MysteryPeople Q&A with Wallace Stroby

Wallace Stroby’s latest Crissa Stone book, Shoot The Woman First, was our December Pick Of The Month as well as making our top ten. We talked to Wallace about his character, crime, and one of his biggest influences.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: Do you think Crissa has changed since Cold Shot To The Heart?

WALLACE STROBY: She’s had to grow tougher, colder and more ruthless since the events of that first book, just by virtue of what’s happened to her in the interim. At the beginning of COLD SHOT she’d never even fired a gun in anger, much less killed anyone, and there have been a lot of bodies under the bridge since then. I wanted her to be aware of that though, with a sense of the cost she’s paid along the way, and acknowledging the inevitable results of the lifestyle she’s chosen.

MP:You have Crissa caring for a traumatized girl in much of the second act and we know that she has a child living with some of her relatives. Did you want to show what Crissa is like as a mother?

WS:It’s something she’d like to be, but, again, the choices she’s made kind of preclude that. But she can’t help but respond to this little girl, both out of the obligation she feels to the girl’s father, and her own sense of loss over being an absentee mother.

I was also thinking about a lot of the Asian crime/action films I love, and how many of them, from the Zatoichi films on, prominently feature neglected children whom the protagonist attempts to protect. A great recent example is the Korean film THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, which has a really touching relationship between the hero – an ex-secret service agent – and a lonely little girl. In my living room, I have a framed U.K subway poster of John Woo’s film HARD-BOILED that features a shotgun-toting Chow Yun-Fat protectively cradling a baby in one arm.

MP: Your crooked ex-cop Burke is a standout antagonist. How did he come about?

WS: I’d originally intended Burke to be a current Detroit cop, but the logistics of how he would get on Crissa’s trail became too complicated. Making him an ex-cop with a history of corruption seemed to work better, because it made him an outsider as well, with his own issues. And with all that’s gone on in Detroit recently, the police there already have enough on their hands. I didn’t see the need to beat up on them any more.

MP: Much of the action takes place around Detroit, instead of your Jersey and Florida stomping grounds. What prompted the change in setting?

WS: In one way, these books are very much post-recession novels, and I always thought Detroit was the most extreme – and fascinating –example of a major American city fallen on apocalyptic hard times. Trouble was, events there were changing so quickly that it was hard to keep up with them when I was writing the book. When the city filed for bankruptcy in July, the ARCs were already being printed, so I had to squeeze a reference to that into the final version.

MP: Some of your dialogue, particularly with the Detroiters, reminded me of Elmore Leonard’s. I know you were a fan of his. What did you learn from reading his books?

WS: When in doubt, I go back to his “Ten Rules of Writing.” Every single one of them has an exception (No. 1 could be “Never open a book with weather, unless, of course, you’re James Lee Burke”), but taken together, they’re as solid a foundation as you can get for learning how to write well. He’d also mastered how to put the key elements together – character, plot and setting – and do it quickly. His books were straightforward, energetic and uniquely American. That he was able to sustain such a quality output for so many years is amazing. No other American writer – in any genre – has had a career like his, or been so good for so long.

That said, I’m partial to his darker, late-‘70s, early-’80s books such as CITY PRIMEVAL, FIFTY-TWO PICKUP, SWAG and CAT CHASER. I dedicated SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST to him, both because of its Detroit setting and as an acknowledgment of the debt I owed him. Unfortunately, he passed away before the book came out.

This was a rough year for literary deaths. When it comes to writers who most permeated American popular culture, we lost two giants: Leonard and Richard Matheson. We’ll never see their like again.

MP: While many of your characters are stone cold pros in the spirit of the genre, you get a sense of weariness in their lives. What do you want to convey about a life of crime?

WS: That we’re all capable of making choices which, though they seem right at the time, can lead us down some very dark paths. And that sometimes the things that make us feel most alive are the ones that can kill us quickest.


Copies of SHOOT THE WOMAN FIRST are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via 

Happy New Year with Noir at the Bar!

