Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's Not Schwab's Drugstore

Every month I get the new Hard Case Crime book in the mail. The town bookstore doesn't carry them and even if they did, so many of their books are stored crookedly on the shelves that I wouldn't them anyway. But for $3.99 per book plus shipping, I spend about the same as I would at the bookstore and the books arrive in a protective cardboard box. Which gets recycled.

The book for March is John Lange's Zero Cool. Lange is the pseudonym of Michael Crichton who apparently put himself through medical school by writing these Gold Medal-type thrillers. Hard Case published one a year ago which was pretty good, as is the new one. I prefer the Hard Case Lange's to the Crichton's I've actually read. For instance I thought Jurassic Park was better as a movie because the T-Rex wasn't obsessed with bypassing geography and the convenience of more readily available food in order to mercilessly track humans in a jeep. And the movie makes the kids much less annoying than the book. The last one I read was Rising Sun and I've been mostly successful in blotting that one out of my mind.

But I digress. The new cover of Zero Cool pictures a woman who looks strikingly like my wife. The face is not quite right but everything else is. I sent a letter to the artist, Gregory Manchess, which he'll probably assume is from a crackpot but what the hey. Here's the letter:

Dear Mr. Manchess:

As a fan of all the Hard Case Crime titles, I've appreciated your cover work very much. I just recently received "Zero Cool" in the mail and was especially struck by the cover painting. I know this is odd but I thought I'd drop you a line and see if you'd be willing to share your inspiration or the genesis of the cover.

You see, the image of the woman on the cover is almost the spitting image of my wife. The face is a bit different, but not a lot. The hair, bikini, glasses and physical proportions are all spot on (at least prior to delivering our two children). We lived in Florida for over a dozen years and I couldn't go off for a coke or a hot dog without people (okay, men) wandering over to her, some asking if they could take her picture.

I've been sending the link to the cover from Hard Case Crime's site to people we know and they're all floored. It may be completely illogical to think you and her may have crossed paths, but it would make a coincidence into a great story.


Rick Ollerman
Littleton, NH

If life were fair, I'd post a picture of my wife in a similar pose wearing a similar not much, but that would be up to her.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How To Make the List

I'm finishing proofreading an upcoming two-in-one edition of A Shot in the Dark and Shell Game for Stark House Press. The books were written by Richard Powell, whose book Say It With Bullets was reprinted last year by Hard Case Crime. Sadly, Mr. Powell passed away in 1999 and couldn't be around to see some of his works rediscovered.

Anyway, in the course of proofing the books, sometimes my brain gets so filled with things I feel the need to look up some fairly obvious things. Sometimes I use my Oxford Compact dictionary, and of course the internet. This morning I used Google to make sure that "boyfriend" is a legitimate compound word. Yes, of course it is, but you proofread a bunch of books and see what happens to you...

So I typed in "define: boyfriend" in Google's search bar and put my ruffled mind at ease. At the top of the page was a section titled "Related phrases" and lists, in this order: 'my boyfriend is type b,' 'helga's boyfriend,' and 'kill your boyfriend.'

Holy crap! People search for this? What happens when the FBI seizes their computers and check out their caches? And can't a girl figure out a good way to do the deed by herself? Even if she needs Google's help, you'd think she'd be more subtle about it and search for say, 'murders disguised as accidents' or that kind of thing.

But then again, if you're using the public internet and Googling ways to commit a capital crime, you just may not be the sharpest bulb in the tool chest.

Unaware of the specific boundaries of the Patriot Act, I steeled my nerves and clicked on the link. Yes, you guessed it, turns out that "Kill Your Boyfriend" is a comic book. So I was relieved, until I thought: a girl needs a comic book to figure out how to kill her lover?

I'm running around in circles here. I need to clear my head. I think I'll get back to the lighthearted, happy stories from Stark House and Hard Case Crime. Hardboiled and noir? Forget about it. Just don't leave them out for your girlfriend to find.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Title for New Book

When I was in college I had a roommate who told me I called a spade a spade. I wasn't sure at the time I knew what he meant. Since then I've pretty much figured it out.

A week or so ago a friend of mine asked my opinion on his essay for admission to law school. In my opinion, and my opinion only, no warranties expressed or implied, I thought he had gone in the wrong direction and spent a bunch of time reworking it into what I thought, and only I, right, wrong or indifferent, would serve him in a more positive and flattering light.

