“Even cut and bruised and bleeding, her kind of beauty opens doors everywhere.”
In BOLERO, the damsel isn’t driven to the private dick, rather a late n...more“Even cut and bruised and bleeding, her kind of beauty opens doors everywhere.”
In BOLERO, the damsel isn’t driven to the private dick, rather a late night call by a concerned doctor issues PI Nick Sayler with an attractive case surrounding a mysterious and beautiful ballerina who has lost everything (material and memory) except the PI’s calling card. The victim of an assault has left the ballerina bruised and bloodied – the exact same way Sayler forges his friendships. In a nice bit of early symmetry this quickly establishes the PI as a man built on good fortune and friendships born from violence (generally as their saviour). There’s a doctor, Sloane, and an assistant in Meriwether who form part of a faithful inner circle aiding Sayler in his endeavours, coupled by Fallen and Goode – a pair of determined cops who are willing to go outside the law and bring the perpetrator to justice.
BOLERO is a sequence of mysteries, first surrounding the damaged ballerina’s identity, second a murder, third, an inscription left of the body of an assault victim with potential linkages to other crimes. For Sayler, the case becomes more personal as the ballerina’s memory slowly returns along with her personality and care for her saviour. It creates an interesting dynamic when her relationship status, circle of friendship, and professional situation exposed.
The damp, constant rainy, wet and grey setting complements the theme of BOLERO. I particularly liked the depiction of the ballerina in constant light as a contrast to the backdrop to really add a feel of warm loveliness otherwise missing in the dangerous world.
I would love to read more of Nick Sayler’s growing pains and journey from displaced child to determined private eye. Author Joanie McDonell paints a vivid yet slightly skewed picture of Sayler’s past that demands attention. While not a new coming of age/origin concept, the Sayler in the now is unique, entertaining and worthy of further exploration. This PI is one with a lot of potential. (less)
WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is a wholly engrossing tale of three lives connected by a single event – a moment in time that bloodies the definition...moreWHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is a wholly engrossing tale of three lives connected by a single event – a moment in time that bloodies the definition of predator and victim.
Laura – a fractured protagonist whose iron will and determination creates a façade of normalcy to an anything but normal life. Author Barry Graham couldn’t have defined this character any better. Laura will draw upon all your emotions as her sordid past is sliced open with revelation after revelation building and knocking down the walls of a traditional protagonist.
Frank – a monster who took advantage of a young Laura yet wasn’t able to silence her. Now released from prison and apparently reformed, Laura’s past collides with the present with the only possible outcome; one last breath, one last bullet, one shot at a new life.
David - a journalist becomes involved with the object of his attention. After following Laura’s story and printing her privacy for all to read, David’s empathy and emotionally deep sense of self come to the forefront instilling him within Laura’s everyday life while also stabilising his often unpredictable professional life.
The characters and plot itself rival the greats of noir in James M Cain and Cornell Woolrich. The tale Graham weaves spans what seems a lifetime from Laura’s lost childhood, encounter with Frank, to adult relationships while also providing a glimpse into David’s world and the causative factors that lead him to rethink his occupation.
WHEN IT ALL COMES DOWN TO DUST is a modern day classic noir – a story driven by solid characters that act on emotion and are glued by a sinister event which not only bloodies the past but stains the future. A must read for fans of noir. (less)
Graham Ellis, pro pit boss and company man finds himself on the wrong side of management and ends up being transferred from a prestigious casino to on...moreGraham Ellis, pro pit boss and company man finds himself on the wrong side of management and ends up being transferred from a prestigious casino to one that caters to the lesser likes of gambling society. It’s a demotion showed in mystery, yet stinking of management insecurity. For Graham, the pit is his life – aside from the single guy syndrome of sci-fi-like shows and comics, it’s his only form of reality, a more meaningful way to meander through life. When the transfer comes about as a result of ‘stress’, Graham knows something is off, having been at the top of his game, with only a blip on his near perfect radar as a result of a miss timed whale, their reasoning for the transfer screams scapegoat. Yet management refuse to deal in honesty – rather overused HR buzz terms and contradictory statements. For Graham, the relegation is more than a change of scenery, and one that threatens to eventually place him behind bars instead of cards.
