Some of you may of read our Get To Know piece on Gary Phillips. Many of you may already know him. Gary has been delivering great hard boiled crime fiction for close to twenty years now. Two new books show his talent, both past and present.
Monkology is an update on a limited edition originally published on MacMillan Press, collecting his short stories featuring his Compton private eye, Ivan Monk. Monk, who first appeared almost twenty years ago in Gary’s debut Violent Spring, is a two-fisted hero who is also politically aware. Now re-issued in a beautiful trade paperback with additional stories published after the edition, Monkology includes “The Socratic Method”, which serves as an interesting and suspenseful look at the kind of PI Monk is. Monkology is an entertaining twenty year overview of Gary Phillip’s character and his LA.
Phillips’ latest novel, The Warlord Of Willow Ridge, uses the housing crisis for a story that is a mix of action thriller and modern western. It starts when O’Conner, a mysterious stranger, joins a suburban community and takes over an abandoned McMansion to lay low. The once-nice gated community has gone down hill; two gangs uses other houses for methlabs and fight for territory. Now the remaining residents find more than their mortgages a threat. O’Conner finds himself being an unlikely Shane for suburbia, taking on the gangs.
As in most of his work, Phillips uses humanity to fuse pulp and politics. While enigmatic, O’Conner is a believable bad-ass. He’s an outlaw in midlife who’s personality is brought out by his interaction with the Willow Ridge residents. The residents themselves are well drawn with humor and complexity. The characterization keeps the satire from taking over the story.
Both Monkology and The Warlord Of Willow Ridge show the range Gary has, as well as some of his reoccurring elements. The worlds he depicts may be in different shades of grey, but his characters always stand something. Monkology shows his great past. The Warlord of Willow Ridge tells us he ain’t over yet.