He was very defensive when I sent it back to him, and that was okay. I suspect that he knew that would be the case when he originally asked me; if he'd not bothered to read it or thrown it away or lined his hamster cage it all would have been fine. It was completely his deal and he asked me for an opinion and that was all he got. And what's that worth? If anybody wants to send me a dollar I'll send them at least half a dozen...

The whole thing made me think back a bit. Like most people's self-images, I don't think I'm that bad a guy. But what I think about myself and what others think about me have never been completely in lockstep but again, I'm sure that's true with most everyone else. Unlike past relationships, though, where I tend to forget the bad aspects over time and just remember the good, I seem to forget the good things I've done (I'm sure there are some) and remember the bad.

Yes, I used to wear expensive Carerra sunglasses. Indoors. Sometimes with the lights off in my office while working (I had big windows). I used to chew on toothpicks all the time, too; I kept them in my wallet and a friend would actually give me a stack he'd marinate in peppermint oil whenever I saw him. My shirt was undone a button too far and it wasn't to allow my seven or eight chest hairs a chance for air. And yes, I liked pointed shoes as opposed to Weejuns or penny loafers or wing tips.

I'm cringing as I write all this. What the hell did people actually think of me?

Here's what I remember: I was born with a bad eye and dimmer light would allow the pupil to dilate and be more comfortable for me. I have some larger than usual spaces in my teeth and I needed toothpicks to keep the broccoli out after just about every meal. I kept my shirt unbuttoned to the point I did because it was easy to slide off over my head that way when I got home at night. The shoes-- Well, the shoes were just cool.

So my given first name is Richard, a strong Old German name meaning powerful leader. I've gone by the nickname Rick since the fifth grade when people seemed to spontaneously hit me with it. That was fine with me; Richard seemed awfully formal. Another nickname is Rich, which I don't care for, and another is Dick, which is fine but carries with it cultural memories of Mr. Nixon. I think of my dad, though, since I'm a junior (and our son is a third).

My dad wouldn't call me Rick until I was past thirty. He always told me it wasn't my name. I countered with the fact that it was as much my name as Dick was as his. Apparently he caved.

'Dick' also has another meaning in the vernacular, one that I've used myself. After my experience with my friend's essay and looking back at how I must have come across to other people when I was younger, I've had a thought. If I ever defy odds and do something worthy of a memoir, could it be called anything other than "AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A DICK"? Clearly not.

I did have a group of friends who for years called me 'Rico Suave,' pronounced swa-vay after the one hit wonder song of the early nineties. There's got to be a story there, too, but I don't think I'm strong enough to face it right now. I've named my own spade and dug an adequate hole as it is.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

My Brain Is (Much) Too Small

Just when you think--

You won't believe this but--

Are you sitting down? Because--

A guy walks into a bar--

Honey, we have to talk--

I'm too stunned to come up with a good way to open this entry. I had no idea the market for backwards-thinking people was so huge. I was hoping we'd outsourced all those positions long ago. However--

I just saw a Reuters story where Random House has announced that they will begins selling books online.

That's okay.

By the chapter.

That's stupid.

For $2.99. Each.

That's stupefying.

So, what, a ten chapter book will cost me thirty dollars? But realistically, most books have closer to thirty chapters; so I'm looking at a hundred bucks? For an e-book, something that is already priced on par with a version that I can actually hold in my hand and read without batteries?

Apparently they're saying they're doing this to "gauge interest" in the title. Truly I think they must be developing the market for a mailing list of stupid people addicted to online shopping who think they want to learn to read. Or something equally beyond the capacity of the tiny little nerve endings that meet between my ears. Are you telling me that if don't fall off the turnip truck after winning the lottery and decide NOT to endorse this futuristic, cutting-edge, marketing tool of tomorrow that my message is that I just don't care for the book?

It must be. I can't think of another explanation for publishers who think that adding an inch in height and two dollars to the price of a mass market paperback will sell more books. If charging twenty percent more for an approximation of the same book will lead to an increased readership, I'll... I'll... I'll... If selling e-books by the chapter for three bucks per makes sense to anyone who actually buys books of any sort, I'll... I'll... I'll...