INSIDE STRAIGHT is a very good novel. The protagonist, Graham Ellis is likable despite his flaws. He’s an average Joe out to make an honest living...until a local gangster in Barry Pollard sets his sights on him. Before long, Graham becomes the inside man on a robbery which was meant to turn his life around, leaving him flush and without cause to stay in the hovel of a casino his finds himself This being a Ray Banks book, you can be assured that rainbows and happy sunshine endings aren’t a guarantee. Dreams of ships and wealth turn to nightmares of dismemberment and imprisonment.
I loved the way Banks keeps you guessing, is Graham Ellis victimised or ignorant of his own shortcomings? Blinded by his own perception of self; can it be possible that he really is stressed and his performances in the pit less than exemplary? Or is everyone else wrong? The answer elusive and up to interpretation – it’s great that Banks allows for this flexibility in his latest noir fiction.
There are many strong points to INSIDE STRAIGHT; it’s engaging, character driven, well plotted, and has a turn or two you wont see coming. Yet another great addition to a growing list of must read books by Ray Banks. (less)
Mike Hammer investigates the murder of a former cop and war buddy, Jack Williams, in what turns out to be a race against the law with one determined t...moreMike Hammer investigates the murder of a former cop and war buddy, Jack Williams, in what turns out to be a race against the law with one determined to bring the killer to justice, the other, hell bent on exacting his own form of vengeance.
Bullets reign supreme and bodies fall quicker than shell casings as the list of suspects dwindles and Hammer’s sight becomes blinded by a too good to be true vixen. Much like the pulps written in this era, the dames are plentiful, stunningly beautiful and willing. However, Spillane’s Hammer doesn’t conform to the playboy persona in the fullest, rather his constant refusal of sexual offers builds him as more than the stereotypical hardman womaniser. Spillane keeps his protagonist in check by way of Velda, Hammer’s secretary and seminal love interest.
Mike Hammer’s style is blunt, forceful and everything his polar opposite, Pat, is not. In I, THE JURY, Hammer comes up against prostitution, drugs, murder, and deceit as he narrows the suspects down to the killer. This was a solid re-read as I work my way through the Mike Hammer library.
Tony Black never tires of punishing his protagonist Gus Dury, having endured monumental loss in the previous series instalment (aptly titled LOSS), Du...moreTony Black never tires of punishing his protagonist Gus Dury, having endured monumental loss in the previous series instalment (aptly titled LOSS), Dury now faces a very real possibility of losing his life to drink. His situation so dire, that the opening chapters of LONG TIME DEAD see the sometime PI recovering from a particularly bad bout of self inflicted sickness. Coupled with the accompanying bar room brawls and subsequent injuries, Gus’s health is in a bad way. Luckily (subjective of course), Gus’ mate, Hod is in the bad books with local thug Shaky and needs Gus to rekindle his detective persona in order to front enough cash to keep the dogs off his back. Gus, owing Hod for a lifetime of aid takes a case which eventuates in a race to the reaper with both the case and drink vying for Gus’s lifeblood.
Ben, the son of actress, Gillian Laird is found dead in a university – the case initially billed as suicide by the local filth turns to something much more involved and sinister as Gus and co investigate the happenstance. Digging uncovers a cult of sorts which unveils a murderous ritual and past crimes spanning decades. Adding to the continuity of the series, Shaky and his muscle are linked to the killing(s) by virtue of a drug angle. In jig time, Ben’s death and his mothers squeaky clean perception of her son are tainted and more complex than Gus had bargained for.
There are a number of familiar faces in LONG TIME DEAD. Hod, Gus and Debs are there, but it’s the return of Amy, a former understudy of sorts to Gus in his former life as a journalist that has the most impact on the damaged protagonist. Now at Uni, her sleuthing skills are once again called upon by Gus to aid the investigation. I liked the sense of family building here, Gus’s support network is forming as a tightly knit unit yet a mere pull of a loose thread ever threatens to ruin it. Tony Black does a great job at keeping the dark cloud hovering above every good aspect to Gus, you know it’s going to turn bad, the question is when?
LONG TIME DEAD is a decent whodunit cult-like murder investigation with a damaged and hopelessly tortured PI whose personal story is both a joy and a train wreck. This series is brutally honest and caters to all who like their fiction extra Black. (less)
Dark, twisted, intelligent ,and addictive. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn is an emotional roller coaster of love and hate entwined in a deceptive criminal...moreDark, twisted, intelligent ,and addictive. GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn is an emotional roller coaster of love and hate entwined in a deceptive criminal concoction that's equal parts psychological and procedural.
