I finally got around to reading this, three years after it was recommended to me by a pair of retired federal agents who had spent much of their careers pursuing drug runners in South Texas. No Country for Old Men opens with Anton Chigurh, one of the most pitiless and chilling figures in modern fiction, escaping a police station after his arrest. From the ease with which he kills the deputy, it’s clear that local law enforcement in South Texas in 1980 isn’t prepared to handle such ruthlessly efficient criminals.
Bob Hartley’s North and Central opens in a bar in a working neighborhood of Chicago in the late 1970s. Andy, the bartender/narrator serves a clientele of factory workers, drunks, neighborhood characters and cops, many of whom are as brazenly corrupt as the city’s infamous politicians. From the opening chapter, which depicts the bar’s collection of oddball regulars exchanging crude insults, you might get the sense that this book is going to be something like Animal House meets Goodfellas.
In the opening scene of Charles Willeford’s Pick Up, counterman Harry Jordan is wrapping up a long day’s work in a San Francisco diner in the early 1950s. One last customer straggles in around 1:00 a.m. Helen Meredith is drunk, seeking a cup of coffee. She’s well dressed and obviously better off than Harry, who lives in a boarding house and has trouble keeping a steady job. When it’s time to pay for her coffee, Helen confesses she’s lost her purse and doesn’t have a dime.
Published in 1966, One Fearful Yellow Eye is the eighth book in John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series. This one takes place mostly in Chicago, where McGee has travelled to help an old friend. Gloria “Glory” Doyle was one those “broken birds” McGee had taken in and for a period of healing after her life had gone wrong. Her happily-ever-after came in the form of marriage to the good and caring Dr.
Margaret Millar’s Beast in View opens with thirty-year-old Helen Clarvoe receving an unnerving, vaguely threatening phone call from a woman who claims to have once been her friend. Clarvoe is the sole daughter of a wealthy Southern California family whose dysfunction will be familiar to readers of the Lew Archer mysteries written by Millar’s husband, Ross Macdonald. The time is 1955, the place, Los Angeles. Miss Clarvoe, estranged from her mother and brother, spends most of her days alone in her room in the Monica Hotel, her door “locked against the ugliness of the world.
John Temple’s American Pain describes the rise and fall of America’s largest pill mill. A pill mill, in case you didn’t know, is a medical practice set up specifically to dispense narcotic pain killers. Patient appointments typically last only a few minutes, just long enough for doctor to write the prescription. Chris George, the wealthy son of a successful South Florida builder, was running a semi-successful shop selling anabolic steroids when he started seeing pain clinics pop up all over Broward County around 2008.
The opening chapter of Wake Up, Wanda Wiley is available on BookishFirst this week, January 13-20, 2020. Take a look, leave a comment, and enter to win one of 100 free copies of the ebook. In case you haven’t read it, here’s the blurb: Hannah Sharpe has been written out of all eighteen of Wanda Wiley’s romance novels. A runaway heroine who won’t conform to the plots laid out for her, Hannah has been consigned to a realm of fog deep in the recesses of the author’s imagination.
Nick Bilton’s American Kingpin describes the rise and fall of the darknet market The Silk Road, and its creator, Ross Ulbricht. The book focuses primarily on Ulbricht and a handful of agents from the DEA, FBI, IRS, and Homeland Security who wage a semi-coordinated effort to identify and capture the Silk Road leader, who was known online as the Dread Pirate Roberts. Ulbricht grew up in Austin, Texas, a middle-class kid with strong libertarian leanings.
This is one brutal book, and a damn good one. Slim writes with a fire that you rarely see even from great authors at their best. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, nor does he lace his narrative with apologies to reassure delicate readers. He simply gives a straightforward account of a cruel world in which the cruelest rise to the top… at least for a while. The book takes place mostly on the south side of Chicago between the late 1930s and the late 1950s.
I just finished a draft of a new novel, tentatively titled Evidence of Aggression. This one features a strong female lead who gets caught up unawares in a Hitchcock-style thriller that unfolds in my old hometown of Washington, DC. Think North by Northwest in current day DC, with a sharp, strong-willed woman in the Carey Grant role. My heroine’s stength lies in her strong mind, unusual powers of observation, and ability to keep her cool and think her way out of tough situations.
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