Noir at the Bar

Help MysteryPeople kick off the new year with our famous (or infamous) Noir At The Bar! Join us on January 5th when we will have Noir at the Bar regular Jesse Sublett and two gritty up and comers, Josh Stallings and Daniel O’Shea, at Opal Divine’s on South Congress to read from their new work.

one more body

Author Josh Stallings has given us one of the best damaged anti-heroes to come down the road in a long time, Moses McGuire. In his latest, One More Body, McGuire, an ex-mob enforcer and strip club bouncer, gets the opportunity to expunge his criminal record if he rescues a police woman’s niece from the L.A. sex trade. If you haven’t read Josh Stallings, he’s like an unholy child of James Crumley and Andrew Vachss. Definitely an author not to be missed.


Though Detective John Lynch works on the right side of the law, it’s a blurry one. In Dan O’Shea’s debut novel Penance, we followed Chicago detective John Lynch as he uncovered the shooting of an elderly woman outside a church and it’s connection to a CIA cover up in the Seventies involving his father’s murder.  In his latest novel Greed, Lynch is in the middle of dirty politics and a high body count again, but this time connected to the world of blood diamonds. O’Shea’s action and his use of Chicago and its people make you feel like you’re right in the middle of your favorite cop movie. To put it simply, it’s epic.

So come out this Sunday, January 5th at 7PM at Opal Divines on 3601 S. Congress for Noir at the Bar. Jesse Sublett will be playing some great music, everyone we’ll read, and we’ll have all of their books available to pick up and have signed. So come on out, have a drink and kick off the New Year, noir style.

~ Scott

MysteryPeople Top Ten Novels of 2013

As usual, I cheated a bit putting together this list and doubled up on books that share the same theme. Also know Mark Pryor’s The Crypt Thief and Duane Swierzcynski’s Point & Shoot could have easily made this list. Also if I had gotten a chance to read some books that time just didn’t permit, like Urban Waite’s Carrion Birds and Adrian McGinty’s I Hear The Sirens In The Streets and Rules of The Wolfe by James Carlos Blake, I probably would have tried to squeeze them in, as well.

1. The Double by George Pelecanos

Pelecanos takes the simple set up of his retrieval specialist Spero Lucas recovering a stolen painting from a gigolo conman and creates a hard boiled novel rich in character dialogue, social awareness, and good straight up action scenes. Only problem is that I can’t wait for the third Spero novel.

2. The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell

In fewer than 180 pages this book covers more depth than some authors’ massive operas. Through time shifts and chapters that serve as mini-character biographies, Woodrell builds a literary mosaic about a mysterious explosion and the devastating effect it has on one town.

3. Little Green by Walter Mosely & Onion Street by Reed Farrel Coleman

Two of the greatest private eye heroes, Easy Rawlins and Moe Pager, walked the mean streets of the late ’60s this year. Read back to back, you get a look at the period from different age, racial, and coastal perspectives with two well defined heroes each in a beatifully crafted mystery.

4. A Serpents’ Tooth by Craig Johnson

This game changing book in the Walt Longmire series has the Wyoming sheriff dealing with a well armed religious cult, the CIA, a unique crime, and his most lethal nemesis. Johnson’s humor and humanity finds a way to both highlight and offset the story’s dark undercurrent.

5. Donnybrook by Frank Bill

This rough and tumble tale of different red neck ruffians and their pursuers heading for a bare knuckles competition takes hard boiled writing to new and sometimes disturbing heights. Bill keeps his characters grounded no matter how wild the story gets and gives us some involving blow-by-blow fight scenes.

6. Evil In All It’s Disguises by Hilary Davidson

Everything comes to a head in the third installment of this series featuring travel writer Lily Moore. When looking into the disappearance of a fellow writer in Acapulco, Lily finds herself in a creepy hotel and a plot involving her ex-boyfreind. Davidson blends noir, the traditional thriller, and her edgy sensibility, putting her into a class all her own.