Nick Dunne's world is brought crashing down when he discovers his wife of five years missing, his house in disarray, and the cops, sighting him as a key suspect. Amy, a housewife who craves her former big city life openly admitted a dissatisfaction of moving to Nick's hometown following his mother falling ill. She supported Nick's decision as best she could yet the tension of the move evidently bubbled closer and closer to the surface - their once picture perfect marriage threatened to collapse. Then she disappears, Nick is left with nothing but a fear for the worst and a anniversary puzzle dredging up emotions he'd felt long lost.
GONE GIRL really is an exceptionally good novel. The multi POV telling of accounts switching between a conniving and desperately vindictive Amy via her journal to Nick's living hell as he shifts from feelings of loss, hate, anger, love, and ultimately hopelessness. The course of the investigation paints him in light of a victim and perpetrator seamless switching perspective as 'facts' come to light, Gillian Flynn toying with the readers mind just as much as her well rounded characters.
GONE GIRL hooked me line and sinker from the get-go and didn't release it's vice like grip until the end. A great read that is sure to resonate for a time to come.
Recently noir novellas have brought back that pulp style single plot thread delivery with a peripheral side story attached to the protagonist in a way...moreRecently noir novellas have brought back that pulp style single plot thread delivery with a peripheral side story attached to the protagonist in a way that is reminiscent of the dime store pulps of yester year with THE POSTHUMOUS MAN a perfect example.
It’s taut, lean, precise, and as sharp as a scalpel. Hinkson doesn’t waste a word as he thrusts the recently departed then revived former reverend Elliot Stilling into a world far removed from the church. God is an absentee landlord inaccessible for any of the criminally inclined characters in THE POSTHUMOUS MAN.
I enjoyed every aspect of THE POSTHUMOUS MAN. From nurse Felicia’s involvement with the underworld and some very shady characters to Elliot’s evolution from a man of the cloth to a man more than capable of sending his foes to meet their maker. Accompanying this violent story is one of immense loss which not only rationalises Elliot’s actions but makes him more human in doing so. (less)
Sharp, lean and deadly - James M. Cains, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is everything noir. While there exists a distinct romanticism central to the p...moreSharp, lean and deadly - James M. Cains, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE is everything noir. While there exists a distinct romanticism central to the plot, the other side of the equation – betrayal, a drifter’s skewed logic for a quick score, and murder drive this tale of one man’s gamble and a woman’s lust for a better life.
Frank Champers blows in like the wind and causes a twister of trouble for restaurant owner Nick and his curvaceous and lonesome wife, Cora. Offered a job at the small time dinner he quickly sets his sights on Cora and before long has his thirst reciprocated when Cora’s wistful guard drops.
The affair leads to murderous thoughts made real with subsequent attempts on Nicks life. Failing more than once, the law turn Cora and Frank on one another with each succumbing to lies all too willingly in order to shake a murder rap. It’s this easy betrayal and condemnation of their so called significant other that grips the reader and maintains Cain’s illusion of rural noir.
A sparse novel that alludes to a far deeper story than what’s portrayed in print. I couldn’t read through THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE fast enough.
DOPE THIEF is essentially two tales – one of pure balls-to-the-wall, all out adrenaline noir, the other a quiet unassuming suburban-like cozy noir mad...moreDOPE THIEF is essentially two tales – one of pure balls-to-the-wall, all out adrenaline noir, the other a quiet unassuming suburban-like cozy noir made for book lovers. Ray, one half of the sting duet features in both acts, firstly as a methodical hardened criminal accustomed to strong arm tactics, and lastly as a man trying to win his way back into society using money for good and making recompense for past discretions.
I love the concept of thieves imitating DEA agents to raid drug houses. The raids are calculated, written in a style I can only compare to THE WIRE. There is an urban war feel to the first act of DOPE THIEF delivered in a way that’s both realistic and humbling. Almost a case of Robin Hood with the dope thieves performing a public good by way of eliminating the competition for a much larger player. Justifiable as it may seem, it’s oh so violent with a knife edge balancing act omnipresent throughout each raid. You wait for it to go pear shaped and the author doesn’t disappoint.
“Laying there spattered with blood under the white moon like a hull of bone, he saw that there was almost nothing in it and that all around him were the dogs that slinked under the table and chewed each other’s throats for scraps….Ripping at each other with teeth and black claws and the whole time dying themselves, worn thin and bleeding. Wandering away to die alone or killed for their weakness.”