Crap. Got nothing. See, my brain is too small. I need to listen to my wife more.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Blood on the Snow

While walking out to the garage a few nights ago (it's a separate building from the house), I noticed some bright red spatter on the snow. The series of spots began about eight feet from the side door and ended about six feet from the corner on the same side. The spots were clearly bright red, clearly fresh, and clearly blood. There were no footprints in the knee deep snow next to the path.

The blood began, and then it stopped.

Given the number of spatters, it doesn't seem to make sense that there weren't any more on either side of that alarming stretch of path. We checked the dog's feet and found nothing. I checked my hands to see if my fingers could have been dripping blood. (Without me knowing it? Sadly, it could probably happen.)

Later that night, while walking the dogs down the driveway, I heard an absolutely curdling scream cut through the night. The two dogs and I froze. It sounded like a woman being stabbed with a dull steak knife. A few seconds later we heard it again. Then again, and again. It seemed to be coming from the other side of our neighbor's house, still a hundred yards or so away.

Convinced it was an animal, I turned around and ran the dogs back to the house. I grabbed Melissa and made her scramble into boots and jacket and hustled her outside. At the top of the driveway she heard it for the first time.

"Did you hear it?" I asked.

"That was Sabrina screaming!" she said.

I knew she wouldn't believe me that it wasn't. I told her to keep walking while I ran in and checked on the girl. She was asleep in her bed. Back outside, Melissa was about two thirds down the driveway. We both stopped and listened again. The scream came again, and then again, growing more faint each time.

"What the hell is it?"

"Some kind of bird," I guess. "It's moving away too quickly."

Slowly we made our way back to the house. I was enjoying the opportunity to hear more nocturnal wildlife, thinking of the night we first moved up here and listened to some still unexplained roaring/braying at a Vermont rest stop. We've heard that same sound here, too. Suddenly Melissa said, "Lock the door tonight."

That blew everything. Suddenly I had the plot for a story bubbling up in my mind, where an innocent pedestrian scolds a strangely dressed man on the sidewalk for casually littering. The strangely dressed man takes an odd offense and begins heckling and following the man down the street. Eventually he follows him to his home and then starts calling and otherwise harassing him, ultimately ending in a real bad situation. All the while the man can't believe he's suffering such torment and threat because of an almost casual remark. It disturbed my sleep and I vividly remembered the dreams the next morning.

Melissa said she, too, had had bad dreams, of death, destruction, and other mayhem. Life in the woods in a small town, I guess. With killer birds. We don't need no stinking bears.

Unless they can fly.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

From Left Field

As a quick follow up to my non-involved, uninformed post yesterday on the settlement of the WGA strike, according to Harlan Ellison (via his board), the writers did a poor deal. This makes me sad. I assumed that all along the writers would get what they wanted. I found it hard to conceive of the notion that they wouldn't. They shut Hollywood down, they went on strike; how could they not win (whatever that means)?

If the union can't stave off the evils of corporate money-mongers notorious for ripping off writers from the start of time (or at least Edison), then I guess all I can say is I hope they have a really good insurance program. I mean, what was the point?

The next post will be about actually writing. No, really. Not that I know any more about that, but I do pay more attention.

Here's what Ellison said:

Creds: got here in 1962, written for just about everybody, won the Writers Guild Award four times for solo work, sat on the WGAw Board twice, worked on negotiating committees, and was out on the picket lines with my NICK COUNTER SLEEPS WITH THE FISHE$$$ sign. You may have heard my name. I am a Union guy, I am a Guild guy, I am loyal. I fuckin' LOVE the Guild.

And I voted NO on accepting this deal.

My reasons are good, and they are plentiful; Patric Verrone will be saddened by what I am about to say; long-time friends will shake their heads; but this I say without equivocation...

THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL. We finally got a timorous generation that has never had to strike, to get their asses out there, and we had to put up with the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse's asses who kept mumbling "lessgo bac'ta work" over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer. But after months on the line, and them finally bouncing that pus-sucking dipthong Nick Counter, we rushed headlong into a shabby, scabrous, underfed shovelfulla shit clutched to the affections of toss-in-the-towel
summer soldiers trembling before the Awe of the Alliance.

My Guild did what it did in 1988. It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGAw folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.

And I am ashamed of this Guild, as I was when Shavelson was the prexy, and we wasted our efforts and lost out on technology that we had to strike for THIS time. 17 days of streaming tv!!!????? Geezus, you bleating wimps, why not just turn over your old granny for gang-rape?