7. The Return by Michael Gruber

Gruber’s South of the border revenge tale proves to have more depth than you might expect. A wealthy book editor and his slightly unhinged buddy from Vietnam travel to Mexico with a camper full of guns to settle a mysterious score. Gruber’s rich prose style and sense of place create a book that lingers.

8. The Rake by Scott Phillips

This year’s book with the most laughs follows an American soap opera actor in Paris, trying to broker a film deal and juggle several lovers, one of whom is a possible financier who’s an arms dealer. Phillips is one of the best tour guides for bad behavior.

9. Shoot The Woman First by Wallace Stroby

A heist novel with humanity. After a double cross from robbing a drug dealer, Crissa Stone tries to get her dead partner’s share to his family with a bunch of bad guys on her trail, including Burke, a crooked cop who proves to be one of this year’s best villains. Stroby finds a way to give entertaining action and dialogue while showing the toll a life of crime takes.

10. Ratlines by Stuart Neville

In Neville’s dark, James Ellroy-style historical noir, an investigator is trapped between different factions relating to the Nazis who found asylum in Ireland. The book is a hard punch to the gut that leaves you reeling.


These authors weren’t on the list list because their books didn’t quite fit the category of 2013 novel, yet they are well worth reading.

Nightmare Range by Martin Limon

A collection of all the stories featuring Sueno and Bascome, two CID cops in ’70s Korea. Great procedural story telling with a strong sense of mood and place. Read as a collection you get the sense of futility our heroes face in doing their job and the right thing.

Paying For It & Gutted by Tony Black

Finally an American publisher (kudos to NewPulp Press) brought Scotland’s prince of darkness to bookstores in this country. Black’s Gus Dury, a fired journalist hack turned half-assed PI, is a great damaged anti-hero and perfect guide through Edinburgh’s meaner streets.

Three New Series For Fans of Janet Evanovich

Do you have a Janet Evanovich fan who’s already bought Takedown Twenty for herself? Worry not. Here are three feisty, funny female characters who are just as entertaining as Stephanie Plum.

Lisa Lutz’s Izzy Spellman
First Book in the Series: The Spellman Files
Latest Book in the Series: The Last Word

Izzy is a professional, if somewhat disorganized, private investigator, in one of the most dysfunctional family firms that’s ever existed. When the Spellman’s aren’t doing surveillance for a client, they spy on each other. Lutz uses the idea of a detective firm to give a satiric yet brutally honest look at relationships and family.


Sophie Littlefield’s Stella Hardesty
First Book in the Series: Bad Day For Sorry
Latest Book in the Series: Bad Day for Mercy

On probation after killing her abusive husband with a monkey wrench, Stella has gone into the business of helping women get back at the bad men in her life. Sometimes the work has her running afoul of her sometime boyfriend, Goat, the local sheriff. She also has to juggle her friend and daughter in this series that offers a realistic take on Midwest.


Janice Hamrick’s Jocelyn Shore
First Book in the Series: Death On Tour
Latest Book in the Series: Death Rides Again

Jocelyn is a newly divorced Austin school teacher dealing with the men and dead bodies in her life. Janice Hamrick delves into human naure and behavior while delivering a well plotted and entertaining read.

MysteryPeople Top 5 Debut Novels of 2013

This year’s debut list means a lot to me. Three of the authors (Todd, Thomas, and Dan) have been good friends whose work I’ve been waiting to see in novel form. They prove they deserve to be widely read. Terry and Elaine (aka Anynomous-9) are others who I discovered this year who became good friends. Congrats gang, hope this was an early step to a road of success.

1. The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

A rich hard boiled novel about two Boston bouncers hired to find a missing girl. Tough and smart, with a lot of wicked humor and fist fighting.



2. Blade Of Dishonor by Thomas Pluck

This novel of non-stop action has an MMA fighter caught in battle between a ninja and samurai over a sword that his grandfather brought back from World War II. It’s the most pure enjoyment I’ve had this year. Pulp in epic scale.