Ray and Manny become embroiled in a bikie drug war after accepting a raid by middleman Ho which lands them in the thick of bullets and bodies. No longer does the quick score seem as important, as Ray and Manny try to keep their heads away from the chopping block. While the violence is plentiful, the introspective dialogue and flashbacks to an unfortunate event which resulted in the death of Ray’s teen girlfriend really drive DOPE THIEF, turning it from pure entertainment to sometime much more meaningful. Ray’s past both condemns and redeems him - for me, the highlight of the novel.
DOPE THIEF is a very well written and multi faceted noir catering to the violent edged fiction enthusiasts and those readers who enjoy character driven journey tales laden with heartache and break alike. (less)
*This review is for the book only. Unlike DARK ORIGINS, I choose not to watch the cyber bridges of DARK PROPHECY in order to streamline the text.
DARK...more*This review is for the book only. Unlike DARK ORIGINS, I choose not to watch the cyber bridges of DARK PROPHECY in order to streamline the text.
DARK PROPHECY is James Patterson like, almost two-dimensional cardboard characters slightly balanced by high octane thrills and hard hitting action sequences. This book felt very much like a TV episode (perhaps due to Zuiker’s CSI?) with condensed characterisation and an emphasis on the quick thrill. In DARK ORIGINS, the authors (Zuiker and Swierczynski) created a truly horrifying and menacing villain in Sqweegel, a contortionist with a penchant for violence and unsettling habit of covert break and entry who really gripped the reader. In DARK PROPHECY, the villain(s) are run of the mill – a Tarot Card Killer whose murder spree spans the US in some elaborate plot to justify revenge for an unfortunate event – it’s a twisted premise common in serial killer fiction where the rationale thinker is put aside in order to follow the actions of the bad guys.
Steve Dark is the primary focus of the second instalment of the Level 26 trilogy – he’s washed up, self obsessed and struggling to come to grips with being a father to a motherless daughter. No longer working for the agency responsible for tracking and stopping the Level 26 killers, he’s a pale comparison of his former self. Choosing to hide deep within while maintaining the façade of a college professor, Dark’s obsessive compulsive behaviour sees him canvas old texts on serial killers analysing from the confines of his own home rather than the field which made his name. His white collar job provides just enough outside stimulation as to stop him from reverting to a full blown hermit. Make no mistake, Dark is a far cry from the character last seen in DARK ORIGINS. Despite a wealth of material to draw upon for Steve Dark, he still felt a little cardboard cut-out like for me.
I had high expectations for DARK PROPHECY with the ending to DARK ORIGINS setting the tone for what should’ve been a more elaborate look at the level 26 killers and the means the secret agencies will go to in order to eradicate or harness their mayhem. Despite some obvious shortcomings, DARK PROPHECY is still an entertaining white knuckle thriller that manages to maintain a degree of mystery on both sides of the law; the identity of TCK and the secret agency responsible for luring Dark back into the field. The chapter are very quick and flow well with one another (akin to James Patterson). I didn’t have to overly think anything which serves well for those wanting something quick and easy to fulfil their crime fix. As with the ending of DARK ORIGINS, DARK PROPHECY has once again hooked me in to wanting to continue reading the series. 3 stars.
Nick Valentine is an unusual PI, rather than taking cases by hapless and shady individuals, he works with the police by acting as a link between the b...moreNick Valentine is an unusual PI, rather than taking cases by hapless and shady individuals, he works with the police by acting as a link between the blue and the street. That said, Valentine sure isn’t a squeaky clean and lawful member of the community – he’s a perpetual drunk with his own agenda and in FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER, that agenda comprises of one simple factoid – getting rich quick off the idiocy of criminals.
I was really impressed by FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER. Everything about it oozes noir and exemplifies all that is great about the damaged protagonist. Valentine is tainted, corrupt (in a redeemable way), yet somehow honest and reliable, a self proclaimed functioning alcoholic. This mass-up of traits and descriptions actually works in his favour which enables him to command respect from both the law and lawless alike.
FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER is engaging, violent, laden with dark humour; multi faceted, and had multiple viewpoints all equally enjoyable. This is really a stunning debut and a must for fans of fiction – yep, it’s simply too good to be confined to a specific genre enthusiast. (less)
The blood encrusted pages of Midnight Echo #8 are dripping with the stuff of nightmares and are laced with a chilling realism that is equally as terri...moreThe blood encrusted pages of Midnight Echo #8 are dripping with the stuff of nightmares and are laced with a chilling realism that is equally as terrifying as the fantastical images the short stories conjure. Comprising a ghoulish smorgasbord of some of today’s best in the business and a plethora of talented up and comers, the fiction is nothing short of top class. Bookend by a couple of zombie tales, the first a post outbreak event where the definition of monsters is clouded by the actions of the living showcases Joe R. Lansdale’s craftsmanship and fine appreciation of the genre by taking it to another level altogether. While PIGROOT FLAT by Jason Fischer flips the script on zombie horror by introducing an all too real horror amidst the dust and desolate Australian outback. I particularly liked the living dead in PIGROOT FLAT as being objectified as mere obstacles while the true horror flourishes behind the face of the living.
“She looked at him, her eyes bruises, her mouth and open wound, and screamed mutely. He didn’t hear her, but saw the bloody trail she left in her wake.” – THE GIRL FROM THE BORDERLANDS
In between the zombie mayhem lays tales of overzealous religious beliefs crossing the line towards the sketchy realm of insanity in BLISSFUL IGNORANCE by Matt Wedge, a distilled look at motherhood where trouble is alluded to through a veil of the surreal in JAR BABY by Michelle Jager, a terrorist interrogation spliced with horror in THEY DONT KNOW THAT WE KNOW WHAT THEY KNOW by Andrew J McKiernan, and a hard knock life look at the underprivileged and unwanted youth in THE BOY WITH THE HOLE IN HIS HEART by Caysey Sloan amongst others.
While all of these stories are decent reads, the best of a good bunch include THE GIRL FROM THE BORDERLANDS by Felicity Dowker which manages to convey the depth and detailed character driven story typically achieved through longer formats. HELLO KITTY by Jason Nahrung is an extremist portrait of the criminally insane where reality crosses the line towards batsh!t crazy. Joanne Anderton’s ALWAYS A PRICE requires a suspension of reality to afford the reader the luxury of getting lost in a world viewed through a veil of blood red horror. Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee’s SQUIRRELY SHIRLEY is more noir than horror yet provides the highlight by means of a former adulterer turned mass murderer in glorious gun toting fashion. TOOTH by Kathryn Hore puts the fear back into the dentist visit by way of a monstrous dark presence showing itself in alien-like fashion – one of the surprise stories of the collection and very enjoyable to read.
Spread throughout Midnight Echo #8 are poems, interviews (Jack Ketchum talks about his most renowned book THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, while Lee Battersby discusses his debut THE CORPSE-RAT KING and provides a glimpse towards his later projects), a comic, and standing features all giving the reader a healthy dose of the darkness. There are also promo slots for new Aussie horror books which have added to my ever growing TBR pile.
Midnight Echo #8 is a solid read from cover to cover. The folks responsible for this mag know their horror and are giving readers what they want. True to the editorial, Midnight Echo delivers hard edged horror across a number of mediums with terrifyingly good results.
SNOW WHITE MUST DIE is a German crime novel full of complex twists and tangled webs of lies. An eleven year murder resurfaces when the convicted kille...moreSNOW WHITE MUST DIE is a German crime novel full of complex twists and tangled webs of lies. An eleven year murder resurfaces when the convicted killer is released back into the small town community and a 17yr old goes missing. However, something much more harrowing and sinister is unearthed as Detective Inspector Pia Kirchhoff digs deep into the investigation eleven years earlier and discovers holes in the prosecution. Revisiting the case yields new information and the discovery of a deep seeded plan of corruption and corroboration by townsfolk in high positions directly relating to the murders of Laura and Stefanie. While Bondenstien, Pia’s boss investigates crimes of the present day targeted against Tobias and his family.
It’s easily apparent that the two lead detectives have featured in previous books (which I believe have not yet been translated to English) yet Neuhaus writes them so well that their respective back-stories are explained through a drip feed of information throughout the course of the novel meaning the pre-reads aren’t a necessity. While the plot drives SNOW WHITE MUST DIE, it’s the well rounded and beautifully crafted characters that really engross the reader. I was surprised to find myself sympathising with the originally touted killer of Snow White, the convicted Tobias and his family (with whom suffered unjustly for crimes they weren’t privy) and rode the bumpy personal rollercoaster of Bodenstein’s domestic situation and Pia’s struggle to maintain her home despite a rather unfair land ownership mishap.
