Reed Farrel Coleman has gone compact in a couple of ways. Raven Books Rapid Reads, a publisher specializing in short books for teaching adult literacy as well as providing for readers who would like the experience of a full novel in one or two sittings, hired him for a series. The character he gave them was Gulliver Dowd, a tough New York private eye, who is also a dwarf.
Dowd’s height and history have a lot to do with his toughness. Born an outcast, he has been having to prove himself all his life. That created an awfully big chip on his shoulder.
We learn in the first book, Dirty Work, that his police officer sister died in an unsolved murder. He received combat training from Ahmed, an ex-SEAL who sometimes acts as his back-up. And, he works as a Private Investigator to support himself on other people’s cases so he can develop the skills necessary to solve his own case: what happened to his sister.
If this sounds overly pulpy or comedic, you haven’t read Reed Farrel Coleman before. The books have the humanity and heart of his Moe Prager series. Gulliver’s tough guy attitude is something he uses to keep his romantic nature at bay. Anybody who has felt like an outsider will be able to identify with him. You root for him to find love and cringe when that chip on his shoulder gets in the way.
In the latest Gulliver Dowd story, Valentino Pier, his good heart is working overtime. He helps a homeless boy find his missing dog, Ugly, a fitting name for the bug-eyed beast. After finding poor, mangy Ugly, he returns the dog to the boy. However, later Dowd is shocked to discover the boy has been beaten so severely he was put into a coma. Dowd’s search for the perpetrators leads him to find a unique brand of criminal. It also sheds new light on his sister’s murder while teasing with a possible relationship with a veterinary’s assistant.
When I heard what Reed was doing for Rapid Reads, I thought it was an odd match. A writer with a background in poetry known for his command of the language writing “easy reads”? It proved to be the perfect choice.
Coleman knows which words to choose for clarity, impact, and emotion, while never writing down to the reader. The tightness and accessibility give each book the feeling of a great episode from a seventies PI show like The Rockford Files or Harry O.
If only he could write them as fast as I read them.