I’m enjoying my summer off from writing (waiting for Wild Bill to come back from formatting by doing light prep research for uploading) by watching baseball (the Pirates are two games over .500 on July 1 and I lived to see it) and reading. Lots of reading. And, as you can see by the list below, lots of good reading.
Samaritan, Richard Price. Not his best, still better than just about everyone else. Price examines white guilt through the story of a writer who returns home to the project where he grew up and tries to do good for debatable reasons. As always, solving the crime is less important than how the principals respond to the act of solving the crime. The book goes on a little longer than it needs to, but the writing never drags. Easy to see how Price got hooked up with David Simon for The Wire. They were made for each other.
Charlie Opera, Charlie Stella. Not as polished as his more recent books, easy to see how this one launched Stella into multiple publications. What could have turned into yet another story of an innocent straight guy in over his head against the mob—winning implausibly when he had no business doing so—becomes the story of a resourceful man who’s straight, but as hard as the crooks who are after him. Law enforcement plays just enough of a role, and the hoods are just shortsighted enough, to keep things believable. Stella’s writing has become tighter over the years, but nothing drags here. It was fun to see where he came from.
Setup on Front Street, Mike Dennis. I’ve been aware of Mike Dennis from his blog and other sources for a while now, finally got around to reading him. Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. He hits the trifecta here: great, but not overdone setting (Key West), a protagonist who’s hard enough to get things done in the manner described while retaining your empathy, and a spot-on voice reminiscent of Mickey Spillane. I thought I might like it going in, but not nearly as much as I did. Dennis also has a knack too many writers have forgotten these days: get in, tell your story, and get out. No padding here.
Collateral Damage, the authors or the Do Some Damage blog. Several collaborative blogs have released collection in the past year or so. This one and its predecessor (Terminal Damage) are the best I’ve read. Not a weak story in the bunch, though Joelle Charbonneau, Russell MacLean, and John McFetridge stand out. Just about the most entertaining dollar you’ll ever spend. (Assuming you have a Kindle.)
Pocket 47, Jude Hardin. Kick ass. Hardin’s hero is a former musician turned PI (which I love, as one of my protags is a musician turned PI) who struggles to make ends meet in a manner reminiscent of Hickey and Boggs. Nicholas Colt gets involved in what appears to be a routine wandering sister case and finds himself seeing dead people. Okay, not really, but read the book to find out. Helluva read.