SNOW WHITE MUST DIE contains jaw dropping scenes of cruelty inflicted upon the unjust by perpetrators fuelled by their murderous convictions. The constant shift and change of direction makes it hard to pinpoint who is on the right side of the law. Neuhaus slides her characters around a proverbial chest board to craft this deeply engrossing crime fiction. No one is who they seem to be and I had a great time trying to guess the outcome.
I hope more of the German books in this series get translated as not only would they compliment SNOW WHITE MUST DIE (the 4th book in the series – though it reads well as a standalone) but it would also bring new meaning to some of the minor character interactions, notably those within the police force itself.
This is one of those books you can’t help but read. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it, and when I was reading it I didn’t want it to end. Few police procedurals have drawn me in like SNOW WHITE MUST DIE. I highly recommend it – 5 stars. (less)
Reminds me a lot of the sleazy pulps by Orrie Hitt and to a lesser extent Lawrence Block (written under his many aliases) by which the central charact...moreReminds me a lot of the sleazy pulps by Orrie Hitt and to a lesser extent Lawrence Block (written under his many aliases) by which the central character is adulterous and without morals. Lust drives his desire for womanly conquest despite having an attractive pregnant wife at home. True, there aren’t many redeeming qualities to Wayne Ogden, a war vet of sorts who dealt in prostitutes and goods prior to taking up a job at Collins Aircraft as the boss’ bodyguard nee babysitter, but that’s the point – Ogden isn’t meant to be liked.
The story heats up nicely when Ogden learns of a plot to remove him from Collins Aircraft rendering him jobless. In a desperate bid to stop this from happening he uses blackmail to damaging effect which not only lands in him hot water by the company, but has the law sniffing around crying bloody murder.
THE ADJUSTMENT is an interesting novel. It’s part pulp, part noir, part exploitation yet easily readable with enough anticipation coming through to balance out the slow building story. I would recommend this for fans of noir and the sleaze pulps by Orrie Hitt. (less)
A door to door salesman stumbles across a young woman being held captive against her will and used as a sex slave by an unassuming yet villainous olde...moreA door to door salesman stumbles across a young woman being held captive against her will and used as a sex slave by an unassuming yet villainous older woman. Offered the services of the sex slave as payment for goods he quickly turns down the offer (one of his very few redeemable moments) and sets out to free Mona. Of course, the cool thousand buck score sweetens the deal.
Frank Dillion (aka Dolly) isn’t a nice man. He’s abusive, a scammer; a grifter of sorts with little going for him apart from the amazing ability to attract nice looking dames who can’t wait to marry him. Having had upwards of five wives already, it’s clear for the reader to discern a pattern in Dolly’s actions and warped sense of thought.
A HELL OF A WOMEN is pure noir. Dolly has little to no redeeming qualities, violence is easy and without emotion, and the ending isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The plot itself was entertaining but was soured by a confusing last couple of pages where Dolly’s mind is put in question in almost no uncertain terms.
Not as good as some of Jim Thompson’s other works but still serviceable. 3 stars.(less)
Winslow’s Bruen-like delivery of Ben, Chon, and O’s story prior to SAVAGES is sparse, lean, and subtle yet not without substance. It’s a style that le...moreWinslow’s Bruen-like delivery of Ben, Chon, and O’s story prior to SAVAGES is sparse, lean, and subtle yet not without substance. It’s a style that leads the reader deep into their own imagination while still populating the written landscape with enough direction and keynotes to maintain a consistent yet vividly well rendered train of thought. Spanning past and present crimes, THE KINGS OF COOL encompasses the lives of Ben, Chon and O in a beautiful interlocking plot that not only binds their friendship but unearths their family lineage and path towards their present day involvement in the drug business.
This one has a bit of everything in it. From O’s love and hero-worship of Chon, drug wars, shady cops, to family drama and close encounters with death. The exploration of the Southern California drug trade through the 60’s to early 2000’s paints a culture of violence handed down by generation starting from some unlikely sources. Ben emerges as a serious player despite an adversity to violence, while on the other hand, Chon rules the streets with an iron first – but what happens when that fists lands square in the face of someone he least expected?
The dialogue is witty and humorous, reminiscent of Elmore Leonard at his best. It’s instantly readable and at once addictive. Fans of Winslow will appreciate the flashback sequences where characters Frankie Machine and Bobby Z make cameo appearances. THE KINGS OF COOL goes a long way to establishing interconnectivity with other Winslow titles – now I have to go back and re-read them all, first up SAVAGES.