You deserve all the opprobrium you get. While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won't be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:

You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.

Please excuse my temerity. I'm just a sad old man who has fallen among Quislings, Turncoats, Hacks and Cowards.

I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant.

Respectfully, Yr. Pal, Harlan Ellison

Gutter Ball

I've never understood why it should be incumbent on a person who points out a problem to also have a solution to the problem.

"That's broken."

"Can you fix it?"

"Um, no."

"Then shut up."

That philosophy strikes me as some kind of fallacious dodge but I lack or have forgotten the terms from logic class to say it with more specificity. How about:

"Dude, your house is on fire."

"Can you put it out?"

"Um, no."

"Crap. Can I borrow your phone to call the fire department?"

Sometimes, too, people can ask questions and not only not have an answer, but not expect one. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike was finally settled, which is a good thing, but I'm not sure what side of the conflict I sympathized with most. On the one hand, WGA members were well compensated before the strike in terms of salary and insurance benefits. The fact that the studios could take advantage of new technologies such as DVDs and the internet to make millions more dollars does not take that away. So while the writers made a pittance from, say, DVD sales based on their work, they had already been well paid to do the work in first place.

From the studios' perspective, they'd paid to have the writers do their work and they felt they owned it to do with as they would and to make as much money as they possibly could. The work has become a commodity at that point. Unless they have deals with directors or actors or copyright holders to pay points on whatever profits may form.

Do I think the studios would treat everyone fairly and equitably, distributing the wealth as any decent, sympathetic human should be expected to do? That would be a joke. Without the union the writers would be hosed every possible way the studios could think of.

Do I think the writers were being screwed because the studios were raking in dough that wasn't accounted for in their earlier contract? Kinda sorta not really, although there are claims that an understanding had been in place to address the new technologies but had gone ignored by the studios.

In the end the good news is the strike is over and everyone can get back to work and everyone can make money. The union did what it was supposed to and got the best deal it could for its members and did so without damaging the studios' ability to make a profit and stay alive (as opposed to the auto workers). The writers weren't being greedy and the studios weren't acting particularly like the Evil Empire.

I think what I really think about all this is that only good can come from more money flowing out of the hands of the studios. As long as market forces keep the consumer prices down, the field can only grow. I think. I may be completely full of crap, expressing an uninformed opinion, but when this stuff is plastered all over the media, this is what we do: comment, spout off, create internet content.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Proper Fish Wrap

When I was a kid there were a number of occasions where my father set me straight on just how things ought to be. One day he brought home an Irish Setter and when he presented him to the family, he said, "Now that's the way a dog ought to look." Another time he took my brother and I along on a fishing trip to Lake Mille Lacs or somewhere and when he caught a walleye (my brother and I never caught anything) he said, "That's the way a fish ought to look."

Yesterday I wrote about Robert Charles Wilson's Blind Lake and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind yet. Not just the book itself, but what it made me feel while I was reading it. It's one of those books that makes you sad as you flip through the pages, watching that stack on the right side shrink slowly but steadily away. And when the thing accelerates into its climax and you can't put it down, it makes you think about how wonderfully entertaining a book can be. Blind Lake is the way a book ought to be. I can't say it any better than that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Sort of Review

Eons ago I read a story by someone named Robert Charles Wilson in an issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I remember at the time being struck by not only the beauty of the story but the lyrical writing that did it justice. Immediately I searched for any books he may have written and sure enough, his first novel had just been published. It was called A Hidden Place and was as beautifully written as the magazine story had been, but, if memory can serve after so many years, the book itself didn't quite live up to what I was hoping for.

I hesitate to say that because labeling a book "good" or even "very good" instead of "great" or "stupendous" shouldn't taint the novel or make it seem deficient or lacking in necessarily substantive ways. I think the real problem is that Wilson writes so well that your expectations float to the stratosphere and sheer anticipation leads to dangerously lofty expectations. The two don't always meet, at least not in as high a place as you might like.

So I'm not sure what to say about the guy. He's been around for a long time, often I think out of print, but he's won an armful of awards, including the 2006 Hugo. How can a guy like this be under the radar screen? He's the only contemporary science fiction writer whose work I keep up with. As I've written before, I'm one of many who left SF behind as we grew older, turning to more "grown up" forms of literature.