3. A Killing At Cotton Hill by Terry Shames

Shames looks at her central Texas community the way Craig Johnson looks at Wyoming and Louise Penny look at Quebec, with the intimacy and expertise of a native. While not bloody or violent, it resists pulling punches when it comes to small town life, greed, politics, family, and nearing the end of one’s life.


4. Penance by Dan O’Shea

A sniper shooting outside a church pulls a Chicago police detective into dirty local and Washington politics, CIA assassins, and a 1970s cover up connected to the murder of his father, who was a cop. With strong characters and plenty of action, it’s like your favorite ’80s cop movie  given a literary treatment.


5. Hard Bite by Anonymous-9

This may not qualify, since technically it was available as an ebook in 2012, but I can’t neglect this offbeat and often violent tale of a quadriplegic who uses his helper monkey to kill hit and run drivers and runs afoul of the Mexican mob. Unique and also incredibly well crafted.




Copies of all of these books are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via

Latest Moses McGuire Book Out

Josh Stallings has released his latest Moses McGuire book, One More Body. It could be titled “A Lot More Bodies” as the bad ass former bouncer gets drawn between different factions in California and Mexico wile trying to rescue a girl kidnapped into prostitution.

Josh will be one of our readers at Noir At The Bar on January 5th. If you’re an Andrew Vachs or James Crumley fan, you’ll be a fan of this series.

Here’s crimespree magazines take on One More Body. 

Copies of One More Body are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via

Three Books for Fans of Stieg Larsson

Everyone in your life is a Stieg Larsson fan and they all want a new book for Christmas. What do you do??? Get ’em one of these:

The Informationist by Taylor Stevens 

The Informationist is the first of three books featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe. Munroe’s job is as an informationist, a combination Mercenary, corporate spy, PI, and bad ass librarian. She is able to get all the information on anything or place – if you can afford her. It’s a gig that can take her anywhere, to do anything, and  in The Informationist she goes to Equatorial Guinea in Africa to locate a missing woman and confront a past she has little memory of. Stevens delivers the cool yet intense precision of a heist novel when you watch Munroe work. (The following books in the series are The Inoccent The Doll.)

Zulu by Caryl Ferey

Caryl Ferey is an author who deserves more attention. A French author, he writes dark, violent books about colonized countries and their colonists’ relationships with the native population. The hero of Zulu hero is Ali Neuman, the head of a Capetown police unit of Zulu decent. He’s looking into the murder of two white women with his tribe’s markings on them. The story goes from pitch dark police procedure to political thriller in this novel you just can’t shake.

White Ginger by Thatcher Robinson

White Ginger is an exciting and tough tale told with pulp fun on a human scale. Bai-Jung is the daughter of a prominent member of the Chinatown triads in San Fransisco. When she’s hired to find a missing girl, the trail leads to white slavery and war among the triad. White Ginger has the feints, weaves, and impact of a martial artist. The pace is strong, the action is well crafted, and there’s a good dose of humor throughout.

Print this list and bring it down to BookPeople where we’ll be happy to pull the titles from our shelves for you. Our volunteers will be happy to gift wrap! (Or grab them via

MysteryPeople’s Top 5 Texas Mysteries of 2013

1. The Thicket by Joe Lansdale

A mix of Southern Gothic, crime, and western with that distinctive Lansdale voice. A young man journeys with the son of slaves, a whore, and a dwarf bounty hunter seeking justice and his abducted sister in turn-of-the-last-century Texas. A grand yarn told in high style.


2.  The Right Side Of Wrong by Reavis Wortham

A group of Texas lawmen have to contend with the new drug business and the violence it brings to their part of the state in the early ’60s, causing them to cross lines both geographic and moral. Great sense of time and place with one hell of a climactic gun battle.


death rides again3. Death Rides Again by Janice Hamrick

Jocelyn Shore visits the small town where she grew up for a Thanksgiving family reunion to find her cousin, Ruby June, missing and Ruby June’s husband murdered. Janice Hamrick’s light, funny mystery takes on some heavy ideas about family, relationships, and modern small towns.


