Before we get into my best recent reads, a brief moment of self-promotion. In fact, not even that. More like a grateful acknowledgement of a generous review. Jochem Vandersteen is a Dutch writer who is as active as anyone I’ve heard of in promoting PI fiction. A fine writer himself, he has not only edited two anthologies of PI shorts (The Shamus Sampler, foreword by Reed Farrel Coleman; and The Shamus Sampler II, foreword by Timothy Hallinan), he is the tireless owner/editor/author of the excellent Sons of Spade blog. Mijnheer Vandersteen recently flattered The Man in the Window with a review.
I'm so glad Dana King decided to continue to write these Nick Forte books... He's just really good at it, understanding which dose of the legacy to follow and what new parts to add…There are multiple twists in the end, two cool sidekicks, good action scenes and some pretty nifty Chanderlisms in this book, adding up to a perfect PI read.
The entire review is available on Sons of Spade, along with a nice comment from Jack Getze, author of the Austin Carr series. (Big Numbers, Big Money, Big Mojo, and Big Shoes.)
Kind words are always appreciated, but kind words from those whose work one respects are the best of all.
Now to our regularly scheduled program.
I Used to be in Radio, Larry Matthews. A memoir that will hit every emotion, delivered in a matter-of-fact style that brings home the full effect. Matthews started in radio when he came back from Vietnam, mostly in the DC area. The first part of the book describes how he sort of fell into the business, and moved from station to station looking for the perfect gig. Much of it is laugh out loud funny and shows that WKRP in Cincinnati was not a stretch. A more mature Matthews finds himself freelancing in Washington, doing business reports for NPR and news stories for a variety of other stations, until a story on child pornography gets its hooks into him. He has a semi-informal agreement with a magazine to write a story, but doesn’t think to notify the authorities of the research he’s doing, and…well, you have an idea of where this leads. In Matthews’s case it led to a year and half in federal prison, after an arrest and trial story that would piss off the Dali Lama. Matthews’s mistakes are logistical, not moral, but seeing what’s coming doesn’t make it any easier to watch. Why this hasn’t been optioned for a movie is beyond me. Think A Civil Action or The Insider.
Every Contact Leaves a Trace, Connie Fletcher. Next to The Beloved Spouse™, Connie Fletcher may be the closest I have to a Muse. I read one of her books every year and never fail to come away with new appreciations. She gets law enforcement to talk to her the way they talk to no one else. Asked about research at my Bouchercon panel this year, I summed it up by saying, “I read everything Connie Fletcher writes.” This time she let the pros tell how CSI really works. If you have any interest in how law enforcement actually operates, hers is the series to read.
The Hot Countries, Timothy Hallinan. No one is more consistently excellent than Tim Hallinan. I’ll have more to say about The Hot Countries next week.
Last of theIndependents, Sam Wiebe. Hell, yeah, it won awards. Wiebe’s debut shows all the polish of a veteran as he makes the traditional tropes his own. He’s also at home in not trying to make Vancouver into LA, letting the unique qualities of his setting carry their parts of the story without trying to shoehorn them into anything.
For years James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss has been acclaimed as having the greatest opening in crime fiction. Now there’s a competitor: The younger Thomas Kroon leaned forward on the clients’ bench and said, “There’s no real polite way to say this, Mr. Drayton. Someone’s fucking our corpses and we’d like it to stop.”