Again, I'm not sure how to describe that concept. SF lost me when it seemed like all of the new books were Star Wars variations, with civilization fighting civilization and race fighting race; I get enough of that in the city news. General fiction, and crime and mysteries, seemed less, what? Silly? Contrived? Formulaic?

I know that reads as a slam against SF and really, I have no problem with Star Wars. But the lexical dexterity of Jack Vance, the emotional beauty of Theodore Sturgeon, these things cannot be replaced by ray guns and jet fighters ins space. I miss the hard science of Larry Niven, before he dipped his typewriter in fantasy and wrote about magic. Sigh.

Maybe it's me. Probably it's me. But Robert Charles Wilson brings it all back to me. This morning I tried to put down Blind Lake after breakfast but I couldn't do it. The Sturgeon-like work he did with his characters came together with a Niven-esque scientific scenario to keep me reading when I should have turned productive for the day. Damn, the man can write, genre be damned.

Wilson's books often have wildly interesting premises: a series of monolithic structures appear overnight commemorating the future conquest of the land; a section of Europe is suddenly overwritten with what appears to be an alien landscape, complete with its own eco-system; in Blind Lake, quantum machines designed to find intelligent signals from the noise of space teach themselves to find and follow signals from other civilizations though no one understands how they work. Especially when the telescopes stop working yet the machines continue to render the signals.

This book, I think, comes closest to marrying his prose with his depth of characterization with a fascinating scientific premise. It, too, was nominated for a Hugo, which is publicity that can only help him attract new readers. He deserves it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Natural Disaster

Since we moved up to the woods of New Hampshire I've had this nagging fear that a fire in the woods would knock out our house and garage, including my office/library, before the local fire department even knew there was a fire. Short of digging a moat or deforesting the hillside, I'll just have to learn to deal. Writers James and Livia Reasoner weren't so lucky. They lost everything in a fire a few weeks ago.

I've never read James' books, and I need to rectify that (Texas Wind is supposed to be some kind of modern classic) but I do read his blog. He's posted a few pictures of the fire's aftermath; they show a devastating loss. Here's a link to an article describing the fire.

Livia Reasoner's agent is apparently accepting donations of books for the day when the couple can begin rebuilding their library. I sent a box today that contains some second hand Gold Medals that I have duplicates of, and some excellent new Stark House books that I hope they find interesting. It's not much, but a small drop in a big bucket should be better than nothing. Or a cinder.

Anyway, it's a gesture, and I hope that they, and anyone in similar circumstances, get well from this. There but for the grace of...

Books can be sent to:
James and Livia Reasoner
c/o Kim Lionetti, BookEnds, Inc.
136 Long Hill Road
Gillette, NJ 07933

Checks for the James Reasoner Emergency Fund can be sent to:
MSC06 3770
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Here's the Story...

..of a lovely lady...

Or the end of it.

I've been a little sick and my bad neck has been acting up so I'm only now getting to a post. And it ain't much, but it's all I've got at the moment. It's about how I've suffered a disappointment in the television world lately, and it's a bit sad, if only a reminder that the world keeps spinning and nothing stays the same. At least nothing good on TV.

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha. Otherwise known as Maureen McCormick. Good god, who didn't grow up in the sixties and not have a crush on Marsha Brady? She seemed pretty, she seemed smart, and although she couldn't catch a football with her nose we forgave her because, hey, who can? She surfaced last year on Celebrity Fit Club, overweight and out of shape, but just as sweet-seeming as she had been when we were all eight years old. She'd apparently suffered some personal trauma and was looking to overcome all and get back to a healthier lifestyle.

We laughed with her, we cried with her, we loved her all over again on the show. Most of her cast-mates seemed to do the same. At the end of the show she'd exceeded her weight loss target and served as a rejuvenating beacon for all of us once and former fans. She's since showed up on a Brad Paisley video as the girlfriend of Jason Alexander showing her winsome sense of humor as she plays George's girlfriend in a song called "Online," as 'I look so much better online." But then...

Maureen, Maureen, Maureen.

I chanced upon a show on CMT (yeah, I know) called "Gone Country" where a number of non-country music performers live in a house and apparently compete for the opportunity to record country music for some guy named John Rich.

