream up another sticky situation for him and his .45 Chief’s Special to get into.

I’m excited and honored.

In the meantime, I’ve become a stay-at-home dad (long story), and to cope with the stress and share the joys of parenting, I started a blog called Breakfast With Harry. It’s all about me trying to feed my four-year old breakfast everyday. The stories are funny, I think, so check it out.

 

 

Book Review: Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage by Steve Ulfelder

The fourth book in the Conway Sax series, Wolverine Bros. starts off with Sax going to L.A. to track down Kenny Spoon, the has-been TV star son of Eudora Spoon, a wealthy ex-alcoholic and close friend of Sax.  Dying of cancer, Eudora wants to reconnect with her youngest son, and Sax, a part-time mechanic and full-time problem-solver, agrees, no questions asked.  Only this time, he probably should have asked some questions.  Once in Los Angeles, Sax, with the help of an ex-cop friend named McCord, discovers that Kenny Spoon is being held hostage by a tough-as-nails Brazilian gang.  Resourceful as ever, Sax manages to extract Kenny from the situation and fly him back to Massachusetts to see Eudora.  .  .but then the very next day she is shot and killed.  Questions abound as to the motivation for the killing.  Was she murdered by the Brazilian gang as payback for taking Kenny Spoon? Or was it someone after her considerable land holdings, land where a casino could be built someday? Whoever is responsible, Sax makes a solemn vow:

“No gray. . .Not this time. Everybody pays.”

Like the other installments of this series, the plot in Wolverine Bros. is engaging, fast-paced, and action-packed.  I was particularly impressed with the monologue-type feel to Sax’s narration, the way you can actually hear the narrator’s distinct voice as you read, almost as if Conway was sitting in your living room, iced tea in hand, telling you a wild story. Another impressive aspect: the clipped prose and short paragraphs, both of which keep the story move, move, moving, and give the narration a sense of immediacy and urgency.  But what I really think is genius about these books is the well-rounded (and constantly-evolving) protagonist Conway Sax.  As a reader, I can easily identify with Sax, for he is practically everything good fathers attempt to teach their sons: he is tough, honest, reliable, capable, and persistent.  And those qualities are sorely missing in people in general and men in particular these days.  In my book, that makes Conway Sax a bonafide hero, a flawed yet honorable man who knows the difference between legal and moral, between right and wrong, AND has the guts to do more than just talk.  But if you require more evidence that this is a truly dynamic character, here’s a quick quote from page 77 of Wolverine Bros.

“It struck me once while watching the National Geographic Channel. . .that I was a certain kind of pilot fish. . .They’re parasites–they swim alongside sharks, waiting for a kill, surviving on fallen morsels. . .I don’t wait for a kill and snap up morsels.  I ease the need. . . I find need. I attach myself, swim alongside. . .It’s the attaching that bothers me. What would I be, I sometimes wonder, what would I do if I was purely on my own?”

This is but a small sample of what makes Conway Sax the most realistic and most compelling of PIs out there today, what makes him the natural successor to tough-but-moral private eyes like Philip Marlowe and Lew Archer. Any serious fan of the PI/hard-boiled genre should be reading Ulfelder’s books. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

http://www.amazon.com/Wolverine-Bros-Freight-Storage-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00GEU763E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397489412&sr=8-1&keywords=wolverine+bros+freight+and+storage

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Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2014

I must confess I don’t read a wide variety of authors, but the ones I do read, I really obsess over. Fortunately, two of those authors have new books coming out this year, and I’m taking this opportunity to geek out.  I did, however, find one author whose forthcoming novel looks very good, and is currently calling me from my Kindle. If anyone out there has books to recommend, feel free to leave a comment. Cheers.

Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage, by Steve Ulfelder

This is the fourth book featuring Conway Sax, who is by far my favorite PI out there right now.  The crisp prose and plots draw you in right away, too, but it is Sax–a tough, capable mechanic and part-time PI–who I come back for time and time again. Cut from the same cloth as private eyes like Philip Marlowe and Elvis Cole, this protagonist has layers, is a fully-realized character in a mystery genre that, on occasion, offers up too many flat or stock characters. As always, I can’t wait to see what Sax is up to this time. Read more about Wolverine Bros. Freight & Storage by clicking here: http://www.amazon.com/Wolverine-Bros-Freight-Storage-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00GEU763E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396874835&sr=1-1&keywords=wolverine+bros+freight+and+storage+steve+ulfelder

Don’t Ever Look Back, by Daniel Friedman

Don’t Ever Get Old was the best mystery/PI novel that came out in 2012, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting a new novel featuring Buck Schatz, who is my hero. He’s really old, really grouchy, really tough, and really, really, really funny. Best of all? He carries a gun! I’m pre-ordering this one today, and you should, to.  Read more about Buck Schatz and his latest exploits here: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Ever-Look-Back-Mystery/dp/125002756X

Plaster City, by Johnny Shaw

As usual, I’ve come to a series late, but I’ve read a lot about this one over the past few days, and it looks great. Shaw’s editor wrote this about the book, and it drew me in like a tractor beam:

“Set against the rough landscape of the Mexican border and California desert, Plaster City overflows with beer, shotguns, and dusty outlaws. What elevates the story are the authenticity and black humor that remind me of Elmore Leonard.”

She had me at “beer, shotguns, and dusty outlaws.”  Best part is the book is available right now on Kindle First for only a $1.99.  Click here for more: http://www.amazon.com/Plaster-City-Jimmy-Veeder-Fiasco-ebook/dp/B00F2OSFNI/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

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Best Crime Novel Opening Paragraphs

Hook ’em early is a mantra I heard over and over again in various fiction workshops, and it is so true. It is also very tough to pull off, but some of my favorite crime novelists manage to establish a unique voice, a unique setting, a unique situation, and a unique character all within the confines of the introductory paragraph. As a writer myself, I can attest to how freaking hard it is to make all of those elements work over the course of hundreds of pages, but the best in the business–Crumley, Woodrell, Chandler, Thompson to name but a few–can do it in the space of a single opening paragraph. I submit the examples below for your consideration and enjoyment.

The Last Good Kiss, James Crumley

When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.

The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler

It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

The Grifters, Jim Thompson

As Roy Dillon stumbled out of the shop his face was a sickish green, and each breath he drew was an incredible agony. A hard blow in the guts can do that to a man, and Dillon had gotten a hard one. Not with a fist, which would have been bad enough, but from the butt-end of a heavy club.

Miami Blue, Charles Willeford

Frederick J. Frenger, Jr., a blithe psychopath from California, asked the flight attendant in first class for another glass of champagne and some writing materials. . . For the next hour, as he sipped champagne, Freddy practiced writing the signatures of Claude L. Bytell, Ramon Mendez, and Herman T. Gotlieb.

Tomato Red, Daniel Woodrell

You’re no angel, you know how this stuff comes to happen: Friday is payday and it’s been a gray day sogged by a slow ugly rain and you seek company in your gloom, and since you’re fresh to West Table, Mo., and a new hand at the dog-food factory, your choices for company are narrow but you find some finally in a trailer court on East Main, and the coed circle of bums gathered there spot you a beer, then a jug of tequila starts to rotate and the rain keeps comin’ down with a miserable bluesy beat and there’s two girls millin’ about that probably can be had but they seem to like certain things and crank is one of those certain things, and a fistful of party straws tumble from a woven handbag somebody brung, the crank gets cut into lines, and the next time you notice the time it’s three or four Sunday mornin’ and you ain’t slept since Thursday night and one of the girl voices, the one you want most and ain’t had yet though her teeth are the size of shoe-peg corn and look like maybe they’d taste sort of sour, suggests something to do, ’cause with crank you want something, anything, to do, and this cajoling voice suggests we all rob this certain house on this certain street in that rich area where folks can afford to wallow in their vices and likely have a bunch of recreational dope stashed around the mansion and goin’ to waste since an article in The Scroll said the rich people whisked off to France or some such on a noteworthy vacation.

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