4. These Mortal Remains by Milton T. Burton

If Chandler ended up in east Texas, he may have written something like this tale of a small town sheriff dealing with race, politics, and three murders. An involved plot, pitch perfect tone, and rich voice make this one engaging novel.


5. Long Fall From Heaven by Milton T Burton and George Weir

To solve the murder of their friend, two private security men in 1980s Galveston have to also uncover a string of murders that happened on the island during World War II. Filled with dark secrets and Lone Star history, both authors blend their styles to create an involving and moody thriller.

Books for Fans of John Grisham


We all have at least one Grisham fan in our midst. And of course that fan has read ALL the Grisham books on the shelf (including his latest one, Sycamore Row). What’s a gift giver to do? Here are our recommendations for great books to give the Grisham fan on your list. 

breach of trustBreach Of Trust by David Ellis

Author David Ellis, a prosecutor in the Blagojevich impeachment, wrote this involving thriller of a prosecutor who gets a job in a corrupt Illinois governor’s office to find out about the death of his informant and his wife.

guilt by association

Guilt By Association by Marcia Clark  

Clark’s special prosecutor Rachel Knight takes on the case of a murdered colleague while looking into his sordid death in this engaging debut series that gives us an insider’s view of LA and its justice system. Clark was a prosecutor in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office where she handled a number of cases, including the O. J. Simpson murder trial. This is the first in a series. Also check out books two and three, Guilt by Degrees and Killer Ambition

corrupt practices

Corrupt Practices by Robert Rotstein

Rotstein has received rave reviews for this book about a lawyer with stage freight who takes on a cult after he’s accused of embezzling millions.


Pro tip: Print this list and bring it down to BookPeople where we’ll be happy to pull the titles from our shelves for you. Our volunteers will be happy to gift wrap! (Or grab them via


SPIRIT OF STEAMBOAT: A Christmas Adventure For All Seasons

spirit of steamboat

When Craig Johnson was asked to do a short Christmas story with his Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, for his publisher, the story got a little out of hand and became longer than he intended. The result is the recently published novella, Spirit Of Steamboat. While under two hundred pages, it has the richness many long novels lack.

The story takes place on a Christmas Eve. Walt is in his office with only a copy of A Christmas Carol for company. A woman comes in looking for the sheriff. When he introduces himself, she says he’s not the one. He figures out she’s looking for his irascible predecessor, Lucian Connolly.

As Walt takes the woman to Lucian, we’re taken back to the ’80s and Walt’s first Christmas Eve as sheriff when a car wreck caused the death of a married couple. Their daughter is badly burned and could die too if she doesn’t get to a Denver hospital in time. With the roads down and an ugly blizzard, the only hope is a decommissioned WWII era B-25 bomber, The Spirit Of Steamboat. The only person who can fly it is former Dooolittle Raider, Lucian. Walt grabs him at the bar on his third bourbon and the two, along with the daughter, her Japanese grandmother, Dr. Isaac Bloomfield, and a professional female pilot Lucian insists on calling “Toots”, take the flight of their lives.

Johnson has created a white knuckle adventure. A rattling plane in dangerous weather combined with jury rigged medical equipment (two things at which Walt is a novice) provide hair raising passages.

Yet even in a story as tight as this one, it’s Johnson’s use of emotion that permeates. Since Walt’s wife Martha is still alive this Christmas Eve of memory, we get to hear her voice in a couple of phone calls, but Johnson keeps her out of physical range, remaining a bittersweet spectre who hangs over the series. It is through these conversations we see Walt start down the road of duty that conflicts with his  focus on his family. Johnson even uses an ironic ending to create a moving turn.

For a small book, The Spirit Of Steamboat gives us a full experience. Along with the flight we get WWII and Wyoming history woven throughout the tale. Johnson has created a Christmas adventure for all seasons.


Copies of Spirit of Steamboat are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via