All the weight is back, but that's okay as long as it's okay with her. But what happened since the last show? It apparently wasn't okay back then. Bobby Brown walks onto the bus and onto the show. Instant bonding because now, during what looks like every break or bus stop, Maureen's out on the sidewalk chain smoking with her new buddy. Once they get into the house, it's Maureen and Bobby smoking away.

I can't help it, I'm disappointed. Clearly she's fallen off the Fit Club wagon and added cigarettes to boot. This may not be as big a disappointment as the King of Rock and Roll dying from prescription drug overdose on a toilet, but still. It hurts.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Undercover Review

Reading reviews, especially shorter ones, can be a popcorn kind of experience. You sample a kernel or two, you find you're not quite full, so you pop a couple more, pretty soon you're licking butter and salt off the bottom of the bowl. The Bookgasm site is a good place to pop in every so often for a few quick hits, even when they're reviewing books you have no interest in. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, at the end of last year one of the reviewers commented about a book that he called his favorite book of the year. I'd never heard of it or the author but that got my attention. When I checked into it, I found it's about a private investigator and is written in the first person. Since the book I just finished writing (but have not yet started editing) is about a cop and is written in the first person, I was curious as to how one of the best books of the year handled whatever kinds of things overlapped our two books.

I'm being kind of vague here because I thought I'd kind of do a general book review without naming the actual book. One of the reasons is that I really didn't care for the book; it didn't pass my test of wanting to read the next book by the same author, although that may not be cast in stone. Anyway, if someone really cared I'm sure they could ferret it out based on what I've said here.

As I said, the book is written in a first person perspective and right off the bat you can tell that the author is comfortable with his writing and has a strong voice (while his first novel, he is evidently an experienced screenwriter, etc.). I was impressed and almost intimidated by how smooth the narrative was early on. There was something that bothered me about the voice, and it's similar to why I don't care for Robert Crais' work, but it's hard to pin down when writing about it. You'd see what I mean if you read it, though.

It's kind of a cocky, smart-assed way of speaking that is intended just for the reader. If the character acted like that much of an ass when he spoke to the other characters, they'd probably have nothing to do with him. The phrase "pitching woo" was awkward enough when he used it in dialogue; it was really annoying when he used variations of it in the narrative. This is similar to Crais' Elvis Cole character who will comment, say, on his sometime partner in an aside intended only for the reader. Something like, "He doesn't say a lot, but when he does, he usually uses two words or less to make his point. Some talker, that guy. Can't shut him up." Doing this once may be okay, but not repeatedly. It's like the style takes the reader out of the story more than the writing.

A worse problem is that while the story is cruising along, the PI suddenly does something violent and unprovoked and unforeseen. Rather than provide an entertaining and unexpected plot point, the act was so wholly un-foreshadowed that it made it seem completely out of character. The author didn't set the stage for the actions of his own guy.

A more annoying problem was that when dealing with his best friend, as well as a cop he was supposedly on good terms with, the dialogue was all argument and altercation to the point that in any normal situation these relationships would no longer exist. Sure, a spot of anger or annoyance can reflect realism and add depth to an encounter, but not every time, all the time, and virtually unrelenting throughout the book.

Plot wise I had two major issues with the book. First, every time the PI needed something, he had the perfect associate from out of the past to call on. This happened at least four times throughout the book. He didn't have to figure out how to do anything to get over each hurdle, he merely called in a specialist he already just happened to know. Secondly, from the get go he speculated (while arguing unpleasantly with his "best" friend), what might be going on with the bad guys. Several times throughout the book the situation was revisited, always with the same unconfirmed speculation. There were no other options considered, no potential alternatives given, and guess what? They had the problem nailed.

So in the end, despite a glib and distinctive voice (which was borderline annoying for me), I couldn't wait for the book to be over. Any book written in the first person is ultimately about what the events mean to the narrator and how they affect him, but the disconnect between how he was portrayed through his narration and how he acted through the plot invalidate this theory. There was no mystery since the character's original supposition was the main plot thread through the book. The climax of the hero's rescue was glossed over and unbelievable as well, so what are you left with?

I guess a successful debut novel, but one I wouldn't recommend by an author I wouldn't read again. A less annoying voice, a narrative that left room for the character's actions later in the book, a plot with a spark of mystery or unknown, and a resolution with more credibility would have made all the difference. It sounds like a lot, but it ain't necessarily so. Ah, well. At least I got through it quickly. And somebody out there apparently likes it; the back cover blurbs say so.